Thursday, December 1, 2011


Bruce by Alan

Bruce the possum was the kind of handsome that would make all the boys swoon. This particular quality to his being was enhanced every time he was on stage. Something about a microphone, a piano, three chords, and his brand of leveling truth, which was gutteral, sweet, and complex enough to liven curiosity’s prick. This worried Javier. They had been together now for six and a half years. Things were wonderful in a way. They were best friends. They were confidantes. They challenged each other intellectually. But the love had indeed fizzled as evidenced by the intermittent sex and the dimming physical charge. Bruce would spend more and more time in the garage, manipulating pedals and sifting through their “trash” for ebay prizes that would fund his travels. Javier felt for sure that this next tour would be the end. Bruce would be lost to him. Found by another. Javier’s therapist cautioned him against this kind of thinking. It will paralyze you, he warned. Go out. Do something. Treat yourself well, Javier. You deserve it. These words reverberated in his head as Javier wrote down what he thought would be a fitting ending on a few pages of his notebook and scattered them throughout the house while Bruce showered. And while Bruce was toweling off, Javier stepped out into the cool November air and considered his options. He wanted to run – down the block, to his parents’ house, to an old lover, to 10th grade, to anywhere, forever, never. Instead, he opened the garage door and paused. The wind swirled through the gossamer at the entrance while Javier said his name over and over again. Bruce. Bruce. Bruce.


Possum Notes by Johanna

He came and went with the moon. Like the moon, he was still there when you couldn't see him. A trail of crumbs to closet recesses, the smell of wood shavings on winter clothes, creaking in the attic on windless mornings. When he returned, I opened my palms to him, offering what little I had. I stepped on dainty toes, left the lights on at night, cleaned voraciously. Gone again, I felt uneasy like tiny feet tread across my chest while I slept. I never knew which to prefer, the pale glow of midnight or the revelation of restless comets.


Whispy Things Strewn by Lyle

Part I

Wispy felt trapped in his life. Feels trapped in his life. Had felt trapped in his life. Would have felt trapped. Did not. Etc. Detritus, he told himself. But he had grown accustomed to the detritus of his life, things strewn around him, things strewn behind him, long since gone but not. Things. Strewn. Goodbye, he said but he didn’t move. He tried sarcasm: Nice knowing you. Take care of yourself. But he was paralyzed through no fault of his own. Well, partially it was his own fault this linguistic parallel. Things had been strewn around so much through his life and he had done nothing to stop it. Things are strewn around so much. He strews so many things about his life.

Part II

...have an inaccurate temporal understanding of when an even occurred. It should always seem that they happened much later or much earlier than it actually manifested. Temporal-photographic memory means that the patient is not actually “living” while only “not-knowing” constitutes profitable post-conception. This in an of itself, however, presents several problems. Primarily, what should one use as a reference? Or put another way how can one be sure to know that one is misperceiving? One could use said temporal-photographic persons though this would perhaps be construed as cruelty, though on whose part is arguable considering that this person would have to be with the living at all times of day and conscious of everything that they perceive and this does not take into account interpretation of this stimuli, an entirely different debate. But I digress. Considering the temporal and spatial nature of possums...


Best Possum by Forrest

The best possum of my life walked out on me, on us, while I slept, and now this life seems a tawdry cheat. I can see him with a half-full whiskey bottle on the table—our last fifth, as it were—scribbling, tasking, trying to find the perfect five words to write on a piece of notepaper to leave on the kitchen counter, and this is what my betrayed eyes find: “Cant figure you—outta here.” These are the sort of sentiments one expects of lesser possums, but not my best possum who made a private Xanadu out of Styrofoam coolers. In kind, I wanted a heart-rending testimony of his pain and anguish over the inner conflict of him abandoning me condensed into a syntactically precise vehicle of pure literary merit; instead, I get the cheapest De Profundis ever composed. And I let him wallow through my neighbor’s overripe trash can for this? No, this will not do. I cannot allow myself the indignity of having the best possum dismiss me that easily. There will be repercussions. The next possum of indeterminate ability to wander through my yard at night—I will ask him to have the Book of Ages clasped in his little pink paw. He will try as he might to please me, but he must never think he is the best possum by my bedside lamp.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Lite-r by Lyle

Lite’r up, he said staggering slightly. Nothing unusual yet. Click click of the translucent red lighter.  The hangover is the worst, he said. Thought whirring in the air; the hiss of lighter. This was unusual. Something was going on here and I didn’t like it already.  The car lit up in the night. The Lite locks shimmering for just a moment. I know I’m going to feel it tomorrow, he said. Too far in the future, I thought. The fire engulfed the vehicle and we stepped back, him hitting a rock with his heel and tipping over backward. Lone Star on his pearl buttons. Shook himself off and stood. Self-immolation, I said and he nodded. He said, Self-immolation. I could feel the hangover already starting. The fire burned on late into the night.


Taps by Forrest

On Don’s last birthday, we gift him our grandma Plymouth with the beer tap handles from the Kosmos Klub, now sitting boarded-up by Sanderson Park. Of course the jerk doesn’t know what to say, so we help by taking him for a ride, locking his passenger door with a swift punch down on Old Milwaukee while I shut mine with PBR. See here, we say as we run what was our usual gauntlet through the neighborhood, every time you cruise in this, you’ll think you’re still in the bar—you’ll wake up in the front and on either side are your old friends. There’s a smile on Don’s lips trying to come out. We take him to the Dubliner, but nothing doing. It’s like he’s ready to cry or something. Then he keeps driving his beermobile out to Sanderson Park and we won’t find him until late next morning by the curb, all awake. He’d ask us why we didn’t drive him home. Then the cops cite him for loitering at Sanderson. Then the cops arrest him for propositioning an undercover on the other side town. Then we let him chill in holding while figuring how to get the beermobile out of the impound. We spring him out on bail instead, and walking back with us the jerk, the asshole ingrate, says he’ll hitch back to his place—and sure enough he flags down a blonde, the kind who’ll push the passenger door open for you just because you look like some kind of a better rider than driver.


