Elena Bello

Plague

I have seen people collapse
like nine-pins hit by a bowling ball
with faces slammed down on the concrete
inflexible, trembling trunks
spewing
 viral liquid from their mouths

a plane takes off
men in white suits
they scan the foreheads of the passengers
like they’re reading the barcode of a product

I have fuckin’ nothing, I’m here with my mom
the bank won’t let us withdraw our money
but I’m still alive,
not for long
so, I will cough on strong powers

too bad for the disgraced lady behind the counter
she’s just a puppet
who wants to go back to her geppetto

give my fucking chair back to me, woman
I have to break this window,
I don’t want to stay in isolation

yes, blood flows on the tables
here’s to you mrs, an infected hen
don’t you see your son is eating a living mouse
while he’s filming himself with his smartphone?

for the one who sits wearing black suits
he will say to media that
there is no reason to be afraid
no, he is not in the city right now

what are they doing?

there is a new tsunami
made of people
there are not enough masks for everyone
they scream, run away, push each other
who pays could skip the line?

a man asks to a hostess
may I sit here?
you can sit wherever you want,
she says wearing a white suit

the plane is almost empty now

Matthew Licht

Miracle In A Men’s Room

One advantage of a religious education is a life-long obsession with sex. Eons later, I still remember Debbie Spinello.

A second-year girl, Debbie Spinello was secretly voted “Most Developed” at St J’s Junior College.

The school had separate entrances for males and females. Demerits were handed out, penances assigned, for being out of uniform. So I was surprised when I ran into Debbie in the Young Men’s room. She was smoking a forbidden cigarette, unfiltered.

“Wha-what’re you doing in here?” I gasped.

Debbie Spinello exhaled a Bikini Atoll cloud, puffed a fleck of tobacco off her unfrosted lip (Holy Regulation #31B: Thou shalt not apply lipstick, nor lip gloss!) and said, “Duh. What about you?”

“This is the Young Men’s Room. I need to urinate.

“Well, don’t mind me. I ain’t leavin’ till I finish this butt.”

But I couldn’t leave. I was about to piss my pants. I approached the urinal. My hands shook when I unzipped. My penis was hard as an iron bar.

Debbie heard the silence, came over to see what was wrong.

“C’mon,” she whispered smokily in my ear.

Mortified, I prayed for a quick, painless death.

“You’re pee-shy? That’s cute…Whoa! You got a fucking hard-on.”

She punched my arm. I thought she’d report me to the Sisters. Holy Regulation #3 was: Thou shalt not never have a hard-on.

“We could, uh, not waste it,” she said. “Know what I mean?”

Her cigarette sizzled when she flicked it into the urinal. Her slender fingers came together again, not in prayer. “Well I do, even if you don’t.”

“But…but…I gotta get back to class,” I said. “Father Hurley’s gonna send a patrol out for me in a minute if I don’t…”

“Don’t worry. This won’t take long. First, you get it wet.”

Debbie Spinello bent at the waist, and nearly hit her head on the cup of the urinal. The Fathers said that what she did was the worst thing that could ever happen, but it felt good.

When she stopped I didn’t want her to. But then she said, “Wanna fuck?”

I nodded dumbly. “Too bad,” she said.

My heart sank. The nuns had used Debbie as bait to trap a boy in his sinful lust.

“My folks have me checked once a week. Doc Snyder would report me for sure. He’s my Dad’s oldest buddy. Besides, I don’t want to get pregnant. So you have to do my ass, OK?”

This time I nodded furiously.

“Unbutton me. I got a surprise for you.”

She had to guide my hands. I fought the urge to rip and tear.

“Here silly, lemme show you how.”

A gold medallion hung on a delicate chain in the hollow of her neck. Below was a heavy-duty white cotton bra. I grabbed.

“Be gentle,” she whispered. “And warm your hands first. Ready for the surprise?”

Was Debbie Spinello really a boy? I’d heard stories from guys who’d been to Times Square. Was she an undercover cop? At that point, I didn’t even care.

She unsnapped her bra and showed me the most beautiful things in the world. I wanted to start crying. But all I could say was, “So what’s the surprise?”

That’s when she tweaked her nipples.

“You got milk! You’re lac…lactating! I thought you said you didn’t wanna get pregnant?”

“I’m not pregnant, silly. It just happens. I thought it was a miracle at first, but I was too embarrassed to tell the Sisters. Doc Snyder says it’s rare but normal. He said some Latin word, but I forgot. Mom has to buy me these special absorbent bras.”

She knelt down and took me in her mouth. It was all too much.

“Do you like…”

Way too much. I nearly exploded, fell over backwards. I thought she’d be angry.

“Wow,” she said. “You must really like me.”

“Oh Debbie,” I moaned. “I love you. I always have. Do you know how often I’ve dreamed…”

She stood up and turned around, pulled up her skirt, pulled down her panties and braced herself against the wall over the urinal.

“You gotta spit on it first.”

I went to clear my throat.

“Ew,” she said, “not like that! You’re supposed to, like, just drool on it a bit.”

I did as she instructed and she reached around, guiding me in.

“Ow! Go slow! Go slow!”

So I went slow, even though I wanted to root around in Debbie like a warthog. To help keep my cool, I recited the Lord’s Prayer backwards.

