Luke Kuzmish

Docket Sheets

sometimes when the curtains
still shield my eyes from the sun
and the things living here
aren’t stirring
I pull open
my laptop
to look up the docket sheets
of the people
(I guess) I once knew
see if Twan
got off
or caught a murder charge
for that dead kid from Warren,
the one
whose parents
surrendered his cell phone
and the DEA
did what they could
with us,
a bunch of strung out junkies
killing time
in Andy’s mom’s attic
see if Tony
stayed out of trouble
since his first DUI
or if
his temper got away from him
like it had before
see if my exes
committed crimes
no matter how minor
no matter how expungable
so I could
feel vindicated
for the pain I put them through
and then
later in the day
–maybe about lunchtime
maybe before–
feel guilty
for that ill will,
for thinking about
some shit
I can’t change
see if
there are any new charges
under my own name
if the old fever dream
of my addiction
is ever made manifest
in black and white,
in bench warrants,
in dollars and cents
owed
I’ll look up a few more
–guys from rehab
people from high school
names I fail to remembers–
and shut the lid
I’ll let my family
wake up
and never mention
how I spent the
early
hours
while I write a poem
to describe a feeling
that
evades
words

 

 

Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Valentine

My friend Shane picked me up
and drove to the flower shop
near Wickie’s Pub
on Burton Avenue.
He picked out the flowers and the wrapping,
then it came:
you’re good with words,
can you write something
that will get me laid
tonight?
Then I wrote something
and the saleslady
melted.
We picked up his girl from work
and she saw the flowers
and read the card
as I sat in the backseat
waiting.
She couldn’t keep her hands
off him
the whole way home.
After they dropped me
back at my place on Jane Street
they drove off
to have some wild unprotected gorilla
Valentine’s Day
sex
as I made my packet
of chicken-flavoured Mr. Noodles
for dinner
and was in bed
by 7.

Tony Pena

Staying in Vegas

The night began
with tongue burned
off by a manic
prostitute’s gold
lighter engraved
by her first rapist
then scrotum slit
by stiletto with balls
swapped with dice.
Mute eunuch lucky
enough to be alive
but no home as honest
as the hell of lights,
asphalt, and concrete
shining out the ass
of glitter gulch.

 

Ty Hall

An Open Letter to the Douche Who Put The Moves on My Girlfriend at the Bar Last Night

Dearest Douche,

I can appreciate why you wanted to put the moves on my girlfriend; she is, after all, very attractive. In fact, I found myself in a similar situation five years ago, which is why-and-how I’ve come to write you this letter offering a few suggestions.

If your purpose was to undermine me during the conversation she and I was having at the time, fine, but it would be wise to wait for me to start talking before interrupting to inquire about what the tattoo on her shoulder said. While it was a pretty smooth move, it hinted at your inability to read if not your apparent nearsightedness, as you were unable to decipher its meaning from a distance of roughly three inches. This also leads one to question the efficacy you had as a sniper in the Marines (thank you for your service).

Perhaps your myopia contributes to your deficient skills of observation. For example, the next time you see a woman drinking Glenfiddich, do not buy her a Bud Light. Hedge your bets by at least ordering a Jack-and-Coke. Also, be careful when assuming one’s ethnicity. I see what you were trying to do when you said you didn’t support The Wall, but my girlfriend is Japanese, not Mexican, which I realize you’d be “totally cool with” if she were.

I get why you’d want a lady at the bar to know that you’re unattached, but slipping that information in by letting her know your daughter was taken by CPS is probably not the best way to do it. I can see how you would think this is a twofer, as it allowed you to segue into military history by way of the opiate addiction, but I’d suggest your best course of action is to not bring this up at all on your next meet cute.

And yes, while your arms were sufficiently and demonstrably bigger and stronger than my own, the passion which which you discussed them at length (as well as how you use them to drive your truck and shoot your guns) has no doubt disappointed other women you’ve met in similar fashion who have not read the work of Alfred Adler.

Now, this is just my opinion, but if you’re going to use your “absolute favorite song of all time” as an excuse to vigorously yank on a woman’s arm and ask her to dance, at least know a little bit about it. Admittedly, “Wagon Wheel” is a pretty good song, but that doesn’t make Darius Rucker the greatest songwriter of our generation, or even the writer of “the song that is the theme song of your life.” To that end, I would suggest diversifying your tastes. I understand that neo-redneckery is en vogue, but I would think that wearing nuchal Oakleys kind of obscures your whole colophon.

Anyway, I hope these suggestions find you well.

Best of luck,

Ty Hall

Matthew Licht

Welcome to Felchville

A small party was on its way to a wedding in the country. Their budget rental car would’ve been more comfortable with one less person in it. Pete, in order to deserve his spot in back, kept up a conversation. A Hollywood hopeful, he lived in a Limbo of awaited phone calls, letters, any hint that the time had come to get out of New York and head west.