Lite Cosmic Relevance by Bill

One of us claimed his favorite was Crunch bar, so we decided that wasn't a real candy bar by ruling that Candy bars need 3 components, and this has forever created an unbridgeable cultural divide between Mounds and Almond Joy, very similar to Ladyhawke. The movie fell apart shortly after that when we all realized the director’s girlfriend was right and the lead actress would never sleep with the character the director was playing and without that love scene the movie had no heart, and neither did the girlfriend apparently because she broke up with him right after that so he threw a full case of beer through her parent’s sunporch and crushed their cat. Ladyhawke falls apart because any movie that relies on an eclipse for its resolution is simply too buried up its own ass (Pitch Black being the notable exception as the eclipse is the inciting incident). A few of us stayed in touch and my brother ended up dating the director’s ex when they both moved into my place in the city to get established in better paying jobs. Their relationship built into a geosynclinous rise but ultimately subducted when he refused to quit his game because he wasn’t at a place where he could save after she got sick eating 7 lobster rolls in one sitting.


You Would by Alan

Like a jigsaw puzzle piece fits accordingly in a given space (in a corner, because of such variables as hue and shape, etc.), some things were meant to go together.  A Chevy and dreaming.  Beer and beginnings.  Sunlight and reflection.  You and me.

When I first started writing about this, I knew that you would disagree.  You would hang your metaphoric tapestry and turn off the phone in a contrived attempt to create some distance.  You would begin one of those elaborate designs that keep you up at night.  And later, in your struggle to keep your eyes open, you would don that cap that would help you find that singular definitive move.  The one that would set you apart from the rest, all, me.

Tomorrow, the neighbors would start talking.  And then the neighbors’ neighbors.  And then you would start talking.  Finally.  After hours of silence.   You would start talking because you finally got it right.  And I would begin to hate you for it.  You bastard.


Done Chrysalis by Johanna

She should have known to slow down when the tires slipped going under the overpass. She might have pulled over for the night, but she had an irrational need to get to the Corn Palace before putting the road to bed. The soft rain had just begun, winter dark just fallen. She must have been doing seventy when the tires slipped again. The Jeep spun a one-eighty and rolled onto the roof of the passenger side where her buddy Jim was shielding his head. The roll continued onto her side, tossing them around in a state of blank suspension. Glass shattered in her hair. Somehow, it  landed on all fours, on the other side of the gully, perpendicular to on-coming traffic.

To her right, headlights stared her down. She could not open her door. Her left hand was fucked up. She felt for her left pinky, bent back from the top knuckle and grabbing it, snapped it back into place with painless adrenaline. Jim managed to get his door open and she crawled out his side. He was cradling his right arm to hold in the bone jutting out of his elbow.

The first responders found them there in the ditch, in the rain, broken and huddled close. She kept asking them to check her hair for glass as they covered them with blankets. When the paramedics finally arrived, they wrapped her neck in foam and strapped her into the gurney. Sirens preceded their arrival. She was half-way to the hospital in an ambulance swerving and sliding along the icy back roads when she was struck with a moment of clarity. Shit, she thought to herself, I'm really fucking high.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nursing Home

Crumble Bums by Bill

HappySad Barrel nestled closer to the center, burrowing into a crater in the paper. Green Sink just waits for the light to go down. This flash fiction business is hard. You have to take a lot of yourself and compress it into a really small place.

 The racoons will crawl in one of the windows tonight, again, and claw around on the paper. They put it to some purpose, cleaning their claws. Its a strange texture. So much of the plaster and the old concrete has fallen off the ceiling you almost wonder if the raccoons have figured out some extra benefit to cleaning their claws here that they put to use in the streams surrounding this place.

Probably a lot of people died here. HappySad thinks they did. Basin Jaw assumes all the beds mean they left, because they’re empty. They’re all dead probably, just not here. But at night, Basin Jaw hears a sound, or sees a light, like a hand carrying a candle, pass through the hallway and is not quite as sure as he is during the day but still doesn’t say anything.

There’s a panic trying to write that small. Its claustrophobic at times. You can’t always stretch out your ideas, sometimes they are pressed just really tight up against you. That’s the worst sometimes, when they are just so close to you, keeping you from moving forward. Radiator and her husband, Bigger Radiator, hid from THEM years ago when all their people were taken by hiding under Warped Door, who never says anything. Warped Door knows they can’t stay here forever. Someday THEY might come back, and finally take away the Radiators, or Basin Jaw. maybe even Green Sink. If they ever come for him, Warped Door knows it will only be for the fire.


In the Nursing Home by Alan

In the nursing home, time flies in and out of the windows like a bird on fire, burned by sunlight, ageless and forever aged.

In the nursing home, the news is compiled and strewn about and in piles and all around and lost and found and lost and found.

In the nursing home, the way the paint peels reminds her of dancing during the war and how he used to sing in her ear tiny deep bells that seemed to ring forever.

He works in the nursing home every night to keep the heat on and roaches away so that his Esmeralda can play and be warm and grow up strong.

The ceiling is miles away, the sink another continent, and the radiator a hissing fish gulping for air in the summer in the nursing home.

There are no beds in the nursing home – no doors, walls, or floors. Only the ghosts that were and the ghosts that are and, occasionally, the ghosts that will be…the lucky ones.


Remains by Johanna

The mother awoke from a frightening dream, already fading into ether. She did not feel rested and her head spun with her first steps, bare feet against cold tiles. She went to look for her boy, but he was not in bed.

This boy, she sighed, always disappearing. He found the smallest nooks – between wall panels, in closet corners, inside willow tree branches, buried in old gopher holes – and there he hid with his books, while mother went mad with worry trying to find him.

