Fiction


Tuesday, November 30th, 2010



Right on Schedule

by Kathryn Jackson


I have been staring through this screen all day. I have been swinging this old door on its new hinges like a breeze wags the red flag in front of the bull-shit by which my life is fed up to here, by now you know. Sometimes, there’s nothing but the expectations.
         Every day at three o’clock, Corky slides like an ice block down three flights of stairs from her rented room to sit in her own sweat, on a street corner. She smiles sourly at --and sings with unwavering passion to-- the change in the open-faced guitar case she employs to butter her bread on both sides with the steak knife she keeps in her left sock.
         “I stole it from a crime scene. This black lab with short legs and shorter temper got shackled, and gagged, and carted away. For esperiments. To participate in ssperiments. These socks was a gift from a…called hisself a…a…humanitarian. As if there ain’t no minimum height requirement to operate an opinion. Ha!  He wore the nicest leather pants.”
         Every night at three o’clock, I sit very still and try to concentrate. I ride in Corky’s hip pocket and we glide --like an ice block-- down three flights of stairs to the doors that revolve, sucking and spitting pedestrians back and forth between porch swings and automatic tellers. If I sit very still, I can hear the neighbors’ motion detecting lights casting strobe shadows across corduroy lawns. Shadows testify to light, and to the same cowardly point of view from this porch over the last nine years.

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*****

 

Cyclamen persicum

Asher Benatar


No fue por un sueño ni por misteriosas voces adheridas a las paredes. Simplemente una convicción que Gustavo recibió de repente, tal vez las hojas de su planta de interiores preferida reflejando una luz indecisa porque indeciso era el tiempo, que ahora sol brillante y más tarde un gris que llovía sobre los muebles de la sala como un polvo denso y de lento posarse. Se acercó al pedestal en el que se apoyaba la maceta y advirtió que las sombras se mecían ayudadas por la cortina blanca que también se mecía jugando con la luz. Supo que esa belleza que percibía se tornaba gozo y que ese gozo era casi insoportable. El mensaje estaba ahí, en el leve fucsia que anunciaba una flor. Algo que nace, algo que muere. Una tontería acuñada por la simpleza, pero  ya no fue posible eludir la certeza que comenzó a acosarlo: moriría cuando las últimas hojas de la planta atraparan el ocre que precede al olvido. Moriría cuando la planta muriera.

Desde ese momento se adhirió a ella (lástima no tener un libro de botánica, no saber su denominación científica), sintió milímetro a milímetro el fragor de su crecimiento, la sintió Gustavo, la cuidó cuidándose, bebió del cuenco con que él mismo volcaba el agua cotidiana, se alimentó con la luz del otoño, que a veces, en los días de tormenta, golpeaba las paredes con grises que le subían a la garganta como un sofoco. 

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*****


Daniela otra vez

Asher Benatar


Lástima no  haber conseguido pasaje en avión. En los aeropuertos es distinto, uno sube por la escalerilla y se desentiende, pero ahora, Sergio, en este momento, estás sentado del lado de la ventana de un ómnibus de Onda mientras Natalia, empequeñecida por la despedida, te mira desde abajo, desde el borde de esta modesta plaza de Montevideo a la que los cristales fumé inventan un casi anochecer. Ya se han dicho casi todas las palabras que integran la ortodoxia de las despedidas, ya te has ubicado en tu asiento buscando esa distancia que te tranquiliza aunque no demasiado porque quedan las miradas desarrollando su peligrosa misión francotiradora, por momentos perdidas, por momentos encontrándose, acarreando la incomodidad de saber que en el fondo ustedes ya no están y sin embargo siguen ahí, con los labios ejercitando la fatigante gimnasia de la sonrisa, con la pequeña tregua que te regala aquel pasajero desorientado al preguntarte por el número de su asiento. Son menos cinco, Sergio, y el ómnibus tiene que salir a las tres en punto. Ya falta poco.

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*****


Coming Up Next

by Dorothy Bendel


The man on television warned me about the dangers of summer. I stayed indoors and watched the ignorant ride their bicycles and imagined the sunny hilltop they aimed to reach. They didn't know that being so close to the sky made them targets, that it would open up and swallow them whole, leaving their muddy wheels to spin and squeal so loud that I could hear them through the Ambien. The ones that weren't eaten by the sky came screaming down the hill, burnt and covered in mosquitoes that bit them over and over until their heads swelled up and they let their children play in the front yard. Children like the ones we would have had if the figures worked out and meshed with our IRAs. I knew about the danger of dangers because I had my eyes and ears open while they were busy living like people did before the revolution.

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*****


KENNEDY

by Emmanuel Sigauke


The entrance to Kubatana Beer Garden was dotted with scantily-dressed women and peanut vendors, a curious combination which made me shake my head as we entered the flood-lit bar.  Mukoma and Jakove, the regulars here, led the way, and turned every now and then to check if I was still following close behind. They acted as if they suspected that I would slip away, and I could not blame. This was the first time they had ever asked me to come with them to the bar. We were going to celebrate my upcoming trip to the United States. What I didn’t know was how they had planned the celebration. I knew we were not just going to sit and talk while drinking beer. That we could have done at home. I wanted to find out why they had asked me to come to the bar, what they had in store for me.
“Tonight you’ll see a side of me that will blow your mind away,” said Mukoma, who was leading the way.
           
“What your brother is saying is that he has something important to tell you,” said Jakove, Mukoma’s friend, whom I also called brother. The two’s friendship had been elevated to kinship since they had known each other for more than ten years, and Jakove came from a village not far from ours, so if one traced the two families’ histories closely, chances were that  we were related.  Jakove was the good kind of brother too, always ready to defend, elevate, explain, or even translate everything Mukoma said.

