Judson Michael Agla

The Job

I was waiting at the usual spot pretending to enjoy my drink; it was the same venue as always but as that icy December winter wind blew the door open I could see that it wasn’t the usual agent walking in, as he brushed off his coat and scarf I could recognize that it was one of our top guys. This either meant one of two things: One of us was going to end up with a fork in his neck by the end of this meeting, or there was going to be a very important “mark” in my future. The agent sort of slithered over to me with a haunting look of trepidation in his face; I immediately readied my fork which was already in my hand beside my thigh, but as the gentleman arrived at the table he just tossed an envelope in front of me, turned, and made a beeline straight to and out the door.

I was a bit taken aback as the whole nuance of that encounter left me with a macabre sensation, and an insatiable urge to find out who I was going to have to murder this time. The envelopes were always quite thorough with photographs; residences, behaviors, family and friends, a full chronological history, and of course the best way to locate the mark. As I teared open the envelope with great anticipation, I couldn’t believe my fucking eyes, I couldn’t believe what I was fucking looking at.

Fucking Santa Clause? I’m supposed to motherfucking kill Santa Clause? What kind of fuckery is behind this demented lunacy? He’s not real, he’s not fucking real. I started to peruse through the contents of the envelope and they had all sorts of shit on this guy; photos of him in a sleigh with fucking reindeer pulling it through the sky, blue prints of his house up in the north pole, locations of all his toy warehouses, connections with disgruntled elves willing to sell out the fucking fat guy at the drop of a hat. It was all there; his whole fucking profile, with copies of all his I.D., I was completely dumbfounded, I thought I was going to shit myself, Santa Clause was real and I’ve got to murder the bastard.

I payed my check and left the pub, I scurried home as fast as I could, almost bailing on the icy sidewalks. I immediately went over to my desk to give this another more extensive inspection, Jesus fuck! This guy was a fully-fledged whack job, some of the photos were so fucked up that even I was disgusted: Fucking around with elves, whips chains and all sorts of dildos, he even got in there with the reindeers “and I mean GOT IN THERE”, “my fuck those poor animals”. What kind of an abominable organization was he running up there?

“Up there” Jesus fuck! I was going to have to go all the way up to the fucking North Pole, how could I survive those temperatures? How could I even get up there? There’s no airline that lands next to Santa’s village, what am I supposed to do, rent a fucking dog sled? Piggyback on Frosty the fucking Snowman?

As it turns out, the Agency had already arranged transport on a Soviet submarine that would take me close to my destination; it would break through the ice about a mile away from the coordinates, then I was to meet some agent with a ski-doo to take me the rest of the way. “FUCK ME” this Agency’s got everything covered, it sure beats working solo; I mean, a fucking “SUB” man, agents working in the North Pole, they’ve really got their shit together. The only drawback really was that they’d eventually kill you, no one leaves the Agency.

My luxurious journey in that fucking under water tin can was a lot less than settling; a left over from the cold war, Christ! It was older than I was; I couldn’t believe that people actually spent months in these fucking metal tombs. After about six days or so, I’m really not sure; these sailors sure knew how to put it back, Vodka seemed almost required amongst the crew, they were pissed the whole time, and when I thought I heard someone utter the words nuclear and problem, so was I.

We cracked through the ice right on the coordinates; I think my head cracked a little too. I crawled up and onto the top of the sub and saw absolutely fuck all; the sun was fucking blinding me, all I could see was white nothingness. I felt a tug at my leg; it was one of the boys tossing up a bottle of vodka with some goggles, after my eyes adjusted I could see the agent within a few hundred meters, I waved goodbye to my friends who I really would have killed if I had to be locked up any longer, the only problem would be driving the sub, thank fuck it never came to that.

The agent was like any other agent; faceless and foreboding, he had two ski-doos with him and my usual kit: fire arms, knives, explosives and the like, he also provided me a fully detailed satellite picture of Santa’s compound. He said security was no problem and the only trouble I might have would be the elves; they’re hard to spot and they’re quick little fuckers, but they’re not armed.

The other agent took me about half way then he veered off into what looked like nowhere; actually everywhere looked like nowhere out here, and it’s really hard to drink from a bottle of vodka on a ski-doo while you’re trying to take compass readings. I finally came up to the top of a precipice that looked like the agent had described; I got off my ride and scurried along prostrate to get a better view, and there it was, motherfucking Santa’s village, and it sure as hell didn’t look like Christmas, it was more like the images I get when I read fucking Kafka.