She searched all the obvious spots and screamed until her voice was raw. Where was that boy? Her legs dragged beneath her like heavy stumps. She swung her arms in step, so they would not numb before she could spank him.

Returning to his room, dizzy and exhausted, she summoned her rage to keep her conscious. She pulled his precious books from his shelves as if she might find the boy concealed between the pages. She tore the books to tatters and threw them against the walls, plastering the room with a tornado of swirling white paper. Ripping apart any semblance of words, all the stories dissipated into space. The mother sat in her empty whirlwind and cried.

Watching a tear stain his mother's pale cheek, the man knelt at her deathbed, praying for a happy ending.


Nursing Home in e by Lyl

Arachnid pontification of color and form, is what I thought first; tiny chains of light and dark. But I soon caught sight of signification in ruins. My own signification too, truth told. Twists of sinus and aural canals and odd windows that saw through through old folks staring, blind though both had found worldly things baffling always baffling. Doors? Window glass? Pulp? Consummation. Constipation. Jung and his advisory about custodians and lack of living! Boys and girls and ruins. Anticipation always substandard. Pills? Yum. Full of bugs.


In Becoming Nurse by Forrest

Whoso believes not in ruin but renovation becomes nurse; and in becoming nurse, not of being a nurse, not of standing anonymous and clean, not of being accustomed to the coming ruination, the standing before mouldering files of the deceased and nearly deceased and soon-to-nearly deceased that reads blank, smudgy, inescapable numbers, numbers attached to certain predilections to weakness; and in becoming nurse there is hazard in a predilection toward tidying lives beyond the belief of becoming, those whoso sneak in anonymously where none look where they should in weakening rain; or should the nurse stand with blank countenance unbecoming to claim the ward, should the nurse predict the number of beds, should the nurse reattach faces to them, a guess must be hazarded to renovate the one whoso lives beyond the drywall mold, nearly unreadable in the file of anonymity, ceasing to believe in escape; and should the custom exist, it exists; and should in becoming nurse one becomes not a number in a tidy life but counting inescapable faces soon-to-nearly mouldering in their beliefs; and should there be hazard sneaking around unseen by weakness; and wherefore then the ruin of the number of nurses stands to cease with the number of smudgy beds escaping attention or hazarding the escape, the nurse soon believes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Biergarten by Kurt

This is what it comes down to, Morgan thinks. Days spent haunting the Viktualienmarkt, evenings spent carousing the beer halls. After all the striving for something, the years spent building a family and a future, it’s come down to this—you and the other regulars with nothing better to do. Standing around the public fountains nursing bottles of Hefeweizen to drain away the afternoon. While all around you the good Burgers of Munich eat their lunches and shop for their well deserved Abendbrott. Respectable folks with careers, and families. Retired Omas and Opas who take their daily constitutionals then stop here for a nibble of pickled herring with dill or a glass of chilled Reisling. To socialize and participate in the pageant of respectable daily life.

But not you, Morgan thinks. This is where you have come to forget. This is where you have come to escape. To start anew by recreating what you believe was a better past.

“Are you sure about this,” Hansi says.

“Of course, ol’ pal,” Morgan replies. “Give it to your granddaughter, Liesel.” 

“Odd little, fellow. Isn’t he?”

“Odd little fellow. Indeed.”


Henri Fruber Had an Idea by Alan

Henri Fruber had an idea. It was an idea that would eclipse all his other ideas for sure. The chicken costume? Forget it. This blew that away. The insect repellant-out-the-ass-for-stray-hikers trick? This was better. Even the psychedelic Volkswagon trip series? Yes. Even the Volkswagon. On the timeline that tracked Henri’s comedic aerobatics, this little number was the wide vertical bar. Numero eins. The big salad. He hired a camera man, told him to look for the best-dressed man there, and made his way to the spot. There would be a little gloating, of course. Wouldn’t you? Perhaps a minute or two to adjust to what would surely bring him endless fame and glory. Yes, he would take a minute. Show the camera the idea. Let the lens adjust a bit. Get the lighting just right.


Even a Monkey by Johanna

Welcome to Neurometrics Lab, the number one producer of Brain Enhancement Implants (BEI). We are pleased to have you here with us today to consider the prospects of receiving your very own BEI. We realize that many consumers have strong reservations about purchasing an implant. We want you to know that here at Neurometrics, we understand. But let us assure you, BEI's are so simple, even a monkey could use one. In fact, they have. All of our implants have been tested thoroughly on monkeys before human trials and we have seen next to no side-effects.(1)

Once your BEI is in place at the base of your brain stem, after a simple out-patient procedure, our staff of professionals will help you to adjust to the changes in your mental state that you will immediately begin to notice.(2)  But before long, you too will know the bliss and superior intelligence that all of our BEI customers experience.(3)  With the additional benefits of hands free messaging and enhanced visual data input(4), you will be able to experience an exciting new world with more time to do what you love.

Imagine sending a message to your friends using nothing more than your thoughts while bathing on a beach in Cozumel(5) or having all your questions answered by doing quick data searches in your very own brain. Not only that but with synapses clicking into place at a consistent rate, you will know the euphoric pleasures of life(6) that used to take mystical ascetics years to cultivate.

Thank you again for visiting with us today and after touring our facilities, please let us know if you have any additional questions. Remember, at Neurometrics, we make everything possible.

(1)  In rare cases, some monkeys have displayed signs of psychosis and suicidal tendencies.
(2)  This service is an additional cost.
(3)  At an 86% success rate.
(4)  All content is corporate sponsored and you must agree to accept up to twenty-four commercial advertisements per diem.
(5)  International usage may incur extra costs.
(6)  Euphoria is subjective.