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*****


Looking for Aliens

by Matthew Denvir
           

The fallen autumn foliage was up to Jimmy’s ankles.  As he walked through the woods, little bits of brown and red leaves stuck to the Velcro on his sneakers.  The trees were thin and tall, dull brown with few branches.  When Jimmy looked up he could see the tops swaying in the October wind.  They made creaking noises that echoed through the woods.  And though there were many trees, all around Jimmy and as far as he could see, there was enough room for him to walk easily through the forest.  He was deep in the woods; he was looking for aliens.
            He carried with him a bright yellow squirt gun.  It was filled with water, just in case the aliens were allergic.  He saw an alien on television once who was allergic to water, and he figured it was a good theory.  Around his neck he wore a blue and red scarf, to show whomever he came across that he was an American.  Under each of his big brown eyes were three lines of face paint.  Brown, green, and black.  The paint felt cool against his cheeks when he faced the wind.  He wore all green.  He felt he could blend into the forest, not be noticed, like a tiger in long grass.
            Jimmy checked the compass that hung from around his neck.  It was made of clear plastic, and the needle and markings were red.  He knew it pointed north, always.  His father taught him how to use it.  He twisted the compass so that the “N” and the needle were aligned, and he looked west.  West was where he wanted to go, deeper into the woods.

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*****


the rabbits

by Tony Rauch


There is a panicked tapping at my window late at night. I turn and sit up, only to find a strange, shadowy figure outside my window. “Come on, man, let me in. Come on,” the stranger whispers urgently. “Please, please. Don’t let them take me. Don’t let them take me.” And then nothing.

I gaze up at the drizzly night, clouds swirling and folding and twisting and overlapping and merging - all slowly turning grays, all fluid and murky, like puddles in the sky.

I roll over and try to go back to sleep, but the tapping resumes after a moment. I sit up again and lift the pane to crack the window. And there in the mist of drizzle is a giant rabbit dressed in a green top hat and plaid vest. “Please,” he leans his head in and whispers. “The foxes . . the foxes are out,” then looks about frantically. “Please. Please. I-I will grant you two . . ah, three wishes.” It’s as if the rabbit is trying to determine an appropriate and fair amount. He is a big one, five-feet-six-inches at least. He begins to hop up and down anxiously.

“You’re a tall one,” I rub my eyes.

“Well, not really, I’m actually kind of short for where I come from. . . Now whadda ya say, kid, huh, how’s ‘bout lettin’ me in?”

“Has your relative ‘shortness’ affected you in any manner of a psychological nature?” I wonder out loud.

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*****

 

The Egotistical Death March of Success

by Ty Gorton          

           
Saturday began as Saturdays begin, with a calm uncertainty draped over the morning hours.  I woke to the sound of squirrel chatter, that grating “Hrrrmm! Hrrrmm! Hrrrmm!”, how those first Model T’s must have sounded as men in Panama hats cranked away to get them started.  The realization that the hours ahead held no defined obligation sunk in slow and grand.  Those free hours stretched out to make the day feel gigantic, making oxygen sweeter for pulmonary capillaries, and did wonders to subtract the weight of the past five days.
            (drip.)
            “You awake?”  Her voice broke the free-fall sensation of nowhere to be. 
            “Maybe,” I said things like this, statements that could go either way.  As in, maybe I’m not entirely awake but anxious for it.  As in, maybe I’m half awake and wishing I weren’t.  The trick has always been letting the other person decide and formulating an appropriate strategy.  Divulging a minimum of information allows mystery to prevail, and from the grab bag of mystery, anything is possible.
            “I don’t see how you can sleep,” Desiree said this from the bathroom, mid beautification.
            (drip.)
            “Well, it is a prerequisite for life,” from the bathroom, she laughed.  It always amused her that I used words like “prerequisite” in everyday conversation.  The first time I became aware of this unintended comedy was a few years back.  Desiree had gotten blisters from a pair of high heels, and days later wore shoes that aggravated the healing wounds.  Of the shoes, I asked, “Did they exacerbate them?” to which she laughed out loud.  I realized such words sound odd rolling off the tongue on a lazy afternoon with no cameras rolling. 
            “I didn’t sleep for you,” she said, exiting the bathroom and sliding through the bedroom door.
            (drip.)

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*****

 

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

 

Little Deaths

By Vickie Fernandez


It’s dusk, the sky is the color of fresh bruises and Laura Branigan hums from a boom box, “I, I live among the creatures of the night I haven't got the will to try and fight.” I ache to be outside with my friends. Instead I sit at my wicker desk and pine. I can’t go outside because I’m sick. Mom keeps taking my temperature and calling my grandmother.

“Ma, the fever isn’t breaking. She won’t eat and when she does she throws up. I don’t know what to do. I need you to come over.”

Mom hangs up the phone not realizing that the curly, yellow chord is wrapped around her waist. I reach out to her from the wobbly kitchen chair as she presses her cool hand against my flaming forehead. 

Mom isn’t good at taking care of me when I’m sick. That’s my grandmother’s job. This is the first time we’ve lived without her. When mom’s job takes her all over the world with friends, grandma rubs Vicks Vapor Rub on my chest and makes me warm milk with sugar when I can’t sleep.

Mom’s new husband, Arturo, sits on the couch watching soccer while she paces back and forth wringing her hands waiting for grandma. I feel terrible but I’m more worried about the look on mom’s face than I am about my aching chest.

Mom met Arturo at a nightclub in Argentina. He’s tall with feathery brown hair and green eyes. I guess he must’ve been really nice to her in Argentina when she’d leave me with grandma to spend holidays and weekends there. Here in New Jersey, not so much.