It was like a shanty town; with shacks upon shacks and it was all covered in what I assumed to be reindeer shit. The elves didn’t seem to be doing well at all; their clothes were all torn, their faces looked frost bitten and miserable, this was no happy jolly fucking place by any measure, I got a good glimpse of what might be Santa’s castle, it really wasn’t a castle it just looked like one against the rest of this dilapidated monstrosity. I spent a few days on reconnaissance; the compound was easy to get close to and I found that I could get into some of storage shacks, I couldn’t believe what I was uncovering, this place was rigged up to be a full on fucking sex dungeon.

Most of the shacks were piled to the ceiling with all kinds of cash, all nations and denominations were represented in 5ft squared cubes wrapped in plastic and loaded up on top of one another. I came across a few creepy corners and got myself lost, it was a fucking maze of shit being built over the shit that was built before, I opened a few doors that I wish I hadn’t, the fucking carnage left over from a slaughter that was quite obviously sadistic slow and painful, and done with the most frightening blood soaked machines, none of which I’d ever seen before or even imagined. Scattered around these terror shacks I could see all the torn and shredded pieces of what were once the elves, just lying there rotting, the fucking stench was insipid like these shacks had been used for this evil fuckery for decades.

I fucked up; it was one night when I was working out how I was going to get in to Santa’s place, I heard a stirring sound so I ducked into the closest door. The place was full of fucking elves, all chained up, some in these little cages and even ones strapped to the goddamn wall with barbed wire. They all started fucking talking at once; I immediately pulled out my assault rifle and educated them on what could happen if they didn’t shut the fuck up, NOW! One elf quietly asked if I was there to free them, and then a few more started in with “please free us” and “please take us off the wall”. Jesus Fuck! I wasn’t there to save any fucking elves, man; it was going to be hard enough hauling those bundles of cash out of there, I didn’t need a community of malnourished and half dead little people with pointed ears following me out of this shit hole, I wasn’t fucking Moses, there was no mass fucking exodus going down here. Anyhow, I told the elves what they wanted to hear; I’d come back for them after I get the big guy, which seemed to bring some form of hope to their collective misery, so I booked, the time had chosen itself, there’s no telling what those elves will say under torture, it’s time to murder Santa Clause.

I had to enter through the stables and those reindeers stunk with a fucking funk that made me wretch as soon as I got in there, JESUS FUCK! It was unbearable, but I did catch a glimpse of who I thought to be Rudolf, half of his fur was fucking falling off, and that shinny glowing red nose was nothing more than a strange type of fungus that had infected his face. I was in; I could hear screams and whips and some boisterous howls that dominated over the other noises, as I approached the room I could only imagine what I was in for, different marks get different deliveries, and this motherfucker’s going to get a straight razor for sure.

Opening up that door changed me forever; Santa was in full on garters, although, retaining a nuance of that Santa I once knew and loved as a child, he was still sporting that fucking red and white toque, while he was sodomising a baby reindeer while the reindeer was sodomising a fucking elf, there were about four elves tied up with rope all fucking beaten bruised and whipped, they’ve obviously already had their turns with the big guy, and he really was a fucking huge motherfucker. As the ferociously malicious degradation of these weird little fucking elves and the baby reindeer took place, I hesitated in awe.

As it turns out I hesitated for too long; Santa spotted me out of the corner of his eye and pounced like a cheetah, he had me on my back in seconds with all 300 pounds of him on top of me, no way this was going to be a fucking bear wrestle, that fucker would crush my ass. Within a few moments Santa stopped moving and the blood started pouring out and all over me, I went half way through his neck with the razor and I was drowning in it, but I couldn’t get the fucker off me, finally I kind of rolled him over to the side and sort of squirmed my way out.

Dead is dead and Santa was as dead as they come; the blood from that fat fuck pretty much filled the room, I released the elves against my better judgement, who knows what they’re going to want from me? Christ, they’ve been sex slaves and presumably beaten all their lives, what kind of jobs are they going to get? How’s modern society all of a sudden going to deal with 4ft high pointed eared little people walking around with P.T.S.D.

Ah! Fuck it! The elves started to free each other and I beelined straight into one of the cash shacks, gabbed what I could, and got the hell out of hell. I speed off in my ski doo to meet up at my extraction point; this time there was an airplane pick up, I could see the agent who looked half frozen, then I thought of how I looked, completely covered in blood carrying Santa’s toy bag which happened to be full of money, he asked me how the “JOB” went, I just gave him a cold hard stare.

