Matthew Licht

jh ghost 5

A Big Star

A ghost made of egg shampoo flew through the air in broad daylight. Mr Johnson held an over-designed remote control ray gun. He made the opalescent UFO shuttle back and forth from nowhere to nowhere in a game of video ping-pong. When he got bored, he hit the freeze button. 

“That’s me, basically,” he said. “Or half of me. This is where I come into the picture, if the story’s true.”

He pushed another button and the load splashed down on a high cheekbone and the bridge of an upturned nose. The brunette whom those features belonged to ran her tongue over her lips and slightly crooked teeth.

“Mom,” the client said. He sounded sad.

In the final frames, a sunken face mimed, “Phew!”

“And there’s Papa.” He softly repeated, “If the story’s true.”

Mr Johnson pushed another button and the TV screen died. He went to his desk, pulled another remote-control from a drawer, zapped open the wooden blinds to reveal the Hollywood hills where the porn loop was shot. 

The client was some species of Hollywood executive. 

He looked into the distance from his office window. A woman with flowing blond hair drove a jeep slowly up the canyon. “My mother already wasn’t looking too hot the last time I saw her.”

The woman in the jeep disappeared behind a blind corner. Nothing left on the hills but the landmark sign and TV antennas. 

“I know a man,” the client went on, “whose mother claimed he was Jimi Hendrix’s love-child before she died of a drug overdose. He’s the right color, got long fingers, but he can’t play. This guy lives in a car. Parked permanently on Venice Blvd. With a crazy German lady who sells love beads on the Boardwalk.”

“Life’s hard.”

“My mother’s life was. I’m glad she ditched me with her father in Palmdale. The old guy taught me values.”

The client pulled $500 cash from his pocket, and slid a copy of the videotape across his desk.

“She said that,” he tapped the black plastic rectangle, “was the high point of her life. I want you to find out if her story’s true.”

The client winced when I lit a cigarette. “Not my kind of case, Mr Johnson,” I said. “I’m in the living missing person line. This’d be a matter for the Coroner’s Office.”

He snorted. “The moral of the story about Hendrix’s alleged son is that he might not be living in a car if he could prove paternity. He’s got nothing to go on except his mother’s say-so. The music biz, in case you don’t know, makes the film industry look soft.”

“I doubt there’s a John Holmes estate. He smoked whatever he earned up a crack pipe.”

“I’m not concerned with that sort of inheritance. Holmes didn’t contribute much to the culture, but he was a star. Understand?”

I didn’t, but said I’d do my best. We didn’t shake hands. Mr Johnson didn’t show me out. 

 

Mendes Biondo

Talented People And Those Who Prefer Paradise

I knew a young man once
we passed a lot of time
in the same room
together

we lived together
but nothing sexual
we both ate pussies
like they were bread

I knew a young man once
I said
and he was just
the best writer
that I’d ever 
read

young
cruel
true

a writer with balls
or at least he had balls
when he wrote
in real life
he was more
like 
a broom

I’m sure he will succeed
in writing I mean
and I hope
he will do it

writing stuff on social media
putting your fucking face
in front of a camera
at 5 a.m.
while you’re dying inside
and the whole world
out there is a mess
is what I call
talent

he was able to spend
the whole night
joining parties
here and there
he was a social beast
while I’m just a bear
that prefers to 
have sex
and get drunk alone
instead of listening
to stupid speeches

I always preferred to die
in my own paradise
made of naked boobs
alcohol
silence
and the moonlight
shining on my
naked balls

I don’t have any
kind of talent
to be sincere
but I’m safe and sound
and that is enough
for me

James Babbs

In The Mirror

I’d only been there for a few minutes working on my first beer when she came over and thrust her finger into my face.

Hey she said. I thought I told you last time you were in here not to come back again.

I grinned at her. Oh I said. I just thought that meant you couldn’t live without me.

A look of disgust swept across her face. You’re a piece of shit she said.

I laughed. Hell I told her. Tell me something I don’t know. I grabbed the back of her head and pulled her beautiful face right up next to mine. I kissed her hard on the mouth and when I let her go she slapped me across the face. Another drink for this lady I yelled at the bartender.

I touched my cheek. It felt hot. In the mirror behind the bar I saw what I looked like. I opened my mouth and stuck out my tongue. I knew I looked crazy but I didn’t care. I picked up the glass in front of me and drained the rest of my beer.

When I was finished I banged the empty glass down on the table and shouted at the bartender. Another beer, barkeep and keep them coming.

While I waited for the next beer this scrawny guy with a shaved head came up and tapped me on the shoulder. He looked like a cancer patient who was losing the fight. What’s the big idea? He said to me. Kissing my woman like that?