Monsters by Lyle

His expression. Not the kewpie doll’s, the man’s. His expression. Is he waiting to finish his beer? Perched on a fountain. Get it over with. Take the picture. Did he win it? Doing what? Drinking half of his beer perched, at this exact moment, now, on the fountain edge (what must be a fountain). Two bottle caps clamped together like the jaws of some strange beast — the very beast whose likeness he holds in his hand. A creature of fable. But that type of monster that appears in symbols, objects, the sinewy crevice and line of interpretation (clouds, cement, condensation, cake — that kind of fable). So then his expression. Take the picture for proof and then let’s forget about it. Leave it at that. His expression says, let’s finish our beers and have another. Another.

Bread as early. Try and inform. 

It is spring. The beer is light and wheaty. It drinks quickly. The kewpie doll is a gift or it’s found. Either way there is a photo taken. This is the important part now, at this very moment. The photo, which is why the expression is so important. Before — Expression — After. This is the way of things. Creases of memory. Vermin. Worms of remembering. In line behind the kewpie doll and the man with the expression (there is a glint in his eye) is another man with a large white valise. He’s looking for information about an artist in Dusseldorf. He will not find it here. Only monsters.


Kewpie by Forrest

How do you say kewpie to me, you who have never seen me with kewpie? And without kewpie you would never be because he is me. Though no smiles. I smile when I need company. When I need favors—from women, yes. But then I stop smiling. He the kewpie will not, you see. The kewpie is what I cannot do after you and a wife who you have not met. You see kewpie, yes? I see him. Kewpie does not see me now that you have never met my wife. I think it better if all of you do not meet without kewpie. Kewpie does need me if you have seen her before. He needs such favors.


Token by Bill

I bought this with little plastic tokens I won killing time in a beach-front arcade in Atlantic City in ‘73, playing Golden Jake fake slots, which I hit the jackpot on. The guy behind the counter looked at me with an odd grin, checked to see nobody else was around - kids or their parents - but it was a Tuesday morning early in the fall and there weren’t a lot of people around specifically for that reason so he pulls out this box from underneath the counter with the stuff they don’t let kids choose from. They had a couple of actual switchblades in there, instead of those fake comb things they started selling after the government banned the sale of switchblades in ‘58. But I already had knife. A couple of porno mags, playing cards with nude women, a small bong. I considered a pair of brass knuckles for a minute, but it didn’t seem like the time to pick up anything else. This little guy wasn’t even in the box, but I liked the look of him. His little black and white outfit. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Carlo Fratucci walk by on the other side of the street then, so I picked the little guy which disappointed the guy behind the counter and the deck of nude playing cards which made him happy again like he had gone through the trouble of talking out the box then I followed Carlo half a mile down the boardwalk and stuck him under the armpit straight through to the heart. I gave the cards away to my little brother, but I kept this little guy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Las Wages

