Joseph Farley


It was a week into refurbishing of the 5th and Market Street station of the Blue Line, also known as the Frankford El. The El runs above ground for most of its route, but in Center City, the downtown section of Philadelphia, it runs underground. 5th Street Station was the jumping off point for Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell, and Constitution Center. This made it one of the busiest stops for tourists coming to Philadelphia. It was also the closest stop to where I worked.

I worked in the Curtis Building at 6th and Walnut Street. Once the home of the publisher of Jack and Jill and the Saturday Evening Post, it now housed offices, upscale bars, and expensive condos. I would have had to work three jobs to afford the cheapest condo. I lived much farther north, in Holmesburg, where the rents were much lower. It was a short walk across the Liberty Bell plaza to the El stop which could take me close to where I lived.

Signs had been up for a few weeks warning of a “Deep Cleansing” of the underground station. It certainly needed one. Despite the red, white and blue silhouettes of Independence Hall on the walls, it was a dismal place. It had the usual smell of urine associated with all El stops, along with the typical herds of rats, mice, and various six legged creatures. It was not clear why there was a sudden desire to clean. There was a rumor a high profile politician had complained. I doubted that was the cause. Politicians were not known to ride the El. There was a rumor reporters had uncovered a massive bedbug infestation. That sounded more plausible. Bad publicity can get results.

During my daily trips I had seen the red, white and blue placards come down, and the spraying of some kind of foam on walls, ceiling and support beams. Cinder blocks were exposed. Pieces of paint and other materials hung from steel beams and the cinder block walls like peeling dead skin. I wondered why the station had not been closed during the cleansing. Whatever made the walls and metal peel could not be good for human lungs. I considered using a different station a few blocks away until the project was done, but that would have cost me at least 15 minutes more travel time each day. The thought of spending more time on my commute was enough to keep me using the 5th Street station. I would try to hold my breath.

As I said before, it was a week into the “deep cleansing.” I was waiting on the platform for a train to take me home. The station was darker during the construction. A gloomy place had become gloomier. I missed the red, white and blue walls. They had brightened things up a bit. I stared into the tunnel looking for lights from the next train. I saw movement. One or two objects fluttering. They were large and reddish brown.

“Butterflies”, I thought. “Now that’s pretty fucking amazing. I’m standing here thinking how lousy this place is with the poor lighting, the chemicals, the weird smells, and the sense of decay, when along comes some butterflies. One of God’s miracles. Some nature, the nice kind, underground at 5th Street.”

I stood and watched and smiled to myself, until the butterflies landed on a wooden board covering a construction area. As soon as the wings were folded, I knew I had been wrong. Cockroaches. A pair of them. Each as big as my index finger. Not God’s miracle. God or the devil’s joke on me.

I vowed to get on and off at the 8th Street station starting in the morning.

But I didn’t. 15 minutes was still 15 minutes.

And butterflies are free to fly.

Just don’t look at them too closely.

Charley Foster

Gothic Ghost Story

A 52-year-old librarian and her
15-year-old metalhead boyfriend
who ignites an electrifying passion
within her and who, unbeknownst to
her, is actually her half-brother
are forced by extraordinary
circumstances to kill or be killed
They panhandle, hitch rides, and
crash with total strangers
Generally, in such stories, the person
grows and becomes a good person
but this is no gothic ghost story
When the first reports surface of
the discovery of four skeletons
wrapped in burlap he walks out
of a mental hospital and into
the path of an oncoming train
Her demise in the electric chair is
prefigured by her abusive seduction
of prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist

David Boski

Coke Guilt

The worst people to party
and do drugs with are the
one’s who are consumed
with guilt. I used to know
a guy like this, every time
he did coke he felt guilty,
had coke guilt, and that’s
ok if you keep that shit to
yourself, but he wouldn’t.
he wanted to talk about his
feelings and his addiction
issues; he’d talk about rehab,
how he went, and how it helped,
momentarily of course. he talked
about going to meetings, and twice
he brought out some sort of
addiction treatment questionnaire,
once asking me to answer the
questions as he read them out
loud, and another time asking
one of my friends. I answered a few
before telling him, I wouldn’t answer
anymore. what a fucking buzz kill!
that’s what he was. I heard he’s sober
now, completely clean, no drugs, no
alcohol. apparently, he’s into fitness
and healthy diets, shit like that; and
anybody who still parties and does
drugs, even if occasionally, should be
grateful for this—I know I am.

