Bogdan Dragos

Failing Forward

in high school
he repeatedly told her
that he was saving
himself for marriage

and eventually
she left him alone
but after graduation
she approached him
yet again

and this time he told her
that he was focusing on
his career as a writer

they both had their dreams
and they kept dreaming and
fighting to accomplish them,
insisting and getting up
from every defeat

failing forward
as some would say

It took decades but
eventually both of their
dreams came true

they were married
and he still hadn’t struck a deal
with any publisher but
made a relatively okay
income self-publishing

he wrote for a very narrow niche
very trashy erotic fiction
and his lovely wife helped him
with inspiration and research

“C’mon,” he urged her,
“moan a bit harder,
cry some too.”

she did as she was told
as he went around her
with the camera

it was hard work but
at least the German Shepard
fucking her from behind
had fun

Donna Dallas

The Dead Know

Death goes unnoticed the day
your blood seeps out of
your virginity cup, the day
you lie, eagle-spread, younger
than spring, forgetting funerals
and peers and if your Momma
could just see your hips swinging, hair wet
and your face a shiny gloss like
the shellac on rosewood,
she would lift up,
dried bones and all,
to rip you out from under him.

But graves don’t talk
and the dead never
come back to mourn themselves.
If your Momma could have
scrawled one message with
grainy hands
would it have been
to save yourself—like
she did?

Matthew Licht

Sucked Into the Cult

Harry Doss was in a foul mood when he got off the flight from Houston. Fat passengers had crowded him from both sides. Infants shrieked in the rows ahead and behind. A stewardess spilled coffee in his lap. Aside from the pain and the un-businesslike stain, his cell-phone was ruined in the accident. The plane landed nearly two hours late.

He fumbled his pockets outside a phone booth in the Arrivals zone. He didn’t have enough change to make an urgent call. Harry was about to miss the most important meeting of his career.

A hooded figure swathed in sunset hues chose this moment to approach.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry Doss saw someone shove a book in his face. He wanted to lash out, or at least be verbally abusive. But when he saw her, he was paralyzed and struck dumb. He forgot his business appointment. He forgot his struggling electronics corporation. He wanted to kneel, surrender his soul and devote himself to the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

“Have you accessed the godhead today, sir? For a small donation, the Ultimate Truth can be yours. If you would only give me a few minutes of your valuable time, I can explain…”

Oh Hell yes. Harry Doss put down the germ-laden receiver he’d intended to use as a bludgeon. Instead of telephone change, he pulled business expense cash from his pocket. Twenty, forty, sixty bucks was a small price to pay for Ultimate Truth. Each additional banknote made the woman who was proof of God’s existence to shake and jiggle in surprised delight.

Harry Doss went from harried businessman to horny Everyman, eager to cheat on his wife.

Betty-Sue Doss was a good homemaker. He’d kept his promise to forsake all others, but the godhead had given a sign that his fast must end.

Harry and the cult woman went to sit in a quiet spot. She opened the book Harry had so expensively bought to a picture of a bald-headed, prune-faced gentleman with flowing gray nose-hair.

“This is Swami Vishnaswoti.” She sighed at the name, and pulled back the hood of her orange sweatshirt.

Harry looked to see whether she was blonde or brunette, and was shocked to discover she was as bald as the dude in the picture. He pictured her nude, being shaven by other saffron-robed figures in some initiation ritual, with muted drums and a droning chant.

If there was a God, Harry wondered, why should some codger with excess nose-hair get to stare at, and probably fondle, his most glorious creation.

Harry’s previous attempts at infidelity were a history of failure. Women he met on business trips and at conventions always declined his invitations to come back to a hotel room for meaningless, wonderfully mechanical adultery. One of them, when he asked her why not, said, “Oh, come on, darling. You’re the kind who always says, ‘I can’t do this. I love my wife.'”

What followed was a kiss that made Harry Doss wonder what might’ve been for months.

This time,’ he thought, ‘it’s not going to go that way.’

He dropped his voice to interrupt the flow of Swami-blab.