“Quiet,” she said. “This feels really good, but we don’t wanna get caught, do we?”

We did not.

“Milk me so I get off fast. But do it gently.”

I pretended I was back on Uncle Olaf’s farm in Wisconsin.

Debbie wrothe and squirmed. We fell against each other, crashed into the urinal. The thing flushed. We slid to the cold tile floor.

“Omigod,” Debbie whispered. “I can’t go back to class like this. You gotta help me out, OK?”

“Sure,” I said. “What’m I supposed to do?”

“Clean me up,” she hissed. “Come on, hurry.”

She got on all fours.

Debbie tasted evil. When I was done, she whipped around so we could kiss.

The memory of that kiss lingers on and on.

Debbie wiped her mouth on my shirt, walked out of the Men’s room and out of my life forever.

She got kicked out of school for smoking.

Ben Newell

1346152741

Long Live the Sex Letter: Gallery #233 2020

As a loyal subscriber to Hustler magazine, I was bummed when they did away with their long-running “Hot Letters” section. Those first person (written as “true”) accounts of sexual adventure were the closest thing they had to a proper short story, and I really hated to see them go. Based solely on this, I opted to let my subscription expire.

I had always considered Gallery the second-best stroke mag on the market (after all, we’re talking about a publication that published Stephen King’s “The Raft,” one of his most memorable short stories, and the inspiration for a vignette in Creepshow 2), so I switched over in typical traitorous fashion; I had no idea if they still published sex letters, but felt it was worth the gamble.

I paid for a one-year subscription, and proceeded to wait not so patiently for my first issue. She finally arrived some three months later. The first thing I noticed was the magazine’s relative thinness; in terms of page-count the current incarnation of Gallery is a rather anorexic version of its former self. Trying to keep an open mind, I took a deep breath and started flipping the glossy pages.

Imagine my surprise when I found not one, but two unattributed fuck letters for my reading enjoyment: “Sweet Cherry” and “Riding Tiffany.”

Tanya, the 18-year-old narrator of “Sweet Cherry,” is having dinner at a “nice restaurant” with 32-year-old Jimmy. All of her girlfriends have had sex, but poor Tanya is still a virgin. Of course, Jimmy’s Jimmy is “like huge and really, really thick” and he’s more than willing to use it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves . . .

Back to the restaurant where Tanya gets fingerfucked under the table: “He pulled his finger out almost all the way, then pushed it back between my puffy lips. Then he proceeded to pump it in and out of me.” Another diner notices the couple’s shenanigans, smiling at Tanya before they exit the restaurant to resume the action in Jimmy’s car. After informing him that she is a virgin, Tanya spreads her legs for Jimmy’s expert oral skills: “. . . his tongue slithered inside my hot pussy, and he fucked me with that hard tongue of his as he slurped and swallowed my juices.”

Primed for her first reaming, Tanya takes it like a champ, marveling at how good it feels to finally have a proper cock buried in her cooze: “Oh, this wasn’t like a finger at all! He was huge, and I felt like I was splitting in half.” While banging Tanya, Jimmy sucks her tits and fingers her clit, heightening her pleasure until the inevitable explosion: “. . . his hot jism flooded my pussy. He cried out, his cock delving deeper and deeper, and he had so much jizz that it just poured out of my drenched pussy.”

Well, so much for Tanya’s cherry . . .

But there’s more, a nice little twist ending to wrap things up. The nosy diner, along with two of his friends, begins to applaud; they watched the whole thing through the “steamed-up car window.” Stoking her exhibitionist fire, Tanya fucks Jimmy one more time, treating the appreciative voyeurs to a XXX double bill.

“Riding Tiffany” continues the barely legal theme as our titular hottie is “the 18-year-old daughter of a wealthy dentist” vacationing with her family at a dude ranch. The unnamed male narrator works at the ranch, an easy enough gig, yet far from ideal as the rural locale provides little in the way of a social life.

Saddling Tiffany’s horse, our stud can’t help but notice her ample charms: “Tiffany was any guy’s wet dream: five-foot four, with long, honey blonde hair that fell halfway down her back. She was a petite 114 pounds of tan, firm girl.” Tiffany embarks on her ride, leaving the ranch hand all to his lonesome; unable to get her out of his head, he rides to a secluded spot in the woods where he often goes to rub one out.

And that’s just what he does. Cock in hand, he hears somebody moaning. Guess who? You would be correct, my filth-loving friend: “I peeked through the brush, and what I saw almost made me cream in my pants. There was little Tiffany, naked except for her cowboy boots and hat, ramming two fingers in and out of her hot slit.” Great minds think alike . . .

The narrative veers into slapstick when he trips, falls through the foliage, and lands right in front of Tiffany. Pleasantly surprised at the intrusion, she says, “No sense in playing alone when we can play together.” I couldn’t agree more. Tiffany proceeds to suck his cock and swallow the load. Our narrator returns the favor, eating Tiffany’s pussy, a first for her as she explains: “All of the boys I’ve fooled around with thought it was gross.” I fear for the future of this country . . .