Stacey Z Lawrence


Late early
morning, smudged
charcoal sky.
You dip us in and out
murky sidewalk pools
like spender bristled
brushes, plunged
in tins of street oils.

All haze,
the air we sip, the strangers we fuck,
the steam, cumulus over the Bowery.
I straddle the arc of your back, my whore-heeled sandals
dangle unbuckled, nascent blisters
16th century pickpack
on my Ferdinand Magellan.

I wrap
my arms around your strong shoulders,
squeeze hard through slim alleyways,
curdled milk, vomit and spent diapers,
trash collection is tomorrow
heaps of black plastic
line the silken Manhattan sidewalk, sea-
polished stones on a Sussex beach.

I start
to slip, but you hold on
the raindrops are plump,
bitter against my bare neck.
An awning,
you come to rest, I slide down your trunk
soft lips dry my face, I nuzzle
the nape of your bristly throat,
sweep my nose through your peppery mop
and leap again.

Matthew Licht

Big City Dreams, Part 5

When I woke up in Jena’s Donald Deskey platform bunk, she’d already run off to her Planetarium guard job. I skipped meditation, hit the Panhard mansion’s private library.

William van Alen designed the Chrysler Building. Acrimony arose between the architect and his automotive client. Motown hicks insisted on mock-Tudor furnishings for the Cloud Club. Mr van Alen tried to set them aesthetically straight. Unpaid bills and breach-of-contract lawsuits eventually fade away. Businessmen die, and their suits and ties end up at the Salvation Army. But gleaming towers scrape the star-filled sky forever, or for a long time, anyway.

There are no stars visible from the sidewalks of New York.

Stars form the van Allen Belt, which anyone who pays admission can admire at the Hayden Planetarium. Jena was there. A looming Zeiss projector whirred to life somewhere. Lester Frills’ remote-control dream machine beamed a reverse-time telescope vision of William van Alen and Edward Durrell Stone in a meeting. The men had already downed too many mar-toon-eyes at the Stork Club.

Stone was flush with cash from the colossal success of his Radio City Music Hall. William van Alen was embattled, embittered. His Big Auto client pinched pennies till they bled. The only thing Detroit cared about was owning the world’s tallest skyscraper. They couldn’t see his creation as a world-wide beacon of Deco-American optimism.

William van Alen gulped dry gin and rumbled, “Stone, those Detroit gangsters and Texaco cowboys screwed my Cloud Club. Now they’re trying to stiff me out of my fee. Help me screw them back. I’ll siphon funds out of Chrysler and Texaco, clear out space in the foundations. That’s the last place they’ll look, even though it’s strictly bottom line, with them. I hand you the dough and carte blanche on the design. We’ll get Donald Deskey involved, bring in all the hot boys. We’ll create our own theater down there. A stage for you know what.”

Edward Durrell Stone’s hands twitched. He knew exactly what van Alen was talking about. It was a show he too desperately wanted to see. As soon as he was sober again, he’d hit the drawing board.

A waiter in white tie brought a fresh bottle of champagne from gay Paree, in a Dunand ice-bucket. Pop went the cork. Splish-fizz went the bubbly. Stemware clinked, Deco architects drinked…drank…drunk to a Deco deal, done.

Stone said, “We’re too good for them, Billy. They don’t deserve our sparkling diamonds.”


Paul Poiret will run up the costumes. Cassandre will design the posters. Donald Deskey will handle stage design. Dave Tough will slam down syncopated Synthetic Cubism on the drums. Django Reinhardt will jangle a D’Angelico guitar with ivory inlays on the fretboard. Nijinsky, all thumbs, and Josephine Baker in her G-string of rhinestone bananas will fling themselves across the intarsio parquet.

Lester Frills struts onstage in ostrich plume drag and lip-synchs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

The injured Chrysler Building folds in on its chrome-molybdenum girders. The spiky headpiece, the eagle-head and flying-hubcap flanges sink into a cloud of cocaine, plaster dust, gilt and glitter. Looks like Lady Liberty’s flashier kid sister being sucked slowly down into the New Jersey swamps in a blizzard.

The disastrous vision filled me with horror and grief. Whatever ghoulish spectacle Lester Frills was planning had to be stopped. But first I had to find him.

New York City absorbs flamboyant macaw-men and bird-of-paradise babes such as Lester and his gang of Black Zen boys and girls. A flaming tiger slips into a fake-fur warehouse and disappears.