“What’s your name, young lady?”

“Kryst…I mean, Davadip.”

“I’m Harry. Listen, what you’re telling me is just what I wanted—needed—to hear. Our meeting is no coincidence, it’s synchronicity. I’m in a spiritual crisis. I’m lonely, Davadip. Lonely and scared of what lies ahead. Perhaps you and Swami…”

“Vishnaswoti.”

“…can relieve a troubled soul.”

Sales meetings be damned. Hello, bankruptcy court. Goodbye, wife and kids. Harry Doss, minor-league business manager, was gonna grab him some cult cunt.

They exited the airport and got into a cab.

“Kranepool Hotel,” Harry told the turbanned, bearded taxi driver. “Step on it.”

Harry’s head buzzed with visions of nude Davadip in a hotel shower stall.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “Oh my God mister, I didn’t say I was going to a hotel with you.” Davadip sounded like she was about to cry.

Harry Doss felt his spirit drain. “Oh I’m sorry. Of course not. But I swear I only want to talk to you. Tell me where we could go instead.”

“Driver, take us to the Ashkanoma Ashram. It’s at the end of Crapper Boulevard.”

But the driver refused to go to that outlandish address unless he got extra cash up front. Harry took out his wallet and was bled further. He’d have a tough time explaining these additional expenses, on top of the missed conference.

They entered a bad neighborhood. Texas Prisons looked more inviting than the Ashram. Davadip, however, sighed happily when she saw her home.

“Hurry up and get out,” the cab driver said. He threw the car into reverse and was gone.

On the dirt driveway, Harry was surrounded by hulking men in orange hooded sweatshirts. Their faces boded ill.

“Rama-lama, brothers,” Davadip said. “I’ve passed out all my tracts, gathered my donation quota, and I’ve brought a new truth-seeker to visit. Uhm, mister? I forgot your name.”

“Harry. Pleased to meet you guys, but I think I gotta go…”

He stuck out his hand for shakes that never came. Gruff voices muttered words of friendship and welcome. Strong arms embraced him, and dragged him towards the tumbledown shack made to look like some hillbilly’s idea of the Taj Mahal.

In a candle-lit darkness that reeked of incense and sweat, Harry Doss was relieved of his briefcase, then his clothes. “Hey! Knock it off!”

He stopped struggling when he saw he was being lightened and stripped by Davadip and several of her cult Sisters. Davadip looked into his eyes. “Relax,” she said. “Let go. Let it happen.”

She unzipped her sweatshirt. Harry’s mouth hung open at the sight. There was even a trickle of drool. Here body was a milky white expanse, like a glimpse of the distant Himalayas.

“Oooh look, sisters. He’s in need,” one of the cult women whispered.

“Wouldn’t he like to join with us,” said another, pushing her bosom together.

“But he’s not ready yet.”

“Aw, poor guy. Let’s give him a taste.”

Eyes can only open so wide, but Harry’s tried to break the World Record. Davadip’s squeaky voice split the air.

“Wait, sisters! I found him. That means I get to minister to him first…”

Her eyes glowed with spiritual love and bliss.

Harry Doss thought he’d died and gone to Heaven, or Nirvana, whichever was heavenlier. His brain turned itself off. He reverted to a primitive state.

“Glaah…Baaah….Phlurgle…”

Davadip eventually moved aside and let her sisters join in. What was left of Harry’s brain exploded. He saw pink visions of the Holy Ecstasy Beyond.

“That’s enough, for now,” said the senior shaven-headed Den Mother, zipping up her sweatshirt. Harry nearly broke down at the assertion.

“Bluh! Duh! Noooo!” He felt a hooded sweatshirt being pulled over his head.

“Time for you to grovel before Swami Vishnaswoti, o luckiest brother.”

“Oh it’ll blow your mind.” Davadip planted a chaste kiss on Harry’s cheek.

The men of the cult dragged him away with his orange drawstring pants around his ankles.

They dumped him on the rough floor in a dungeon rank with body odor. He heard a low hum, felt himself observed through the blackness. Someone struck a match and lit a candle, then several others. Harry saw the face of Swami Vishnaswoti.