The inevitable fucking includes missionary and cowgirl, the latter providing one of the more memorable passages: “What a sight: this lovely blonde nympho, wearing nothing but cowboy boots, riding me in the middle of the woods!” With her voracious appetite for ball sauce, Tiffany dismounts and sucks our cocksman dry, ingesting her second load of the day.

As a new subscriber, I was most pleased with my first issue of Gallery. Let’s hope the next one delivers equally glorious goodies.

Leah Mueller

Reunion on Sandy Boulevard

Perched on the edge
of the Howard Johnson
airport shuttle van
in my dark red clogs,

I turn my feet sideways,
place them slow motion
on the side panel,
descend into the parking lot.

Cold torrential downpour,
puddles on gray asphalt,
December air fuggy and close.

We waited two years,
and you look different
than I remember: pallid,
anxious, but familiar as shoes.

In an hour, we will try again
to find everything
we did our best to hide.

Afterwards, we’ll open the window,
exclaim about the unseasonable
warmth. Four days until

I return to my husband,
and you to the flatlands, defeated.
Meanwhile, my heavy soles:
all I have to keep me upright.

You devour a microwaved burrito
from the corner mini-mart,
our small room reeks of toxins.

“You’re in Portland now,”
I say. “There’s no excuse
for bad food or bad sex,”
but I’m sure you won’t remember.

Tim Frank

On Tour, Backstage

Jane, an eighteen-year-old high school grad, was the runner assigned to look after the bands who were headlining the four different stages of the Wrexham music festival. As the giant party progressed, kids destroyed their minds on neat vodka and impure MDMA, many ending up in bushes, vomiting on their pineapple print button down shirts. As dusk approached, summer seemed to cower. Rain clouds gathered and those on acid felt a sense of impending doom that the more sober revellers were yet to experience.

A manager of one of the headliners drew Jane aside. “If you can deal with these people – and calling them people is generous – then you’ll go far in this business,” he said.

“Actually,” said Jane, “I want to be an artist myself someday.”

“Jane? You seem like a nice girl, so I’ll give you some advice – be a lawyer, be a sales rep because nothing good can come of being a musician. Nothing.” He grabbed Jane’s shoulder and with a haunted look in his eyes and said, “I’ve seen things and they can never be unseen. Heed my words Jane, musicians are not bound by law or conscience. They are truly soulless. Now, where’s the bar? We’re off to get smashed.” He whacked her hard on the back. “Good luck.”

The four managers of the headlining acts headed off to drink away their sorrows, leaving Jane to face her first task – pleasing a hip-hop group, named ‘Spark a Fat One’.  They had trainers bigger than their heads and wore baseball hats so low over their eyes they relied mostly on sound to guide their way.

Jane ushered the rap band into their tent as raindrops began to spatter against their faces. The group lit a joint and sunk happily into a sofa, blasting music from their sound system – the bass shaking the fabric of the tent. They seemed happy enough, so Jane left them to it.

Then the heavens opened, vast puddles formed almost instantly as people’s feet were swallowed into the mush.

“This is no good, this is no good!” cried the members of the jazz band, named ‘Swirling Nightgowns’. They wiped dirt off their spats and sludge from their purple zoot suits. Jane directed them into a tent straining at the seams from water accumulating overhead. She felt a tap on her shoulder.

“Is this incessant noise going to continue?” said a man with a floppy fringe, decked out in bow-tie and tails. He was the conductor of the German classical orchestra named, ‘Herr Ribauls’, “Because I won’t stand for it, oh no.” He was referring to the sound from the rappers’ tent. He chewed on his lower lip and jutted his chin out, waiting for an answer. “Hmm? Hmm? I mean, I feel the need to cleanse myself in a Himalayan mountain stream.”

A man with a blue mohawk, from the band ‘Grindross’, dressed in serious leather and serious chains, barged into the conductor sending him headfirst into the mud, drenching him completely.

“You do know our tent is leaking?” the rocker said, while Jane fretted over the conductor who flapped about in the slush.

“You brute!” cried the conductor.

“Oh god, oh god,” said Jane.

The punk jabbed his finger in Jane’s face, silver bangles rattling on his wrist. “You’re treating us this way cos we’re punks, right? You think we don’t contribute to society, huh!? But let me tell you, we contribute baby, we contribute! I signed a petition just last WEEK!”

“I’m sure you are very socially aware, sir, I’m trying my best, I really am,” said Jane, trying to remain poised.

Just then a gust of wind swept through the area, charging around the campsite sending everything crashing to the ground – the only thing left standing was ‘Spark a Fat One’s’ tent.
Jane tried to think – carefully and quickly. Everyone was coated with mud but to prevent further ignominy she hoarded all the acts into the rappers’ tent and hoped the people would embrace the situation and see the funny side.

The conductor, caked in dirt, looking like a clay sculpture, turned to Jane and said, “I am not going to share a tent with those vagrants if they continue to play that dirge-like discord that is currently wreaking havoc with my eardrums!”

Jane squeezed her way through the melee – past the massed ranks of violinists plucking strings, the drummers pounding on their knees and the noodling jazz trumpeters – and asked the rappers to turn the volume down. They stared straight ahead, sitting on the couch like Buddhist monks meditating, gently nodding their heads in unison. One of them reached over and flicked the sound several notches louder. Jane winced, and felt the vein in her neck begin to throb. She returned to the conductor.