Lester would emerge from his spidery hidey-hole when I found the theater. Hand over the keys in exchange for quivering, bound Rei Kawakubo?

Peel the bandaid gag off her lips.

She whispers a fashion koan.

What happens after that? No insights occurred. I went out to look for Lester.

A once-admired shop-window had been raped. Showroom dummies with glass eyes, fake eyelashes, erect nipples had taken over. Over-designed furniture was jumbled together for a backdrop. An amphigory of useless accessories, plastered with corporate logos, burst in hideous fireworks over a compulsive-shopping soundtrack that thudded like the sex-and-torture moans from grindhouses on the Deuce. Come inside for a $3 thrill! Seats the color of rotting liver, floors sticky with spilled sperm and soda pop. Furtive figures fumble, feel, find each other in the fug and flicker. 42nd Street was the black belt on Manhattan’s waist.

No belts needed, for the clothes that once hung suspended in SoHo thought-space. You put them on, they stayed put. They fit, no matter your size or shape. They looked right, gave the wearer confidence. Such clothes exist only in the mind. They once existed in a shop-window. Rei Kawakubo showed the world another way of being dressed. In other words, not naked.

A 7th Avenue dumpster yielded discarded bolts of gray worsted and navy blue cotton jersey. Look, you can make your own clothes. Sewing requires patience. Cover your body thoughtfully before you enter the outside world for the day. The world is thought made visible. A skyscraper’s an idea dressed in steel and stone.


Jena, a red-headed panther with a flashlight, opened the Planetarium’s back door. We sat through the spacy matinee together. There was no other audience.

When she punched out on the streamlined Burroughs wage/time tabulator, we had a theater date. The show was at a theater only a few people ever knew existed, and most of those who knew were long dead.

The usual zen rags wouldn’t do. Jena knew people in high corner offices at the Chrysler. She was welcome anytime. Passing as her spiritual adviser was implausible.

Jena’s auto executive grandfather’s business suits still hung in one of her walk-in closets. Jupiter Panhard was a huge man. Jena got busy with the safety pins. We only had to get past a sleepy doorman.

Being driven around Manhattan felt wrong. When you’re used to walking, machines powered by dead dinosaur ooze are bizarre. When Zeta Centauri aliens train their Zeiss telescopes on the Earth, they see dinosaurs. Light travels at a constant speed in all directions. On Earth, we stop at red lights, emit engine noise, heat and toxic fumes. In Buck Rogers movies, and in William van Alen’s dreams, Deco spaceships built like flying skyscrapers buzz around the Van Allen Belt in silence, with no exhaust.

What would a zen skyscraper look like? Does an architect have Buddha nature? Should a zen buddhist belong to a Cloud Club that would have him as a member? Jena was so beautiful, the traffic lights turned green. While I dreamed up ridiculous koans, she let the Chrysler Building doorman help her out of the car.

She handed him the keys. They jingled like money. “Any space you can find, Reeves, as long as it’s within a block or two. Me and Daddy Warbucks here might have to make a quick getaway. There might be gunplay. Oh I would not entirely rule that out. Come along, dear.”

Chrysler Building doormen dream of roaring-30s scenarios. They accept packages, sign in surly bike messengers, hail taxis for rude businessmen in the rain. No tips, no thanks, no appreciation, no respect. Then the lady for whom glorious confections of steel are hurled skywards materializes out of a dream. At the wheel of a gargantuan American automobile—who cares if it’s not a Chrysler?—dressed in a gown that turns life into an endless party. So what if the shmo in the shotgun seat looks like he’s never stepped out of a car or worn a suit or leather shoes with hard soles, fer chryssakes.

Jena danced across the lobby. Red-eyed security cameras stared as a dream went by in real life, but nobody was watching the show.

Silver okapis with horns like narwhals’ tusks grazed spear-grass under stylized clouds, rainbows and lightning bolts in a geometric elevator jungle lit by interpenetrating diamond sconces. Jena bubbled over. We were in.

How cool, to be a pretty lady who snaps her fingers and the world does whatever she wants. She pulled me into a clutch. Crinoline crunched against chrome. She hit the SB button. We went down.

The sub-basement service elevator went down even further.


Tom Leins


It was the day of my Uncle Alvin’s funeral when they came for me. I always knew they would.

I’d started drinking by breakfast, and I feel queasy by the time Alvin’s widow Brenda retrieves the bottle of liquor from her handbag at the crematorium.