Jack Henry

the thinness of walls, 2

we sit around a cheap motel table
she & i
cut lines w/ a credit card
borrowed from an unsuspecting saint –

she wears denim shorts, a thin blue
blouse –
smile hangs frozen in place
fingers tremble
just a little –

we trade hits,
trade lies,
trade dreams too naive to repeat,
fall into a rented bed as trucks
ramble down a broken road
outside the motel room door –

i ask her to take off her clothes,
take off her mask,
take off her innocence –
her smile tells me our first embrace
would open up a shiny new world,
but i know, as i enter her in a
traditional way, hell would be
the next world i would know –

Judson Michael Agla

Homicidal Cosmic Plush

I was chilling in my pad watching some war documentary on the tube; mildly stoned, and quite content, when I first became aware of the attack. All of a sudden strange furry things started climbing over my balcony, which was quite a feat as my apartment was on the seventh floor.

Fucking Teddy Bears man; they were Teddy Bears, with blood around their mouths and half eaten bones in their hands. As they got closer I could see that their eyes were jet black, as if I were looking right into the abyss itself.

The door and windows were shut but I was highly doubtful I could rely on that as a stronghold. What the fuck was going on and how do I handle it? There’s no Scout badge that prepared me for dealing with homicidal Teddy Bears.

I gathered as many knives; sticks, coffee mugs, cans of beans and soup, and everything that could make fire, which in retrospect was probably a very uneducated and reckless idea, seeing as how I’d more than likely burn myself up as well, no Scout badge for that either.

They were at the windows now which were starting to crack under the super-human strength they were yielding. Mindless; homicidal, born of some crazy childlike nightmare dimension, I hadn’t a clue what the hell to do, the blood stained and broken windows looked like they came right out of a horror show.

I could hear my front door start to splinter; they were coming at me from all sides, I could hear a rumbling coming from inside the walls as the drywall started to burst open, I was fucked from everywhere and I was shitting myself having the realization that I was about to be eaten by an army of Teddy Bears.

As I was standing facing the blood soaked windows; coffee mug in one hand and a cast iron frying pan in the other, weeping like a little girl, an explosion of glass, blood and a thousand Teddy Bears came shooting into the apartment, followed by a person swinging in on a rope, dressed like a navy seal or some shit like that.

This hero slash warrior was dressed in black and had a ghostbusters like nuclear back pack with all the bells and whistles; it was attached to a hose, which was attached to a big ass kicking gun which they immediately started firing out oceans of blue glowing slimy shit all over the Bears.

The Teddy Bears disintegrated in seconds; as did most of my apartment, which is in no way a complaint, as only moments ago I was preparing to become the horrifically gruesome lunch of a mob of children’s toys.

Once the show of a lifetime was over and the two of us were standing in the middle of a wrath of god type scene, this mega hero removed their head gear I was surprised to see that my savior was a chick, a super-hot chick at that, a stunningly beautiful warrior goddess. After my male ape-like evolutionary driven distraction, I did eventually get over myself and got to the situation at hand.

She explained that she was with T. A.T.H.T.B. (The Agency for the Termination of Homicidal Teddy Bears) and there had been scattered incidents with all sorts of stuffed animals for the last five years, it was only recently that they discovered the Teddy Bears were the kingpins.

Still slightly stunned and stupefied; I asked her why in the fuck they came after me? She started taking off my shirt, I thought we were going to get funky but she was looking for something particular that she found on my back, it was a tattoo that I never remembered getting, and it was in the shape of a Teddy Bear. She said I had the mark, and that I’ve been chosen; only one in a thousand had this mark, and the destiny that lay before me was to rid the world of homicidal Teddy Bears.

