Nick Romeo

The Lifelines

The lines on the monitors flattened, while a single tone emitted from the machine drowning out the silence in the room.

“I’m afraid we did all that we could here.” The surgeon lowers his head to match the discouragement in his voice, “I wish we could have saved her.”

“I will notify her family.”

“Thank you, Nurse Venugopal.”

After the team finished pulling the last tube and wire from the patient’s body, a thick layer of fog formed at their feet. As the surgeon, nurse, and staff looked around trying to assess the cause, the doors burst open. A tall man enters the room wearing a bright blue lab coat and a giant plastic mask in the form of a black and white cat head. He is accompanied by a woman wearing a red lab coat, an enormous papier-mâché dragon head, and dragon wings extending from her shoulders to the floor.

The man with the cat head speaks: “Hello doctors, nurses, and humanoids. I am DJ Cat-a-List, and this is my associate, Dragon Bones. We are here to help.”

Dragon Bones steps forward, holds up a double-ended fire stick, and launches a column of fire from her mouth, igniting both sides. She spins it rapidly in front of her. A group of men and women dressed in navy blue scrubs wearing plastic animal masks representing various species, which can be found in the backyards of southwestern Pennsylvania, rushes into the room. They surround the operating room personnel.

“We will be handling this from here,” DJ Cat-a-List shouts as he presses a button on his key fob. Two speakers descend from the ceiling and stop when they are centered about the patient’s ears. A mirror ball, strobe lights, and colored lasers forming geometric shapes on the walls also drop out of the ceiling.

“This is ridiculous, ” the lead surgeon announces. “I’m calling security.” He jumps to the cabinet in the corner and picks up the telephone receiver. “What? No dial tone?” He slams the phone down. “Mrs. Venugopal, can you make the call? I left my cell phone in the locker.”

She checks her phone, “It doesn’t look like I have service.” She repeatedly taps and presses on the screen. “It’s not working.”

One by one, the staff confirm that their phones are also inoperable, as a table rises from the floor in front of DJ Cat-a-List. A row of music-mixing equipment covers the table.

“Does anyone realize there is a dead body in this room?” the surgeon pleads. “We have to notify the family. What are you doing? This is insane. Stop it! Stop this right now.”

Dragon Bones pushes the surgeon down into a chair. “Sit. It’s not like we can possibly do any worse than you.” She turns around to address the flock of people with animal masks and hospital uniforms. “Places, everyone.”

The animal people crawl to various spots in the room. Some take up positions on top of the cabinets, others stand on the available tables and chairs. They begin to sway in harmony to the low rhythmic bass sounds now emanating from the speakers. DJ Cat-a-List has one side of the earphones pressed to one of his cat ears as he bobs his head to the beat. The music gets louder.

Dragon Bones jumps onto the gurney, standing directly over the deceased patient. She points to the surgery staff who are now huddled in a corner with the surgeon, shifting uneasily in his chair. “Raise your hands in the aiiiiiiiiir! SWAY to DJ Cat-aaaaaa-Liiiiiiiiiiiist!”

The staff obey the orders of Dragon Bones, even taking it a step further by moving their bodies to the music, all except the surgeon, who now has his arms tightly folded across his chest.

“Stop listening to this crazy lady.”

“Let’s just get through this. Maybe one of us can sneak away when they aren’t looking and call for help,” Nurse Venugopal whispers, grabbing the surgeon’s arms and trying to raise them in the air as instructed.

“That’s right yinz. This is a celebration… a celebration of LIFE,” DragonBones shouts.

With that cue, the music gets even louder, pumping melodic piano synth sequences at a pace double the speed of a human heartbeat. She points to the swaying mass of staff.

“That’s right, I wanna see you MOVE.”

She swings her fire sticks around her head and behind her back while dancing in place over the lifeless body. The cadaver moves each time Dragon Bones energetically lifts and lowers her feet on the table.

The music continues to get louder. The basslines rattle the cabinet doors, pulsing along the fog-covered floor. The lasers flicker and bounce with the beat.

The surgeon remains dead still, hands cupped over his ears.

“C’mon doctor, have some fun,” Nurse Venugopal shouts as she tries to reposition the surgeon’s hands. “Just do what they say so we can escape!”

“This is terrible. I will see everyone arrested for this!”

