As you may have noticed, we didn't have stories last month. That's because after seven years of working on this project, we've decided to take a hiatus.
Some time this month, we'll post one final time. It'll be short essays about our experiences working on PFC.
Thanks for reading.
We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Found Objects by Sherisse
The mood was festive inside the limousine: white cats and cocktails, Leila in a gold vintage dress, feathers and flowers in her hair, Oscar in a three-piece suit, his lips against an instrument. How sexy the night, the possibility of a new moon, an elsewhere kind of quiet.
Once, she had made him look away. She had pierced her nose, the following week her navel. The pain was alright. It hadn’t bothered her. It was a little bit like becoming someone else, entering the body of another and shedding your own. The tears had been involuntary, an intelligent glandular response. He hadn’t understood. For him, the acts had been about mutilation, betrayal, a too radical assertion of her autonomy.
Grateful for her belief in redemption, Leila offered Oscar the jewelry now, the metal that had once resided in her skin. From her palm to his, here it was, a humble gesture to mark the moment, to say, of all the ways that we empty ourselves this is one.
Dismemberment Plan by Alan
Wichita felt compelled to tell his family about the audible. While most people would be sending more inconsequential parts (small appendages, overlooked genitalia, etc.) up to sector S1V} in the spring, he decided he would choose the most rare and, indeed, risky business of sending up the heart. Actually, it had never been attempted, except by one brave woman who did so when the plan was first implemented, before the birth of the newest sun in the solar system and infinitely hotter days. The proper documentation was lost, intentionally obfuscated, or never really there in the first place - fuzzy details. All that was certain was the fact that she never "recovered" but was happier, generally, for it.
After his decision and the obligatory phone calls, Wichita, stepped into the cab parked out front. It would take him to the lab where the organ would be removed, loaded into the compression launcher, and hurled across timelines. The entire process would take the better part of a year, but what of mansion and hollow hollow cage? And what if the emptiness didn't take, went all plague on the encasement and left instead an exoskeleton, a shell of a man, which (in water) would duck and bob on the principles of waves.
Guys, if you're looking to get in on the ground floor of something really big, this is your chance. Look at Wichita, that beauty. Shifty,the dealer's mouth agape at his immunity. When everything he ever wanted in the old world was hung up on his walls and he had a choice, he made it and he made it big. We can give you a glory unimagined in all of human experience. It's a small price to pay. And now even this pulsating red beet of a thing. Look at him, how peaceful he is, staring off into a series of two dimensions for the future of your planet and for ours...for science, ultimately.
Bucketize by Lyle
He always had his bucket with him. Ever since late in the year, since the snow banks really started laying into themselves, which is to say, earlier than usual, he’d had his bucket. And today he considered buying his mother a cat. That she had been dead many years (and hated cats) did not enter into it as much as the snow — was it the snow? — did.
“Don’t create a fake verb like bucketize from the noun bucket.”
He had come across that somewhere (one of the technical books on his night stand?) some time ago. He had always understood inherently about the noun bucket, but it was the first he’d seen it written. That was were he had gotten the idea of buying his mother a cat. Reach into the noun bucket. “Cat.” “Mother.” At first because of the order he had thought catmother. But that was too startling. Too close to his cat-hating mother. So then mother cat and since it was a noun bucket and not a verb bucket — ridiculous! — a cat for his mother was it.
At his mother’s grave, he placed the kitten in the snow hole he had dug, covered the hole and left. The wind dampened the muffled mewling of the kitten.
The noun bucket next to him on the bench chose his stories for him.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Idea by Alan
When Winston met Julia in the vacant dormitory, the expectation was to simply exchange the bags they had prepared several months before the election. Intending to exercise their pragmatic selves, they planned through a series of coded notes they posted at midnight on the third Monday of each month this most anticipated rendezvous. In the bags were sets of clothes that would have the proper donation tags so as to seem innocuous enough for the authorities who would surely go through them at some point. There was an influx of surveillance activity in the region recently, and everyone who mattered was a bit more vigilant.
But the weight of the meeting got the better of their even temperaments. They kissed as they went through the articles. First the creases of the skirt and then the brim of the hat. Not one but both pairs of socks next (simultaneously) and then the undershirts and cargo pants. They took time to investigate each other's pockets and redresses. An arm hung a blouse over what may have been a clock in a previous life. The hands ticked in pre-measured circles.