The Big City, Pete said, was finished. The theater was dead, newspapers were written by lickspittles, magazines were staffed by corrupt cliques, publishing companies were cabals run by Freemasons. There are a million Petes in town. He’d kept his sense of humor about it, though.

People had once said, you ought to be a professional comedian. Pete had worn out his welcome at the improv clubs. He wasn’t on-stage funny. His laughs were on-paper.

His embryonic screenplay was a box-office smashterpiece in search of a big idea. The evil twin thing, he said. The Great White Shark with the disco soundtrack: there’s a little of him in everyone.

Wade Hawkes was at the wheel. His name was perfect for a director of Westerns, or a sheriff in a movie. Aside from being overweight, he looked the part. He taught film history at Columbia University.

Wade’s wife Mona rode shotgun. She kept her eyes on the road. Wade didn’t drive much, and was therefore clumsily aggressive. She was nervous.

Pete had wedged himself between Allie and me in back.

Allie and I had been together a long time. She might’ve wanted to make it legal, at some point.

Edgar Whittemore, the man about to be married Upstate, was a lawyer.

Car dealerships and fast food oases gave way to farms, pastures, forests. There wasn’t much traffic.

“Can we please get off the highway?” Allie said. “I’d like to see some trees.”

Gentlemanly Sheriff Wade swerved into the next exit, and the world outside the car went green, red, orange, brown and yellow.

Allie, an interior designer, was delighted when we drove past a Charles Addams-style mansion that’d recently been featured in one of her favorite magazines. “Ooh look! That’s Sere Pines, the Suckley estate.”

“Suck-lee,” Pete drawled.

“Miss Suckley’s like a modern Miss Havisham,” Allie said, “in that she’s not modern at all. She’s a kooky old Yankee blueblood who keeps the family spread exactly the way it was in her Great-grandpa’s day. Or maybe she let it rot away to honor his memory, or because she’s got no money left. The Suckleys were the last of the New England loyalists.”

“Omigod, look!” Pete nearly leapt into the front seat. “There’s a sign up ahead! We’re coming into Felchville.”

He was right: the blue sign read, Felchville. I’d never heard of the place. Maybe it didn’t exist before we showed up.

Wade and Mona were nonplussed. Felch wasn’t part of their prenuptial agreement, or their vocabularies.

Allie groaned. Among the accumulations in our cramped Times Square studio apartment is a vast collection of Underground Comix that will go to the Public Library when I die.

“Slow down, Wade.” Pete grabbed the driver’s soft shoulder. “I don’t want to miss any details.”

Felchville seemed an ordinary drive-by burg, with the usual shops, restaurants, parking lots and houses. Normally dressed normal-looking people wandered about their lives on clean, uncrumbled sidewalks.

“Ooh look!” Allie whisper-shouted, to humor Pete. “They all got brown crusts around their mouths.”

“They’re foaming,” Pete said.

Felcher was a name Allie and I had seen on grave markers in Queens, and out in New Jersey. Cemetery expeditions were something to do on weekends, after we’d checked out the 6th Avenue flea market. There must be a million couples like us in town.

A man in a brown derby hat stopped to admire the local smoke-shop window, or perhaps his reflection in it. He looked repressed.

“Felch-a-holics Anonymous member,” Pete said, with the accent on member.

“Why’re they flying Canadian flags all over the place?” Allie said. “Did we mass-sleepwalk through the part where the Mounties waved us across the border?”

“November 12th is Canada Appreciation Day, here in Felchville,” Pete said. “They celebrate by felching each other unconscious.” He provided slurpy sound-effects.

Felchville had a Public Library. The red maple leaf banner on the thick pole that protruded from its facade flapped with civic pride.

There was a long line at the Felchville Cafe’s takeout window.

“Find a spot, please,” Pete said. “I need to investigate deeper.”

Wade parked beautifully. He could’ve been a Formula One parking lot attendant if he hadn’t gotten stuck in the city.

We got out. Mona stretched her arms in a wingèd victory pose and was transformed into Miss Felchville, for a moment.

Allie, my girlfriend, leaned against the rental car’s hood, and cleaned her glasses on her shirt for a clearer look around.

The cafè had a horseshoe lunch-counter. Pete lingered in the entryway by the cash register.

“Milky Ways are called Creemy Treets here in Felchville,” he said, and held up a candy bar in an advertising snapshot pose. He wasn’t joking: the wrapper bore the customary blue-white starburst, but the verbiage was different.

“Think I’ll grab a few to slurp later,” he said. “Brown on the outside, buttery on the inside.”

The odd candy bars he plonked down added a color-note to the deep brown padded rubber strip that ran down the lunch counter’s center. To keep porcelain from sliding around in a storm, perhaps.

The waitress was dressed like a nurse. She seemed to have a slight mustache problem, but closer inspection showed foamy brown crusts at the corners of her mouth, like the anus of a dog who hadn’t wiped too well. Pete elbowed my ribs.

The waitress’ nameplate read “Felicia” below a red maple leaf.