Dragon Bones jumps off the gurney and rushes toward the surgeon, twirling her fire stick. The masked animal dancers continue their moves with the upmost choreographed precision. Dragon Bones stands within a foot on the surgeon’s lap and bends down so that her dragon eyes are level with his own.

“You don’t want to dance? Well, what do you want to do? This is life. Now savor it.”

She flails her arms and legs even faster, spinning the fire stick, carving paths through the dark, foggy room. Plumes of smoke trail from the speed of her movements. The staff circle around Dragon Bones, sharing the moment and dancing along with her. The surgeon squirms in an effort to keep his distance from them.

“I have never seen anything this horrible in my life. This is disgusting!”

Dragon Bones stops dancing and signals the staff to stop as well. She again turns to face the surgeon.

She points her fire stick at him. “This is not ‘ridiculous.’ This is not ‘disgusting.’ THIS IS LIFE!”

She positions the fire stick in front of her mouth and spews an enormous plume of flame, brightening the room with an intense orange glow. The staff and surgeon shield their faces from its burning light.

When their eyes clear, they find the room is empty. No colorful people wearing animal masks, no party lights, no speakers or DJ equipment. Even the fog has disappeared.

“Nurse Venugopal, what is going on here?” the surgeon says, finally getting out of his chair. “Is everyone alright?”

They nod and confirm that they are fine. “Surgeon, are you okay?”

“Yes, Nurse Venugopal, I am… Nurse Venugopal… our patient.”

The surgeon rushes over to the body on the gurney. The staff huddle behind him and the nurse.

“Look. Nurse,” the surgeon says, pointing to the patient’s leg. “It’s moving…”

The patient sits up, blinks a few times, yawns and looks around the room, “Where am I?”

A member of the medical staff screams.

“I can’t believe it…” the surgeon mutters.

“We’re so happy to see you recover, but please don’t move too much or too quickly,” Nurse Venugopal interjects. “You were in pretty bad shape for a moment there. We thought you were…”

“Really? Well… I’m thirsty…”

“I think you should stay for a few tests,” the surgeon says “Don’t you agree, nurse?”

The surgeon’s eyes are still bulging out of his head, but he is trying to keep calm. Maybe the vibrations shook apart the remaining tumors, he thinks. Maybe they somehow defibrillated her heart.

Nurse Venugopal says, “Why don’t we give her a minute?” She places her hand on the patient’s shoulder, “Let me get you some water.”

One of the staff members nods and walks toward the door, but before he reaches the threshold, the door bursts open. A man and woman march into the room wearing full surgical gear with their faces covered. The man speaks first.

“Hello friends, we’ll take it from here.”

He had a shaky, high-pitched voice. The woman waved, and her eyes squinted in a congenial expression.

“And who are you?” the surgeon demands to know.

“Ah yes, we were just assigned to the case. I am Doctor Katnik, and this is my assistant Nurse Bonecki. Here are our documents.” He unfolds a batch of papers and hands them to the surgeon.

The surgeon flips through a few pages. “Well, this looks okay, I guess. I wonder why haven’t I heard of this before? I have never seen a change in staff in this particular situation.”

Nurse Venugopal looks at the papers as well.

The high-pitched doctor says, “No problem. It happens all the time.” He waves his hand and the female assistant steps to the side. A group of orderlies walk through the door, surround the patient, kick out the wheel locks on the operating gurney, and begin moving her out the door.

“Hey!” the surgeon shouts.

The high-pitched doctor turns around along with his masked assistant. “Yes?”

Meanwhile, the staff continues to wheel the patient out the door.

“Miss, you really shouldn’t smoke,” the surgeon says the high-pitched doctor’s assistant. “No offense, but I detect a really strong smoky odor. I try to tell all my fellow heath care professionals.”

“No offense taken,” she says, sniffing her uniform. “I stopped as of a few minutes ago. I promise.”

“Sorry,” the high-pitched doctor continues. “We have to go. Her mother, brother, and sister will be so happy to see her.”

And with that, he turns and follows the rest of the group out the door.

“Well, Nurse Venugopal,” the surgeon says, waving goodbye to the exiting group. “He certainly had a strange voice, didn’t he!”

Alan Catlin

Screaming Orgasm

For a double sawbuck she’ll be
a good listener, someone pleasant
to have a cocktail with in dark, barely
lit lounge, might even pretend to care
what is being said and maybe offer a
kiss goodnight.