Mom and Arturo used to fight. Now, he doesn’t even talk to her. It’s gotten so bad that mom hands me notes to deliver to him that she’s written on perfumed stationery. I read them as I walked from the kitchen to the living room where he’d sit with one hand down his pants, his face gray in the glare of the TV.

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*****


Mervin Coin

By Denise Falcone


Mervin liked to pass the time watching the card shills take the tourists for a ride. He’d high-five the pickpockets mingling incognito in the crowd and although it was late in the afternoon, he’d good morning the whores by name. Sometimes a certain type of family, their naiveté ticking like a time-bomb, would compel him to follow them up close on their safari so he could imagine he belonged.
    
     “Well, look what the wind blew in! Holy Moses! How’d you get so big?”
Uncle Pierce could eat ten cakes in one sitting and still hide behind a microphone. Drum roll please. Badaboom. Or stick his tongue out and look like a thermometer. Baboom. Or stick his tongue out and look like a zipper! Badaboom!
     “Your uncle brought you something,” gasped his mother through the thick of a phlegm-filled hacking cough.
     Edna Coin hardly moved from the overwhelmed cracked vinyl lounge chair perpetually parked in front of the television, which because of the rare arrival of her brother was thankfully taking a breather.
     “Here Mervin,” announced his uncle with an air of sad nostalgia, “I want you to have him now,” and pulled from a faded canvas duffle bag the limp body of a boy decked out in formal dress.
     The little shoes were cute but the midget tuxedo was frayed and thin, the garish ruffled shirt a nicotinic yellow. Mervin was struck by a pang of revulsion when his uncle inserted what looked like a lecherous claw into its back and suddenly a thick black painted-on eyebrow jerked up.
     “Hi Mervin! I’m your new friend Larry!”
      The ratty toupee, the thick raw meat-colored lips, and the sleazy pencil mustache made Mervin think the thing was created for a joke.

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*****


Tic Tac Toe

By Rebekah Bergman


The party ended in a dozen popped balloons and a bloody puddle on the floor.  The balloon destruction had been a festive, joint event.  But the blood was Tac’s fault; she’d gotten over excited, and scratched Toe across the face. Collapsed on the Oriental rug, Toe howled like a sick coyote.
            “Where’s Pip?” Tic asked, poking a sibling in the side with unnecessary force. 
            “Who knows!” Tac said, playing with a foot.
She leaned down to pick confetti from her brother’s hair and piles poured out like rain.  Tac threw a handful upwards and Tic blew them with a wet breathe into her face. 
            “Certainly hope we aren’t too noisy.” 
            “Oh no, we’re perfectly quiet. Angels really!”
She punctuated the irony with a pull on Tic’s hair.  Tic screamed and laughed and they fell to the floor and laughed and laughed and laughed.  Tac punched a jawbone.  They laughed some more. Toe coughed blood onto the carpet.  They laughed until their ribs cramped up and Toe got the painful kind of hiccups and then they napped off their amusement in a pigpiled sibling heap.    

Impish voices carried up the narrow staircase to the attic where Pip paced anxiously. Below her a dozen pops had just fired in rapid succession.  She stuck her index fingers deep into her ears, concentrating on the noisy scrape of nail against mind.  Charlie slept on her pillow.  The children had wrought chaos since they arrived.  That was on Saturday. 
            “Mister Charles, what is the date?” 
            The tabby rolled onto his side, and purred.  Brown saliva poured from his mouth. 
            “Mister Charles? MISTER CHARLES, I am speaking to you. Do you at least have the time?” 
            The cat opened his eyes, farted, closed his eyes again. 
            Pip sighed and tried to read the grandfather clock.  It had stopped ticking.
             “Move over, Charlie.” She pushed her fat pet, “I would like to rest too.”   
            Tic, Tac, and Toe.  A mouthful of tongue-twists for an ancient woman like Pip.  She couldn’t even keep their nomenclature straight; though their names were something rather fluid to be sure.  Pip was convinced that the tykes swapped identities (one of their nastier pranks) so that Tic became Tac and Tac to Toe and the whole cycle moved up a notch (or sometimes 2!) every day.
            A momentary quiet downstairs.  Pip nuzzled her face against the smelly cat and the 2 of them slept like bears.  Noises in the kitchen permeated her dreams.

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*****

 

My Street, Your House

By Cole Nowicki


He had never really been upside down, even as a child. There where scant few trampoline embellished front flips and even fewer meters traveled by hand, but; as the extra-large Latina woman held him upside down and shook him by the waist outside of the organic grocery store, his nose knocking on the crotch of her jeans, he felt oddly at ease.

He thought she was yelling something about a porterhouse, but many months later, as he tried to recover something out of the rum sodden wonton of his brain capable of wooing a blonde bartender, whose egregiously hard nipples held on valiantly to keep from exploding out of her top, it hit him in the face like a limp mackerel: 
“Get those quarters out.”

That was what she did. He couldn’t understand her through the silver rain of pocket change pocking the sidewalk in cents, but he got the gist of her intention.

A crowd had started to form.  He could see them congregating between the four Filipino men serving as her legs. A bag boy still holding a loaf of organic bread wrapped in two layers of plastic gawked, his jaw hanging so low a raven could have stolen his tongue.

The perimeter of spectators filled out. Small boys laughed, an old man winked, and a bald woman with a sunburn on her head took pictures with a cell-phone.

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*****

 

Today the World

By William Michaelian


Today the world spit me out and I landed on the sidewalk on my head. An old whore coughed and said, “You wouldn’t have a cigarette,” and I said, “Baby, I don’t even know what day it is.” I clawed my shirt pocket and held up a mangled generic.

“Gotta match?”

I tried to shake my head but groaned instead.