Pete didn’t miss a beat. “What’s the Brown Plate Special today, Felcha?”

Waitress Felicia didn’t bat an eyelash, or lick away foam. “Cream of meatloaf.”

“Oh, delicious. Who’ve you got cooking in there?” Pete head-gestured towards the brown

padded swinging double-doors to the kitchen. There was a round brass push-plate between them.

“Huh? Oh, it’s old Homer Suckley, same as always on Thursdays.” She beat a ballpoint tattoo on her orders notepad. “So, how many Brown Plates? Awful good. Had some myself, for breakfast.”

“Just plain oatmeal for me,” Mona said.

Pete wouldn’t let go of anything that smacked of Felchville-abilia. “Suckley, huh? Is he related to the Suckley Mansion, visible from the road on the way up from the city? What’s that place called, Allie?”

“You mean Sere Pines,” Allie said.

“Looks like the haunted house in a baroque carnival. Inhabited by some crazy old rich lady…”

“That’s a different Suckley family,” Felicia the waitress said, impatiently. “Suckley’s a fairly common last name in these parts.”

Wade broke in. “I’d like a Western omelette, please.” The waitress looked at Allie.

“Just a cup of coffee for me,” she said.

“Would you like cream in it?”

“No thanks. Black.”

“You mean, brown,” Felicia the Felchville waitress said. “The coffee’s brown, here.”

“Oh. In that case, I’ll have a glass of orange juice. Orange is just orange here, right?”

“Of course it is.”

“You got fresh-squeezed?”

“You mean, fresh-sucked. We got a machine that sucks out the juice.”

“How ‘bout we cancel our orders and get outta here?” Allie said.

“Not so fast.” Pete made it sound as though Felchville were a byzantine practical joke, and

that everyone was in on it except Allie. “I’ll simply die if I don’t try a Felchville Brown Plate Special.”

“Me too,” I said. “And may I please have some maple syrup with it?”

“Comes with maple syrup,” Felicia the waitress said.

“Naturally.” Pete was eyeing an item of diner hardware placed further down the brown rubberized counter: a clear plastic doughnut display unit with a clear plastic bell-cover. He went to inspect the thing. He waved. “You gotta check this out.”

Doughnuts at the Felchville Cafe had creases down the middle. Their holes brimmed over with pale chocolate froth.

“Oh my God,” Pete gasped. “They look scrumptious.”

The calligraphy on a folded slip of paper said, “Home-Made by Mrs. Annie Hainell. Help Your Self. 35¢.” Adjacent to the pastry holder was a short stack of paper plates, and sanitary tongs. Pete helped himself to a felch doughnut, dropped a quarter-and-dime into the paper cup provided.

The wall above the doughnut area held framed sepia-toned portraits of W. C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Charles Laughton, President Herbert Hoover. A treacly smell hung in the air. It might’ve been that the Public Library’s groundskeeper was fertilizing the lawn in front of the Canadian Fascist-style building.

“Let’s begone.” I said, and dropped a $20 bill on the counter. “Screw the food. I got a feeling we shouldn’t eat anything here anyway.”

Pete was already frenching the hole of his doughnut. “What the hell are you talking about? We can’t leave. This place is a dream. The screenplay practically writes itself.”

Mona and Allie stood up. Their spinning stools clanked and whirred. Wade, who looked hungry and might otherwise have been persuaded to stay, checked his watch. “Let’s ride. Ceremony’s supposed to start at three, and we’ve still got fifty or sixty miles to go. We don’t want be late, it’s rude.”

“Screw the wedding,” Pete said. Chocolate foamed at the corners of his mouth. He hadn’t shaved. “In fact, fuck all primitive superstitious meaningless rituals.”

“The deal was, we’d stop and just to have a look around,” Allie said. “We’ve seen enough, for my tastes. Curiosity satisfied.”

“Felchville, adiós.” Mona led the procession out of the cafè. Wade jingled car-keys.

“C’mon Pete,” I said. “We can stop here again on the way back to town. We’ll book a suite at the Felchville Hotel.”

“You’re just humoring me,” he said, and it was true. We’d planned to turn the rest of the wedding weekend into a cultural excursion: Saratoga Springs, Fort Ticonderoga, the Mohawk Trail. “Just when I’ve found the place. You don’t want me to write a hit screenplay. You want me to fail. You want me to remain a loser, eternally stuck in New York. Don’t you even want to find out what Cream of Meatloaf tastes like?”

“Not really.”

Felicia the waitress sklurched through the swinging doors with armfuls of brown porcelain. Steam rose from the bowls.

“Bon appetit,” Allie said.

Pete wolfed the rest of his doughnut and sat down resolutely at the counter. “So long, suckers. You can come visit me in Hollywood when my work here is finished.”

Out on the street, a Felchville cop in a brown uniform was writing out a ticket. Wade, distracted by Felchville scenery, hadn’t noticed the Sanitation Dept Only sign.