For half a yard, she’ll pretend
the Ladies is a tomb in winter with
a door that can be latched. Perform
services no matter how insistent
pleas to open up are.

For a hundred, your car or mine, is
on offer. Fold down seat action a
Go: choose your parking lot, secluded

For half a grand, you can have it all:
the whole Chinese menu from Column
A all the way to Column Z, plus
breakfast in bed or out of, and hot coffee

Says she took acting lessons from a
life master, Christy Canyon, who
taught her everything a girl needs
to know to get ahead in The Life.

Has aspiration’s to play Vegas on her
back. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Matthew Licht

Vodka Deodorant

The woman in the fake leather suit looked exhausted. She had anemia or a timid form of albinism, accentuated by heavy makeup around her pale eyes. She stared at the supermarket cash register’s conveyor belt as it rolled. 

The girl who rang up my generic tomatoes, no-logo UHT milk, bargain-brand yogurt and sawdust-vaseline breakfast biscuits held grimly to a punk look. 

The guy who rang up the skinny pale woman’s purchases attempted a pick-up line. He plucked his eyebrows. Gym muscles bulged under his supermarket smock.

Maybe she didn’t understand Italian.

He didn’t have time to try again, in another language. Her shopping list would’ve fit on a defunct communist country’s postage stamp. Vodka and deodorant slid by, registered, clunked into the stainless steel merchandise holding pen. She refused the offer of a shopping bag for an additional six Euro-cents. She put the vibrator-shaped deodorant applicator in her pocket, grabbed the bottle by the neck.

She didn’t smash me with it when I asked to walk her home. Maybe she didn’t understand German. Don’t know why I thought she might. 

I didn’t offer to carry her bargain-brand bottle. She’d have thought I planned to steal it. 

On the way out of the supermarket’s glare, we walked past lost-looking old folks taking advantage of free unnatural warmth. 

Heat was included with the rent in New York, as was hot water. Felt like warmth and personal hygiene were free.

The generic neighborhood was identifiable only by streets named for pre-European Union countries. Maybe she caught the irony of winding up on Soviet Union Street. Maybe irony was a luxury concept she didn’t understand. Spike heels hobbled her wiggle along the crumbling sidewalk. 

Vodka was a problem in the former USSR. Dictators launched USA-style prohibition, restrictive rationing, scorched-earth surtaxes. Soviet drunks turned home-brewed beer into instant vodka with a dash of mosquito repellent. They slathered shoe polish on rye bread and left it on the radiator for delirious LSD-like trips. I asked her if she mixed generic deodorant and no-logo vodka for a narcotic effect.

Vodka was to drink, she said. Deodorant was for stink. I asked if she was a prostitute. She nodded and said I was one too, as if I didn’t know.

“Look, I’ve got some food in my backpack,” I said. “Let me make you dinner. Nothing fancy. No-Logo spaghetti, but it tastes pretty good.”

She wasn’t sure she had a spaghetti pot. She’d rented a room in an apartment from people she barely knew, but hadn’t inspected the kitchen cabinets. She didn’t say no.

Cheap euro-architecture guarantees maximum winter cold. Construction speculators were mobbed up with gas-heater factories, and the natural gas and oil industries. Her place was warm. Her former-Soviet Union flat-mates stole heat from somewhere.

She took off her jacket, released an alcoholic reek as faint as a capped bottle of evil perfume waved slowly under the nose.

Her armpit-hair was the color of straw. She sat on a rickety chair to watch. No chopping block. No spaghetti pot. No can-opener, but that was no problem because generic tomato-pulp cans have futuristic pop-top tabs these days. Dull little knife couldn’t peel an apple. Luckily, bargain brand tuna cans are packed with enough low-grade olive oil to lubricate a sauce. She pulled a loose no-logo cigarette from her purse, bumped me aside to light up at the stovetop. That was as close as she ever got to cooking.

Someone else was in the apartment. This phantom presences manifested different tobacco smells, muffled burps, sighs, wheezes. TV drone oozed through the thin walls. Human breezes moved scorch-marked curtains. Behind them, dirty windows faced a cement courtyard crowded with junked motor-scooter parts, corroded metal garbage bins. A cat prowled across the scene, evicted or escaped from some similar desolation. An invisible dead cat looked smug under a fogged plastic sheet.