The 25 Cent Millionaire by Kalifer Deil
That man, two seats down; I think he must be a millionaire or something. By the time I put in one quarter he drops in a couple of sets of four at a time. Even though he doesn't show a wedding ring, he doesn't seem to notice me. Maybe he likes blonds and not brunettes. I wonder how I can grab his attention. I tried giving him a big sexy smile but he didn't even look over. I've never had trouble getting boys, young or old, looking in my direction.
If I hit a good payout maybe that would do it. Those coins a-jangling into my cup should do something. At least he'll look at me. I'll feed the coins in faster and maybe I'll hit something good before he goes away. I wonder if he's from Texas. That looks like a Texan hat and that weathered look. He probably owns a big ranch.
I wonder how he is in bed. Does he look at women as slot machines? Maybe I should dress up as a One Armed Bandit. I'll bet that would get his eye. Oh shit! I'm out of quarters. Damn! Im out of cash too. Maybe I can get some cash with my credit card. Oh fuck! I'm SOL, he'll be gone by the time I get back. I'll turn away and pretend to be hard to get. At some point he'll notice that I'm not playing anymore. The security mirror tells me this isn't working either. Oh well, he's probably gay anyway.
Horse Sense by Bill
Consider the snail, or whether the snail puts upon its awareness the burden of time on its way through the meager flower-bed outside your window. Or shit on the snails. Either one is fine. The only pith I like is the kind in plants, but when we joined our farm share all we found was every other week we had to throw out crisper drawers full of moldy cucs and blackened lettuce. I really wanted the special release, limited edition version of life, but I think I got the crappy version they hand out to the suckers in the self-help book of the month club.
Slots by Alan
I met Arthur inside the blackjack pit.  He had been watching my last few hands as I lost just about everything I had brought with me on the trip.  The crowd was thinning.  My family was asleep back at the hotel.  I wasn’t sure if I had enough left for the cab fare back to my bed.
We started up conversation about the way things were going, how fortune crept in and crept out, the general odds of this and that.  It was late.  It was early.  We knew, but we didn’t know.
We started combining our money, first on the slots, then roulette, and then back to blackjack.  A small fire was lit, and we warmed our hands by it.  I could see the marks of a callous, bitten fingernails, and the long lifeline in his palm that was interrupted by a birthmark.  His face wore a kind of crooked smile unsure of what direction it might take next.
Somewhere around sunrise, I told him that I really had to go.  Arthur was playing by himself now.  He told me that if I were to come back later that he’d probably be at the slots.  He confessed to me that he was a famous actor and that I could look him up on the internet.  I asked for his last name and told him I would.
Present Tense by Johanna
Outside, a warm breeze sweeps his exposed skin below his shirt sleeves and makes him think of   sun. He looks into it unthinking and automatically brings his palm up to shadow his eyes. Very rarely, he feels as if he is shining from inside out.
Inside, he squints his eyes to adjust to the darkness and coughs into the cloud of smoke. He searches the oversized faces for anyone he knows and is thankful for anonymity. No one looks up from their slot machines or card tables, he is invisible.
Outside, the sun is a bright light taking him in and reflecting off of him. He finds change in his pockets where none had been before. Coins for his nephews to make wishes into fountains. A song pops into his head that he used to sing as a kid, the words slipping through him. He slows down time to hold onto them.
Inside, he steps down into the cavern of plush red carpeting and feels his breath grow shallow, his chest tighten. He doesn't have much today to spare. His hope is shallow and convincing. He decides to start easy on the slot machines. He listens to the clank of quarter fall into the belly of the machine and pulls with acquired finesse at the lever. Eyes closed, he watches the dollar signs align.
Outside, the sun heats his eyelids, the perfect balance between warmth and burning. The light grows larger, too big to be contained. The breeze picks up the scent of honeysuckle and lifts it to him. There is nothing else left.
Las Wages by Kurt
It’s inevitable, you think. In this economy, you knew the bottom would eventually drop out. That you’d wind up flat broke again. After all, living hand-to-mouth on bi-weekly unemployment checks isn’t really living, you tell yourself. So, something’s got to change. And fast. Right? Screw feeling sorry for yourself. Screw being dependent on the man.  Screw the way it feels like you’re always being scraped off the bottom of someone else’s shoe.  
And that’s when it hits you. 
The lyrics to that Springsgteen song. The one you used to sing out loud in the car, driving home from work. Back when you had a job. The one that gave you hope. The one that made you feel invincible. The one that’s like a banner tattooed on the underbelly of your psyche.
“The dogs on main street howl, 'cause they understand, If I could take one moment into my hands. Mister, I ain't a boy, no, I'm a man, And I believe in a promised land.” 
So, that’s when you finally figure it out. That’s when you finally realize that you’ve got to take control. That you’ve got to be the man. That it’s time to double down on your last unemployment check. Cash it and take the funds to Vegas. Turn this misery into joy. 
Because, you believe in a promised land.
sega sa by Lyle 
aLas Wages — segaW saL
[wags sale
sew slags
gas l was
son of a bitch]
in the empty warehouse a conversation:
amongst the slot stools a dialog:
between the machine lines:
the cherries and sevens and BARS
Lost upon being born
Slottery by Forrest
I never get me no action on The Wheel of Fortunate but Gold’n Rush play loose, mostly cause, I think, ev’ryone know The Wheel of Fortunate on account of that blonde lady an her husband with the toupee. A trap from the start, suckering folk with guessing letters for words. They can lacquer that teevee horseshit all they want. It’s generic ones, see, like Diamond Dust an Superwild Cherries pay out best—them machines sit there un’specting  and un’preciated, I can stare straight into ‘em, make those diamonds an cherries line up an I know they’ll line up cause I’ll leave otherwise so they won’t let me. Why sometime I sit there an loiter an wait for the pretty girl, better’n The Wheel of Fortunate lady and thrice as young—she swing by and ask me if I’m all righty an if I want to stop playing. No, ma’am, I’m fixing to get my Superwild Cherries in order fore I leave cause I already know how to spell “Winnebago” an “Steel Magnolias” but who levels those cherries so well. Made three small jackpots easy last week. She remember that, naturally. Lucky me she say—you wanna drink? Shore, bring me two whiskeys, one for me an one for you, an no she can’t drink while working an I say, None of this is working. I tip her big anyway. T-I-P, she can spell that with her hiney alone. Get her on one of these Million Dollar Dreams an I bet she spell a whole lot more.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cuidad Juarez

Forensics by Forrest

Last time—or the one last time of what can be an overlong career in this city after I arrived in forensics— when I saw them working a scene, the two officers responding were already digging into each other over what remained on the pavement. An embrace between brave women with a loaded weapon, I can imagine, is not easily accomplished, much less seen often. If one of them believes a gun is lighter than it appears because of fruitless duty, it seldom has opportunities to be used to her heart’s content.


Cages by Bill

Spring is nearly over the hill, the hot turning us out, like zombies, weaving through the night unable to sleep. Another cup of coffee further from the backs of eyelids. So many cups now its starting to give off that sour feeling in the stomach, but it tastes too good. It tastes too good because it still tastes at all. It might be the best cup of coffee ever. Remember in Jaws, when Quinn’s talking about the cages, “Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark.” Well we got sharks up here too.


Headline by Alan

The bridge was devastated. When the bomb detonated, a family of seabirds dispersed as if they were roses at the end of a wedding ceremony, the church doors now completely flung open. It was a sunny day. The sound was deafening.

The officers arrived quickly and pointed their weapons at the thought of anything suspicious. They became little sad hummingbirds maneuvering through a garden of flowers. Sweetness. Nectar. Dear god. How we need to feed ourselves with answers, targets for our desperate stomachs.

The smoke never cleared. The smoke never clears. Occasionally, we come across each other in a room in the dark and we fumble for the right questions, which (like hummingbirds) always seem to elude the logic of our collective imaginations.


Backstory by Johanna

I first noticed you across the room, your sway and swagger. I knew from the way you wore your hair in wings that you were from the butterfly clan. The more my attraction to you grew, the more I avoided you. One day, in a moment of bravery, I opened the door for you. “Thank you,” you said and smiled just enough that you might be flirting but, of course, I wouldn't dare assume so.

“My privilege,” I said. I meant to say, “my pleasure,” but it came out wrong. I imagined our dance, how sweet, our knees kissing.

After the incident, I saw you there looking like you were trying hard not to cry and I went to you without thinking. I was a stranger to you. You held me anyway.


Escape by Lyle

I’m sorry. This one escaped me. Escapes. Escapes me. Is in the very process of escape. Always with this sense of not being something, somewhere. If only for a minute it is this one. Just like a bullet. Escapes into the chamber from fingers. Escapes into the barrel and then out of the barrel and then escapes. I’m sorry: my very soul escapes with that bullet long since gone.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Virgin

Alone by Lyle

The Virgin slept. Wept. Crept throughout the vacant house. Her vacuous mind. The Virgin was no longer a virgin, abstinence and emptiness being not-quite the same thing. She had no thoughts. Her head filled itself constantly with tears. Then it became heavy with sleep and when she woke in the night on the floor she woke in puddles. The Virgin was alone. Immaculate conception. The Virgin did not dream. Her knees scraped on the floor and were scabbed. The Virgin did not dream.