“Sorry ‘bout that, Officer,” Wade said.

The cop said, “There’s a special cell for scofflaws in the Felchville Jail.”

Or something like that.

Wade took the summons. He drove away slowly.

We arrived at the wedding late, and missed the part of the ceremony where they say they do and they will.

At the banquet hall, the bride asked where Pete was. She was one of his ex-girlfriends, I

guess I forgot to mention that. Actually, she was one of my ex-girlfriends too. From high school.

“He’s in Heaven,” I said.

Her eyes bulged in disbelief. She would’ve burst out crying, but didn’t want to wreck her makeup.

I steadied her. “Sorry. I meant, he’s in a good place.” “Hollywood?”

“Yeah, Hollywood. He finally figured out how to get there.”

“I knew he’d be OK, in the end,” she said. “I always thought he’d make it, eventually. I just didn’t have enough patience to wait around for his dreams to come true.”

She disappeared back into the wedding whirl to greet her other guests and dance with her new husband. I asked Allie to dance with me, and she said yes.

Matthew Licht

The Spank-Off

Edna Soames was an awfully big woman. Her deep voice carried a freight of authority. No one ever mistook her for a man, though.

Edna Soames used to earn her living with her ass. She worked hard, saved money. Pimps wound up sorry they ever met her.

When Edna Soames hit forty, she decided to open a place.

Edna’s Hot Spot was a success. Word got round.

There was only one, simple rule: be good, or be gone. No bouncers required.

Big Mickey showed up at Edna’s Hot Spot dressed a notch too loud, and yelled for a bottle.The barman raised an eyebrow. Edna gave the nod.

Big Mickey could hold his liquor. He was also lucky at craps. Big Mickey got bigger and louder, made a crack about the croupier’s toupee. Edna watched the situation. High spirits. The big galoot tipped big.

Big Mickey made a big mistake when he thought a $10 tip earned him a peek at what was inside a cocktail waitress’ bustier. She poured a highball on his head.

Edna’s whole Hot Spot fell silent.

Big Mickey was unused to such treatment. He was about to return the affront, with interest, when Edna put a hand on his shoulder.

“Mister, it’s time for you to leave.”

Most men would’ve apologized. Big Mickey rose and rose and rose.

“Back where I’m from, we heard stories about this crummy joint. My brother Little Benny came here lookin’ for a good time, but he came back home blue-balled and hurtin’.”

Edna Soames held Big Mickey’s eye, and kept her grip on his ill-fitting blazer. “So your brother’s an asshole like you.”

“He said you pulled his pants down, and spanked him.”

“That’s right,” Edna said.

“How ‘bout spanking someone your own size?”

The boys in the band set down their instruments, quietly.

It’d been a long time since a man challenged Edna. A waitress gasped. The bandleader winced. The bartender shot a look at the First Aid kit.

Big Mickey shrugged out of his jacket. His pants fell to the floor.

“Let’s see what you got,” he said. “I mean, let’s see if you’re really a woman.”

Edna showed everyone that she was a lady.

Big Mickey sucked in a breath. “Do your worst,” he said, and stretched his bulk across Edna’s lap. The first swat was a thunderclap. A red mark glowed when she raised her hand. Then the blows fell like rain.

The women had to cover their eyes. People began to leave the room.

Big Mickey didn’t flinch.

Finally Edna could spank no more.

“Huh. I thought you were harder than that, girly. Let’s see if you can take it better than you dish it out.”

Edna settled on Big Mickey’s lap. Down it came.

“Stop,” she whispered. “I give up.”

Nobody could believe it.

Big Mickey helped Edna to her feet. Then he bent her over the craps table.

The next morning, Edna Soames boarded a bus bound for Good-and-Spankedville.

A joint force of Vice Squad cops and Board of Health inspectors eventually closed down BigMickey’s Hot Spot. Big Mickey disappeared. Ugly rumors spread.

Edna Soames still talks about the night she got spanked, found love and lost everything she had. She talks on and on, even when there’s nobody listening. She talks until the bartender tells her she’s had enough and it’s time to go home.

Oliver Lodge

Fried Chicken

The entire wall had to be bulldozed because of me. You see, I’m overweight. It’s glandular. I couldn’t fit on the toilet between the sink and the wall in the bathroom. Instead of moving the sink, the contractor told Grammy that it’d be cheaper to knock down the wall. Grammy’s a miser. She didn’t want to pay for it. To save money, she hired a company that took an entire week to complete the job. The workers were filing in and out of my bedroom to get to my bathroom, invading my private sanctum without pause. I didn’t have a second to myself. It was the worst week of my life.

Only after a serious accident did my grandmother take the necessary steps to get the job done. I warned her that this would happen. I kept complaining about it. She’d avoid the topic every time. Grammy and me, we fight a lot.

I have bowel problems. I have to take a shit constantly throughout the day. Back and forth, eight to ten times a day, I waddle over to the toilet from my bed. It’s the only exercise I get. I have a heart condition that prevents me from engaging in any kind of physical exertion.