He was even more wizened than in the photo Davadip had shown him. The Swami had grown a white mustache, Harry thought. Then he saw it wasn’t a mustache at all, but the most luxuriant nose-hair in the history of the world. The Swami’s eyes were hypnotic.

“Uh, hello,” Harry said, and instantly felt a sharp smack to the back of his head.

“Silence before the Heavenly Master.”

The Swami regarded Harry placidly. “You seem like a no-nonsense kinda guy,” he said, with a heavy New York accent.

“Uh, sure. I guess.”

“OK, I’m gonna level with you. We’re on a holy mission here, but it’s a business deal too. You start at the bottom and work your way up, through prayer and devotion to the cause. You hip?”

“Yeah. But…”

“Here’s the deal: for every hundred bucks you bring in, you get five minutes with one of the girls–your choice. I mean, it’s up to her, of course. You gotta get a sister’s consent and approval first, but you’ll find most of your new sisters to be quite receptive.”

Harry was about to say, “But I’ve got a wife and kids and a job and…”

Another thought occurred. “Business, huh? What’s in it for the girls? If this is some kind of brainwashing scam, I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Relax, hero. They’re in on the deal. For each C-note a sister brings home, she gets a personal worship-session. And for every dupe… that is, for every new devotee a girl converts, she gets to enjoy Holy Communion with the Master. And that’s me, baby.”

Harry snorted.

The Swami chuckled, his nose hair twitched.

“How ’bout a little demonstration? Been a slow day. Brother Hasham, go fetch Sister Davadip. This dude’s not official yet, but let’s say he counts.”

“Yeah, o master.”

The Swami slowly unwound himself from his lotus position. “Feel free to join in,” he said. “With the chant, I mean.”

The drone grew louder. Harry’s eyes adapted to the eerie candlelight.

A sitar twanged. Muffled drums beat. Harry Doss thought of the business conference going on without him, of his wife Betty-Sue living out her daily routine. Then Davadip entered the basement and Harry thought no more.

“O Divine Teacher, thank you for this most sublime opportunity.”

The Swami gave a curt wave. “Shake it, baby.”

Davadip began to dance. Her sweatshirt fluttered in the air as she leapt and flew all around. By the time she finally bared it all, there wasn’t much left of Harry Doss besides a pile of volcanic ash.

Dewy with sweat, Davadip approached the Swami.

Vishnaswoti leaned back against a brocade cushion and let his devotee have her way.

The chant grew louder.

“Rama-lama! Looba-gabba!”

Harry Doss joined in like a zombie.

“Rammalamma! Loobagooba!”

The show was disappointing. If Harry Doss had been in his ordinary state of mind, he would’ve thought, ‘Big deal.’ But Harry Doss wasn’t in his ordinary state of mind. He was chanting at the top of his lungs.

You might see Harry Doss—he goes by Hare Das these days—at an airport or a street corner near you. His eyes shine with missionary zeal. He is a forceful proselytizer. The first time he brought a hundred dollars back to the Ashram, Davadip told him she knew he could do better. So he’s working on bringing in a cool thousand. He knows he’ll get to Heaven one of these days. The Master told him so.

Anthony Dirk Ray

The Taylor

I once thought I was in love with a whore
she was married and fed me lies
tales of a separation and divorce
I was a slave to the cunt
a slave to that cunt
many times stuck by the phone
waiting on her call
only to be let down
defeated
demasculinized
a beefcake turned into a cupcake
without a ringing call
this time was to be different
we set up a meeting at the Taylor Motel
a lowlife
low down motel
low on the totem pole of said establishments
I had a few pre-rolls of weed ready
and picked up a twelve pack of some kind of beer
she said she’d call at ten
I got to the Taylor at nine
ready to get the fuckfeast started
I got the key
parked
and headed toward the room
just before I reached the door
an old
white
wrinkled crackhead
with glasses and no bra
asked if I needed help with the beer
I politely told her no
that I was waiting on someone
as I entered into the disheveled fuck shack
I cracked open a few cans in preparation
and waited
and waited
and waited
that fucking bitch
that fucking bitch did it again
and then I regretted not sharing my beer
with the braless
four-eyed
crackwhore