The waitress came by and slipped another beer in front of me. She did it so quickly I didn’t have time to thank her.

Your woman? I said to the scrawny guy with the shaved head. Really? How much did you have to pay her? I heard laughter from somewhere behind me. I raised my glass to them before bringing it to my lips and draining half the beer.

The scrawny guy with the shaved head just glared at me then he turned and walked away.

Hey buddy I said. You better strap a two by four on your ass the next time you fuck her. I yelled it loud enough so the whole bar could hear. In the mirror behind the bar I saw the woman and the scrawny guy with the shaved head having a lively discussion. She looked angry and he wasn’t very happy.

You can’t win, fucker I thought to myself. Then I laughed and drank some more beer.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw her coming at me again. When she got close I quickly turned and faced her.

I said Yeeesss? Then I laughed again. I could tell she was furious with me. Her whole body shook and I really liked the way it made her tits bounce.

Why you gotta say things like that to my man? She screamed. She balled up her fist and punched me in the arm.

Your man? I said. Is that what that was?

She punched me again and all I could do was laugh.

You know I said. You’re really beautiful when you’re angry.

She leaned her face a little closer to me. Well she said. I think you’re absolutely revolting.

Then she turned her whole body like she was doing a scene from some B-grade movie and stomped back to her seat. In the mirror behind the bar I saw the different faces and they all looked the same to me. I finished the rest of my beer and called for another one.

It was early on a Tuesday but I could already tell it was going to be a good night.

Thumper Devotchka

Ruthless Mutt

I want to bend her over
and fuck her
ruthlessly
like the dog
that I am.
From behind,
always from
behind.

I want to fuck her
into myself.
Her animal need
for my hands
all over her,
inside of her,
I, always.

Life is a cigarette butt
or the stars above.

Life is a ruthless mutt,
or it could be
eternal love.

Anthony Dirk Ray

Whiskey Bottle

you bring me
much relief
from this
world of fake
hacking away at
my soul little by little
day by day until all I want
to do is grab a glass and fade
away with you and your warmth
you are always there my sweet bottle
on the counter eyeing me when I arrive
begging for attention and attention I give
with the first sip you make the day brighter
with the next glass I begin to appreciate
and lose hate for all that surrounds me
you make me feel so creative bottle
you transcend all others before you
by the end of the second glass
I want a third but do not need
one more should be fine

Judson Michael Agla

Walking Aberration

I set out around noon, I was feeling a little queasy but I didn’t think much of it then, ten minutes into my journey I got a filling sensation in my stomach, like a sudden gas build up came out of nowhere and began to expand. I continued on but the pain was increasing and it felt like I had a fucking boulder in my intestines, I had no clue what was going on inside me but it sure as hell wanted its way out one way or the other.

I turned back home and staggered down the sidewalk clutching the walls and fences, screaming bloody murder. People tried to help but the pain was so debilitating that I could only speak by howling at the top of my lungs; the people from the buildings came out on their balconies to check out the scene, families passing by stayed to see the show, the best show in town, a madman screaming in the street holding his ass for dear life.

I was half way across the street blocking traffic when the police and ambulance showed up to hear my deafening torturous wails, I could see that the crowd had formed a circle around me, keeping a good distance as if they were suspecting a bomb to go off out of my ass and blow a hole in the street, which wasn’t too far from what actually did happen.

I couldn’t take any more; and this thing, this gigantic enigmatic thing, was without question coming out now, with the grace and determination of a newly anointed Queen raging on PCP. I yanked down my pants and assumed the fetal position, I screamed louder than I ever have and pushed through that sphincter as fearsome as a kraken, I felt like my whole asshole was coming apart, I thought it was the end for my ass and I forever, so I prayed to the only god I knew might be listening; I chose the “BOSS” for some abstract reason.

Ah! The serenity that followed that torture was sublime but my relief quickly faded as reality moved in. What I just blasted out of my ass was a fucking donkey, a painted donkey, paintings of hippie shit like; flowers, peace signs, love the world, shit like that.

I stood up, pulled up my pants and joined the crowd, now focused on the donkey; it just stood there and didn’t seem at all distressed about the clusterfuck that just took place, however, he didn’t just shit out a medium sized horse like creature like I had. I pushed through the crowd and walked up to the donkey, I can’t explain where the urge came from but I had a certain need to pet the thing, almost like we were connected in some fucked up wrath of god cosmic slapping sort of way.

