HSTQ: Spring 2023

horror, adj. inspiring or creating loathing, aversion, etc.

sleaze, adj. contemptibly low, mean, or disreputable

trash, n. literary or artistic material of poor or inferior quality

Welcome to HSTQ: Spring 2023, the curated collection from Horror, Sleaze and Trash!

Featuring poetry by Mather Schneider, John Tustin, Kayla Rose, Mike Zone, John Yohe, Preacher Allgood, J.J. Campbell, Jay Maria Simpson, Ezhno Martin, C. Renee Kiser, Damon Hubbs, Jacklyn Henry, John Grochalski, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Nathaniel Sverlow, Nick Romeo, Karl Koweski, Jonathan Baker, Judson Michael Agla, and Johnny Scarlotti.


Carrie Magness Radna


Crack it open 
my mind 
my fears 
my hesitation 
mother fucker 
let it drip 
like golden yolk 
from a 
sunny-side-up egg 
my man 
loves it runny 
with Sriracha 
my mind’s  
still spicy 
& raunchy  
even when 
we are hands off 
we still talk 
sexy shit 
when we get tired 
sexy dreams 
make us touch all over 
I’m not a chicken 
my own eggs 
are drying up 
but the sexy girls 
in my head 
shine the lust light 
golden light 
I can come  
without touching 
are you jealous? 
I lift my legs  
20 times each 
to alleviate the pain 
of the back 
I don’t care Baby 
if you are now fatter 
compared when 
we first met 
we still love 
each other’s asses 
please don’t  
be a sleepy chicken 
crack it open 
our fears need  
to take a hike 
you already touched  
my heart light 
my heart pumps 
we go too deep 
white stuff 
oozing out 
wearing our fear  
upon our faces 
but I want pleasure 
again & again 
let’s crack it 
& solve the problem  
of getting down 
& busy 
that’s why we don’t  
we are too busy 
& too fat 
& too fragile  
& too goddamned tired 
eggs are expensive  
& we are fried 
& we are stuck 
trying not to break open 
he loves his gizzum 
she thinks it’s disgusting 
don’t want it on her face 
no pearl necklace 
but egg whites are okay 
on her face 
needs more batteries 
for remote controls  
& vibrators 
sweating in bed 
feeling the change 
but still ravenous 
for eggs

Robert Pettus

Walls. Singing Bushes.

If walls could talk maybe they could have alerted someone as Alex lay sprawled out convulsing on the carpet spewing saliva across his face as his eyes rolled back into the black depths of his poisoned skull. If walls could talk perhaps he would’ve been saved from flopping around percussively—his arms striking the carpet like heavy drum sticks to a pair of tom-toms—and gasping for air like a blankly staring, shored crappie. 

The mop-haired carpet could have been saved from soaking up the sudsy vomit overflowing from his gurgling mouth. 

A court ordered stay at the sober-living-house couldn’t save Alex. Nothing could truly save Alex because there were two opposing things from which he needed saving. Drugs and alcohol saved him from having to deal with the horror of life; drugs and alcohol killed him. 

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. 

A plastic baggie of leftover smack was smushed in the back pocket of Alex’s jeans under the weight of his bouncing ass. He kept flailing around like that until he finally stopped for good. 

The sober-living-house didn’t seem to help many of its residents, the walls probably thought. The bushes lining the house hid within their bulbous canopies an ever-growing pile of booze bottles; the most popular choices 40oz. Budweisers and pints of Wild Turkey. Those bottles lay in there clinking together like chimes on windy nights whenever the weather shook the foliage until one of the residents, desperate for a little cash, would collect them—anxiety and mental anguish building as they gathered into a large trash bag each of those chiming bottles—and haul them off to be recycled, hoping not to be seen by the landlord, a cop, or their sponsor. 

If walls could talk they could have communicated to the subsequent homeowner upon finding hidden in the back of that deep closet in Alex’s former room cold as the grave a child’s water-color painting that said ‘To Dad, Happy Father’s Day.’ The walls could have maybe explained that the artwork wasn’t left there by an apathetic father moving out of the house. Alex wasn’t apathetic in a paternal sense; he cared—he experienced anguish at the reality of his shitty parenthood. No, he wasn’t apathetic. He was merely an uncontrollable junkie who had managed to get himself killed before making it out of the sober-living-house. The walls could have explained that Alex didn’t want to leave his kids painting at the house, he had just fucked up. Again. This time for the last time.