John Grey

Funeral Home Art Space

To our way of thinking,
a dead body is a canvas,
and I am an artist,
replacing blank expression
with, my mood for the day,
coloring the cheeks purple
if that’s how my palette desires it,
and the lips,
the brightest shade of gold.
Some family members
are shocked at the result.
That’s no different
from every other great art movement
from Impressionism to Dada.
One of my partners is a sculptor.
He’s been known
to transpose the eyes and the mouth
if that’s what his muse demanded.
Another is more of a gourmet.
His recipes are such
that even I draw the line.

Hank Kirton

Elmer

So, at the plump, achieved age of forty-eight I decided I wanted an imaginary friend. I’d never concocted one as a child so I had to make up for lost time. I would have to invent one from scratch. I couldn’t just fetch a lovable character from my past and dust him off, dress him up, make him new. I also didn’t need an invisible playmate. That wouldn’t work anymore. It was far too late. The meager imagination of my youth had rusted to dust. It was just as well, I held no interest in running around the yard or building forts with cushions. I needed a friend who would be roughly my age—40-50, with similar interests. I would need a list of characteristics.

I didn’t want a lovable animal or fanciful creature. No friendly monsters or fairies or winged entities of any kind. I wanted a middle-aged humanoid.

And he should be a man, like me.

The first thing I came up with was the name. Mr. Elmer J. Walters. The name was based on nothing and no one but it held a vaporously familiar ring. Or not quite a ring. Maybe a chime. One note of a tiny chime nearly erased by long rain.

I gave Elmer a career, made him a press agent. He helped publicize plays and operas and symphonies. I’d always had an unhealthy attraction to show business. Elmer would satisfy that. He’d give me entrée into that footlighted headspace. I decided he should also be a former actor. He had a talent for Shakespeare and trod the boards around the globe.

Elmer was a widower. His wife Theresa died of consumption in 1918. That was another thing. Elmer lived in the Roaring Twenties. He wore a tweed three-piece suit, long coat, bowler hat and two-tone oxfords. He smoked Murad cigarettes and had syphilis. He was violent when he got drunk. Because of his Broadway connections he was able to get his hands on good Canadian whiskey. Sexually, he was a prism. He lived in New York City (as did I) and after a performance he would slip into the night and murder prostitutes with a piano-wire garrote.  As soon as the struggling ceased, Elmer would flee into the shadows. Once at home, he’d drink whiskey and cry until dawn finally broke open his moaning head. Then he would masturbate and insert sewing needles into his scrotum. He often fantasized about eating human flesh and would cut sections of epidermal skin from his thighs and consume them, pretending it was the flesh of his mother, Hattie Walters. Hattie, a bitter, abusive hysteric could be an imaginary friend in her own right.

At a blind tiger one night Elmer got into a drunken knife fight with a longshoreman named Chester Pough. Chester stabbed Elmer in his right eye, making him half-blind for the rest of his life. Elmer wore an eye patch over his tough, scarified eye socket. At the age of 48, Elmer finally succumbed to his dripping syphilis and died penniless in a boarding house in Jersey City.

Elmer is now a woeful ghost and we drink brandy and smoke cigars at night.

I finally have my imaginary friend.