So I was sitting on the toilet and I had to squeeze my way between the sink and the wall and it was getting harder and harder to take a dump that way. I had to shift my weight over to one side whenever I wiped my ass, leaning heavily against one of my butt cheeks to reach under there. This caused the toilet seat to snap loose in the back and slide across the top of the bowl. My scrotum hangs down really low. It’s a long, distended, purple sack that droops down to my knees.

I have huge balls. They were hanging down into the toilet water when this happened. (I’ve grown to like this feeling. It cools me off. And when my bollocks start to warm up I know I just did my poo.) So my nuts got snagged between the seat and the bowl, right? My scrotum was torn. I’m lucky my yarbles didn’t get chopped off altogether. I had to have an operation and get my nut bag sewn back up.

Since I couldn’t fit through the front door, Grammy paid a construction crew to remove the roof of our house. I was transported to a special hospital via a chopper and an airlift. My ball sack had to be packed with ice and gauze. I got into an argument with Grammy when I got home.

“You dumb, dried up, old cunt!” I yelled. “If you had listened to me first and fixed the motherfuckin’ shithouse, I wouldn’t have had to go through all this bullshit! What do you got rocks in your fuckin’ head or something? I’m fuckin’ traumatized by that incident! And now look at what you made me do! You made me spill my god-damn piss all over the fuckin’ floor!”

I have a weak bladder, you see. Grammy brings me half a dozen two-liter bottles of pop every day. I piss in the empty bottles over the side of my bed after finishing them. This saves me more trips to the latrine. Grammy made me so upset that I accidentally knocked one over. I looked down at her while she wiped up the spill on her hands and knees.

“Did you get me my god-damn magazine, at least?” I asked her.

She did. She left it in the other room. I had her go get it for me. It was a copy of ‘Teen Vogue’. Not the greatest read, but it featured a sexy twink on the cover. I heard Grammy squeezing the urine out of the rag into the sink in my newly renovated bathroom as I fiddled with my penis in bed, imagining the blotchy skin of my hairy belly rubbing against a squirming blob of naked boys, their lips and limbs lightly brushing up against my hard nipples.

“Feel my girth, you sniveling bastards!” I hissed under my breath. “I bet you kids think you’re hot shit in high school. You get all the beach bunnies, don’t you? Hitting on all the girls with tan skin and athletic builds. Ungrateful, little pieces of shit. I’ll give you something to remember…”

I pictured the tight cheeks of one of the boy models splayed open as my uncircumcised joust turned his sigmoid colon into an excavation site.

Grammy’s doddering nearby was distracting me from the chore at hand. “Finish up and get the fuck out, Grammy!” I bellowed over my shoulder. “And don’t forget the chicken and the sewing bag and my insulin! Your baggy ass is harshing my mellow!”

My favorite morning talk show was on. The crowd on TV was jeering in the background. A pair of wenches with bad perms were pulling each other’s hair. Their public quarrel had escalated into a full-on cat fight. The audience was going wild.

Grammy stopped at my bedroom door before turning around. Sheepishly, she ventured to ask if I’d reconsider the bedpan. The invisible referee of silence held us apart momentarily. The bell rang in my corner and then I let her have it.

“You know I have diarrhea!” I retorted. “I already have to sleep with sugar and crumbs in the bed every night! Poo gets all over the sheets when I use the bedpan! What do I look like a fucking animal to you?”

For brunch and dessert I go through two boxes of butter sticks daily. My snacktime ritual entails putting a bowl of Splenda and a bowl of mayonnaise beside me on the bed. One stick at a time, I dip the butter into the mayonnaise first and then the Splenda. It might sound gross, but it’s a truly delicious snack if you ever get a chance to try it. It also makes a mess. My sheets are covered with mayonnaise, granules of Splenda, bread crumbs, and chicken grease stains.

I love chicken. I eat five jumbo size boxes of fried chicken a day. Every time I dine, I spread out all the individual pieces of chicken on my naked belly while I’m lying down in bed. I dress them up in doll clothes that my grandma tailors for me specifically for this game. The wings, the breasts, the legs – all the chicky wickies get their own shirts and pants and bonnets. I have all types of accessories like swords for them to fight with and spatulas so they can flip burgers. I give them cute names like Rupert and Mildred. There are hundreds of different games I play with them throughout the day but Little Red Riding Hood is pretty popular.

I rub the oily chicken around my scrotum and the underside of my pecker until I get hard. My erect member soon becomes a tree for the wolf to hide behind in wait for Little Red Riding Hood as she saunters over the yellow hill of my tummy. The drumstick in red garb is then pounced upon by the breast or thigh playing the wolf. I make squealing and growling noises as the Big Bad Wolf forces himself on the little girl, rubbing the two pieces of chicken together as if they’re fucking. Then I stuff them in my mouth, bones and all, chewing on them ravenously as I bring myself to climax.