As the crowd eventually dispersed the cops and paramedics came over with expressions on their faces that would scare the hell out of small little children. None of them said a goddamb word; they just stood and stared like deer’s caught in the headlights. I was exhausted and thoroughly embarrassed, and really didn’t feel like trying to explain what happened, due to the fact that I hadn’t a clue about what just happened, I felt as though what I went through was quite personal as well. So, I took the fucking donkey and I went home. All the people remaining watched as I left the scene knowing in their hearts that they would probably never see something as fucking weird as what went down that day.

 

David Sprehe

Britney Spears (Not Her, Her. Over There):
A Love Poem

The hairy, sweaty ass quivered, then fart crapped.
A pair of fat, pale yellow worms wiggled out.

The worms coiled together
underneath the butt breath and fecal splash,
and humped their sensitive suction flesh.

More worms crawled out the butthole.

Soon the floor was an orgy,
a din of suction love-play.

The butt trumpeted,
shat, spewing black purple
blood and steamy clumps.

The worms orgasmed,
melted, melded,
rose as single entity
and entered the butthole.

The butt exploded.

John Kojak

My Last Erection

My last erection,
it’s all I think about.
Really, I’m obsessed…

Dying doesn’t bother me,
that’s easy.
Losing your manhood,
that’s hard.

Two balls and a cock,
my holy trinity
It’s all I’ve got
I’m worried about it.

Will it come and go,
unappreciated
like fleeting morning wood?
Will I accidentally beat it to death,
strangling the life out of it
as I did in my youth?

No!

I’m a man. I need a woman.

I want a fist full of hair
and an aching wetness to take it all
as I blast out the last few drops
of my humanity.

If there is justice in this world,
if there is a God,
that’s the way it will be!
But it won’t…

Leland Kirk

Pleased to Meet Me

A standard capsule includes photos, snippets of articles, and obituaries if applicable. This costs about $300 if you attend a timeshare presentation, and tends to be a popular graduation gift. The deluxe package includes everything in the standard capsule as well as a one-on-one interview with your future self. The price varies depending on the client, and baseball scores and lottery numbers are strictly off-limits. Discussions are meant to involve relationships, career choices, health, and so on. I figure most clients that can afford it merely want to see if they age well, as a sort of unprovoked expression of vanity.

The deluxe package is a bit less desirable than it once was. Rival toy companies now offer similar services, and clients are generally unhappy with the results anyway. My article about the process wasn’t exactly well received either, which I can’t imagine was helpful. With innovations formerly regarded as impossibilities, there’s a certain taboo towards journalists giving the whole thing away, as if the masses preferred magic as an explanation. My former editor insists this was the case as far back as the invention of the telephone.

I suspect censorship of being a more likely culprit than outright lack of demand, even if only because I can’t be the first to write about the whole experience. Most of which involved sitting on impractical, sculpturesque furniture in pastel-colored waiting rooms. The facility itself is actually quite large for being attached to a mall, and manages to stay empty on weekdays. Each room stays quiet, aside from the occasional fax, and the receptionist asking me to proceed to the next waiting room every half hour or so. Which happens to be more than enough time to get through the reading material of each room.

The reading material is fairly personalized, mostly consisting of photos and articles from the standard capsule, as well as inevitable things like natural disasters. Each room is a little smaller than the last one, and each stack of the reading material from a little further into the future than the last, and so on.

The first two rooms are the same as I remember, with the same reading material: a DUI, rehab, therapy, and a suicide attempt. The standout ones being performance and production credits on an album considered to be a cult classic, and a seemingly passionate article where I’m referred to as a “tortured soul.” The magazine in question used a blurry photo of me in a hospital gown, having a cigarette with a sickly woman in a Dead Kennedys tee shirt.

The third waiting room was roughly the size of a broom closet, which is considerably smaller than I remember it being. The reading material was entirely different this time around, too. There was a murder trial and an eventual formation of a cult, but I couldn’t justify forcing myself to read any further. I felt a sort of disconnect, as if it weren’t possible this could be me, since it wasn’t the same version of me I last spoke with. A document taped to a glass table served as a final warning, and something to sign if I wanted to leave without a refund.

At some point, the receptionist—an unremarkable woman in a pantsuit—gently opened the door, clutching a clipboard. Her light tap on the door might have meant to serve as something like a retroactive knock, and she may have said something to the effect of right this way, please but I was rightfully a bit beside myself. I followed her to the room where the interview was to be conducted, which was a little different this time around.

Pink pastel walls, a Persian rug, one-way mirrors, and reel-to-reel tape recorders; I’d addressed nearly everything else in the room, likely to delay the inevitable. Two red leather lounge chairs were positioned in the center of the room, with a small glass table between them, bearing two ribbon microphones and two cups of bubble tea. It looked like something between a late-night talk show and a fever dream, and I was being greeted by my own venomous smile.