The whore laughed. She slid the cigarette between her bright red lips and knelt beside me. She massaged my pockets and everything else, while her sunburnt vinyl tubes dangled in my face like a pair of gassed bananas. She found a plastic lighter with two drops in it and my expired driver’s license. She lit up and and read my name. “Hiya, James,” she said.

“Hi,” I said. “How’s business?”

“Oh, so-so.” The whore’s nostrils flared and smoke came out. She stared down the street. It was hot. My back was burning through my shirt. There was a broken beer bottle by my head smelling sour like spit and lies and broken promises.

I tried to think, but it hurt. The whore whispered obscenities to my cigarette. “How long you going to lay there,” she said finally. I told her I didn’t know. I told her I couldn’t make up my mind to go or stay, one way or the other. “I guess it doesn’t matter,” I said.

“I guess not,” the whore said.

“What about you?” I said.

“What about me.”

“What’re you going to do?”

“Well, James — I thought I’d make sure you’re all right, then go home and make a nice spaghetti dinner for my good-looking husband the stock broker and our three happy, well adjusted, clean young children with bright futures. I cut them out of a magazine this morning. They’re still fresh.”

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*****


Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

 

Raw

Amy Wright

 

Do I want to witness the convergence of forces
that have acted (and continue to act) on me?
               -Ander Monson

What kind of girl do you take me for?
I want you on my team
So does everybody else
               
-Nelly Furtado

 

A white boy cruising the grocery store parking lot, ghetto blasters throbbing his shiny red, gifted Camaro, will seem ironic but it’s not. Music is a pistol, a featherbed, a whip. There’s power in it, especially rap. So much willful freedom.  “That feeling that you get inside your stomach is our proof,” Brother Ali chants like a hungry mongrel pulling out of hell with a caramel strand. Street preaching. Adamancy of belief. It seems like anger but is defense, the best of which, the footballers say, is a good offense. You can punch your way through anything. You can knock down the guard and sidle in. 

I met the artistic director for a Colorado magazine at a dinner party. She was working on a project to conceptualize the new American cowboy. “It’s overdue,” she said, describing the ideas they put on the table, which had to be wiped off: “We’re starting from scratch.” But of course the archetype is embedded in us and our relationship to it is a commentary on us. The new icon will wear the old one like a tasseled jacket. We prefer our leather broken in and our skin spf’ed. I don’t know what they’ll come up with, but I hope it accounts for white southern farm girls listening to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. 

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*****

 

The American Dream

Chipmunx

October 17th, 2012

           
Having received his invitation to the American Dream, Max Patrique truly deserved a piece of the pie. He lost his job during the Great Recession's double dip when the Dow plunged again below 7000. His unemployment checks had already stopped coming for several months. All credit cards were maxed, the house was in foreclosure, and the car was repossessed. It was a gift from God, a miracle, that he would be invited on an all expense paid trip to be offered a permanent position employed with one of America's Fortune 500 companies. And with it, he would receive full coverage health and life insurance for himself as well as for his thirteen year old daughter and seven year old son; spouses too were covered, but Max's wife had died of brain cancer in 2009. The Patrique's had no health or life insurance at the time. Unpredictable medical expenses drained all of their lifelong savings.
           
Angelica Weasel was not doing so well when she received her invitation. Luckily, the prize included a free ride to the airport, first class seats on an airplane to Arizona, and a ride to the convention center in Sierra Vista where details of the American Dream would be unraveled for all winners. Angelica's husband killed himself after he was laid off from his job where he served loyally for forty years. And just a year shy of retiring with a full pension, the CEO via a webcast informed all seventy-four hundred employees that all three factories in America were relocating to China's Xiamen province ultimately decimating the livelihood of three rural American towns. The CEO, with his eighty million a year salary, blamed the Great Recession's impact on declining global consumption and the inability to compete with the Chinese, who were now the world's largest consumers. Angelica, a fifty-two year old housewife had never worked. She also had been living with her husband in a car pay check to pay check as a result of legal fees for her son who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for driving drunk into an elementary school playground during their lunch break. She was looking forward gratefully to gain on-the-job training with confirmed upward mobility in her new career.

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*****

 

Come and Play

Margaret Elysia Garcia

 

That spring, I felt the whole earth try to throw itself. I woke up, holding tightly to my patchwork stuffed horse, Patches, as I fell off the top bunk. My Siamese cat, Brownie, circled and howled, then scurried to the far corner under the bed and couldn't be coaxed out.

“It’s just an earthquake,” Mama said, trying to calm me.

I remained huddled in my Holly Hobbie sleeping bag on the floor.

"Sometimes nature needs to move quickly and loudly. It’s okay. We're all still here.. It’s over.” She pet my hair for hours, there on the floor. I stared at the stars and the moons on my wall. They hadn’t moved. I stared under the bed at Brownie whose eyes remained wide. His ears were flat against the top of his head. I wanted to pet Brownie and let him know that Mama said once a big movement like that happens, another bad scary thing like that won't come for a long, long time—but he hissed at me and tried to bite at me.

 “Mama, if he’s still under there tomorrow can I build a Golden Book bridge under the bed and have him walk across it so he's safe?” I asked.

“He’ll be out in a few hours. Animals sense when things are happening in nature. He’s just a little spooked. He’ll come out soon,” her Mama reassured.

Brownie reappeared during Captain Kangaroo; he leapt onto the TV and his toast colored tail hung down the middle of the screen. Mama didn’t like me watching too much TV, but that was one of three things I could watch.

"Only white trash and bad Mexicans spend so much time watching the idiot box," she declared. While watching TV, I usually played with books or colored on butcher-block paper. I wasn’t just sitting there. When Mama watched she folded the laundry.