At one point I consider climbing into Alvin’s casket for a lie-down, but then I remember the dismembered state of his corpse, and think better of it. So much of him was missing that the morticians filled the coffin with polystyrene to stop the body from shifting position during transit. They forget to remove the polystyrene before they burn the body though, and a toxic stink fills the small chapel.


The wake takes place at the Dirty Lemon. I’m drinking shots at the bar with Brenda, and feel halfway to oblivion. She’s a scorched-looking brunette who dresses like a streetwalker. She turns heads, just not always in a good way.

The room goes quiet when they walk in. Two men wearing overcoats and full-face balaclavas. I recognise them, despite the woollen masks. Their names are Rudy and Ron. Earlier this year they thought that they had nailed a big score when they ripped off the Sex Shop on Winner Street. All they found was a shoebox full of dusty family bones and a few choices extracts from Dirty Harold’s private porn stash.

The safecracker they hired was a drunk named Arlo Noakes. He blew his own fingertips off with plastic explosive because he was too lazy to do the job properly, and obliterated a crate of nearly-new dildos in the process. Arlo later claimed that he stemmed the blood-loss with a back issue of Tailgunner, but I didn’t believe him – the paper would be far too glossy.

Afterwards, Arlo hired me to deliver a message to Rudy and Ron, and paid me well for my time. Things got bloody, as they often do, but I was happy to snap a few bones. Ron was jailed for gross indecency in 1989 while running a video shop, and he hasn’t held down an honest job since he got out of Channings Wood. On his 50th birthday he was arrested for trying to chloroform a boy at the Crossways Centre. Rudy is a part-time morgue worker and ex-weight lifter – he’s the really scary one. His face looks like a fucking Halloween mask.

Rudy snorts a bump of something – probably homemade crank – off his hand. He has a tattoo of a tombstone on the fleshy patch of skin between his finger and thumb.

Ron’s scarred eyebrow crumples as he winks at me. Up close, his cologne smells of gutter water. He has a claw-hammer up the sleeve of his overcoat. What a lovely surprise.

He dents my skull with the flat end, and my vision goes blurry. I start to fall and he hits me again – behind the ear this time.


When I regain consciousness there is a fat dog pissing on my leg. I realise that someone has dragged me out of the pub and left me on the wheelchair ramp. My hair is sticky with blood and there is a tender crater on the side of my head. The dog is chained to the railings. It looks dangerous, so I slowly detach its collar and point it towards the bus station. It’s someone else’s problem now.

I can taste blood in my mouth. I must have bit my tongue when Ron hit me with the hammer.

I wrap the dog-chain around my right hand. It will have to do. It might break my fingers, but I’m hoping that it will also be sufficient to break a nose or a cheekbone, maybe a fucking eye-socket.


When I push my way through to the back-room, Rudy and Ron are still loosening their belts, which means I can’t have been knocked out for long. Feeble sunlight filters through the greasy window, and I feel a jolt of nausea as I see Brenda sprawled across the piss-coloured linoleum, fishnet tights round her ankles. I can see the tattoo of Alvin’s name on her pelvis.

I grab Ron by his greasy hair and slam my chain-wrapped fist into his face. I feel a couple of knuckles pop, but I hit him again, regardless. My third punch knocks him out. Rudy retrieves his hammer from the top of the chest freezer. He hits me on the shoulder blade, and I feel hot sick rising in my throat.

If he hits my skull again I’ll probably end up fucking brain-damaged.

I let the dog-chain unravel and whip it across his face. He’s a tough little cunt, and he barely makes a sound as it crumples his misshapen nose and knocks him off his feet.

I stand over him, thick blood dripping from the chain.

He reaches for the hammer and I stamp on his wrist. He reaches for it again, so I stamp on his mouth instead.

I look down. Jesus. His ruined face looks like a vaginal infection. In the half-light, the blood on the floor looks black.

I wipe the blood off my right boot and pick up his hammer. I fake a lunge with the tool, and hear an erratic splattering sound – followed by a thick, evil stench. He gurgles teeth.

I help Brenda to her feet. Her red eyes look out-of-focus and her skin looks chalky.

When she kisses me she tastes of blood. Blood and black-market cigarettes.

She presses up against me, looking dazed. Her nylon underwear feels wet against my leg.

“Is he dead?”


It hurts when I talk, and my voice comes out as a thick-tongued slur.

“…but he will probably have difficulty remembering his own name in future.”


Outside, the early evening sky looks bloodshot. I dump the dog-chain on top of an ashtray and we drift towards the sea-front, arm-in-arm.