“I’m so sorry, sir, I can’t do much more,” Jane pleaded, “it’s their tent and we are at a music festival after all.”

“This isn’t a festival, it’s Dante’s seventh circle of hell. Save yourselves!” he bawled to no one in particular, flailing his arms above his head. He re-joined the orchestra, while frantically searching his jacket for his lithium tablets.

The saxophonist from the ‘Swirls’ interrupted everyone – who were essentially playing a giant game of Twister now – and said, “Hey, hey! Do we at least get a rider? I demand my melange of sautéed canapés.”

Jane manoeuvred her way through bodies to get to the jazz virtuoso. She wiped the sweat from her brow and began to recite the words she’d rehearsed hundreds of times leading up to the festival. “Mr Duello, may I call you Sam? I have no canapés to offer you, but I’d like to provide my services in another way.”

Suddenly, interrupting her speech was the sound of cracked wood. Jane swivelled and saw the guitarist from ‘Grindross’ breaking a violin over his knee. The violinist’s jaw dropped. She shrieked, leapt on the punk and throttled him. He emitted sharp squeals and his body writhed in agony.

Jane remained rooted to the spot, she thought, “Let it be, Jane, you’ve done all you can. I came here for a reason.”

Unmoved by the scuffle, one of the rappers pulled out a joint the size of a baby’s arm and got down to lighting the behemoth.

The conductor sniffed the marijuana several times, then panicked, “Contact high! Contact high! Where are my pills?!” he said. He ducked under a table and peeked out, struggling to hold in his breath.

“So, Sam,” said Jane, determined to say her piece. “I myself am a musician, a flutist in fact. I’m also Irish. My dream is to unite North and South with my music. Anyway, I love you guys and…”

Before she could finish her sentence the ‘Grindross’ singer had found room to swing a guitar above his head and hurl it out of the tent like a shot-put. Everyone dived for cover, musicians piling up, forming a rugby scrum.

“And I think – I just think – if you could give me one chance to perform for you,” Jane continued.

A mobile rang and everyone checked their pockets, while Jane rummaged around in her rucksack for her instrument.

“Mum?” said the punk singer into his phone. “I told you I’m working. Yes, yes, at the law firm. No, I told you, I quit the band. Of course, I will be a nice boy, I will, I will. Ok, look mum, I have to go, I’m working on the Plinsky case, a very big case, so goodbye now mum. Goodbye.”

The singer hung up. Everyone gawped at him.

“What!?” he said.

He squeezed himself beside the rappers on the couch, crossing his arms, sulking. He reached for the joint. Everyone started to push and shove again, battling to free themselves – fists digging into ribs, feet aimed at noses.

A searing note cut through the fractious atmosphere grabbing everyone’s attention, even Duello’s, who looked up at Jane as she played her sweet melody. The rest of the musicians reacted to the soft and lilting sound of Jane’s flute in their own way – some smiling gently, others clicking their fingers to the rhythm – all transported somehow. Jane played like never before and she soared. The ‘Swirls’ got lumps in their throats, the orchestra’s lips trembled, the rappers wiped some moisture from their eyes, the punks wept and the conductor, still squatting under the table, swatted imaginary flies from his nose.
Voices could be heard from outside the tent.

“What is that sound?” said one of the managers, on unsteady feet, bleary-eyed from an afternoon’s drinking session.

“Not one of my ungrateful rabble, I can tell you that,” quipped another manager.

“It’s – it’s magnificent,” said another.

As the managers stepped into the tent, they saw bodies tangled together like coiled extension leads. Yet everyone seemed entranced by the simple tune, as if it were a siren’s call.
The looks in the musicians’ eyes were similar to when they were first signed – virtuous, innocent and with a genuine desire to change musical history.

It was nearly time for the artists to perform and they went through their preparatory routine, desperate to channel their newfound inspiration and share it with the thousands of fans waiting for them.

One of the managers sidled up to Jane and said, “I manage ‘Swirling Nightgowns’ and I see something in you, well I think we all do. I want to offer you a record contract. I think you can go far. Part of me feels I’m about to ruin your life though – what with the all the drugs, the groupies, the money and the disconnection from reality that comes with success. But my job is to find talent and you have talent, no doubt.”

The bands began to psych themselves up and having reached fever pitch they said, “Let’s do this! Let’s rock!”

Jane was speechless. She had really done it. Her head was spinning.

Suddenly the tent was ripped from its moorings and went flying off into the distance. The artists were too hyped to notice. They streamed out of the site and dashed to their respective stages.

The manager drew her aside, “Seeing as you haven’t actually signed yet and you’re still a runner, I think it’s best you break the news to the bands. The festival has been cancelled. See you at the recording studio kiddo,” he said, slapping her hard on the back, nearly sending Jane headfirst into the mud. “Welcome to the music industry.”

Joseph Farley

Thank You For Riding

It was February 2020. The corona virus, CoVid 19, was a time bomb that had gone off in Wuhan. It was not yet a major event in the United States, but we were aware of it and knew it was coming for us. It was also flu season, and just damn cold. The wind was blowing in gusts above ten miles an hour, and a persistent light rain was doing its best to make everyone at the Frankford Transportation Center miserable. I got off the El and immediately remembered I had not dressed warm enough. The weather had given me notice initially the moment I left the building in Center City where I worked. The crowded El had been a respite from the weather. Now I was back in it again.