“Where you from?”

She had to think. Wasn’t used to direct questions. More accustomed to evasive action when direct questions were asked. Where you from what’re you doing here where’s your entry visa and residence permit? But immigration cops don’t offer free spaghetti. She was from an unpronounceable war-torn town in Kosovo. She politely repeated her name, but I couldn’t imitate the sounds. She didn’t ask who I was or where I was from or what I was doing. She thought she knew what I wanted. In other words, same as everyone. But she was wrong. Unless the shower worked. 

And money’s been a problem since the dirty magazine biz tanked. 

Being dirty is no longer a viable commercial asset. 

She frisked my knapsack, found the bargain chocolate, had dessert before the starch course. She was missing molars. Ashtrays of premature death breezed through her pale lips.

Dinner was payment enough for what she had to offer. We hit the shower first. Practically had to demonstrate the proper use of bargain brand soap and dental floss. We toweled off in the low-consumption neon-bulb mist.

“Get the deodorant you bought. Bring the vodka too.” 

She went.

Hot water accentuates alcoholic buzz. Maybe I took a swig of deodorant after she slathered her armpits. The stuff foamed like shampoo, tasted about the same. I remembered the cheapo razors among my recent supermarket purchases. I still shaved, occasionally. So I left her under a stream of hot water and tromped to the kitchen. 

Bumped into another woman in the dark hallway. She smelled like she was from Bukovina, or Bucharest, Burkina Faso, Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Bophuthatswana. Human flotsam status cuts through and across geo-political boundaries. She walked around without light due to inflated electric bills, or else she was so stoned that low-watt neon hurt her eyes. She flinched when she lurched into a stranger. 

I returned to the bathroom.

She was staring at the medicine cabinet over the sink. Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I alive? Clouded mirrors don’t reflect answers to such easy questions. The tile floor was slippery. The cold outside the bathroom window wanted in, and was making headway. She came back into the shower unquestioningly. I shaved with deodorant foam. She shaved her legs to fully exploit the free razor. 

Mouldy towels, unmade stale bed. The window in her room had a rolling metal shutter, stuck in the down position for complete blackout. She kept up her zombie act until I spoke. Can’t remember what I said. Normal phrases from everyday human intercourse in a language not her own. 

Humping drunks who mutter words she didn’t understand must’ve been an overly familiar unpleasant situation. 

She didn’t go berserk in the usual manner. She unleashed an inbred reverse-pheromone bio-weapon. I went limp and rolled away.

She lit a cigarette butt stashed between the lumpy mattress and the floor. Lime-green no-logo lighter, the kind sold by roving Africans, flash-lit a room filled with empty bottles. She held fire like Lady Liberty, scrounge-searched for a phallic deodorant applicator that still had some of the whitish liquid inside, rolled it under her arms. Vodka bottles and deodorant bottles hugged the walls in disorderly rows,  stood crowded in the corners, lay scattered on the dirty floor and ugly furniture. Two bottles a day keeps the undertaker away.

But not forever.

Who undertakes the removal of deceased illegal immigrants? Unaccounted corpses, stuffed in weighted logo-stamped supermarket bags, dumped in the river. Garbage-dump fires, distorted reflections of pyres by the Ganges, illuminate unattended non-ritual funerals. Only the river complains, to deaf imaginary ears. Dogs and contaminated carp get fat on the heels of dead dictators.

I zipped back into the mildewed bathroom, pulled on my damp clothes fast. Money was missing from my pants, but the thieving gypsy woman in the hall had left the documents and house keys. No use stealing keys unless they lead to quick burglary or auto theft. The address printed on my expired driver’s license is half a world away.

Casey Renee Kiser


Peeking into my soul
from Oblivion—
I didn’t mind the peeking so much
as the mask

Identity theft at its finest
Fooled me for a while
maybe because
I was desperate to be fooled
Ain’t it funny how poets
got that primal need
to cram as many roles as possible
into one lifetime
to see the show from each and every seat
in the theater
We are born restless and on fire

So  now,
as you’re looking in the window,
dying to wear my skin—
wear away darling
It’s lying there just for you

And I’m long gone

Scott Manley Hadley

either way I’ll be talking about my poems

I was the kind of youth
Who aspired to live a life
As a man of maxims.