“Who were those men?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

She lights another cigarette.

“You know what Alvin used to say?”

I shrug.

“There is a price we pay for the mistakes we make.”

I shrug again.

“Well, he would fucking know.”

Robert Beveridge


I’m at sail in a blue boat
in a red sea
in a strange land.
The hold is filled with dark snakes.
They cannot escape
Although the hold is full.
Black, writhing, poisonous snakes
Ruby orb-eyes
filled with fire.
The sea is calm as I lie on the boat.

Why do I lie?
Why am I still?

“Peace!” cries the vampire.

“At long last, I have found peace!”
His snakes are free.

Slowly, I open the hold.
The snakes emerge
And begin to fly.
The snakes devour me alive.

At long last, I have found peace!

Gwil James Thomas

Fuck You and The Horse You Rode in On

When you told me that you were posh
I thought you were being ironic,
but I really couldn’t care either way –
nor does anyone care for your opinion
when you butt into conversations,
or your passive aggressive comments
and here’s some advice
for your storytelling –
have a point with the stories,
or at least give them some feeling –
maybe it’s just attention
that you’ve been after,
so here it is and
let me spell it out for you –
I couldn’t care less if you were shot off
the edge of a sixty storey building
and fell
before you landed on a canopy
and were catapulted
into a contaminated hot tub
of Peruvian piranhas
and if I visited you in hospital,
it’d only be to unplug
your life support
so that I could charge
up my phone –
so fuck you
and the horse
you rode
in on.

Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

Strangers In Strange Fucking Lands

There once was a woman named Nancy Botkin. She’d always wanted to be a writer, but she’d had a son Nick with a deadbeat poet named Frank Beachwood who disappeared ten minutes after he saw his newborn spawn. And for sixteen years, she tried to raise Nick to the best of her ability, making sure he was clothed and safe. She took him to school, to piano lessons, chauffeuring him around as though he were a fucking king. And she tried to love him, but a part of her saw a kind of tyrant, a sort of emotional Pharaoh weighing her down with demands. Love me. Focus all your attention on me. Nick clung to his mother like Superglue, following her day and night. And he criticized her because she wasn’t the sort of tender, weepy mother in the old movies. She grappled day and night with her feelings. She tried to say she loved him, but it was near impossible, especially since he reminded her so much of Frank, with his long nose, his dreamy hazel eyes. So she kept doing things for Nick, trying to fill in those gaps, to express things she couldn’t say.

After sixteen years of motherhood, and Nick’s complaints about her mothering style, she up and left. Nick had complained about how she was too obsessed with writing and how she needed to accept shit. And that had filled her with a sensation, a feeling of both dread and possibility. She saw the painful present, she saw a future calling her like a sultry seductress.

For forty years, she wandered across the country, occasionally writing Nick. She wandered across vast cities with bustling crowds, through small towns, staying in old motels and in shacks along the coast and she felt a sense that something vast was unfurling, as though the world were becoming something new. She was Nancy Botkin. She was a writer. An artist. She was no longer someone’s girlfriend or mother.

But after forty years of bliss, ever the good writer, she felt the inevitable urge to drop back to her old town, to remember the roots from which she came. She was curious about the things that had gone on without her and felt a kind of stirring, something pulling her back toward the vortex of the old world. She was horrified to discover that Nick was now the producer of a successful TV show, “Runaway Moms”, a sitcom about mothers running off, with a very obnoxious laugh track. Nancy wandered into Nick, while he was directing an actress playing a drunk mother, telling her she needed to truly hate the actor playing her son.

The minute Nick saw her, all he had to say was “you need to see a psychiatrist, Nancy. Forty years. Amazing.”

“Why the fuck would I do that?” she said. “You’re the one producing this godawful show.”

“Because you left me.”

“Your father left you too,” Nancy said. “Produce a show called Deadbeat Dad.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t really know him.”

“What you mean is because he’s a man,” she said. “Mothers are different.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I know you, Nick,” she said. “You never asked about your father. You just needed me to be there for everything. That’s my role, no doubt.”

“You were gone for forty years.”

“I needed to get lost.”

“You need to see a psychiatrist,” Nick said.

“You need to see a psychiatrist,” Nancy said. Surprisingly Nick agreed to go see one.

They went to a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Greenlee. He focused entirely on Nancy’s problem. He asked her about the towns she’d been in. When she told him about the lighthouse she’d visited along the coast, he said, “Well then, you truly craved a man all along.”