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*****

 

Jury of Her Peers

Mick Parsons


 
After the paper came out, Denise sat in her cell and decided on her course of action. Everyone knew, anyway. Everyone always knew everything before the paper came out on Wednesday; but they never knew enough, and what people didn’t know, they made up. All anybody would see was that she had been arrested. No one would be surprised. And no one would bother to listen, either.
 
Denise liked Sheriff Cleary because he was an old man who still looked at women as the weaker sex and in need of protection. Even when he was forced to arrest one he made sure they were as comfortable as possible. He let her have the starched white bed sheets to put on her bunk, let her keep the toilet seat, and even put a little chair in the cell to give her someplace else to sit. The only other thing in the cell besides the rusty sink was an old Gideon’s Bible. Pages were missing and what pages were left was covered with obscene drawings.
 
If it were up to deputies Marty and Erle, she would have had none of those things. Denise knew them and knew what they were like. They weren’t men like Cleary. They were men like men had become. Men who saw women as either fuckable or as marriage material, but not both. And both of them had, in their time, fucked her. They fucked her the same way their fathers had fucked her mother in that small apartment above the old laundromat. They fucked her because she was just a townie whore and That Was How You Treated A Townie Whore.

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*****

 

Narcolepsy

Finnegan Flawnt

 

I suffered from narcolepsy well into my thirties.

It made it difficult for me to hold down even menial jobs. Once I did a stint in a burger shop, a corner business, greasy hair and rats in the kitchen, half of the customers drunk at seven in the morning. When the shop opened, I was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. The Greek owner had a strict regimen, perhaps he thought he was Alexander the Great or something. He also had two women, both of whom thought they alone were married to him. He saw one during the day the other one in the evenings and often slept in the shop alone. Anyways, around this guy I seemed to have kicked my spell. But one day, as I was stirring a bunch of fat-dripping fries in a pan, I simply slumped. The fries landed on the floor, and I was fired. From a burger place! So I figured I needed to find a job where I could take naps any time without attracting too much attention. I thought: security guard.

I signed up as security man at a jewelry shop which consequently was robbed blind while I was – asleep. This evidently wasn’t the career for me – I’d never have thought security people needed to stay alert like this! I mean you see them virtually sleepwalking around glassy buildings or sidewalks, like zombies. A whole string of other jobs followed. One of them, manager for an accounting business wasn’t bad – my supervisor entrusted me with leading a team and she let me be. The team didn’t care either – they were happy not to be managed. I had a comfy chair where I could slouch and it was barely noticed when my darkness hit me. Until the boss walked in and found me unawakable once. That was that then – the team seemed genuinely sorry to lose me.

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*****


NOODLES

Bobby Parker

 

There it was, after the TV guide in the newspaper: DIRTY CHAT WITH LIVE GIRLS, only 35p per minute. I dialled the number.

   To go straight to the first available girl, press one, said an automated voice…

- Hello, this is Michelle.
Her accent was strong, Newcastle.
- Hi, my name is Rob...erm... never done this kind of thing before, not quite sure what to say...
- Well, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m about five feet five inches tall with long blonde hair and thirty four double D boobs. My legs are muscular and my body is toned with a healthy tan. My eyes are green and I’m horny today.
- Really? Well, erm...  
- Why don’t you tell me what you look like. Are you wanking right now?
My penis lay half erect across my left leg like a sausage no one wants. I lifted it up and let it slap back onto my leg.
- No, well, a bit, just never called these things before and wondered what it would be like. Does it depress you, talking to wanking men all the time? Suppose the money must be good, and...
- Well... the... why don’t you tell me what you want me to do to myself?
- How about you beg me to fuck you?

She began to moan and talk about her pussy. My dick got hard and my free hand pulled at it until an unsatisfactory ejaculation erupted over my belly, and then I quickly hung up and felt disgusted with myself. There was a long black sock by the bed, perfect for wiping guilty cum off my belly.  
  
The newspaper was still open to the phone sex section beside me on the bed. It made me feel strange. The women in the pictures were terrifying, like the women in my dreams who suck my dick until it makes me dizzy, or emerge like vampires from the back of dark wardrobes, naked and full of rage. Not even women, really, but some kind of fallout from hardcore porn movies and magazines and the things you hear from your promiscuous friends that you can’t quite believe, maybe because it makes you jealous.

The light in my bedroom was orange because the curtains are thin and orange. They were closed against the sun. I pretended to be inside a huge orange, a dark pip, sorry for all my wrongs and every bad decision.

Michelle, I said. Michelle from Newcastle. And lay there for a while wondering whether to go to my parents’ house for dinner and save the cheap noodles in the cupboard for when things get really bad.  

 

*****

 

 

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010


Invisible Man Directing Traffic

Craig Woods

 

Some years ago I dreamt about a great war. I don’t recall the political details and, being a dream, those seemed of little relevance in any case. I do however remember a scene of great jubilation: a city like Barcelona, timid sunlight on cobblestones stained black with attrition. A child with a missing arm came running into my embrace, screaming: “We won! We won!” The child held in her frail grubby fingers the amputated arm of a plastic doll. She grinned feverishly and held the miniature artificial limb aloft, as though it signified her return to an unmolested state. It was enough to tell me the victory was real. From the walls and smoky shadows of the city, men and women emerged to rebuild and repair in a communal spirit of camaraderie and good cheer. We had won. Victory was ours. Hallelujah.

But something was wrong.

As I looked around at the faces of my brethren I was struck by the familiarity of every face and voice, each turn of phrase and quirk of dress. I quickly surmised that I knew all of these people. Every single one. I was in a City of Familiars where the last stranger had been cast out in the name of an ill-defined “victory”. The war we had won had been a folly of the most obscene puritanism. We had purged ourselves of all that was foreign so that I now found myself trapped in a bland utopia of parochialism where none were permitted to mind their own business and I was choked by familiarity on all sides. 