If the walls in that small rectangular bedroom could talk they could have explained that it wasn’t a piss stain dripping down the side of the wall, it was a dark yellow candle that had overflowed—much like Alex’s vomiting mouth—after he had passed out and then perished. 

That candle had burned for hours, the smoky aroma of Birchwood Beach fusing with the growing scent of bodily fluids and death. The Kentucky spring breeze blowing in through the open window couldn’t mask it; that stench would eventually fill the rest of the house, after which Alex’s roommates would come and find him lying lifeless, staring upward at them as they entered the room with the vacant eyes and opened mouth of an expired toad. 

They would cry, not entirely unselfishly. They would know that Alex could have been them; they would know they too could soon be dead. 

In the back of their minds they may have even felt angry at Alex. They might have been planning to get buzzed off later that evening, loading up a pipe or sniffing a pill or throwing an emptied bottle of Turkey into the bush. They wouldn’t be able to do that now, not without further regret and self-loathing, at least. 

The hangover would now be worse.

If walls could talk the subsequent owner would have known as he painted coat after coat of fumy satin white over the candle wax stains and ripped up the carpet that this was a room that had seen pain. The walls could have explained as he assembled the crib that decisions are important and loneliness can be deadly. 

If walls could talk they could have alerted that subsequent homeowner, called Oscar, of the reason for the baby’s continued crying. Those walls could have told Oscar, a first-time parent, that the baby wasn’t being unreasonably noisy. The baby wasn’t simply reacting to new experience. The window—that one in the bedroom above the singing bushes—was blowing in with its breeze the specter of a lost father. A spirit with a clear job to do though no way of doing it. 

The baby wailed and shook the brittle old crib, one likely too old to again reuse, but one Oscar had gotten recycled and was all he could afford. Oscar would enter Alex’s former bedroom and comfort his newborn, his head throbbing as he remembered the bottle he had thrown in the bush earlier that afternoon. He had heard a soft clink as the bottle landed, but he didn’t look inside. He hadn’t noticed the entirety of the collection.

If walls could talk they could have told Oscar. If the baby could yet talk, maybe they also could have explained. It wasn’t the wind; it wasn’t the child being unreasonable—it was Alex darting around the room, bouncing off the newly painted walls and screaming through the restlessness of an unquiet grave. 

If walls could talk, they could have told Oscar that Alex was aware of the painting in the closet; he knew it was still there. 

He simply couldn’t tell Oscar about it. He couldn’t explain his situation. The baby noticed him, but he couldn’t explain to the baby, and the baby couldn’t yet talk.

Alex had no way of lifting the painting. He had no method of delivering it to his son. His son, who gazed out his own window every evening, inhaling the crisp breeze, fragrant of both earth and fuel—both nature and construction—wondering where his dead father might now be, if anywhere. 

If walls could talk they could have told Oscar what to do with that painting when he finally found it deep in that cold closet. Walls can’t talk, though, so Oscar, shaking his head at the neglect of some parents, threw the painting in the trash. 

The painting featured a family holding hands, a house, and a sun. Several bushes surrounded the house.

Jonathan Hayes

Same Shit, Different Pile

My cat’s asshole gets bright pink and expands
when he’s getting ready to take a shit

He drops his shit in the covered litter container
with his furry head looking out the entrance 

When it’s done he dashes out scattering litter everywhere
and runs across the bathroom’s ceramic tiled floor 

Then slides across the kitchen linoleum

Until his claws scratch across the bedroom’s wooden floor

Finally, he jumps up into the air and lands on the windowsill
proud of what he has just accomplished and left behind

And excited to see if he missed anything outside

Kayla Rose

Obsidian Bones

Beauty can be found in chaos
you once whispered,
placing an obsidian arrowhead
between my mangled fingers. 

You sing me stories of 
girls born from fire. 
Rising from soot and
destruction, their obsidian bones 
A pinnacle of strength. 
You say I hold the same
volcanic beauty. 

Do you not know
my lava-scarred skin drapes 
bones of burning poison?
Piles of ash call me their home.
There is no obsidian
born from my eruption.

Pushing the arrowhead across the table,
I smile weakly.

There is no beauty to be found here. 