“No, I don’t think you’re an animal,” my grandmother replied. “It’s just that… It’s getting harder for you to get around with your weight and…”

“I didn’t want to hear this since I just got out of the hospital, but you may as well say it, Grammy. Go on! Get it off that flabby chest of yours! I’m nothing but a fat, worthless faggot! Is that what you’re trying to tell me? I can’t help it if I’m fat! You know what the gastroenterologist said, what my therapist says! I eat as a way to nurture my inner child – the little, baby Oompa Loompa inside of me who never found love! It’s not my fault that I’m sick! What are you going to do? Throw me out into the street? Force me to suck cock for a living? You hate me! You hate my guts! I know it!” I bawled. Tears poured down my chubby cheeks. Snot dripped out of my nose and into the hairs of my mustache, as coarse as the legs of a fly.

“I’m too tired to get into this right now,” Grammy sighed. She left. She wasn’t even sympathetic to my situation. Grammy only thinks of herself.

I stopped crying in due time. I looked around the quiet bedroom. It reeked of sweat and urine. Dust and cobwebs were starting to take shape in the corners. Grammy was slacking on her cleaning. A half-empty bag of pork rinds was sitting on the coffee table. I wanted to finish them but didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I found a graham cracker near my pillow and nibbled on it while removing the chicken from the warm buckets. Grammy didn’t skimp on the sides that day.

“Look!” I said with a smile to a leg and a thigh dressed like Snow White and Peter Pan. From their cardboard container I poured some chicken nuggets out onto my stomach to share the stage with their famous parents. “Congratulations! You’re a happy couple! Look at all the babies you had!” I proudly proclaimed.

J.J. Campbell

well beyond my years

I’ve never
taken a selfie

i’ve never
had a Facebook
account

I’ve never
found it
necessary
to take a
picture of
my food

my ego
doesn’t believe
the world needs
to know when
i’m taking a
shit or when
i’m trying to
decide what to
get at the home
improvement
store

they told me
as a child I was
well beyond my
years

i suppose that is
still true

although I’m quite
interested in seeing
what this Tinder is
all about

Markus Der Romero

Kabukicho Date

The pencil’s point follows the eyelid, colouring it dark red.

Finishing touches, the devil’s in the details.

She can do it automatically, without even thinking. The hand’s still, while her body’s being molded, mutated into what the customer wants.

She can think of anything else. It’s natural, like breathing.

Saho Tamura, 35 years old, can hide her true self and become 23-year-old Rin, or Rin-chan as everyone calls her, in just 20 minutes while she thinks of anything else except what she’s putting on her face.

She knows how to entertain, she knows how to chat, she knows how to make a man spend all his paycheck without even letting him lay a finger on her.

But not tonight.

It’s been 6 months since she realized that it’s time to pull off the mask.

It’s time to quit.

It’s becoming harder and harder to work at the IVY, one of many, maybe too many of Kabukicho’s host clubs. Younger flesh comes in, fewer costumers require her specifically. Her habitués are starting to get married or worse, asking for more, and that’s a line she was never able to cross.

Until tonight.

His name is Yuji Kobayashi, another grey and dull salary man who suddenly took an interest in her. He usually came once in a month, then started once per week, then twice.

A woman who flirts with men for a living knows when a guy falls in love.

When presents are getting more and more expensive.

When he keeps sending you emojis for no reason on a regular basis.

Maybe it’s time to settle.

According to him, he works for a big firm, he’s fun at times, and he’s not a drunken swine like their regular costumers.

Not like many, too many men she had to deal with.

You’re getting old, Rin-chan, she mumbles to herself, staring at her beautiful visage in the mirror.

Green contacts, dark red lipstick and eyeliner, and a nice, Murasaki violet dress over a black bustier with some pushup features. Earrings with a crystal pendant, gold wristwatch, high heels, and long, painted nails.

Everything about her is fake.

Rin-chan is ready to come on stage.

Saho leaves her be, just for a short while, just a little longer.

She grabs her coat and exits her apartment.

It’s starting to snow now, foggy weather giving the neon a nice glowing aura.

“Is it ok if we meet in front of Mister Donut. At 9 PM?” he asks.

“Fine, Yuji-kun, I’ll be there,” she agrees.

Catching a cab from Sendagaya, she begins to regret not having chosen another meeting place. It’s just a block away from IVY.

And a costumer seeing her with someone else might create some issues.

The cab driver leaves her in front of the Ichibangai, the red arch, landmark of that place of chaos and nightlife that is the Kabukicho.

The familiar noise is comforting as she walks down the alley.

Some lowlife guys stare at her, but not for very long. They know she’s not an outsider, she is part of the local fauna.

As she approaches the Mister Donut, she calls an old friend:

“Yelllo?” Masao answers, almost immediately.

“Ma-kun? Are you busy?” she asks him.

Masao was just a street thug when she started working at the IVY. Now he’s got his own family, one of those calling the shots in Kabukicho these days.