***

From: Everything Dissolves

Michael D. Amitin

Watching the Pigeons Fuck

Monmartre
We were to meet in the square
Share a drink, two wayward poets
Words a pony ride to the stars

She a mover and shaker on the big top scene
We’d barely ordered our café’s
She hit the
‘Every stroke of bad luck I’ve ever had’

I hung in there cursing my yawns and groans
The story grew legs, tired bones, achy saddles
My eyes drifted

An ephiphany
I saw it
On a balcony across the rue
Bright as the blue day
Two pigeons fucking like
Humping train lanes, pigeon style
A mile a minute
Slipping her the big carrier..
And after awhile

I returned with a ventiloquist’s smile
Didn’t want to miss the bad news crescendo

On a deep blue sea without a raft
She continued the rattle
For minutes or years

She has so much to give the world
So much of me, she says, and then there’s me
And me too

The pigeons fornicated mightily
Beethoven’s 9th
The whole thing came to a roaring climax
Saved by the bill

Jacky T

The Gift

The worst thing about being a male eunuch is the rehearsals. Castrati must spend hours on pre-warm-ups, warm-ups, travel to and from various churches and halls. The adherence to a busy schedule and strict routine is maddening.

You are supposed to maintain the passion to be the best, a drive to succeed, push for excellence, all when you don’t have the balls for it.

To us, the gift of a wondrous pre-pubescent voice merely becomes a forgettable byproduct. Like most in the possession of a natural gift, we learn to unlearn its virtues. Most of us even forget how lovely we sound to others, as we spend our time bitching about the choirmaster’s demands. Tuneless and without gaiety, we complain to each other and bond on this alone. The one time we feel in harmony.

Ernesto Tomasini, long past his glory days of song, came to our local church once to deliver a motivational speech. From the pulpit in a now bland alto he confessed to us confused pre-teens, “I regret not having been castrated, I would have perfectly happily given up my masculinity for my art.” We didn’t know whether he was making a morbid joke or was just that deluded in his fanaticism for the castrati of old.

Your masculinity, dear Ernesto, is exactly what drives you to make such entitled statements.

Granted, as he left the stage we shot daggers at him, but no one went as far as to cut him down to size.

In contemporary times, we are a rare bunch. Some of us are still deliberately created. A fanatic father who fancied his historical predecessors (in name only) constructing the end of a lineage. Men bearing the famous eunuch names of Broschi, Moreschi or Majorano.
These contemporary men who wished to bring a classic artist into the world; a martyr class for the arts. More assured than dollars and time spent on a child at a piano who may just end up chasing girls, they proceeded with the sharpest tutelage.

No wonder most of us possessed such an acerbic wit.

The lack of proper endocrinological function in these castrated boys would lead to some physiological changes that assisted our renowned sound. The rib cage would bulge, unmarred by the hardening of bone that comes from correct androgen hormonal balance, allowing extended notes to be held. The vocal cords would remain stunted in their growth, halting the formation of an adult male. It was an imperfect science of crafting the perfect singer’s body.

Others, like myself, were erected by accident.

St. Paul, the most famous of Apostles, was initially a persecutor of Christians… before seeing the light of how fun organisational bureaucracy could be. In his direct angry letters to the Corinthians, he clearly outlines an edict for the ages, mulier taceat in ecclesia, “women should be silent in church.”

Under a roof as devoutly splendid as the Sistine Chapel’s, adhering to the big daddy Apostle Paul was a must. So up until 2017, only males were to sing in the church’s choirs to preserve piety in the performance. But who was going to nail those vocal ranges of a contralto or mezzo-soprano that women did so deftly?

By the 1600s, we were essential to the success of any opera in Italy. Without us, you wouldn’t even get a write up in the local paper. They needed a famous face, puffy and pious, glossed in makeup, staring back from the poster. An Italian opera without a boy’s bloated frame clad in women’s dress, gangly limbs flopping alongside was an omission of the finest treasure of all. Yes, we were known to possess an inhuman artistic wonder no other could compare to.

One of the other boy’s fathers, a proud Italian-Australian man said to me once. ‘You are the lucky ones! People are automatically moved when you sing!’
He, of course, was referring to ancient times when we were lauded in opera seria for our especial voice. ‘You deliver visions of heroic virtue!’ He continued, gesticulating with pinched fingers.

He didn’t mention how we were mocked openly for our odd appearance and uneducated stage presence. The latter felt the only thing I knew to be automatic.

Over time we became more of a myth to those not in the know, as the practice was becoming unfavourable in a more humane world. Like messa di voce, where a note begins very softly and subtle, rises to an orgasmic climax and then fades away into obscurity, thus was our path.