“What does a lighthouse have to do with men?”

“A lighthouse looks like a penis,” Dr. Greenlee said. “Therefore you subconsciously clamor for a man’s penis.”


“What did you have for dessert last night?”

“Ice cream. Is this relevant?”

“Another penis shaped object,” Dr. Greenlee said. “My advice is forget the wandering, and find a man. Go back to your natural sphere.”

“Things look like penises because men have too much power. Men make objects in their own image,” Nancy said. “What does that have to do with Nick?”

“Semantics,” Dr. Greenlee said. “I’m just saying perhaps you need a family. Perhaps the penis represents a lost lover. And perhaps Nick by extension. Nick has been denied much. We must focus on this poor child.”

“I don’t want to have sex with Nick.”

“I’m just saying he represents a need for male companionship on your part, and a need for female love on his own.”

“He’s fifty-six. He’s my fucking son.”

“Semantics,” Dr. Greenlee repeated. “Don’t make this about you. We need to focus on the truly traumatized Nick here. Only if we dissect Nick like a frog can we learn about you.”

“What about Nick? He produces a show about bad mothers. He hasn’t lost his ability to live.”

“That’s a normal manifestation of grief. It doesn’t mean he hates you. It’s an avenue Nancy,” the doctor said, nodding his bulbous head, stroking his Freud-like beard.

“Fuck it,” Nancy said.

“It’s normal,” Dr. Greenlee said.

“So is my need for escape.”

“We can talk about that later.”

She waited for Nick to say something but he was nodding, hypnotized by Dr. Greenlee, who had begun to laugh maniacally, like a villain, as if amused by all this. In his laughter, she thought of Frank Beachwood for the first time, thought of the ease with which he left. Nancy stepped outside the door, flipped the bird to her son and Dr. Greenlee, and wandered out into the wilderness, to never be heard from again, until one day, a group of actors from “Runaway Moms” found a very recognizable woman in the desert, holding a sign next to their filming location.

The sign read: If you like freedom, ban “Runaway Mothers.” Run away mothers. Runaway mothers unite!

David Boski

Try My Best

“Why do you do that?
Why do you constantly
push me away?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I don’t mean to,
maybe there’s something wrong
with me,” I said.

“No, I think you do. I think you
know exactly what you’re doing
and it needs to stop.”

“Okay. I’ll try my best.”

A few weeks later she was gone
just like the one before her
and the one before that.
I guess I didn’t try my best
or maybe my best
just wasn’t good enough.
I decided I’d have to find
a new woman and give it
another try.

Rebecca Anderson

The Great Kwik Stop Heist

Two weeks before they became accomplices in murder, Jimmy and Kelly met at the Alcoholics Anonymous clubhouse. Kelly was trying to meet the terms of her probation and Jimmy was lonely and bored. Neither were alcoholics.

Kelly held herself out to be the mistress of heists but was really just the kind of girl that would stick $15 worth of Dollar General makeup in her pants for the rush. Five different times. The judge was ready to sentence her to serious time when she ditched her public defender and found a bulldog of an attorney whom she let suck her toes in lieu of cash payment. The afternoons of propping her feet on his mahogany desk paid off and she got a stint at AA as punishment.

Jimmy should have known she was trouble the first night he met her.

“You’re hot. Wanna go in the bathroom and fuck?” she asked without an ounce of shame.

“Not in the bathroom,” he said. “Let’s get out of this shithole.”


Jimmy and Kelly were half way through a bottle of whiskey, naked on a consigned couch at the corner of Jimmy’s Guns and Pawn, when they decided to steal the mini ATM at the Kwik Stop Food Mart.

“You really want to knock over the Kwik Stop,” Kelly laughed.

“It’s the only way to get the big bucks,” Jimmy slurred.

Jimmy Swindell had never been particularly business savvy. Jimmy’s Guns and Pawn was an ill-conceived whim after his father passed away and left him with a quarter million dollars and a small box of Kruggerands. He had one made into a necklace so he could flaunt his new wealth. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” was his motto. It worked—kind of. “Jimbo! Can you spot me a couple hundred until payday? I’ll give you my stereo as collateral,” his favorite bartender asked him one day. Thus, Jimmy’s Guns and Pawn was born.

These days, the shop was fewer guns and gold coins and more expired baby car seats and dusty disco balls, along with an assortment of hunting rifles his old friends would come by to hock for Xanax money.

Jimmy needed cash to stay afloat and a heist seemed about right.