I read too much Oscar Wilde
At a formative age
In fact
The day after I lost my virginity
I watched a production of A Woman of No Importance
And I remember quipping
For years afterwards
That it was the second event
That gave me more pleasure.

The bon mot I dropped
The most
Was one I found terribly droll:
Cocaine, I’d say, is the same as sex:
I only want it
When I’ve recently had some.

And though the years have passed
And I am no longer a partyboy
I am aware
As I age
That sexual hunger
Is more present
Than I’d hoped.

It does not go away with neglect,
But I do not struggle,
When in full mental health
To find someone
Who will touch me.

Dating is cheaper than cocaine
But sometimes the conversations it results in
Are just as tedious.

Either way,
I’ll be talking about my poems.

James Babbs

The Dirigible

I saw the dirigible at around one o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon under partly cloudy skies with a light wind blowing just enough to ripple the high grasses growing at the edges of the road. I was traveling south on the country road I drove on nearly every single day. The same road I always followed for several miles before connecting to the state route where traffic grew heavier and there were lots of big trucks hauling freight from one location to another.

The dirigible hung in the air against the bluish gray color of the sky slowly making its way north. I kept watching the front of the dirigible bouncing up and down as if it were attached to a string and being pulled along by an invisible hand.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and fumbled with my phone wanting to get a picture of the dirigible. It was difficult trying to see the dirigible on the tiny screen but when I, finally, had the phone situated in what I thought was the proper angle I pushed the camera icon a couple of times. In one of the photos the dirigible was there but it was flattened against the clouds reminding me more of a flying saucer than anything else.

As I started to drive away I tried to find a radio station that might have some kind of report on why the dirigible was there in the first place and where it was going. I tried two or three different channels but couldn’t find anything.


When I got home Beth was standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of water.

“Hey” I said. “How was your day?”

Beth turned and looked at me thrusting her tongue between her teeth until the end of it protruded from her mouth. She made a groaning sound and I knew enough not to ask her any more about it.

“Did you see the dirigible today?” I said. “Or hear anything about it?”

“The what?” Beth said.

“Dirigible. It’s like a blimp. Or it is a blimp. I think. I’m not sure if there’s a difference or not.”

Beth tilted her head to one side and closed her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about she said.”

I reached for my phone in the front pocket of my shirt. “I have a picture of it” I said. I opened the photo gallery and scrolled through the images. There were several pictures of Beth and me together in some far away place. They were pictures from a long time ago.

“It’s not on here, now” I said. “I wonder what happened to it.” I started looking through the images for a second time.

“Are you going to mow the yard today?” Beth asked as she walked out of the kitchen and into the hallway.

I was still looking down at my phone. “Uh, I don’t know I said. No, I don’t think so.” But she was already gone.


“Any chicken left?” I asked entering the kitchen.

Beth was warming something up in the microwave. She was holding the fork waving it back and forth in the air. “Bottom shelf,” she said, pointing toward the fridge.

I poured myself a glass of tea and set it on the table. “So I was looking on the internet,” I said. “I found out blimps are the same as dirigibles.”

“Well that’s good,” Beth said. She opened the microwave door, looked inside, before closing it and starting it up again. “So I talked to Steph earlier. She wants to know if we’re coming up next weekend.”

“Oh,” I said. “Why does your sister always want us to come up?”

“I don’t know,” Beth said. “Maybe she likes seeing her family.”

“Well, why doesn’t she ever come down here and see us?” I pulled the chicken out of the fridge and set it on the counter. I took a plate from the cupboard and put some chicken on it.

“So what do you want me to tell her?” Beth asked. She took the bowl from the microwave and stirred the contents with her fork.

“Oh I guess,” I said. “That way I can spend all weekend listening to Josh tell me how great of a job he’s got.” I put what was left of the chicken back in the fridge. Beth carried her bowl over to the table and sat down. I put my plate of chicken in the microwave and punched in some time. I watched the chicken rotating inside the microwave. When the timer went off I pulled out the chicken and took it to the table. Beth sat across from me, pushing food into her mouth without looking up.

“So,” I said. “I found out blimps are more or less just big balloons. They don’t have a rigid structure like some airships.”

“What the hell would a blimp be doing around here?” Beth let her fork fall against the bowl.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I didn’t see any writing on it.”