Vows by Forrest

In leaving too soon, getting up and searching down the road for what he thinks is her, he forgets the other woman by his side. It is close to evening when he returns empty-handed, the same as his companion in plaster. The day keeps its promise.


The Best Lack All Conviction by Bill

There is no time out the other side. There is only this stuff condensed here in the middle, sometimes rich and sweet like angelcream and other times the milk's gone bad. Looking on, she sings the song, we’re on our way back home. Nothing worth knowing isn’t already written on our skin, the pluripotent stems talking to the world in the language of disease and demons, microbes and bacteria. Nothing worth the time it takes getting to the outside of the world, coursing a track on the rim of the atmosphere. The life we have in place is calling out cues on the falling action of our lives, afraid the climax is just pastiche in the end, a summation in detournemental existence taking life one groundhog day at a time.


The Poet by Alan

She was looking for the vehicle, a way to encapsulate the notion that whet the embers of her mind’s heart. Long afternoons in New England summers, uncut grass, the promise of new light. There are things that fray the maps of our inner architecture, transform mood, lift the veil so we can see again. And there are things that darken in this world.

In the front yard was a well, and on the walls of that well sat a little blackbird. She would sing to it, and it would sing back. There conversation would echo below for what seemed like miles. Miles of space always seem longer in blackness. The road is always longest when you can’t see an end.

Purity is one thing, but dedication is another. Purity the anchor. Dedication the boat. The yard shifted beneath her as she wrote. The tenor. The tenor. The tenor. The thing we all long for. The thing is singing. It perches and sings. “Hope,” she began to write (in little fences), “is the thing with feathers” and then dashed indoors.


Old Adirondak by Johanna

The red Adirondak chair my grandpa built has been painted three times. I know this because I like to curl into a ball in the chair's lap and lay my cheek on its back to look real close at the cracks where sun and hail have chipped away to the green below. And in well-worn spots like the arm rests you can see all the way to white. In the morning, I sit here like this and listen to my mother humming in the garden, her big hat shading her shoulders as she leans into the rake or shovel or seeds. The early sun feels good on my legs and glistens on the blonde fuzz of my thighs. I want to sleep here or stay here all day in anticipation of growing up.

In the afternoon, the arm rest is hanging from the chair where a nail came loose but I don't have any tools to fix it with. This patch of dirt my roommates call a yard is fenced in so completely that I could be anywhere except for the sounds of the neighborhood – barking dogs, yelling mothers, a gunshot or car backfire. I lean deeply into the chair and try not to think of the diner I have to go back to in the morning to wait tables for measly tips or my ex-boyfriend who keeps texting me threatening to kill my cat. I wish for my mother.

In the evening, I am taking a few moments to myself while the baby sleeps. I have painted the chair royal blue to match the front door of the house but it will not fit on my porch so I keep it down here by the steps. I have had three glasses of wine so far, maybe four, and I want another. I imagine my body lifting off from this blue wooden frame. I am finally feeling relief from the day's routine of laundry, cooking, washing, watching and the baby begins to cry. I ignore him. He continues to cry.

It is nearly dark now, but this is my favorite time to garden. It is cool enough for my loose skin that likes to hide from sunshine and heat. I am sitting on a plastic stool my son bought for me to help me better reach the vegetable beds. It wobbles when I lean in. I look up and see that old Adirondak. Broken in three places it still survives, kind of like myself. I can't sit in it anymore, can't get out of it, but I like to see it there, looking back at me. I pull at the weeds, pull and tug, resisting like the muscles in my back. Each one I pull away at clears the memories that seep in when I relax and begin dreaming. The weeds release their roots, the soil crumbles around them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


The True Story of Our Christmas Tree and Our Trailer Park by Marisela Chavez

Listen up, Son. This is why we hang our “Christmas Tree” in the sky from the crane every year:
Many many many years ago there lived a Man, right here on this land, the only person who could cut down the pine trees that filled this valley. He was very strong. See, this used to be a magical place before the Man pissed off a God.  Let me tell you how.

This man--we don’t know his name--was a good man, a nice man, if a little cocky, but who wouldn’t be? He had a power no one else did. He was the only person strong enough cut down these trees, as I said. Some say the power was God-given, which makes sense that it was likewise God-taken. This man cut down the trees and the others hauled them off and sold the wood all across the country. It was even shipped overseas! This land prospered from the wood because it was the strongest wood on Earth. It was a kind of magical wood.

One day, for apparently no reason, the God dropped in on the Man and asked him to find the loveliest tree, to chop it down and to leave the logs atop a little hill for the God to take. The Man said he would but he didn’t. He was distracted. You see he was in love and feeling like a God himself. So, the Man decided he wanted to build a new house made of the best wood to impress his lover, and instead of supplying the God with the wood from the loveliest tree, he left the God wood from the second loveliest tree, which, if you remember, was still nice-looking wood because all the wood of the forest was the best wood on Earth. But he wasn’t thinking straight when he picked the prettiest wood for himself.

Well you can’t trick a God for long. He soon discovered the Man’s betrayal when he saw the Man’s new house. That God who was once jolly became angry and set the entire forest on fire. Worse, he took the life force out of all the village men’s woodies, the ones in their pants, Son (this part of the story is reserved for listeners of at least 15yrs of age). The people cried and cried. They were out of work and poor and sexually frustrated ( ditto, listeners). They felt like they had nothing to live for. Someone suggested a mass suicide but first they decided to give it a shot and begged the God for mercy. To everyone’s surprise, the God was in a great mood and felt for the people. He granted them mercy under two conditions:

1. they never, ever for the rest of their lives and their children’s lives---and their children’s children’s lives, and on and on---build a house on that land. This is why we all live in trailers.
2. and, at the end of every year, each family must sacrifice to the God the most beautiful pine tree they can find. The God swoops in at night and takes the spirit from all the sacrificial the trees before they dry up and die.