Madelyn Schneider

The Building Blocks Of Life

“The funny thing about DNA is that it belongs to you, something unique that makes you who you are. A series of complex organic building blocks that only the smartest of people can tear apart and put back together to tell us how we’re built. Even though it is so uniquely you, it is also your mom, dad, grandparents, and siblings. It is the culmination of the short-term evolution that your family has gone through just to create you. That’s how I always thought of it, anyway. But sometimes other people don’t see it the same way. Some people don’t see DNA and the miracle of evolution at all. They see a small child writhing around, covered in the blood of their mom, who didn’t make it. These people see a baby screaming and crying as if unaware of the destruction they have just caused, how impossible they have just made life.” 

“Please, why are you doing this? I have a family now. I love my children with all my heart. Please let me go. Just untie me and walk out the front door. No one will ever have to know you broke in. It will be like this never happened. Please, please, I beg you.” 

“Uh uh uh. The story wasn’t finished yet. We need to listen to the whole story. As I was saying, sometimes people just don’t appreciate the miracle of children and all of the science that actually goes into creating a child inside the human body. Half of the mother’s DNA, she has half of her father’s DNA, and it just goes and goes in quarters and eighths and sixteenths of all of the people who came before. It’s fascinating, really, how you are yourself but also everyone else. Technically, you should be half your father and half your mother, personality and all. 

That’s when all of these “scientists” come in and tell you about nature versus nurture and all this other horse shit that is really just guesswork. No one can really truly prove that your surroundings determine your personality. I thought that the day I met my parents was the day I would finally figure out for sure that these psychologists were just taking stabs in the dark. I, who grew up in nine different houses and hopped from dinner table to dinner table with all sorts of families, and all kinds of lives, I would be just like my parents. I would be the proof that DNA is everything, you and Mom were two halves of me, and I was the sum of you.”

“What are you even talking about? Please just untie me, and we can talk through this like adults. You want to know if you’re half of me, right? We can go to get dinner, and we can talk, and we can be a family again. We can talk about your mother. I’m sure you’re just like her. You look just like her.”

“Stop talking. Didn’t anyone ever tell you it isn’t nice to interrupt people? No one ever told me that. You never told me that, Dad. You never told me anything, actually. Do you talk to your precious little kids now, Gary? What was so different about these ones? Did you like them better because they didn’t take Sarah away from you? Did you think about me when she was giving birth? How you could lose a second wife? Go through giving away a child all over again? Well, I lost her too, Dad. I lost Mom too. But I also lost you. I lost both people who made me who I am. I need to take a deep breath…”

“I just couldn’t do it without her, please. I loved your mom so much. I was just too young to do it alone. I am so, so sorry. You’re older now; I’m older now. We can still be family.”

No. What are you not understanding? Now, open your mouth. If you can’t shut up on your own, I’ll help you. Yup, mhm, open for the airplane. Do you like the taste of that? Haha, yea, I bet you do. I just grabbed it out of the dirty rag pile in my kitchen. Either way, not knowing you or Mom really did help me in the end. I needed to find you; I needed to figure out why I’m like this. It turns out that if you’re an orphan, colleges really love you. They love you even more when they realize that your research has some deep-rooted connection to your past. They think it’ll make you work harder. They even gave me $2,500 to try and get a deeper understanding of our DNA. They helped me pay for a DNA test and even found you for me just so I could really get down to the roots of my building blocks, the things that made me. Now don’t worry; all of my scalpels are fresh out of the packaging. You’ll feel a tiny pinch, but then you don’t feel anything. Isn’t that so nice? Now stay still; let’s find out what DNA looks like in real life.”

Jonathan Baker

The Moon is a Neon Light

She is love and light
and wild mood swings
and laughter,  and a rictus smile
that says she is on the brink
and every other guy 
in this dive bar 
leans away to avoid her
but I’m stupid…

So I take a stool near hers. 
She asks what I do 
and I tell her I’m a poet 
and leave out the day job.
She slaps my thigh and squeezes,
tells me she just must hear a poem
but never leaves a space
between her own hurried words.
She tells me she lives for her art
but doesn’t see color
and thinks we all 
should get along
and thinks the protests
went too far
and there are good cops too
but not her ex.
She ashes her smoke
in her neighbor’s drink
and puts a finger to her lips
because we’re in on this together
but even though she has
those 70’s titties 
and you’re sure 
her bush is 
soft, wild, and warm
as a good dream
you head home 
because you can only
pretend to give a shit
about gemstones
for so long.