My dollar store umbrella was broken. It had been good for two storms. I had learned the hard way that more expensive umbrellas did not necessarily last longer, so I stuck with the cheap ones. Sometimes things break and you’re just out of luck, no matter what you’ve paid. I scurried with the crowd down the stairs and out to where the buses and trolleys waited. There was a Route 66 trackless trolley waiting. SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, ran the trolley in two loops at peak hours: short run between the Frankford Transportation Center and Cottman Avenue, and an express that had its first stop at Cottman then ran north to the end of the City. I needed the express.

There was an overhang to keep the rain off waiting passengers, but that space was already filled. I stood in the cold drizzle. The normal variety of passengers were waiting. Old, young, disabled. Male, female, fill in the blank. There was always a subgroup off to the side selling or smoking weed or stronger stuff. There’s always the few who stare death at you if glance at them doing their business. There’s always a few passengers that look, act and give out the feel that they’re on their way back to one of the residential and semi-residential rehab centers and halfway houses that dot the area.

One guy with a beard and a green army jacket was bouncing up and down, possibly to keep warm, possibly out of habit. He was a few feet away from me, but I could smell him, even in the rain. It was bad, but not overwhelming. I had smelled worse on the El, which was nicknamed by some “the homeless hotel” or “the hotel on wheels.” Homeless people who had begged a fair staked out a seat, sprawled, and road all day and almost all might, with dirty blankets covering them, even their heads, a potential reservoir for contagions, a certain source of foul odors.

The driver came and opened the door. He sat in the driver’s seat and watched people as they boarded. A relatively clean looking guy in old clothes, with a beaten down, weary look, that rang out rehab or half way house, asked the driver, “Do you stop at Frankford and Magee?”

The driver nodded.

The guy got on, paid his fair, and made me think, they must have a rehab place near Magee Street now. It didn’t surprise me. Rehab, halfway houses, methadone clinics. They were a growth industry in the area, along with store front churches and massage parlors.

The guy in the army jacket kept bouncing up and down, shivering, but oblivious to the trolley and its open doors. There were a number of people including myself, waiting for the express, so I figured he must be going farther north than Cottman,

The trolley was nearly filled. The driver called out, “Anyone else? Local to Cottman. Pulling out soon.”

Mr. Army jacket woke up and went over to the door.

“Do you stop at Magee?”

The driver looked at him and shook his head, “No I don’t.”

The driver shut the doors, and was getting ready to leave. I looked at Mr. Army jacket shivering and bouncing. I knew it would be twenty minutes until the next local. The guy was not dressed as warm as I was. He already looked sick. He was going to get worse. Hell, even I was starting to feel sick standing in the cold wind and rain.

I walked over to Mr. Army jacket. “Hey,” I said. “I think the driver misunderstood. That’s a local to Cottman Avenue. It stops at Magee.”

“It does?”

He walked over to the trolley door with me. I banged on the door. The driver open the door.

“Hey, I think you misunderstood him earlier.” I gestured towards Mr. Army jacket. “He wants to go to Magee. This is a local to Cottman. It stops at Magee, right?”

The driver looked at me with a frown.

“Not for him.”

Mr. Army jacket said, “What?”

“Not for you. I’m not taking you.”

Mr. Army jacket reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins.

“I’ve got money this time.”

The moment Mr. Army jacket said that, I wondered if I should have gotten involved. There was history here. Backstory that I didn’t know about.

The driver hesitated, but let Mr. Army jacket on. Mr. Army jacket dropped his coins into the fair box then went to find a seat. When he had gone the driver called out the door.

“Sir. Hey sir!”

I turned towards him. Our eyes met.

“Thanks a lot mister.” The driver looked angry. He took a small spray can off his belt and sprayed the floor next to the driver’s seat. “Thanks a lot.”

He closed the door. The trolley pulled out. I wondered, what was in that can? Was it air freshener? A comment on Mr. Army jacket’s natural perfume? Or was it mace? A threat?

I tried to memorize the trolley’s registration number to report the driver, but forgot it. I had other things on my mind by then. I was sick. Had felt it coming on while waiting in the rain for the express. After I got home and finished in the bathroom, all the details were gone. I just wanted to go to bed.

I could not remember the driver’s face so I didn’t know when I rode the 66 after that if he was ever the driver. No driver said anything to me about the incident after it happened. No driver did anything to dis me more than usual. I mean, there are always a few trolleys or buses that go by you when you’re waiting, pretend you’re not there or are moving too fast by the time they spot you that they can’t slow down. Who’s to say it was that guy or that he was worse than what you’d normally expect from SEPTA?

My father had taught me no good deed goes unpunished. A quote from somewhere, but to me it was my father talking. Did I do a good deed? Was I punished? Maybe the driver had to fumigate the trolley at the end of his run thanks to Mr. Army jacket. Maybe Mr. Army jacket coughed all over the passengers or shit or pissed himself in the back seat.