The people all agreed to the God’s conditions and the curse was lifted. The forest grew back, but the wood from the trees was no longer the strongest wood in the world. It was mediocre wood. They didn’t care. They had their wood back. They celebrated--hard. The Man, however, never regained all of his strength. He never married and he died alone in his fancy house. Some believe the God only partially lifted his curse.

So this is why we light and hang our “Christmas Tree” in the sky--so the God can’t miss it.  It’s become a tradition other’s have adopted, but we do it for a more serious reason: We don’t want to piss the wood-giving God off ever again.


Steal by Forrest

I drive better angry.Mostly I’m done scraping tips together for bail—for that leer of her years ago as we tried pulling in. They almost took up the whole driveway. They were giving away our light above our roof at seventy-two feet.

Last late Christmas, thanks to Lindsay.

I recognized the crane operator by the height of the tree: big show-off. Before mom called the cops on him, Lindsay palmed his tiny things, mostly condoms. She’d put them on her bedstand. Then dice, shotglasses. Handful of white tree lights. For him on his left. And finally Mister Connected noticed all the other stuff.

Lindsay stuck up her hand like she could reach our door. Municipal notice. I slapped her down. I
slapped her. Got loud around there. There was nothing to sit on.

But it was mom already out by then. She had made a promise. It sounded worthless. I can’t even think of why she said it now.

There’d always be the neighbor’s guard dog keeping my sister at bay with a long smile in the steal of thinning dusk. How I’d helped make her think that was enough for her.


Hypersigil by Bill

I fell asleep in the middle of the dream raiding Tammany Hall, or maybe I woke up into a world where it had melted away rather than crashing like a freight train through history. There was the part of me that woke up and the part of me that awoke, and in the dream those two of me could meet for a time and confer and began building this place on the borders in the moonlight, falling out, struggling over it. It was six-sided and smelled terrific, and the two of us were joined by others, six in all.

A squirrel stared at me through the window. Beyond the squirrel for a moment there was a woman outside on the nice little park my apartment sits over wandering through the grass with one bare foot and one walking cast. I only saw her for a moment before she’d fallen out of sight but she hadn’t seemed in the best of shape. A light went up in the sky. Could have been anything, could have been nothing, and it might even have been both, revolving far out on the other side of the moon, ready to open up the moment we make contact and dose the world with anti-bodies.

Remade. From here on out birthers are taking a shot to the nuts, soccer-style stopper kick clearing it back to mid-field. This is your friendly neighborhood liberal warlord dealing out humanist progressive ideology with a battle-axe in each hand. Or download the bodhisattva construct onto one of the mind-sides, and on each side a universe boiling over with suns. I can’t say it the way it feels, as if I had to slip sideways in the light. As if I were tripping over shadows, learning to dodge out of the way of clouds passing across the dreaming sun.


Spirit by Alan

Spirit was quick as rifle when it came to sniffin’ out thieves. He could smell the desperation in their eyes, and before they knew, he was on top of them snarlin’ and growlin’ and making them wish they were four again and scared of loud noises beneath their windows. He was better than any alarm system because he would creep up on ‘em all quiet and ghostly. Silence is the best secret weapon. Ninjas know this. So do haiku poets. I swear if Spirit could write, he would pen something about a frog and the sound of water and splash splash splash. Shit. He’d win the poolitzer for it. All in one draft. One afternoon. Write the whole damn book. And you know what? He’d get bored of writing all day and come back home to protect Jesus’s trees. That’s a holy dog right there. He’s like the guardian angel. What’s his name? You know, the real silent one? Spirit loved his trees, especially when they were all decked out in lights. That dog would stare into the dazzle as if it were the Lord himself in them bulbs. Just for kicks we raised one in full glory high above the yard to see what he would do. We even asked Billy Bob to bring his camera to document the whole thing. Wouldn’t you know it – as if he felt we were playing some sort of experiment joke on him (or messing with the holy world) – Spirit turned and shot a look so pernicious, so sinister, that old Billy Bob clicked once, set his camera down on the fence post, and made a run for it like he had just seen the holy ghost.


2892C -- Log: 12/11/11 by Lyle

This one was strange. I know you don’t want the details but I’m recording them anyway. I won’t be back anyway. I arrived just after sundown, the light still scarring the horizon. The feet on the truck had been planted. Firmly planted as always -- make no mistakes there. Then I got to work. (Note: See work order in which the Processor wrote: “Purchaser requests nighttime extraction, silence and above all else discretion.”) You know I’ve done this all before. That I’m no novice. How many do you think I’ve done? And never a mistake that had to be fixed. I’m still shaken up. Excuse me. Probably didn’t have to go down this way. It was sprinkling but the extraction moved smoothly. Despite, I have to fucking say, despite the fact that it was lit. This was not in the work order. I would not have signed off on “discretion above all else” and “lit extraction material.” But you know that, I suspect. You know that. In the middle of it all -- a dog. Not that I don’t like dogs. I like dogs. It wasn’t the dog, per se. When it’s eyes lit up like the extraction material though I knew something was wrong. Someone had found me -- caught me. I know the procedure. You drilled it into me. As per Protocol 927 I took care of the situation. Everything is in the truck bed including my keys and security clearance. I know what this means. But you won’t see me again.

Status: Extraction complete.