There would come a time when the rules that once governed the countries of our hearts would bear such inconceivable weights that breaking would be, at last, the only way to go on and, indeed, the truest evidence that life as we once knew it was officially over. But at least for this fantastic meeting, Winston and Julia were free. At least, that was the idea.
Building a Fire by Sherisse
And then there's a spark. Closer to the bone than you can bear. In Ulster County, you are all cupboards and stuffed love seats as the cat creeps in to boast about autonomy. In hindsight, a kettle boils. A steel spoon makes the liquids mix, clicks against the curves of paper-thin glass. The honey has gone missing, ash and wax in its place.
From her new bed, my mother talks about mayonnaise sandwiches until she trails off into sleep. I am a six-year-old again, waiting on the gray concrete steps outside for her to wake up. How I love to be her orphan.
When Fidel dies, I feel little more than inner quiet. My grandmother appears that night wearing a regal suit jacket. She has left the cigar and sniper rifle at home, wherever that now is (or was). She isn't in the mood to fight but she will if she must. She is large, all witness and looming eyes.
"You smell like you're pregnant," the sages say to me. This hamlet we’re in is full of wood and leaves and rain. I am gathering my tools when they hang me in my smock-dress to bloom, to plump up like a floriferous peony.
The sages sit around the dominoes table; they pray for my wild hair to finally tame, finally turn straight.
Here Here by Bill
Here’s the idea. Here’s the thing. Here’s Johnny. Here’s where we start. Here’s where it stops. Here’s where it inflates to an impossible size so the hearts and minds of the ogres in the hill are brought to a piece of earth suffused with light slicing up from the edge of the leaves. Here the lessons we learn bring us to the doors of a church, to the shores of a river, to the end of a rope or to a metal table in a basement. Here’s how you call the meeting to order. Here’s how you order men and women to their death.
Here’s the side of the field I need you to cover and here’s the paints you will use to make the portrait he will lock away at the utmost point of the house hidden from view. Here’s the table where she will rewrite the name of god. Here are the Star-Makers. Here are the fierce edges of sight scanning the halls of the forest as the lines between what is and what is not fade, when the walls between where we are and where we’ve been and are going pass into a thin mist, then nothing, calling all things to creep up the sides of the abyss to clarity and definition until the universe is centered at all points, the circle closed, the thought complete, here, where it ends.
Digression by Lyle
I thought about leaving a book inside the hollow of a tree stump. I don't know what would have happened to it, but here's what I think. It rotted. It sat there for perhaps a year until it was no more than the stump itself. And then the stump was extracted like a tooth that has turned in the gums -- green and brown and cloying and soft. Thus leaving a hollow of it's own -- a divot in the earth, filled eventually by the pools of time. The black squiggles in the book nothing themselves but ideas. Ants contained in their glass house with no one watching them. They don't get out of there, I can tell you that much. But I digress. Inevitably, I digress. May I go now?
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Diverticulum by Sherisse
I gather water here. Inside the Hallmark store, I gather water and wait. For you to find me between aisles and where there is no mother-father. Only a small path back along shopping avenues and sweets for the mouth to take. It is all pleasure and innocent here, at night, in the blue room beside the window. Under sleep and waiting moon. Snore and spit. I wish. To be that grotesque. The record player lingers, drags me in and under. Water falls away from seams. Melts me into many. Frostbite-numb and pinpricked. Where you were number one. One and two and three, the go-between. First triangle. Serpent, feather-hungry. Body for the child to lean into, turn, tilt. Hush and swish. The bone-thin hand in winter and bottled up, a thick music. Far from any shore. Uncostumed, you.
Nausea by Lyle
In the quarter note light of fireflies, I crept on. But I felt more hunted than hunter. What else was out in the night? The will-o’-wisp pulsed at odd intervals to the fireflies and beyond the dull sheen of water lurked lurking. The surface grued with each of my steps. Instead of elutriating, it clung, scummy, to my boots. And then I understood that I had lost my focus, my prey. My ability to speak, let alone scream — though there was no reason to do either. I remembered the empty, hard lot of my town. Looking out behind the gargoyle. That night the gargoyle looked back. To vellicate your soul, you need only forget for a minute where you are.