He waved his finger at my chest, likely to keep me from talking, and asked me if the cigarettes in my shirt pocket were tobacco or green tea. I rolled both, and lately I was sprinkling green tea leaves over my tobacco. I initially thought the tea would help me quit, but at some point I acquired a taste for it. He scoffed when I told him this, but took one anyway. I didn’t notice the door was shut behind me until I finally took a seat, nor did I notice the barely audible hints of jazz piano with no discernible source.

I struggled with my moody brass lighter for a moment, before being handed a matchbook with an ad concerning matchbook advertising. Smokers do read matchbooks, you are doing so now, it said. I glanced over at him as I dragged on my cigarette, noting that it was like looking into a hazy mirror. Much of his features remained the same as mine, with silvered hair and tired eyes being the notable differences. His voice was a fair bit raspier than mine, sounding more like a recording of my voice than how I actually hear myself.

My focus shifted to the audio equipment as I briefly watched the tape reels spin. He told me interviews with him are elusive, and this particular one being recorded was the only reason these discussions have been so affordable. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him, but I was under the impression that it was meant to be something clinical or therapeutic. You absolute moron, he’d say, between disgusted cigarette drags and sips of bubble tea. Insisting that I was to blame for anything remotely psychological, as well as the meetings themselves. Narcissism is a hell of a drug, he said.

Ignoring the fact that he was the one that told me to come back soon, I believe I’ve only been here twice, or maybe three or four times at most. My memory of the first interview is distorted, to say the least, as I can almost remember it twice from differing perspectives. I can only imagine the same or worse must’ve happened to him, likely for each interview, as if new and old memories of the same event were competing. All I mentioned was the distortion, to which he nodded and stayed silent, aside from the rattle of his straw chasing unattainable drops of bubble tea.

He picked the microphones up and unscrewed them from their tiny tripods, handed me one, and held one to his face as if we were being filmed. He told me we should have the sort of interview they publish in magazines. Cheers, he beamed, slapping the microphones together. If someone was listening, it’s safe to assume they now have at least mild tinnitus as a result. He grabbed me by the shirt collar while the needle on the tape machine’s VU meter danced with the numbers in red. If you have any sense, you’ll steal one of those tapes and take on a new identity in another country, he whispered.

Several seconds went by at this point, and the more I thought about it, the easier it was to rationalize taking one of the tapes. It was one way to ensure I don’t come back for another interview, likely at least slightly preserving my sanity. If an interview with him is as elusive as he says, it’s also possible it could be worth something to someone at some point, regardless of what changes. I lit another cigarette, and nodded. It was all I could think to do to let him know that I’d actually do it.

He started doing this bit where he’d act like an obnoxious radio host, asking me questions about my childhood, and eventually promising to end the interview when we ran out of cigarettes. At times, he’d pretend to have a caller on the line, usually to voice complaints about the station not taking song requests. It took a while before he was willing to switch roles, and a condition of doing so was that he’d offer bad advice as he went along.

My initial assumption was that advice he’d give would pertain to things he wished he’d done differently, or not at all, and sometimes this was the case. I was told to quit trying to write for newspapers, as those articles get censored and turned into advertisements anyway. He went on to say that writing for zines is what got him into music, and interrupted himself to tell me not to trust banks or credit unions. My favorite piece of advice was this: if ever you feel like jumping off a building, he said. Do a flip.

We were down to our last couple cigarettes, and only a few seconds of silence passed before he chimed back in. He said the murder trial I read about was an overdose, and it’s best to just avoid those people altogether. People live on their own terms, he’d say. Because people are absolute morons. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I’m sure there are self-destructive people that aren’t entirely brain dead. Some of which are probably worth sticking around for, I’d say, but he disagreed.

I lit my last cigarette, took a drag of it, and stood up to admire the spinning tapes. He kept talking, mostly about how corporations function as a sort of shadow government. I’d nod every few spins or so, but at some point I just stopped listening. Not because I necessarily disagreed, it was more about no longer having the capacity. Until next time, I said, stuffing two tape reels down my pants. Until next time, he nodded.

It was a calm and casual exit, not exactly the high-risk stakes of a heist film, but I was anxious enough to get a safety deposit box anyway. I quickly realized I made the mistake of leaving the key at my apartment, however, when I stopped there to pack up. My first instinct was to abandon it. I spent a few days in a motel outside of town, who seem to charge more for using their phones than using a room. I had people I know ask around, but no one seemed to be looking for me. I didn’t see any harm in going home at this point, at least long enough to grab the key. I opened the door to find my elder doppelganger in bed, mounting and strangling a younger doppelganger. You absolute moron, he shrieked.