Transmission terminated...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Phantom Phone Booths

(Photo courtesy & © Thomas Olson)

The Martian by Vivian

On his last night on Earth, Thomas Olson snaps an image of the twin phone booths in the parking lot of a local rest stop. Tom insists on a Polaroid Instant, circa 1987, which he has owned now for over three decades. The Polaroid Instant has always produced low-quality photos, but Tom cannot imagine taking his final images of life on Earth with anything else.

Fiscal policy and logistical limitations have defined the stark parameters of Tom’s mission: One man. One way. The remainder of his natural life on Mars. Even so, only the President’s insistence that America beat China to Mars has saved Tom’s mission from cancellation.

Last September, a fortuitous Bird Flu outbreak in China had allowed the Americans to inch again. But then, China had always planned on sending six men, a dog, and a donkey. Round-trip.

Tom pinches the photo of the phone booths between his thumb and pointer finger and shakes it vigorously, a motion which, given Tom’s wiry frame, evokes the image of a well-worn yet sturdy fencepost in an earthquake. Once the photo has developed and set, Tom adds the image to his stack. These, he will tuck into a corner of his ship. They will sustain him, he imagines, on the loneliest of Martian nights.


Prestory by Lyle

Stories of suicides whose families dispose of the evidence before the police arrive because they feel ashamed. I can’t imagine the lack of empathy. I would feel only sadness. Such sadness. Sadness in the taut rope or metallic gun smoke still hanging in the room like a shroud.

And one night the darkness clamored around me: suddenly something outside the light jumped, buzzed. Or was it inside the light? Or the light itself? Difficult to say despite the dichotomous metaphors — inside/outside, light/dark. But which was which? the corona and penumbra mixed to create a wide grayness. It percolated light as well as darkness. This percolation jumped,
popped —
a fly hitting a zapper at dusk.

And then the phone rang.


Intercessed by Forrest

I use the left one for emergencies.

I use the right one to watch.


Zipatone by Bill

One’s a gate of ivory, the other horn. Both are ready to party. Say what you want into the first and you will hear nothing but lies, and truths like a crate of clementines whose tops are brilliant while the undersides are rotten, half hearted veracities and cunning trickery spread over the lines like little sparks of tragedy. Best just to dial up the radio station and request something to dance to, swing your hips in place and roll your pelvis enclosed in glass and metal. Half a musical truth is something you can hold in your hand easy enough and drop when you want it to break, equal parts brightly colored dia de los muerte shadowbox and unicorn figurine with a broken horn.

Which brings us around to the other. Easily a three on the Kinsey Scale, the Hierophant become the Lovers and the warp in and out of the world a fluid motion, free of friction so that once you step inside it becomes as if you had been cloaked in void softer than the coziest sweater, and there are flashes of lightning at the edges of your eyeballs you would never hear. Likely it is best to say nothing and let time speak for itself, and certainly say nothing false. Bring a band sticker to paste down on the little shelf, something you really like since everything you hear in the receiver will have some song in the background, informing what is said.


1992 By Beth

Back then she was always looking for a pay phone. It was the way her family played the game. It wasn’t okay to come in five minutes late. It wasn’t okay to change her mind and come back in the middle of the night, or to tell them she was staying at her boyfriend’s place. The arrangement was that she would call at 10:45. She would tell them which female friend with good parents she was staying with. They never called back to check. Once it was established that she wasn’t coming home, they stopped watching for the flash of headlights across the bedroom wall. They closed their mystery novels. They never knew she was calling from outside of a general store, the phone receiver cold against her hand and face.

After the phone call, her obligation, she was free to drive the back roads slowly, looking out for deer, foxes, raccoons, hot guys’ trucks. She was free to drive all the way to Bar Harbor, sit on the rocky beach and drink a wine cooler, listen to the waves roll in. Free to cruise the strip mall parking lot and the McDonald’s drive-thru, just to see who was out tonight. Free to slip under the quilted covers in the apartment where her boyfriend lived, smell the detergent on the clothes his mother didn’t wash anymore, forget that she had parents who loved her.


Before You Were Everywhere by Alan

We used to communicate in the off-hours. Shake off the dresses of the afternoon and evening and slip into a certain kind of midnight rhythm. Only the hours weren’t really hours but phases of our lives. You on one side of a tectonic plate and me on another. The balance was a kindling, was based purely on love. And to communicate was to love deeper, to write longer, to make attempts, to reconcile time.

There’s something about distance that brings us closer together. There’s something about convenience that tears us apart. I remember when I used to use pay phones. I remember the cold receiver on my shoulder, the arcane sustained moan, and what it meant to press the lip with my finger, and start over. These things I remember. When we were closer than strangers but miles apart. Before you were everywhere and I didn’t have to find you, you were nowhere and I loved you.


Scientific Inquiry Into the Extinction of the Telephone Booth by Johanna

Over the course of the last ten years, the once ubiquitous telephone booth has slowly disappeared from urban and small town street corners. The retarded withdrawal of booths from civilization has mostly gone unnoticed and unmeasured. The purpose of this study is to determine the main factors that lead to their extinction.

After extensive national and international travel in search of a working phone booth, only two were found. One, in Kerala, India and one in Bisbee, Arizona where it was painted with a mural to look like an angry robot.

While it is well-known that telephone booths became unnecessary in the early part of the century with the commonplace of cellular phone devices, they were still seen as a way for the homeless or people who forgot to charge their batteries to call home in an emergency. When the populace discovered endless minutes, most people on the street willingly lent the use of their personal phones if asked politely. Once phone companies realized this, they stopped service to all booths.

The actual disappearance of telephone booths began when citizens took it upon themselves to up-cycle. In urban areas, hipsters appropriated them for use as chicken coops and solar ovens. Artists recovered them for sculptures, installation pieces and stage props. More commonly, in rural areas they were used for bird houses and pit toilets. On occasion, multiple clowns could be found squeezing inside of one.

Future experiments should investigate how much a telephone booth will be priced for on Antiques Roadshow, in the case of a retro resurgence.