“Maybe it was one of those birthday balloons or one of those shiny balloons you get, sometimes, when you’re in the hospital.” Beth picked up her fork and started eating again.

“It was bigger than that,” I said. “It wasn’t a goddamn balloon. It was a real dirigible.”

Beth leaned back in her chair. I saw her glaring at me. “Why do you use that word? Why don’t you just say blimp like everybody else?”

“Hell,” I said. “Sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you so much.” I bit into my chicken and it wasn’t even warm.


In the dream I was standing near the edge of the corn field watching the dirigible passing slowly above my head. The sun was shining bright down on the corn and I felt the heat on my face rolling up from the plants. The dirigible was close enough to the ground for me to see the faces of the people in the cabin windows. I waved and some of them waved back.

Then the dirigible started tilting forward. The front end of the dirigible was pointing toward the ground. The dirigible was falling. I reached up and touched it with my hands and it felt like warm smooth skin. I heard the people screaming. I pushed against the dirigible trying to make it go as high as I could. The dirigible was coming down on top of me.

“Hey,” It was Beth’s voice. “Hey! Shit…”

She was shaking me awake. I came up out of the dream gasping for air. “Shit,” she said again. “What’s wrong with you? I told you I have to get up early in the morning.”

“I was dreaming,” I mumbled. I started to mention something about the dirigible but decided against it. “Sorry,” I told her instead.


When I woke up the house was strangely quiet and I felt cold. I looked at the clock and groaned. But I laid there for another minute or two before pulling myself out of bed and stumbling into the bathroom.

When I got to the kitchen I saw the coffee Beth had left in the pot. It was sitting on the counter so I poured myself a cup and stuck it in the microwave. I sat at the table drinking it while looking out the window. I kept looking at the sky. I didn’t see much of anything out there but a few stray clouds.

When it was time for me to go to work I found the car had a flat tire. I said fuck it and went back into the house. I emptied the rest of the coffee into my cup then called my boss and told him I wasn’t coming in today. I checked the pictures on my phone again and this time I found the dirigible. I sent it to Beth with the message—Hey. I found the pic. Check it out. Then I headed back outside to change the flat tire.

I tossed my empty beer bottle in the trash just as Beth came into the kitchen. “I didn’t go to work today,” I said before she had a chance to say anything.

“Oh,” she said. “So, what? You been drinking all day, then?”

I pulled another beer from the fridge. “I haven’t drank that much.” Beth walked past me and stuck something in the fridge before pushing the door shut and holding her hand against it for a moment.

“I was going to mow the yard,” I told her. “But after the rope broke when I went to start the mower, and I spent like two hours trying to fix, it I finally said fuck it and decided to start drinking instead.”

“Well good for you,” Beth said. She waited like she wanted to say something else, then started out of the room. “I’m going to change my clothes.”

“Hey,” I said and she stopped. “What did you think of the picture I sent you?”

Beth turned in the doorway and looked at me. “What picture are you talking about?”

“The dirigible,” I said. “I found it and sent it to you.”

“Oh, that again.” She started down the hallway.

“So what did you think?”

“I didn’t get any picture,” she said from out in the hallway.

I got up and followed her down to the bedroom. “What do you mean? Let me see your phone.”

“I just looked at it a few minutes ago,” Beth said. “Before I came into the house. There wasn’t any picture.”

“You’re lying,” I said. “Let me see your phone.”

She glared at me and shook her head ever so slightly. “Why the hell would I lie about it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “You lied about David.”

I saw the anger boil up into her face. “I never lied,” she said. “There was never anything between me and David. Now, we’re not even friends, thanks to you.”

“Let me see your goddamn phone,” I said. When I lunged toward her she stepped aside and I fell against the bed.

“You’re drunk,” she said.

“I’m not drunk!” I yelled back her.

Beth ran into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her. I jumped up from the floor and ran over there. I pushed all my weight hard against the door and found it was locked. There wasn’t a sound from the other side.

“Where’s your phone,” I said. Beth didn’t answer. I punched the door a couple of times before I started kicking it. I heard the wood cracking but the door held.

I hit it one last time before stumbling back across the room. I fell onto the bed with my feet hanging over the edge. I listened to the sound of my own breathing. I felt like I was floating somewhere far above all of this but, now, I was starting to descend.

I heard water running from the other side of the door. I glanced toward the bathroom. I looked at the door for a long time but it always looked the same.