I awoke in a pool of my own tepid terror with this simple knowledge quivering at my lips:
Where familiarity is preserved, all revolutionary victories are basically failures. Self-defeats. Regressions.

Imagine the idiocy of a snake attempting to re-clad itself in a shed skin. Or a frog biting off its limbs in an attempt to return permanently to the underwater realm of the tadpole. 

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*****

Sirenas en salsa de manzana
Una receta para intensificar la creatividad

Por Xánath Caraza


Los ingredientes:

4 ramilletes de sirenas recién pescadas
2 ½ libras de manzanas aurora boreal
3 pedazos de anís estrella
2 dientes de ajo porcelana finamente picado
3 cucharadas de miel de hierba del fuego
1 cucharada de salsa de soya intensa
6 pizcas de creatividad enaltecida
2 pizcas de imaginación
Sal y pimienta al gusto
1 chorrito de aceite de oliva verde
3 frutas dragón a la mitad para adornar
1 porción de amor también para adornar


Primero visita la orilla de mar más cercana mientras el sol aun brille.  Llega hasta el mercado de pescado y asegúrate de buscar las sirenas más frescas del día.  Hay una miríada de sirenas, obtén tu tipo favorito.  Las más sabrosas son las de la variedad de cola roja y dorada.  Puede ser que también las encuentres en tu supermercado local en la sección de congelados.  Sin embargo, prueba las recién pescadas; son las más exquisitas.

Una vez en tu cocina, pica finamente los dos dientes de ajo porcelana e incorpora los siguientes ingredientes en la concha de una almeja gigante: anís estrella, ajo porcelana, miel de hierba del fuego y salsa de soya intensa.  Déjalos marinar por una eternidad y después, por exactamente diez minutos – no más ni menos- cocínalos a fuego alto de pasión.  Por mientras, pela las manzanas aurora boreal y córtalas en cubos de media pulgada.  Agrega los cubos de manzana al fuego de pasión y mueve constantemente hasta que la aurora boreal aparezca afuera de tu ventana.  Agrega un chorrito de aceite de oliva verde en la mezcla y déjalos que se cuezan a fuego de baja intensidad pero vesubiano por media hora más-- esto hará que cree tu sensual salsa de manzanas.  A continuación, agrega suavemente las sirenas de cola roja y doradas, seis pizcas de creatividad y dos pizcas de imaginación.  Mezcla cuidadosamente y cubre por cinco minutos.

Prepara tu sopera; usa una con colores llamativos. A las sirenas les gusta el color.  Pon en el plato el guisado de las sirenas con salsa de manzana y adorna con las mitades de fruta dragón y una porción de amor.  Come felizmente y espera.  La imaginación y la creatividad te nacerán.  Tú sabrás cuando lleguen.  Añade sal y pimienta si es necesario.  Disfruta con tus seres queridos.   

[ translation ]

Mermaids in Apple Sauce:
A recipe to intensify creativity

By Xanath Caraza

Ingredients:

4 bunches of freshly caught mermaids                                         
2 ½ pounds of Northern Lights apples
3 pieces of starfish anise
2 cloves of porcelain garlic finely chopped
3 tablespoons of fireweed honey
1 tablespoon of intensely savory soy sauce
6 pinches of heightened creativity
2 pinches of imagination
Salt and pepper to taste
A drizzle of green olive oil
3 dragon fruit halves for garnish
1 dollop of love as well for garnish


Firstly visit the nearest seashore whilst the Sun is aglow.  Encounter the fish market and make certain to seek out the freshest mermaids of the day.  There is a myriad of mermaids, obtain your favorite kind; the tastier ones are of the red and golden-tailed variety.   You may find them in your local supermarket in the frozen section too.  However, try the freshly caught ones; those are the most exquisite.

Once in your kitchen, finely chop the two cloves of porcelain garlic and incorporate the following ingredients in a giant clam shell: starfish anise, porcelain garlic, fireweed honey and intensely savory soy sauce.  Lingeringly, let them marinade for a long-lasting eternity and then for exactly ten minutes—no more and no less—cook them on a high fire of passion.  Meanwhile, peel the Northern Lights apples and dice them into half inch cubes.  Add the apple cubes to the fire of passion and stir constantly until the Northern Lights appear outside your window.  Pour a drizzle of green olive oil into the mix and let it simmer for an extra half an hour on a very low but constant Vesuvius fire—creating your sensual apple sauce.  Next, fold in the red and golden-tailed mermaids, the six pinches of creativity and two pinches of imagination.  Mix gingerly and cover for five minutes.

Prepare your soup trine; use a colorful one.  Mermaids like color.  Plate up mermaid and apple sauce dish and garnish with the pink dragon fruit halves and a dollop of love.  Eat happily and wait.  Imagination and creativity will grow in you.  You will know when it comes.  Add salt and pepper if necessary. Enjoy with the ones you love.


*****


The Never Ending Cycle…
Gonzo Michael Palmer


They all know my name and call it out in unison when I enter. It feels good to be wanted, or at least known. A Miller High Life is my beacon. It guides me to my seat, the one in front of the mirror, so I can stare at the stranger that stares back at me.

I can always remeber coming to this place, but rarely remember leaving. I always come alone and leave even lonlier, even if I leave with some barfly that has temporarily landed there and decides to take a "regular" home.

Ghost of people surround me there. They are not dead, but they are certainly not living. They drowned in the bottle a long time ago. I feel as if I am one of those treading water in a bottle of booze. I could have sworn I heard someone yell, "MAN OVERBOARD!", many moons or noons ago.