Maybe I did the right thing. Maybe I should have kept my head down and not gotten involved. It doesn’t matter now. So much sickness going around. So many places shut down. So few passengers on the trolley and El. Drivers and passengers put themselves at risk every day just to put food on table. And me? I work from home now. Non essential. Not like a trolley driver.

From my living room window I watch the 66 roll by my house on Frankford Avenue. Empty or close to it. Occasionally, I have to leave my house and take the 66 to the supermarket. Most people try to keep a safe distance. Some wear masks. The dealers no longer stand on the corner. They work out of parked cars. Wear disposable gloves. Everyone seems nicer, more polite, more considerate. Except to the homeless or dirty. They’re avoided more than ever.

There’s a supermarket near Frankford and Magee Street. Sometimes I shop there. But I also shop other places. I have not seen Mr. Army jacket since that night. I hope he’s okay. I hope everyone’s okay. The driver. Every driver. All the passengers. The dealers. The users. The homeless. First responders. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Me. Safe and warm and dry and well. At least until the governor says the emergency is over. After that we can go back to the way things were, all of us, and have fun being jerks again.

Todd Morr

Prepping My Way Back To You Babe

“What do you want?”

Joe stopped short of the porch.

“Just being neighborly. Times like this we need to stick together.”

Caleb looked down at the Bushmaster he was carrying, “I’m fine. Maybe you should worry about yourself.”

They all stopped talking as Donny’s pickup truck cruised by slowly.

Caleb pointed the gun at the young man’s truck. His girlfriend Jenny flipped them the bird before Donny sped away.

“What’s going on Pop?” Zed, Caleb’s twenty-something son who lived in the basement of Caleb’s modest home asked as he joined his dad on the porch. As he eyed Joe his hand moved to the butt of the pistol holstered by his hip.

“That lowlife Donny and his little crackwhore came cruising by all slow like they’re casing the place. Probably should have shot him.”

Zed nodded his approval.

“You still here?” Caleb said to Joe.

“I was just leaving, you stay safe.”

Caleb laughed and tapped the barrel of his rifle, “You do same, city boy.”

Joe nodded and walked away laughing a little at being called ‘city boy’. He’d been Caleb’s neighbor for over a decade.

Rob watched Joe leave. Unlike Caleb and Zed, he hadn’t been collecting weapons for the coming apocalypse. It wasn’t because he had anything against them. He just lost his enthusiasm for them after he had kids. Since home invasions happened around here about as often as anyone won the mega millions he just didn’t see the need. The Taser he had in his pocket and the baseball bat he had under the front seat of his Jeep were much more practical for everyday self-defense anyway.

Once the food riots started, however, arming oneself started making more sense. This didn’t change the fact firearms and bullets cost money Rob didn’t have.

Instead of selling his stuff, Rob started doing some scouting. He figured he’d keep his limited resources and let someone do the weapon collecting for him. It didn’t take long to find Caleb who had so many NRA bumper stickers on his truck they should have been paying him.

While scouting Caleb’s house he noticed the old man television was the same brand as his. Meaning any universal remote would operate it. Rob turned on the television through the back window and cranked up the volume.

“What the fuck did you do to my television?” Caleb asked his son, “Go fix it.”

“You’re the one who doesn’t know how to operate the remote.”

They went back and forth for a while until Caleb got sick of the noise and got up.

“Why won’t the motherfucking thing turn off?” Caleb yelled from the living room.

Zed stood and yelled inside, “You have to use the other remote. It ain’t the cable it’s the one for the television.”

“This is the remote for the television.”

Zed was thinking he was going to have to go show the old man how to fix the television when he heard a creak on the porch. He turned in time to see Rob. He never saw the taser until it was pressed against his neck.

As Rob was gently lowering Zed to the ground Caleb was saying, “Where is the other remote?”

Rob felt bad about this part but he didn’t see another way. He couldn’t afford to stockpile guns but he plenty of knives. He punched Zed in the throat with the blade and stepped back to avoid the arterial spray.

While Zed was rapidly bleeding out he took the Glock out of his holster.

Rob chambered a round and stepped inside.

Caleb heard the footsteps but he was still messing with the T.V.

“What the fuck did you do to the T.V.?” Caleb said without turning around.

Rob double-tapped him in the back. He walked over and put a bullet in the back of the old man’s head to be sure.

He dragged Zed back inside. He wasn’t worried about the law, they didn’t have food either so what people like Rob was doing out in the boondocks didn’t concern them anymore.

He picked up Caleb’s rifle and went scouting.

It didn’t take long to find a small fortune in guns and ammunition. Frankly, there was more than he could carry.

Rob was thinking he should bring his car around when he heard Joe saying, “Put down the guns.”

Rob turned to see Joe aiming a twenty-two pistol at him. He didn’t drop anything but he didn’t raise them up either.

“Why? You making a citizen’s arrest?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“I saw you scouting the house. I had a feeling this is what you were up to.”

“But you didn’t warn them?”

“Nope.”

“Why not.”

“Why do you think I saw you scouting the place?”

“You were scouting it too.”

“Bingo, I figured I’d let you do the heavy lifting.”

“What now?”

“Caleb had enough guns and supplies for ten people. I figure we can split them.”

“I killed two men for this shit.”