And she knows he’s got a soft spot for her.

“Naw Saho-chan, what’s up?”

From his side she can hear a truck passing by, blaring a VANILLA jingle. Then the music of the Don Quixote store. He must be nearby, just a block or so away.

“I’m meeting with someone, tonight, and… you know… I’m not feeling really safe.”

Saho didn’t really know how to put it without sounding paranoid. But Masao knew some things about her. When they were both young, drunk, and depressed, she had told maybe too many things to him.

Things that could drove a sane man away from a beautiful lady.

“Where are you now, sweetie?” asks Masao.

“In front of Mister Donut. He may be here in, 15 minutes, I don’t know. I took a cab, he may come via train. You’ll see me but… can you just…”

“Yeah, understood. I’ll just keep my distance, and if he tries some shit, I’ll bash the brains out of his skull, awright?”

“No… just, intervene, he’s my costumer at the club, but…”

She hesitates. It has always been hard to tell Masao’s real feelings toward her from time to time.

“Yeah, no problem. Check your right, see me?”

Saho turns and sees a man at distance, near an all-male host club, in a white suit and black shirt. His shirt is half unbuttoned, showing much of his tattooed chest. He’s got no umbrella. People try not to bump into him.

He waves at her.

Saho smiles and waves back, feeling a relieved sensation.

“Ok, it will just be a matter of half an hour,” she tells him. “If I don’t make any sign of trouble after a while ,you can go on your way.”

“Yeah, understood, sweetie. Just cut me some slack if the guy has some cash on him. Or else you may invite ME to a night out. We have to marry some day,” he chuckles.

Is he serious? Saho never understood his sense of humor.

“Promise, Ma-kun.”

Suddenly she spots Yuji coming up the street. It’s clear that he’s nervous. He’s put on his best dress shirt and holds a package in one hand.

Another gift.

Bet it’s another set of jewels, a Collier, maybe.

“Gotta go, Ma-kun. Thank you!”

Yuji sees her, approaches and smiles. He smiles like he’s seeing something he’s been looking forward to for a long time.

“Rin-chan, good evening,” he greets her, trying not to stutter.

Saho smiles back. This time, the smile is somewhat forced. She has become Rin once more.

She pretends to be surprised.

“Yuji-kun! I’m so glad I’ve seen you. You look absolutely charming tonight.”

Maybe a little forced acting, but it’s her character.

Yuji lowers his head bashfully. “Oh thank you,” he giggles in response, “I… just threw on what I found in the closet.”

Lies. Saho can see from a mile that his clothes are brand new.

Smiling, she offers him her hand. “Let’s have a walk, shall we?”

He nods. “Okay.”

His hand is damp with sweat. It’s like holding a rotting peach.

They both share her umbrella. She’s taller than him. She’d never realized that. They’d always been sat together before.

Choosing such high heels might have been a mistake.

Saho turns, sees Masao following them from a distance. Their eyes meet, and she nods at him reassuringly.

He stops, flashes her one of his weird smiles, then turns and walk away.

Looking back at her date, this timid guy with a brand-new suit and the little bag he’s holding, Saho feels as if she’s come to a crossroads.

Yes, Saho, settle down, become a housewife, a mother. Stop working at the Kabukicho. Leave for the suburbs.

“How was your day? Yuji-kun?” she asks, her voice becoming higher pitched. Man always loved that.

“Oh… my little brother had an accident during a soccer match. Broken tibia,” he explains. “I visited him at the hospital in Chiba. He was depressed, never seen him so down”

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope he will get better soon.”

“Do you have a little sister, Rin-chan?” asks Yuji.

Rin doesn’t have sisters, doesn’t have a family. Rin’s the perfect little creature of your dreams, she thinks to herself.

Saho on the other hand, did have a little sister… once.

“No, Yuji-kun, I am an only child.”

In her head, the stench of urine and the taste of motor oil on that man’s hand overtakes her. His words, “This one’s too old for me, take the other one,” echo through her mind.

She attempts to shove it down. Deep down.

“So, Rin-chan, do you wanna go get a drink somewhere?” he offers. “I know a great place around here.”

Under the neon light, his face turns from blue to red, red to blue, blue to red.

His hand is so sweaty.

Inside her head, Saho suddenly wakes up. She’s not Rin anymore.

“How about we go to a hotel?” she says, her voice falling half an octave. “We can drink there, too.”

It’s as if all of her make up has suddenly been wiped off in one stroke.

“Ehh?” Yuji seems shocked. “You mean a… a…”

He cannot say it. The word is “love hotel”, where you pay by the hour, no questions asked.

“Isn’t that what you want after all, Yuji-kun?”

Yuji remains flabbergasted as Saho just stares at him. His mouth hanging open, lips twitching but no sound comes out.

“I want it too, Yuji-kun,” she adds, more softly. “Let it be a special night.”

Yuji blushes and agrees.

They approach the first love hotel they come across, hand in hand, in plain silence.