Sounds of bells from the fruit machines mix with the clacking of billiard balls. I put money in the jukebox to drown out not only these sounds, but the voices of people who only reside in my head. They talk a lot of shit, but some of the things I hear makes perfect sense. That's what scares me. Waylon and Willie will serenade me and drown out all of the sounds that make me uncomfortable, at least until the credits run out.

I won't let the bartender clear away the bottles or shot glasses. I like to make skylines with them. Bourbon City. High Life Lane. The Russian Quarter. I know this city well. You won't find it on any map but you can follow me to any bar and visit it with me whenever you like. Tours start at noon.

Sometimes the bartender gives me the eye. I sometimes dance with her when Otis Redding or Sam Cooke plays. She pulls me close and rests her head on my chest. She is in a unhappy marriage and looks to me for escape. Coming to me for compassion is like going to the homeless for real estate. Never a good idea. She knows this, but is willing to take that risk.

Cougars are always in season here and they are on the prowl. Their skin has had too much sun and their make-up only makes it look worse. I use to be one of their prey but age has put me out of their leaque. Their cheap perfume still lures me towards them and I invite them to Bourbon city.

I fell victim to a cougar attack on more than one occasion. The last left me in Lake Tahoe for three months. She was the ex-wife of a bass player from some 70's rock band. Groupies never grow old, they just learn more satisfying posistions, anal mainly, all other orafices are too worn out.

The cougars are avoiding me tonight. The buzzards have already moved in. The barflies still still swarm, but I call it a night. Leaving lonlier than when I arrived, I stumble onto the sidewalk that will eventually lead me either home or to oblivion. I suspect the latter.

Hookers with addictions persuade me to take them home for an hourly retreat. Their company is cheap but not satisfying and I wake up alone and do it all over again. Maybe I should justt stop treading water and drown. Maybe I already have...



*****

 

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


Stud
by Bill Hillmann

This is an example of why no matter how big you are you should never go to somebody’s house looking for a fight. It was a school night, around 11, I lay in bed, I could still hear my parents TV blaring down the hall as I started to feel myself drift off to sleep. When I heard Rosie’s voice raging “Oh, I know you didn’t come up here like That! To my house Fool?”

I heard a deep voice grumbling something about “Where is it Rose,” and I tried to drift back toward sleep when I heard a slap and a scuffle, pulling, shoes scrapping over pavement.

Rose’s voice rippling, a vicious “Nooo.” Like the hiss of an alley cat and I shot up and looked out the window as my sister wrestled with some large dark figure on the sidewalk below out in front of the house, it looked like a grizzly was mauling her. I leapt from bed and rumbled down the stairs, Jan saw me near the front door as she sat on the living room couch and said “what are you doing?”

“Rosie’s fighting!” I shouted as I sprinted out the door. I saw De Andre’s tall frame squeezing between the bumper and grill of my Ma’s maroon van and the car parked in front of it as Rose grasped at his black T-shirt sleeve, then they both disappeared into the street behind the van. I heard Rose say, “You fucked up Now! My brothas out here!” as I followed squeezing through the narrow space, when I got out there to the street they’d stopped. I couldn’t figure out what she meant by that because from the looks of it I was giving up somewhere around 60 pounds and 5 years to this guy.

I was standing there in the middle of the street naked except for the thin wool boxers I’d gone to bed in. De Andre looming tall a few feet away his eyes glowing wet, Adams Apple flexing, skin pitch black, the street light gleaming off his forehead that loomed tall above his wide shoulders as he stared bug eyed at Rose who stood beside me. Rose’s long brown frizzy hair splayed out wild and free like a wind gust had stole the rubber band for her pony tail; her torso heaving, glaring straight back at him. My heart was pattering as I grasped at Rose’s arm with both hands.

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*****

 

Dirty Spooge in Praying Hands
Chimpunx

During a snowy February Jeff discovered in a mold infested basement, at five in the morning (on his thirteenth birthday), how his young mother was prevented from having an abortion.  The Christian Right (a church leader, a teacher, a city council member, a pro-life activist, and a supporter of guns) pushed their pro-life agenda into legislation, forcing his mother, who was raped at age fourteen by her father, to bring the child forth into the world, despite her desire not to have a child of an incestuous birth: the bastard son of an evil man, who had molested many children during his tenure before cancer ate his perverted body.

Jeff's mother, a welfare recipient who did not inherit the life insurance from her father because he gave it to the church, had a whiskey and sedative habit that rivaled a Rock-N-Roll Stars from the 1970s. If she was lucky, a couple truckers would stop by the house for a few hours and give her a hard, deep rooting while she was passed out in her own vomit. She was a twenty-eight year old, STD infested, walking vessel of her cancerous environment of crucifix wearing, bible thumping, religious caricatures who privately prayed for their nation's president to be assassinated. Her teenage cirrhosis showed as she sat feebly waiting for her monthly check; nevertheless, she did not angrily beat Jeff while she was in a blacked-out rage against society. Back in the basement, Jeff sat calmly holding his mother's six shooter revolver. He placed a bullet in the chamber and spun it. Jeff grew so obsessed with the clicking sound of the chamber that he could hear the revolver's cylinder in slow motion - an ability to count how many times the bullet rotated. Pulling the trigger, pulling the trigger, and pulling the trigger again with great relaxation made him very experienced in a suicidal fancy. If the hammer would hit a bullet, he would spin it again. Risky behavior is not uncommon for American youth. Smoking, drinking, popping parent's pills, unprotected sex, eating fast food, riding a bicycle without a helmet downhill at night are but a few examples of ways to get the blood flowing in what normally would be a highly repressed rule bound culture. Appearance is everything because nobody knew what was happening inside his head at church or in school. Jeff's mother dressed him in nice clothes and reminded him, “People do judge a book by its cover”; therefore, Jeff promised his mother that he would keep his private thoughts to himself instead of publicly sharing any of his hatred for classmates and teachers. Playing in team sports and doing good in school was what made Jeff so normal. Yet one day a few of his teammates went to a girl's house, who was only twelve, and tied her to the bed and violated her with vegetables. Jeff watched sadly but was unable to escape the peer pressure of his baseball mates. “My mom is meeting me at the library today,” he said, “and I will keep this secret,” he crossed his heart and hoped to die.  If he broke the teammate's secret game of “produce play,” the name his team leader called the inserting of carrots into orifices of a farmer.