“How about you get first pick?”

“How about I get two thirds and first pick?”

“How about I’m the one with a gun pointed at your head?”

“Yeah, but did you cock it?”

Joe put his thumb on the hammer and pulled it back.

While he was doing that Rob raised the Glock.

Rob fired first. Joe pulled the trigger as the first bullet went through his chest.

Joe hit the ground with three big holes in his chest. Rob went over to put the finishing shot in Joe’s face.

Joe couldn’t lift his arm but he moved his wrist enough to fire his gun. He put a bullet in Rob’s neck.

It was nearly morning by the time Donny and Jenny came creeping around. Like Joe and Rob, they hadn’t been stockpiling weapons either. They’d planned to come calling around midnight after the father and son preppers were asleep but keeping track of time was never a strong suit for either of them. They didn’t really have a plan so it was nice to find the front door open and everybody dead inside.

Matthew Licht

The Anal Tits

Keli was walking down a New York street when she found an anus. She saw the anus in the gutter, the way seasoned bums spot quarters, but she didn’t pounce the way bums do. She stopped, discreetly made sure no one was around, and picked it up. The anus was about the size of a quarter, pinkish-brown, slightly puckered. Keli couldn’t tell if it was male or female.

Keli gave the anus a sniff. She didn’t want to put anything dirty in her pocket or purse. The anus looked clean. If anything, it smelled faintly and pleasantly of almonds. Keli hadn’t noticed any “Asshole-Scoop Killer Strikes Again!” headlines at the newsstands she’d walked by.

A paperboy with a maroon turban on his head whistled at her. “Goodness me! Nice ass, Miss!”

That would’ve been enough to make it a good morning. Then she found an anus.

Things hadn’t been going too well for Keli, lately. She’d broken up with her boyfriend, whom she really liked. Actually, he broke up with her, which made it even worse. Then she got fired from her job at a restaurant because some asshole customer complained he saw Keli scratch her ass before picking up his order, and didn’t stop by the washroom first to wash her hands with soap and water, as mandated by law. The customer said he was offended. He felt nauseated, he said, and not only refused to pay his bill but threatened a lawsuit. Keli was fired on the spot. OK, maybe she had scratched her ass. Everyone does, now and then. She hadn’t scratched her ass on purpose, just to be gross. Besides, she kept her ass scrupulously clean. Keli was sure her ass was cleaner than most of the customers at Marlon’s Fish Shanty.

Keli loved long, hot showers. She’d probe her rosebud with a soapy finger or two and feel it glisten, afterwards.

Keli was on her way to a job interview. There was an opening for a receptionist at a hot shot ad agency on Madison Avenue. She’d put on her most minimal mini-skirt. Her blouse was a white oxford-cloth button-down shirt from the Boys Department of a venerable menswear establishment, also on Madison Avenue. She wore it buttoned up all the way.

Keli had no bosom. She barely had nipples. Pencils laughed at her whenever she took the pencil test. Passing, in Keli’s case, would’ve meant that the pencil found somewhere to stick, for a change. The sound of pencils hitting the floor made Keli cry. Her tiny breasts swam around in padded A-cup bras from the Junior Misses department. Polite salesladies called Keli a “classic late-bloomer”, but she’d given up hope that she’d ever develop. ‘But I’ve got nice legs,’ she thought, to console herself. ‘And a great ass.”

Keli had always led a rewarding sex life. She’d been introduced to anal sex by a caring, sensitive lover, a guy she’d met on a weekend trip to Miami. But Keli knew that bustlines were important, especially for receptionists. ‘They’re the first thing a client sees,’ she thought.

‘The clients won’t be able to see my butt or legs ‘cause I’ll be behind the reception desk. If I get the job, that is.’

The starting salary was above average, and the Help Wanted ad said there were good opportunities for advancement. Advertising was an exciting field, and she wouldn’t have to deal with finicky, neurotic restaurant patrons.

Keli put the anus in her purse for good luck. ‘God,’ she thought, ‘I really hope I get the job. I want this one, bad. I need it.’

Keli got the job. The nice man in charge of human resources at the ad agency said he liked her smile and her sincere, friendly, can-do manner.

The human resources guy was gay. Keli could tell because he was a bit too neatly dressed and groomed. He also wore a rainbow lightning bolt earring and a leather bracelet that said HONCHO in silver letters. But something about the gay human resources guy really turned Keli on. She almost asked him if he’d go on a date with her, despite his being gay.

‘Now there’s a guy who could appreciate my boyish figure,’ she thought. ‘Not like that jerk Derek who dumped me ‘cause he wanted a girlfriend with big tits.’

But in the end, she decided asking the gay human resources guy out on a date wouldn’t have been professionally appropriate.

To celebrate her new job, Keli stopped by the feminist sex shoppe on her way home. The personable butch lesbian salesperson urged her to try out a new vibrator design called the Magic Bunny. When she switched it on, Keli heard a voice.

“Fuck the dumb bunny!” the voice said. “Go for the one with the anal probe. The anal probe, understand? The biggest they’ve got!”

“Excuse me?” Keli asked the salesperson.