Gargoyles of Suburbia by Alan
It was the heart of his favorite season, and the trip would not be complete without what would now be a misty jaunt through roads that were once more familiar. The route snaked this way and that past the cinema arts centre and the 24/7 mart and up through the denser wood that prospered just outside the halo of town lights. When he was younger, he imagined living on the edge of that darkness. How it covered up the details and laid its cloak over the chill aftermornings of almost doubt. One could grow wings if left, let's just say, unchallenged for a year or two or even more here. Something closer to a decade when it really counts. When what was done was still happening, he was folded like a song. And in the put away, he was spread like a poem.
In his mind, he was perched again. The audience sang along. There was a promise of aerobatics by the incoming squadron, but the tug was not enough. Just to stay there alone, in tune, would be enough. He said the word aloud, and it filled the car with freedom. To inhale. To secede. Past the old playground and his boyhood friend's home were the swings of his first few real kisses and were they ever truly free. Is anything.
Before heading west and back to the big city that was now his home, he would settle into some groove of cordiality with the others. Some were also in the coming back; others had never left. But for now, he tried to disappear into the fog and come back with something tangible, evidence that this self existed, beyond doubt, that the magic in the spout was not an architectural trick but rather a fierce insouciance bent on lifting all that was heavy around him, getting lifted.
There he is again, staring off into space. Grotesque, mouth hung limp, breathing beads of spit across his lips, watching nothing and it is hard to say what you would see if you looked inside of his head. It is hard to describe, like a fog, a portion of space filled by opaque miasmas hanging limp, inert but clinging like tiny clawed fingers come to rest against the skin. It is a mind like the basement air of an abattoir.
It rubs fingers together and feels the stony protrusions grate against each other. The wings on its back twitch. It moves its knee slightly. It settles back into rest. It does not feel the cold or the sun, just the slight shifting as heat ebbs and flows around it, a sliver of movement in its form but nothing of concern. Its heart is stone, its spirit unweathered, free from concern and replete with contempt. The thing presses its lips together, then peels them back in a smile. What does it want that it does not have?
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Encounters by Sherisse
It must have felt for a long time like there was nowhere to go, no airplanes landing or taking off. Like meals consisted of the same three ingredients. Like there was no context, a very limited self. Now he works in an office in midtown Manhattan standing up. It’s called a Varidesk, I think. For variety, I suppose. He hopes his buttocks will firm up soon. He checks it daily; he’s installed a long mirror in the living room for exactly that reason. All those years of sitting, headphone wearing, looking for his father in the dark. The roosters wouldn’t wake him up, they refused to take him on. He would buy a car, move to Westchester, move in a soft pet. If that is what life was to be. If he was to go straight to being old from being young. He would fuck here and there, hide under the covers of his own bed, the handsome body of a stranger tangled up to his limbs. How intricate, passive. He would continue this conversation started long ago because the end of it was like a frayed string caught under things, whole seasons. He’d keep busy, he’d avoid making any explosives even though the computer in his lap provided plenty of how-tos. He’d go to bed hungry or dizzy or hung-over. He’d wake up greasy in some places, chapped in others and play the part, collect a paycheck, buy new shoes, avoid responsibility. He’d write heart-breaking poems and give them to loved ones who were no longer with us. He’d remember the mailman at 2pm in the afternoon and go look for him with an umbrella in the rain.
The Crossing by Alan
If there was a question before it had happened, it most surely was packed away by now. In mid-crossing, he noticed the lights on the other end of town. By the time he stepped onto the sidewalk and down Avenue C, he was thinking in declarative sentences and marking sites he hadn't visited since the 80s. Confusion, he thought, was a temporary shine in the tunnel of our lives. Matilda, he called it. Your name.
Matilda, begin each day anew as if you have forgotten that question. Matilda, believe in the principles of rockets for someone in the world is on a journey. Let the birds and other flying things enter your room at night and sing their seasonal songs in languages you will almost understand. Wrap your arms around the distance - it will nourish your hungers. And most of all, think of that boy often, the one you never met because of the point at which you entered a life and it entered you.