She explained that I would have to come back with her to headquarters and begin my training, some people might have reservations about this whole thing but when I found out the girl was single and I’d be wearing one of those nuclear reactors on my back, I was all in. 

Catfish McDaris

Red Hot Pussy

Porterhouse was adopted along with a little blonde girl named Summer. She was younger than Porterhouse and they didn’t get along. Summer wanted to be the star attraction, but their adopted parents treated them equally. As they grew older, they’d hear the moans of pleasure and take turns spying through the keyhole of their parent’s room. It wasn’t long before they were playing doctor and pleasuring each other. At first with manual stimulation. Porterhouse liked for Summer to masturbate him and he’d always promise not to shoot his load in her hand. He tried to hit her in her face or young budding breasts. Summer loved for Porterhouse to rub her pussy, it had some peach fuzz on it. Porterhouse learn how to coax her clitoris erect and suck on it, then jam two fingers up her pussy and one up her ass, as she came to an orgasm. Summer became adept at sucking Porterhouse’s dick. She’d deep throat, candy cane, barber pole, siphon sperm, cupping his nuts just right. As he came, she’d finger fuck his asshole like crazy. Soon it wasn’t enough, it never is. They figured since they weren’t really brother and sister by blood, fucking wouldn’t be incest. They fucked every chance they could. Summer liked heroin, Porterhouse preferred cocaine and they both loved weed. Soon their parents suspected their children were up to no good. They sprung a trap for them and caught them fucking in a room full of marijuana smoke. That’s when they discovered that they were one hundred percent blood siblings. They tried everything to break off their romantic relationship. They were hopelessly in love. Finally, they accepted their fate and said fuck it. They got into Porterhouse’s Thunderbird. Summer buried a needle in her arm. Porterhouse buried the needle on the speedometer. The moonlight blue Thunderbird hit a pothole, sparks flew into the inky black sky.

India LaPlace

Difficult to Love

I am not the kind of girl
Who will lie about my feelings
To spare yours.
It’s a lesson my parent tried to teach me,
But I picked up on so few of those.

My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions
Are kind of like projectile vomit;
That is to say,
They are out of my mouth before I can close my lips.
My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions
Are also kind of like swords;
That is to say,
I don’t always think before I speak.

If I did, I might have learned
To edit my words
To spare your feelings.
And if I’d learned that,
My marriage might have survived.
Or, at least,
Maybe my dad wouldn’t tell me
That I’m the kind of girl
That’s difficult to love.

Bogdan Dragos

real men

She told me that women like
men with grizzled,
faces, men with scars
men with eyepatches
men with very unkempt beards
Mouths that snarl
when it’s time to smile
Eyes that are like eggs buried in
a nest of wrinkles
Noses that are never straight
And the jaw,
oh the jaw has to be big
like a drawer
A man’s face must have a chin
that can take sledgehammers

that’s why the luckiest woman
in the world
was Belle
from The Beauty and The Beast.
That was a real man, The Beast.
although the story is a tragic one
because in the
end he turns
into a charming prince
with smooth face and polished

“What a fuckboy,” she said. “If only
he stayed a beast…”

Meanwhile I think about
the most grizzly feature about
my face is the mad
eyestrain I developed
because of my job, after staring
at monitors in a dark room for
all those years and then coming home
to stare at another monitor.
it is now impossible for me to get
outside and keep my eyes
open like a normal person. I die if I
don’t strain them as hard as I
can. Sunglasses don’t even help.
and there’s also the dark
circles below my eyes
they’re not even purple as I’ve seen
in other people

“They have the texture of the
skin around the asshole,” she said,

She was right.

She was also right when she pointed
out that if you can’t grow
a beard by the time you’re
twenty you’ll never grow a proper

“Shit,” I said. “Guess I’ll never
be a beast.”

“It’s never too late to get your
face fucked up
though,” she said. “You
just need
to hang around
the right people.”

“Such as your dad?” I said.

“Oh, fuck you,” she said,
dragging the blanket
over her breasts.