In the backroom of his shop, Jimmy collapsed against the wall, sweat rolling down his face, his eyes darting back and forth from Kelly to the locked door.

“You fucking shot him. For $180 and a broken tabletop ATM.”

“What? It was a heist? What do you think happens in heists?” Kelly asked, incredulous.

“Well, what now?! You fucking killed a dude. An innocent dude.”

Jimmy knew Kelly was stupid but didn’t realize the extent until that moment.

For a petty thief who had just committed her first murder, Kelly was oddly calm. “We can call my lawyer.” The more Jimmy looked at her, the more disgusted he became.

“The toe sucker? Really, Kelly? We need a real plan.”

“Run? I have a friend in Texas we could crash with for a couple weeks. Go to Mexico after? Just me and you. I’ll be your Bonnie and you can be my Clyde.”

“Fuck off, Kelly.”


Jimmy, having never stolen more than a pack of gum and Kelly, petty thief extraordinaire, didn’t know anything about heists beyond what they saw on TV.

“Should we go with ski masks?” Kelly asked.

“Nah, too hot. And a little cliché,” Jimmy said.

“Pantyhose?” suggested Kelly.


The mini ATM was near the slurpy machine and coffee makers, near the back of the store. Jimmy had done some casing and noticed only two security cameras at the front of the store: One outside and one inside.

“You a good shot?” Jimmy asked Kelly.

“Yeah, of course I am,” Kelly said. “I used to go squirrel hunting with my daddy all the time.”

“Good. You think you can handle shooting out the security cameras then? With a .22 maybe?”


The next day, it was a go. Kelly drove, since Jimmy’s Suburban had the Guns and Pawn logo on the back window. They parked around the corner, Kelly with her .22 and Jimmy unarmed, so he could grab the ATM and run.

It was Sunday night and the Qwik Stop looked empty.

“Ready for this?” Jimmy grinned.

“Damn straight,” said Kelly.

They each pulled a pair of panty hose over their heads and stormed the front doors.

“This is a holdup!” Kelly screamed a little too loudly.

The guy behind the counter, a pimple-faced 40-something, looked up from his phone, annoyed. “Shit, y’all. I haven’t even been here a week.”

“Shut up and no one gets hurt!” Kelly yelled.

Jimmy headed to the back of the store and tried to lift the ATM. It wasn’t any bigger than a large microwave, but was heavier than he expected. He wiggled it off the counter, not noticing the handwritten note taped over the screen: Out of order. No cash.

He almost buckled under the weight of the machine, but remembered the future of his shop was at stake.

“All the cash in a bag!” Jimmy heard Kelly yell.

The register wasn’t part of the plan.

“Kelly, the cameras?!” Jimmy struggled with the broken ATM.

“C’mon, bitch. Y’all got the ATM,” the clerk said, annoyed.

“In a bag. Now.” Kelly meant business.

As Jimmy struggled to push open the Kwik Mark double doors, he heard it: A pop. And then another.


Kelly calmly counted her nine $20 bills. “I’m telling you: We need go to Texas then head on down to Mexico.”

“Screw that,” said Jimmy. “What even happened back there?”

“He wasn’t fast enough. And I didn’t like his face.”

Jimmy didn’t have a chance to respond before heard a knock at the front of the store. “Police, open up!”

“Shit.” Jimmy whispered. He felt panic welling up in his stomach. He looked at the back door and then to Kelly. “Mexico?”

“Si, Monsieur Clyde!”

And then they were off.

Judge Santiago Burdon

The Fix

I smoke rock
I drink scotch
I like hookers that don’t talk a lot
And I smile from the pain
When the needle plunges through my vein
I don’t need Jesus
to forgive me
My salvation would cost more than I can pray
Absolution can’t be purchased
No matter how many
Hail Marys you say
A bottle becomes a victim
Another soldier I bled to death
Tiny plastic bags lay full of empty
While the drug swims in the blood
Under my flesh
It would take more than an army
of Christian soldiers
On a crusade to save my soul
A futile quest to rescue an empty spirit
That’s been ravaged, robbed, bought and sold
In twisted darkness
Or straightened light
Seeking the venom
Piercing fangs
The healing cure in a snake’s bite
There’s no trust
In a junkie’s smile
No grief in his tear
Rusted words from an acid tongue
Spit out and insincere
Fate left no clue
Just a bruise
My apocalyptic tattoo
Was I the one
That made this choice
Or was it the addiction
Imitating my voice