So you settle up
and slip out as she
tells the next guy down
all about Sedona.
Back on your couch 
you lovingly imagine
bringing her home.
When you finally fall into sleep
you’re glad you didn’t.

Anthony Dirk Ray

Small Treasures

Dalton pulled out on another long run into the early darkness.  Just weeks earlier, he was making runs for a mid-sized roofing distributor, before the begging call of the open road howled and cried much too loud for him to ignore.  Also, the expectation of at least $175,000 made the decision fairly easy.  So there he was, on the road again after 15 years.  Dalton had gotten married and had a kid in those years that he took off from the road.  He grew accustomed to being at home, almost in a chain-like manner.  His necessities were his bed, his video games, his couch, his food, and his family.  None of which were in his new, temporary home.  As Dalton pondered his new path in life, he looked around his small apartment on wheels, and sighed.

There was a huge reason why Dalton didn’t want to leave on this run.  It was indeed his first run back, and he was anxious, but that wasn’t the underlying issue. The problem was, it was close to Valentine’s Day, and Dalton always got some special attention downstairs on that day.  It also seemed to Dalton, the better the gift, the better the blowjob.

Days earlier, he scoured the internet looking for the perfect gift.  He found a few small items that were nice, but he still needed that ultimate treasure.  Dalton had to be on the lookout for the special gift that would insure him the most mind-blowing head of his life.

The next day, while getting gas, Dalton spotted a busy flea market across the street. He thought, with all those vendors, I’m sure to find something.  Once parked in his designated area for the night, he was free to check out his surroundings.  His first stop was the flea market.  Dalton walked aisle after aisle searching for the perfect gift.  Just then, trouvaille!, he thought, as he eyed the most intricate piece of jewelry he had ever seen.  It was a gold pendant with the birthstone of his wife.

The aged lady looked blind, like she shouldn’t be running the booth.  Not sure if he could even get her attention, Dalton waved his hand and spoke loud.

“How much for this piece, ma’am?”

“All jewelry, ten dollars!”

Dalton quickly threw down $20 and began to walk off.  He could hear the lady yelling from behind, “Stop!  You get one more piece of jewelry.”

Dalton got back to his truck and examined the pendant.  It was spectacular.  It was faceted and cut with tremendous detail.  How he was able to buy it for $20 baffled him immensely, but he wasn’t looking in any animal’s mouths.

Since Dalton had the perfect pendant, all he needed now was a necklace.  He knew that his next stop was a decent-sized regional city, so he assumed that he would have numerous options to complete his gift.

Everything fell into place perfectly the following day.  Dalton was able to make his drop, get his new load, and pull into a mall parking lot one hour before it closed.  He walked inside and located the directory, and made his way to the closest jewelry store.  A store associate greeted Dalton as he entered. 

“Good evening, sir. What are we looking for today?”

Dalton pulled out a small cloth from his pocket, carefully unfolded it, and allowed the associate to view the pendant. 

“I need a necklace to go with this amazing piece. It’s for my wife. It’s kind of an important gift. It needs to match perfectly.”

The associate’s eyes widened in appreciation of the stunning pendant. 

“That’s quite the piece you have there. It is absolutely gorgeous. If I’m not mistaken, it appears to be from the Edwardian era. If so, it has some age on it. Regardless, I’m sure you paid quite a hefty price for it.”

Dalton let the largest shit-eating grin grow on his face, as his eyes lit up with joy. 

“Actually, I only paid $20 for it, from an insane lady, on the side of a country road, just yesterday.”

The associate could only shake his head in disbelief, his mouth literally agape. 

“I am utterly speechless. Nonetheless, let’s find you a necklace for this masterpiece.”

After only about 5 minutes, they both agreed on an immaculate, white gold necklace that accentuated the pendant impeccably.  After a final inspection, payment and gift wrapping, the associate handed the bag across the counter. Dalton smiled, as he visualized the end result his perfect gift would get him. 

As he left the jewelry store, he heard music, shouting, and clapping coming from another wing of the mall, and went to check it out.  When he turned the corner, he saw a dance team performing for a small crowd.  The girls seemed to range in ages from high school to college, with a few a little older.

Dalton watched, as the girls chanted, leapt, and tossed each other high in the air.  He thought, Shit, this is some free entertainment.  These little bitches are talented!  And a few of them are fuckin hot.  