While Rin seems enthusiastic and also a little nervous (a scene for Yuji’s sake), Saho is screaming internally. She just needs to run away.

She wishes for Masao to come back, maybe in a rush of jealousy.

Maybe telling her, “I love you sweetie, fuck this asshole, come with me.”

She pushes these thoughts deep down again.

Come with me. That’s all she remembers about that afternoon long ago. After that, pitch black.

Reiko died, the next day at the hospital. Internal bleeding caused by perforation.

Saho somehow had managed to survive.

In their hotel room, Rin kisses Yuji softly, crawling on top of him in bed. His hands are shaking as they move all over her body.

“Rin-chan… I want you,” he moans.

He’s nervous. She can hear his heart pounding without even putting her head against his chest.

“Is it your first time, Yuji-kun?” she asks.

He freezes, trying not to panic. Then, he just nods his head bashfully, trying not to look her in the eye.

Rin just smiles in response.

“Let it be special, then. Yuji-kun, let me do something special for you.”

Rin unzips her dress, letting it slide down, revealing her bustier and stockings. Yuji can only gasp at the sight of her smooth, bare flesh.

She stands above him, slowly lifting her leg and dangling a foot before Yuji’s face.

“Suck it, Yuji-kun.”

The man opens his mouth and begins sucking her toes as ordered. She closes her eyes for a moment, trying to feel pleasure, slowly sliding down her stockings.

“Stop,” she suddenly tells him.

Like a good slave, Yuji stops.

She uses her stockings to tie Yuji’s arm to the bedposts.

“Is this sadomasochism?” Yuji gasps. “I don’t want to feel pain…”

Rin shakes her head to reassure him. “No pain.”

Inside her head, Saho hears a younger version of herself screaming “It hurts!” Beside her, Reiko, screaming like a lamb being slaughtered.

Meanwhile, Rin-chan stares down at Yuji, letting her panties slide down to her ankles.

“They are already wet for you, Yuji-kun,” she whispers.

Saho trembles in excitement. She takes her panties and drapes them across Yuji’s face, covering his eyes.

“Your smell is… wonderful…” he mumbles from behind the silky fabric.

Saho looks around the room they’d rented, which had a few ‘extra’ options. There are two pairs of handcuffs, an assortment of vibrators, and various other torture devices. She can do whatever she wants to him.

She pulls down Yuji’s pants, exposing his hairy, erect cock, already oozing precum. Should she touch him in just the right way, he would climax right there on the spot.

Still wearing her panties for a mask, Yuji is on the brink of hyperventilating.

She cuffs his ankles to the bedposts, rending him completely immobile, helpless.

“Rin-chan… Please… I want you,” he keeps on repeating.

A younger Saho hears those same words in a different manner:

I want your little mouth, you little bitch. You’ll love it, suck it now!

Years ago, she’d gagged as he penetrated her throat, nearly puking as his partner forced himself into her other end as well.

Saho grazes Yuji’s glands with her fingernails. He gasps, startled by the sensual contact.

“This is my hand, Yuji-kun,” she whispers in his ear.

Saho/Rin bends over him then, her mouth closing around his cock. Tongue slowly circling his throbbing flesh, she withdraws and starts licking the tip, slurping up Yuji’s precum while he moans in pleasure.

“And this is my mouth, Yuji Kun…”

She senses he’s about to come, moaning and writhing against his bonds.

“And guess what this is?”

All at once, Yuji’s cock is inside her.

She begins rocking back and forth, eliciting more moans from Yuji along with some unintelligible words.

“I’m… I’m cu… cum”

Abruptly, Saho stops.

“Not yet!” she hisses, leaning down to bite his neck before starting to ride him again.

“I said no pain, Rin-chan,” he stammers, gasping for air beneath her panties.

“I decide what to do,” she growls in response.

She bites him again, harder this time. Yuji screams in pain, struggling to set himself free.

“Please, STOP!!!”

Saho’s teeth sink into his flesh once more. This time, blood pours out.

Yuji begins screaming in agony.

Just for this little blood? Reiko had almost bled dry before they were through with her.

“STOP, YOU BITCH!!!”

By this point, Saho is not only wet, she’s positively drenched.

She bites him once again, ripping out his throat in the process. With blood smeared across her perfectly made-up face, she wolfs down the wad of ragged, gristly flesh and goes for more.

While Yuji slowly dies beneath her, Saho feels her own orgasm coming.

With one last bite, she begins screaming in pleasure, her juices mixing with Yuji’s blood upon the sheets.

Saho shudders, breathless and spent.

Her vaginal muscles contract around still-erect Yuji’s cock.

In a moment of lucidity, Saho glances behind her, catching her reflection in the room’s mirrored wall.

For the very first time, she sees herself as she is.

And she is beautiful.

She screams instinctively as she resumes her carnal act, humping Yuji’s lifeless body while consuming still more of his flesh.

On the nightstand sits a beautiful package, containing a very expensive Collier.