By the 1800s in Italy, though publicly we were paraded for our virtuous voices, the creation of our lucky caste was hidden from even the most erudite private eye.

The most respected musicologist of the times, Charles Burnley writes:

“I enquired throughout Italy at what place boys were chiefly qualified for singing by castration, but could get no certain intelligence.”

Everyone passed the buck it seemed. They wanted the beauty without the barbarism.

He goes on to lament the fact that the castration didn’t even lead to an angelic voice most the time, ‘at least without one sufficient to compensate such loss.’ The practice made worse to him by the fact he found many cases where the boys simply sounded awful, their voice a moot point.

Thanks Uncle Charlie, I’ll stay in tune for you.

So here I drive, in 2020, (a year that rings like a sci-fi future has arrived) to an audition, myself part science experiment, partly fiction.

Today I will audition for a role in Il pomo d’oro, ‘The Golden Apple’, to compensate for the lack of one in my throat. I will try for the part of l’Elemento Del Foco, ‘the Element of Fire’, to mock the tiny ember of my own desire.

As well as my own castrati brethren, I will compete against the Jarousskys of the world, sopranists and countertenors mimicking our sacrifice. Men with their vas deferens still intact who have perfected the art of imitation of what came so unnaturally to us.

My Father’s words ring truer than ever. I can picture him as he says it. A scrapbook clipping that appears every time I utilise my talent. I watch him as a 7-year-old, as he drags on a cigarette and tries to re-order a deck of bent cards by suit. As much interested in unique metaphors as praise, he scowls at me.

‘Play the cards you’re dealt, boy.’

A tired cliche, fit for all the tired tropes I live.

I hope I get the part. I’ll sing my heart out for my Father, his drunken wrist & cruel blade.

What else am I gonna do with this gift?

Ben Newell

soft nudes cover image

Southern Belle from Hell

Gary Lombard’s “Lust Vengeance of the Rebel Wanton”
From Soft Nudes for the Devil’s Butcher (Deicide Press 2014)

Take novelist Jennifer Hills from Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, transport her back in time to the American Civil War, and you’ve got an accurate portrait of Charlotte Randolph, the protagonist/femme fatale in Gary Lombard’s “Lust Vengeance of the Rebel Wanton.” Originally published in the May 1961 issue of Man’s Story, this piece of historical sleaze fiction pulls no punches. The Union may have won the war, but this Southern belle claims many a battle as she seeks revenge for the destruction of her beloved South. Using her nubile, twenty-two-year-old body as bait, Charlotte lures many Union soldiers to their deaths, severing countless Yankee cocks with impunity.

While Zarchi’s leading lady is brutally raped by a crew of rednecks, Charlotte narrowly escapes the same fate, bayoneting her attacker before slashing a second soldier in the process of torching the family mansion. This graphic scene opens the story, dropping us in the middle of the frenzied action as our highly capable heroine flees a fallen Atlanta: “Drunken Union soldiers emerged from the surrounding houses, their arms laden with silver, clothing, liquor and every other bit of finery they could carry.” A brief flashback follows, providing an economical character sketch of Charlotte which blasts the stereotype of the helpless, brain-dead Southern Belle. Charlotte may be young and beautiful and privileged, but she is also “something of a spitfire, delighting in breaking a full-blooded stallion or a hot-blooded man to her will.” Full of spunk (pun intended) even before the Civil War, the horrors of the conflict have made her even more fiery and determined.

Charlotte’s third kill is rendered in a fully developed scene, an effective set piece in which we witness her modus operandi. Standing on the side of a dirt road, brazen and none too subtle (the rural equivalent of a 42nd St. hooker), she works her magic on a “half-drunk scout of the Third Illinois Brigade” who just happens to cross her path. Like a charismatic Ted Bundy convincing a coed to hop in his car, Charlotte dupes the horny solider with ease, bringing him back to her room at a nearby wayside house where the clothes come off. On the cusp of getting some prime Southern snatch, the Yankee soldier can hardly believe his good fortune; until his seducer’s mask comes off and she reveals her true nature. The bayonet comes out of hiding and Charlotte proceeds to butcher her beau with unchecked savagery: “Not satisfied with feeling the sharp blade sink into his unsuspecting back, Charlotte did other things to him before death closed in on the soldier. She howled with glee as she removed the last vestiges of his manhood.”