Cock of the Walk by Bill
“You try to rob me! I rob you! You try to cut me I’ll cut you! Every day some suckers come up here and I put ‘em back down on the ground. I’m breaking ‘em. You talking to me about indifferent tragedy and I say there’s nothing indifferent about it. Tragedy is acute. It’s got a point, like a spear falling toward your heart thrown by Odin’s very own hand. Like the tip of a bullet and the sights are leveled at your head the second you come tapping out of your shell. You don’t want to consider the cruel vagaries of nature but you weren’t born in some bulb-warmed glass case for the amusement of goggling pink little finger-lickers passing through the farm pavilion at the state fair as a respite from the sun between bouts of vomiting up cotton candy on a ferris wheel. Out here you want to eat you better fight for it. You don’t want to fight, don’t eat. Simple as that, so don’t come round here talking about tragedy unless you want to be the next one.”
Crossroads by Lyle
The crushing heat wasn't unusual. Nor the sweating asphalt. It tends to do that in this heat. It melts down on a molecular level. Sort of pools there like quicksand. The chicken would only appear at the crossroads when it got that hot. Some people say it comes right out of there. Sort of like a mirage. We can't catch it, that's for sure. People sit on the bench in front of the antique store for days in the heat to try to get a glimpse. There have been more than one fainting spell; many fewer sightings. Many fewer sightings. The crushing heat wasn't unusual. Nor the sweating asphalt. The chicken on the other hand.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Before the Flood by Sherisse
She wore a long, black and white striped dress that hugged her body. My attention went to her hips, her belly. I thought it a bold choice. She sang for us on a Saturday evening in late August; it was still warm enough to sit outside. The child ate a French fry or two from the plate of another, Brussels for the adult. (Both parts were mine.) There was the passing thought of jealousy not necessarily pinned to anything. We said no to the white wine. The walk home was long. My mouth wanted to sing but made itself instead into the shape of not-speaking. In a dream a few nights later I attempted to flush two (borrowed) umbrellas. The bathroom filled with water. The mess could not be contained.
SCAT by Alan
(during set break)
S: So what you're trying to say is that they were in time?
X: Better than most I've seen.
S: And through the changes? I mean, those were no ordinary changes.
X: Through the changes.
S: There was a moment tonight I felt lost. Like there was no time. Did you guys feel that at all?
X: I only slightly understand what you're talking about right now.
(M lights a smoke)
S: I was reminded of an apartment building across the river. The one we always passed when we got off the bridge. It sort of leaned over the highway as if it were an upper lip of the mouth forming around us. We were always coming out of it. Never going in.
S: When the band lost itself just now, that's what it felt like. Coming out of a conduit, never feeling alone, part of something bigger. These types of things.
X: I'm telling you they didn't lose time.
M: I saw a house like that in a magazine once. It was white as a whale.
X: What the hell does the color matter?
S: How large was it?
M: I remember it was as big as a planet...and it stood over us too.
S: Stood over?
M: Like your coming out. Like it never let us come fully out though.
S: I see. So the feeling never left?
M: And the house.
S: The feeling and the house never left you. You were always exiting and never leaving. Reminds me of a friend across the coast.
M: Who were you with?
S: Someone dear. Always someone dear. And you?
M: I was alone.
X: In time, I'm telling you.
M: The music sometimes makes me feel alone even though there are others on the room, you know. And playing it. That too.
Sweet-tooth by Lyle
She called it my sweet-tooth. In that sickly way that people make silly sounding things take on pregnant nastiness. It's as much my fault as her’s. Or maybe it’s society’s. It doesn’t matter. Really. It might.
I do remember meeting her at the Scat Jazz Lounge in Fort Worth. She sat at the end of the bar smoking a cigarette. I called her a cliche across the room — I’d had a few — and that sealed it. Never looked back. Except for that split second and then I ran into a pole — well-lighted, that Fort Worth. She caught up to me, heels in hand, and sat down on the ground as I rolled around holding my mouth. Well now, she said. What do we have here?
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Ramon and Majik by Alan
If it were less of a game, the conditions surrounding Ramon Soledad's silence would be interpreted as a grave beguiling, a heavy occupation of a vaguely familiar country's capital by dissidents who had had enough of the corrupt president's shady ties to the significantly larger juggernaut next door. If it were more of a game, the weight wouldn't sit so squarely in the chest first and then in the mind and then, like clockwork, back into the chest again as if it too were breathing long and disparate measurings of time and space. Instead, it lived somewhere in the middle, where only the most daring of our kind will venture to go.