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*****


Frondosidad de Sebastián
Asher Benatar

 

Nunca imaginó que Velasco pudiera estar tan bien informado. Exhibía estadísticas, informes, cartas presuntamente secretas que debilitaban la propuesta de Sebastián dejándolo en una situación difícil. Por eso, cuando llegó su turno, paseó la vista a lo largo de la mesa ovalada y supo que estaba al borde de quedar en minoría. Comenzó a hablar pausadamente, no por tranquilidad sino para ganar tiempo, para encontrar los argumentos adecuados que convencieran a esas seis personas de que la gestión por él desarrollada al frente de la compañía no había sido imprudente ni arriesgada y que aquellas inversiones tan discutidas iban a constituirse, al cabo de pocos años, en el instrumento para quedarse con buena parte del mercado sudamericano. Empezó bien, y acaso habría podido dar vuelta la situación de no ser por aquella molestia que sintió en el hombro obligándolo a investigar por debajo de cuello de la camisa. Palpó algo extraño, delgado y suave, una pequeña excrecencia que se doblaba ante la presión de los dedos y que sólo provocaba dolor ante los cautelosos intentos de Sebastián por arrancarla. Inquieto ante esa novedad de su cuerpo, perdió el camino de la argumentación, repitió conceptos, no supo convencer.  Castelnuovo, el único de los miembros del directorio que lo apoyaba, parecía instarlo con el gesto. Celasco y  Ferrer mantenían su expresión neutra, sin ceder a la tentación de una sonrisa irónica. Sebastián trató de olvidar su inquietud pero no pudo. Sus palabras, habitualmente apasionadas y llenas de fuerza, se tornaron anodinas, carentes de garra. Aun Castelnuovo, tan entusiasta y lleno de adhesión durante todo aquel tiempo de negociaciones secretas, dudó antes de emitir el único voto favorable a Sebastián.

-Como comprenderás, querido Arocena –dijo Celasco, dirigiéndose a Sebastián- ya no podés seguir dirigiendo la compañía.
-De esta manera tampoco me interesa –respondió Sebastián, mientras seguía hurgando en aquella presencia que su cuerpo había inaugurado-. Supongo que lo lógico es que ustedes compren mi parte. Si esas inversiones en el norte  no se hacen, yo no puedo seguir en la empresa.
-Está bien –intervino Ferrer-, ¿por qué entonces no lo discutimos ahora?
-Prefiero en otro momento –respondió Sebastián, más interesado en su cuello que en las consecuencias de la votación-. Cuando estemos más tranquilos.

Tomó su portafolios y se fue. Castelnuovo lo miraba, atónito.

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*****


JIMMY MARS

D.M. Mitchell


In my mind’s eye I can still see Jimmy wandering the grubby streets of my childhood. In his mangy carpet slippers and torn lank-top, muttering unintelligibly and snapping at passers-by. I can picture his hollow-cheeked pocked face, lizard skin beneath beetling brows. Never wore an overcoat, even in the winter, rain or snow. Over the years of my formation up until puberty- he became part of the childhood mythology of the neighborhood. In retrospect, though, he was just another dead-beat in an area full of dead- beats. He lived next door to the house with the overgrown garden where poisonous looking weeds erupted from the remains of an old sofa and a TV- set. The tales that surrounded his pitiful existence were typical little boy fabrications, except as it turned out, for one. He did keep his wife locked in a rear bedroom, feeding her on biscuits and water, and she did scream every night. She was acutely schizophrenic. Social workers in those days were very few and far between. Not that they're much use even now.

I recently returned to the old street to try and find his house and was unable to make out which one it was. Every garden seemed to have become overgrown. The stained-glass panels that had distinguished his door had apparently been removed. There seemed more rubbish in the street than ever and every third window was boarded over. I was forced to run a gauntlet of vicious stray dogs and dirty barely-dressed infants stared at me unflinchingly in a way that made me shiver. Before I left the area I was bitten badly by a black Labrador.

Jimmy drank himself to death twice. The first time, he keeled over in a public house, stone dead. An ambulance managed to get him lo the nearest medical facility available, in this case, the local lunatic asylum. There, they pumped his stomach of beer and an assortment of pills and massaged his heart. They were shocked when he sat boll upright on the table and demanded to be taken home. On being dropped off at said abode, he was so happy that he went back to the pub to celebrate.

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*****

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Heather Altfeld
 
James Beach
 
Asher Benatar
 
Dorothy Bendel
 
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Chipmunx
 
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Finnegan Flawnt
 
Margaret Elysia Garcia
 
Rudy Ch. Garcia
 
Raúl Hernández Garrido
 
Salena Godden
 
Ty Gorton
 
Mariana Graciano
 
Bill Hillmann
 
Kathryn Jackson
 
John Paul Jaramillo
 
William Michaelian
 
James Miller
 
D.M. Mitchell
 
Courttia Newland
 
Cole Nowicki
 
Daniel A. Olivas
 
Gonzo Michael Palmer
 
Bobby Parker
 
Tony Rauch
 
Guillermo Samperio
 
Lucas Sarcona
 
Dan Tracy
 
Charlie Vázquez
 
Michael Wilding
 
Craig Woods

 
Amy Wright