Dalton got a lemonade from a nearby kiosk while he continued to ogle at the dance squad.  For the finale of the routine, a small-statured, fit female ran through the center of the group, as if she had an invisible forcefield around her.  She proceeded to perform flip after flip, before landing gracefully on her feet, at the final note of the song.  

The girls were all given towels, and began to break off and conversate about their performance in the routine and what they were doing afterwards.  Dalton was left basically dragging his jaw from the ground, putting his eyes back in their sockets, and wiping copious amounts of drool from his mouth, all while hiding a massive erection with possible precum drying his pisshole to his boxers.  Needless to say, this little, sexy woman left quite the impression on Dalton, and he had to talk to her.  This was who he dreamt of at night.  He thought, she is absolutely perfect, as he  approached his pint-sized fantasy in real life.

“Hi, I’m Dalton.  I really enjoyed the show. I didn’t see it all, but I saw the end, and you were amazing! Flippin your little ass all around.”

“Thanks. I’m Tricia. Yeah, I’m their coach. I make an appearance at the end of the routine.  I only do this for fun actually, and to stay in shape. My real gig is at night, at the Fireplace.

Dalton was oblivious, but quickly realized that the Fireplace was a strip club, and Tricia was the regular feature at this club.  They talked and cut up for about thirty minutes, before mall security started making their rounds to clear and close the mall.  They bid each other goodbyes, all while Dalton searched the internet for places to park his rig around Fireplace.  He told Tricia that he would be there later tonight.  She motioned for Dalton to lean down.  He did, and she kissed him on the cheek and whispered, “I can’t wait”, into his ear.

Back in his sleeper, Dalton couldn’t get Tricia out of his mind.  He loved his wife and loved his life, but the beckoning call of curiosity was loud and prevailing.  Plus, Dalton thought, I’m only going to see her dance.  That was enough to persuade him to shower in the truck stop, brush his teeth and floss, buy some cologne and condoms, and get $1000 out in cash.

Dalton arrived at Fireplace a little before Midnight, when Tricia was scheduled to take the stage.  When he paid the cover and sat down, she wasn’t dancing.  In fact, there weren’t any dancers dancing.  Ten to fifteen guys sat at the bar and random tables sucking their beers and looking half defeated and half murderous, awaiting the next offering of flesh.  

Then, from over the music, originating from the back of the building, but getting constantly louder, Dalton heard Tricia’s voice.

“Fuck that! No, ya’ll gonna pay me! I’ll tear this motherfucker up!”

At this point, Tricia was in the main area, near the front, and all eyes were on her.  The man that followed close behind, repeatedly offering excuses, from low attendance, to a raise in rent.

“Fuck that. I’m supposed to get paid tonight and I’m getting paid.”

Something inside Dalton came alive at that moment.  The love of a thousand years amiss overtook his being, and lust fueled his confidence.  He stood and made his way toward the apparent manager.

“Listen here. You are going to pay this woman the money you owe her, or we will tear this motherfucker up. You got that? You can’t treat her differently just because she’s a midget.”

Tricia smiled at Dalton, and said, “Don’t call me the ‘M’ word. That’s your only warning.”

Dalton nodded, then turned back toward the man, unphased.

The man nodded, pulled out a wad of cash and paid Tricia more than he owed her, with a russian scowl on his face.

“But you not come back.”

Tricia took the cash, counted it, held up a middle finger, and walked out, loudly addressing Dalton.

“Let’s go, boo. Rooms on me. You better put it on me.”

Once in the room, they had drinks that were purchased before arrival, and everything was going perfectly and flowing naturally.  They talked about each other’s lives, and flirted while doing so.  By the third bourbon, Tricia was already half naked on Dalton’s lap, thanking him for his support earlier in the night.

“Thank you daddy.  That means the world to me. I think you need a reward,” she said, as she stroked his chest and started slowly sliding down between his legs.

Tricia positioned herself between Dalton’s legs, maneuvered his pants down, and accepted him into her mouth.  Dalton was overtaken by extreme pleasure.  His filter was off, and he blurted out something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

“Goddamn, your little midget ass can suck some di..”

Before Dalton could get the word ‘dick’ out, Tricia’s eyes glowed red and she chomped down with the force of ten great whites, severing his member.  Dalton was left bleeding, cockless, and in shock, as she comedically scurried off with his dick in hand.

Dalton had officially lost it all.  His wife, his family, his entire life left with his penis.  But even more tragic was that some shark-toothed, evil little stripper ensured that Dalton would never get another blowjob again.