“I said the bunny’s ears flicker and flutter the clitoral hood and upper labia, as well as the clitoris itself. The missile-shaped design provides mild, non-aggressive, non-dominant penetration, to produce a satisfying holistic orgasm experience…”

“I thought you said, ‘Fuck the bunny!’”

“Sister, if you’re going to disrespect our merchandise, or if this is your idea of a male-type come-on, I’ll have to ask you to leave our establishment.”

“I must be hearing things. I’m sorry. Please give me the one with the anal probe. No, the bigger one.”

“Uhm, this model requires a three-day waiting period. Just kidding! But seriously, what’re you doing tonight? I mean, aside from…hey, just kidding!”

Keli thought her new black dildo-vibe looked like one of the threatening new nightsticks the cops were using. The instruction manual recommended water-based lube. Lots of water-based lube. Fortunately, Keli had plenty of water-based lube. She opened a bottle, plugged in her new toy, lay back, spread wide, and was just about to blast off when she heard, “Hey! What about me? Lemme outta here! I gotcha that job you wanted, didn’t I?”

Keli thought, ‘I got a job, but I’m losing my mind. Maybe it’s because I masturbate to excess, or worry too much about my small bosom.’

“You want tits? Why’ncha just say so?”

The voice came from her purse. Keli remembered the anus she’d picked up. She went and got it.

“OK, let’s get busy, gorgeous.”

“What? You’re nothing but an anus.”

“That’s right. I am an anus. An anus is your boyfriend now.”

The anus was masterful.

Though a mere muscular ring of flesh, he loved her deep and hard. The anus understood Keli’s animalistic desires. After a long, slow series of gut-wrenching orgasms and anal-gasms, Keli thought she really had lost her mind.

“Please, sweet anus,” she begged. “I can’t cum any more.”

“Oh yeah? I was just getting warmed up. Listen, before you konk out, let’s take care of your wish. There was something you wanted…”

“Tits! Oh, I want tits, anus. I want big, flopping tits!”

“Sure you do, kid. Same as any woman does. But you know the old saying: I do something for you, you do something for me. I guess you know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh yes, lover. I mean…yes, anus. I’ll do anything for you. Anything.”

“You’d do it even if I weren’t about to give you boobs, though, wouldn’t you, Keli?”

“You know I would, anus. I’m all yours. You swim, I rim.”

“Huh?”


“Oh, I dunno. It rhymes.”


Keli said no more. She let her tongue do the talking.


Keli soon felt a tingle in her mosquito bite-size nipples. The fuzzy sensation spread to her armpits and ribcage. She licked harder. The anus moaned and cursed like a death row inmate. The swelling sensation in Keli’s upper body grew. Keli groaned, and spread her legs. She was about to cum yet again. She pinched a nipple to boost her climax, and got a handful of tit.

Slowly, without missing a tongue-lash, she brought her other hand to her chest and felt another tit, just as big and full and warm and wonderful. For the first time in her life, Keli hefted and squeezed her massive boobs. She pinched her outstretched nipples. She felt a trickle, then a squirt.

“Oh my God!” the anus said. “Look the fuck out!” 

No need to describe what happened next.

Keli took a long, hot shower and felt good as new. Since she didn’t own a bra, Keli didn’t wear one on her first day at work. She put on the loosest boy-shirt she had, but still had to leave most of the buttons undone. Newsboys, construction workers and taxi drivers whistled and hooted as Keli sloshed and bounced and sashayed up and down the streets of New York. A cop made the international jack-off gesture with his nightstick.

“Hey, doncha know you could get arrested for showing off tits that big? Huh-huh-huh…just kidding. But not really, though.”

The friendly gay human resources director at the ad agency took one look at Keli and tore off his gay earring and bracelet. He threw them in the nearest wastepaper basket. Then he tore off his shirt and tie and shredded his Stonewall T-shirt. His hairless chest rippled over 6-pack abs. He asked Keli out on a date, begged her not to take his request as sexual harassment or inappropriate, unprofessional behavior.

“Sure,” said Keli. “I’d love to go out with you.”

She didn’t think he’d mind that she already had an asshole boyfriend.

Chris Butler

Fentanyl

Snorting our lives on the mirror of time,
forced to look into one mind’s eye
line by line.

Rolled up
treasury notes,
makeshift straws,
a pocket dusted
with lint.

Lost in
a sprinkling of
fresh powder,
only illuminated by
aluminum foil
cremation.

Ammonia pneumonia
seeping down the sinuses,

nasal drippings mixed with tears
are wiped with sleeves that smear,

pock marks and acne scars
are the divots on the surface,

in order for more staring contests,
opposing myself,
ojo y ojo.

John Tustin

Drowning in a Loneliness

Drowning in a loneliness that is so blue
and so complete that it is almost beautiful.
Almost beautiful in the same way
that I am almost good.

A gurgling water that invades the mouth
and the ears and the love
and the rest of it.

How it envelops, how it consumes,
how it fogs me up like a handful of pills.

Slow bullet train wreck blinking traffic light.

Being eaten by something so completely
it doesn’t even spit out the bones.

Ingested bones of present. Bones of past.
Bones of shipwrecks and murder and shrapnel
and folly and war.

Drowning in a loneliness that is so blue
and so complete that it is almost beautiful.
Almost beautiful in the same way
that I am almost good.