Of course, several of Majik's acquaintances cautioned of such ambivalence. They said it would lead to hesitation and disrupt the general flow of life. Like a man uncertain crossing a busy street, the ripples would extend out and rub against neighborly convictions. There may be accidents in the crosswalk. People would get mad at him and at others. Especially in inclement weather.
But to him, there seemed no other way. To him, there was that very field (between "love wins" and "love fails" was one way of marking it) that a mentor had shown him once and now forever wedged beneath the open door. To him, Ramon was and might forever be both lost and found, an imprint upon whatever constitutes the idea of the soul in modern life. He was always and never there, burgeoning yet pressing against the walls of the invisible aquariums we set around us. He was the room without doors, both inside and out. And because of this, he was the most dangerous of all the terrorists Majik had come to know and love, the most dangerous and (in those in between spaces) the most indispensable. The most made up thing of which he could ever conceive and the most true in that gorgeous making.
Lesson by Sherisse
The game was always on in summer. Her kitchen. The perfume-scented heat from the clothes dryer. All the mothers asleep. No one speaking openly about God.
Outside it’s dark; through a low window the legs of people walking to and from the avenue. Grandfather is playing dominoes at the social club. Grandmother pulls out a piece of blank paper, two pens. The smell of lemon and cinnamon and condensed milk.
In a dream you are in a bed not necessarily your own. Mother is clipping your nails and hair. Her lover is hiding in the bathroom. Your legs ache, ears burn. There are doctors lining up to treat you.
You start to forget what you know; you remember things out of order; you make muses out of strangers.
The game is the background noise of nightly living, soundtrack of housework, the end of Communism. You fall in love with all the great mysteries. This kitchen as church, the magic of some faceless saint.
Carmen tells you the story of the body like this: bare feet, clothes on the table, nail polish, Solitaire. Go where you wish, she says through her mouth and laughing she leaves you alone with her roses.
Some Baseball Stories by Forrest
This is a story about baseball that must take its cue from other stories about baseball. A game of men and weapons and lines and empty spaces. It is something like the ancient boardgame of Go, if the fans can think of the players as blank stones upon which only allegiance is written and forget that baseball only has twenty-five men to a team. In that case, baseball is very much like Go. Perhaps it is too much like Go. Perhaps baseball is not as original as the fans believe. The first-baseman has to be crying about something, so why can't it be that. There is nothing sadder than a story about baseball where a player is sad because he realizes mid-game what an unoriginal sport baseball is, remembering a deceased Japanese grandfather with whom he played Go and always lost to because the guy was relentless, even with his grandchildren. He was a real bastard, this first-baseman thinks, which is a comparable trope to other stories about baseball he knew. Perhaps too many stories. There should be a story where the shortstop makes a routine throw to first base but the first-baseman refuses to make the catch because he decides the lack of originality in his life has become too much to bear. Yes, he likes the idea of this story: allegiance cast aside, blank stone comes to life and renounces all forms of bastardy, especially as it relates to allegorical warfare. His orbital socket will need mending, but that's all good. He won't take marching orders from some lousy unoriginal story. The fans can go screw themselves, too, he decides as the boos cascade down upon him. Those nets behind home plate aren't for anyone's protection. They're another insult.
I Have Learned to Live on Memories by Lyle
America's pastime. So I'm reminded. So I'm dated. It all sounds so wooden. I can't eat ballpark franks anymore. So I've taught myself to survive on memories. Little snippets of hoof and ass. It's been months since I've even parted my lips for water. I remember the run to the World Series and let the beer spill into my lap, forming a little pool -- that smell -- the memories moisten my pants and thus my lips. Remember that I am dated by pastimes, here. Watching home runs nourishes me, a bit of salt from a stone. Almost imperceptible. Almost. Almost a memory is still a little salt on a stone. I have no confidence in this, though I watch my games, though I pick the cotton candy from children's sticks when they are not watching, though I am reminded as I sleep dreaming of baseball. Of a pastime stretching out into mindless, pure blue sky.