Jacob Ian DeCoursey

The Heat Went on Forever

I rose with a start from my pillow and rested my hand on Anna’s bosom who lay beside me. Her chest raised, lowered, slow and gentle. Her skin was warm and slightly damp with perspiration through her tee shirt. She was there. She was there.

There was no light in the apartment but a glowing heat that beamed through the closed curtains and filled the room with an eerie pale glow. I looked at my watch.


The dusk was being eaten already. I had slept too long. Outside, the sound of a woman’s voice penetrated the strange bright silence. I pushed away the sheets loosely cocooning my unclothed body and rose to my feet, opened the window. The air was dry and hot. I squinted from the brightness.

On the ground three floors below, a woman stumbled and staggered down the center of the street. Her steps drunken and erratic. Twice she fell to her knees. When she did, she picked herself up like a marionette lifted by invisible strings and turned and walked the other way.

Back and forth, back and forth.

Molly, she shouted. Molly! she shouted. Her voice was loud and raspy.

Behind me, Anna stirred and groaned.

“Christ,” she said under her breath.

Anna pushed herself upright and stumbled from the bed. Naked from the waist down, her bare legs wobbled as she made her way toward me. She pushed me aside and hung her head out the window.

“Hey,” she called.

The woman stopped and looked up.

“Shut the fuck up!”

“Please, I need—” the woman shouted, her words slurring and trailing into incomprehension.

“Nobody gives a shit about you getting one last fix!”

The woman fell to the ground and shrieked.

Anna shut the window.

She paused, rested against the pane and turned her head to face me. I saw her eyes right then and there; eyes tired and sad, filled with small flecks of luster from the growing light surrounding her body.

She and I had spent the day tangled in each other. We had gone on for hours, neither breaking for food nor drink, draining ourselves, pushing ourselves, until the act of sex itself had become painful and ugly. And even still, she raw and dry and I limp and weak, we took to writhing in feigned ecstasy—the last lie we would ever tell each other: our flesh speaking more boldly than words ever had. After that, fatigue took us both by force.

“I don’t think she was looking for drugs,” I said.

“That’s the bitch who dropped her daughter off the balcony yesterday,” she said, “while the little girl was asleep. Now she’s pacing all over looking for her like—”

She paused a moment, picked at a dried clump of something in her pubic hair.

“Shit, Neal,” she said. “You didn’t wake me up.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry. I must have forgotten to set an alarm.”

“You promised.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

She turned and looked out the window. Then something caught my attention, and I looked past her: outside, small birds were fluttering to and from the window ledge, carrying sticks and bits of trash and laying them in a neat pile. They suddenly took off and flew away.

“I don’t want to see this.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

“Okay,” she said. “Okay, I think there’s still enough time. It’s under the mattress.”

I walked to the bed and ran my fingers between the mattress and the box spring. I pulled out the Browning HP-35.

“Do you have it?” she asked.


“Okay, hurry and do this quick.”

I pointed the barrel at her.

“Is it already loaded?”

“Please,” she said, “just make it fast.”

“Forgive me,” I said.

“There’s nothing to forgive,” she said then looked out the window, squinting for the brightness growing brighter. “I’m scared, and I don’t want to be scared anymore.”

As I squeezed the trigger, the light grew, disintegrating the windows and dissolving the walls. Outside, the briefest sound of chaos surged through the air—shrieks of pain, shouts of rage, breaking glass and wood, a crash of the world caving into itself. Screaming women and children. Crying men. Bestial, almost inhuman noises. And even from our height, it all sounded so loud. I felt fire in my blood and bones, and Anna screamed as everything went blank.

There was only the white heat. The heat went on forever.


Mendes Biondo

Jalapeno Kiss’ Love Poem

jalapeno kiss
that’s what she’s called
even if she’s a japanese

nipples like bullets
point the way to the sunset

choppy areolas
like the waves of the ocean
when the cold sea wind blows

black hair flows
through the air
like snakes and griffin wings

a tattoo on the skin of life
drawn by a lustful

the master of bushido himself
would puke at the sight
of her eyes

she was licking a gherkin
her katana dripping red
on the white washi sheet
upon her bed.

she loved to write in kanji
the head of her last lover
punctuating the end of her haiku

the mantis satiated
she now uses her pickle
to write a love poem
on her clitoris