As if slicing the poor guy’s salami weren’t enough, Charlotte claims his Joanne rifle and heads east, leaving “butchered cadavers” in her wake. Baffled by the growing body count, the Union forms special task forces to hunt down the mysterious offender, a genuine serial killer in their midst. The final showdown occurs in an Augusta farmhouse where Charlotte has lured her final victim, a deserter being pursued by “Sherman’s marauding forces.” After spotting the fugitive entering the farmhouse, a lieutenant fires a warning shot into the air, triggering a blazing exchange of gunfire between Charlotte and the soldiers. She puts up one hell of a fight, repelling her adversaries as long as she can before eventually succumbing to their military might. Of course the soldiers are shocked when they enter the farmhouse and behold the grisly tableaux: “The deserter’s corpse lay on the bed, its arms wide flung, blood covering its obscene wound.” Compounding their confusion is the rifle-clutching young lady by the window, beautiful but decidedly dead. It’s unclear whether Charlotte shot herself, or was killed by her foes, a dash of ambiguity to conclude an otherwise straightforward revenge story.

Read it, get tanked on Southern Comfort, and crank up Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

***

Can’t track down this issue of Man’s Story?

Hell, I couldn’t either.

At least not an affordable one.

Luckily Lombard’s tale is included in Soft Nudes for the Devil’s Butcher (Deicide Press 2014), a fantastic collection of features, fiction, and illustrations culled from men’s adventure magazines. Highly recommended.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Women Always Leave Me

 She was putting on her jacket getting ready to head out.

“Where did I put my goddamn keys?” she hollers from the other room.

I was sure her question was rhetorical so I didn’t answer, fearing I might receive a response marinated in anger. I just sat on the couch and continued watching TV. Next I could hear her throwing shit around the kitchen, shouting profanities, pounding on the countertop, all of this accompanied by intermittent groans of frustration.

“Have you seen my keys?” she whines, her voice resonating throughout our small apartment. “I could’ve sworn I just had them…”

Suddenly she’s standing right before me, and blocking my view of the set.

“Are you gonna answer me?” she demands. “What’s your fucking problem?”

Now it’s obvious the question was intended for me to respond.

“No love, I haven’t seen them,” I reply, adopting a sympathetic tone. “Would you like for me to help you look?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much of a chore.”

As I get up to assist in her search, she goes to turn off the TV, to ensure I won’t be distracted. As slaps the power button, we both the familiar jingle of keys as they drop from her hand onto the floor.

“I believe I’ve solved the mystery of where your keys are,” I say while laughing. “They’ve been in your hand this whole entire time. I’ve done the same thing more than once myself. It’s your mind playing tricks on you, letting you know that you’re only one step away from insanity.”

“It’s not funny,” she snaps. “So you’re saying I suffer from some type of mental deficiency?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. All I was trying to do…”

“I’m sorry,” she says. “Just having one of those days when everything feels off-kilter. And no, don’t you dare ask if I’m on my period!”

“When have I ever acted in such an insensitive manner?” I ask. “You talk to me as though I’m some college frat boy. A dim-witted  shit for brains with the manners of an inbred hillbilly. What have I done, or most likely not have done, to cause you to treat me with such contempt?”

“Santi, I need to know what we’re doing!” she says. “Where we’re going? There’s no plans for our future. It’s the same routine over and over. It’s no fun anymore. Are you going to be a drug-crazed addict your entire life? Are we going to stay together? Do you love me?”

“Jesus Christ Jess, which question do you want me to not have an answer for first? Come here, sit down. Let’s talk about this and see if we can possibly come up with some answers to your questions.”

“Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to pull that shit on me! I know exactly what you’re doing, you silver tongued con-man. I’m savvy to your used car salesman pitch. I’ve witnessed you convince someone you owed money into not only feeling guilty for asking for payment, but they end up lending  you more on top.”

She had me pegged. I’d planned to sweet talk her into a state of tranquility, knowing that eventually she’d drop the subject.

“Jessica, why the hell are you still here with me if you’re so displeased by our current arrangement? You act as though it’s a deplorable lifestyle and I’m the cause for your every touch of sadness. There aren’t any bars or chains preventing you from leaving. You’re not a hostage or prisoner being kept against your will. You can’t just bushwhack me with all these questions, expecting me to have answers for the future. I’m not a fucking psychic. If you’re unhappy with me and the way things are, put your ass on the tracks, leave, take the Midnight Train back to Georgia and your ex-husband. There won’t be any hard feelings or harsh remarks whatsoever.”

“But Santi, I love you… Why can’t we live a normal life and be happy, grow old together? We could travel through Mexico, Central and South America like you promised. Your addiction is out of control and getting harder for us to afford. I’m not peddling my ass on the street anymore and I want you to get clean. Is that too much to  hope for?”

Honestly, I didn’t know how Jessica had tolerated this lifestyle for as long as she had. I would’ve laid odds she’d have been a memory long time ago already.

Women always leave me. I’ve had dogs that stayed with me longer than any woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. If I wasn’t so sure they’d been to blame in most instances, perhaps I’d start to consider that I might be the reason for their departure.

“The only normal I’m aware of is in Illinois,” I tell her, “and no way I’m going back there. I’m not saying our lifestyle is typical behavior, but you knew the circumstances before getting involved. I’m correct, right?”

For some unknown reason, women make it their priority to change a man after becoming romantically involved. They don’t fall in love with the man you are but with the man they want you to be. She knew what the box contained before she opened it. I’m aware that I may not be a dream gift, although I’m certainly not a consolation prize either. My baggage has always been perfectly transparent. I’ve made no excuses for my indiscretions or for relationships that have gone awry in the past. True, I may be far from perfect, and possibly a bit crazier than most would care to realize, but I am what and who I am.

“I know, Santi,” she says. “I just never thought I’d ever feel the way I do for you now. You’re so smart, you’re funny and make me laugh. You have so much potential and it hurts me to see you wasting it. Plus, you’re easy on the eyes, even good looking I’d say most of the time.”

“Saying ‘you have potential’ is just another way of saying ‘you’re not as dumb as you look.’ I don’t know what you want from me. What do you want me to do? I’m not going into another rehab program. Rehab is for quitters, and I’m no quitter!”

“How can you joke at a time like this?”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got a question for you. Why do you have all those keys? Did you buy a car? Get a job as a maintenance woman or a real estate agent or something? And where are you heading off to this early in the morning?”

“Early in the morning? It’s five in the afternoon, dumbass, and I’ve been working at Jeff’s Pub for the last five days. I told you I quit being a prostitute. I have the keys because I open and close the bar sometimes. Oh yeah, and Jeff doesn’t want you to come in when I’m working. You forgot I was working there, didn’t you? Perfect example of your apathy concerning our relationship.”

“I didn’t forget, I’m just unable to recall.”

“Ya, I’m sure. I’ve gotta go, babe. Don’t go pawning the TV for dope! I bought it so we could watch movies together. Well, so do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you love me?”

“Did you misplace your keys again? This all started because you couldn’t find your keys. Let’s not go through this again. Yes, I love you.”

She gives me a long sweet kiss goodbye and sashays out the door.

I entered a rehabilitation program two days later. Jessica came to visit on Wednesdays and Sundays, but after about a month she never returned. I stayed for ninety days and got clean. Entered a halfway house, but that’s the worst place to attempt to quit using. The main goal for most residents is to go on getting high while hiding it from the administration, so I left after a week because I wanted to stay clean.

I never heard from or saw Jessica again. Later Jeff told me she ran off with the apartment manager, Harry, Larry, Terry or whatever the fuck was his name.

Women always leave me.