Doug Hawley 

Dark And Stormy 

It was 10:11PM and the wind was raging, and the rain was frightful.  The house was shaking and creaking.  I could have tolerated it if I had felt better.  My stomach was rumbling, and I could barely keep my food down.  My intestines were as water and sweat poured down my face, even as I was chilled.  My head throbbed, though I hadn’t had a headache in years before this night. 

Even though it was taking my health both mental and physical, I must complete my task before midnight.  As much as I had tried to finish earlier and avoid the torture that would attend an incomplete job, I was thwarted by those who were supposed to support me in my quest.  Those that I had counted on were late and inadequate in their portion of the complex riddle that I faced. 

Even knowing the horrors of being late, I had to lose the torment caused by the contents of my stomach, but even that didn’t help.  My stomach continued to roil and now my discomfort was doubled by the taste of bile in my mouth and its foul stench in my nose.  Combined with the aura of my fear and horror, I was in every way a pariah. 

At 10:35 I thought that I would succeed, only to be plagued by diarrhea.  After an abbreviated cleanup, I smelled the wretched odor of my latest calamity.  By the time I could return to my task the clock showed 10:50. 

By 11:14 I felt short term triumph as I had succeeded.  Oh, but the results would ruin my life, even if I could deliver them by midnight. 

At 11:57 this broken man delivered his tax return to the post office, just in time to avoid late penalties.  In the process of finishing, I rediscovered capital gains that I had already spent.  With no time to find another tax preparer, my man Steve Hinson had to have a fatal heart attack.  With no experience in taxes, I was forced to take over the job.  I owed $5,678 to the Feds, and $2,897 to the state.  Why hadn’t my accountant warned me and why was my investment firm Grubber & Grubber so late with my tax forms?   

What bothers me most by this hit to my budget is lost time with Scherezade.  I’ve had her on retainer for several years now alternating her masochistic and sadistic sessions.  She costs a lot but is number one is so many categories.  BDSMagazine rates her at the top in all these categories – costumes, whips, dildos, vinyl, fur, torture, and pain.  Just the thought of her tightens my pants and makes my mouth go dry.  

There would be no upgrade to my three-year-old Mercedes, no dates at fine restaurants, and Starbucks visits would be cut back to four a week.  Has any man ever been as miserable?

Bruce Mundhenke

Sedalia                                             

Gail had stopped by in the evening, as he sometimes did. We sat in my back yard, drinking a beer and sharing a joint. Gail and I were both Vietnam veterans. Gail was a medic in a combat unit. We never talked about Vietnam. The whole thing was his idea. He was telling me about a three day rock festival that was to take place in Sedalia, Missouri at the state fairgrounds there. They were billing it as the Ozark Music Festival. There were supposed to be a lot of good bands there, including the Eagles, Bachman Turner Overdrive, America, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, and many more.

We agreed that we should check it out. Each of us talked to a few other people who wanted to go. Gail rented a Winnebego. We set out for Sedalia on Friday, planning to come home Sunday afternoon. On board the Winnebago were Gail, my wife and I, my friend Dave and his wife, my brother Randy and his wife, his friend Mike and his wife, and Kim and Terri, single girls a little younger than the rest of us.

We had tickets, but when we got to Sedalia, we had to wait in a very long line of vehicles, before we could get into the fairgrounds. When we got in,  we drove through “neighborhoods” of campers until we chose a spot among many types of camping and recreational vehicles.

After we parked, some of us climbed up onto the top of the Winnebego to smoke some pot and drink some beer. From the top of the Winnebego, we looked out on a sea of people, tents, and camping vehicles of all kinds for as far as we could see. Some guy with a bullhorn was hollering, “I need about 15 dozen whores over here and I need them right now.”  We were cracking up, because there were girls heading toward him from all directions. Looking out across the distance, you could see green sticks everywhere in the night. These were glow sticks. I had never seen them before and I called them green phosphorescent dildos.

Then we watched as a small car approached, weaving through the neighborhood. People were cursing at the driver loudly. When he drove by our Winnebego, we heard a kind of crunching, or snapping sound. We lost it because Mike and his wife Dawn had laid down to sleep for the night under the Winnebego.

Thank God, the asshole, who drove by and then disappeared into the crowded campground,  had run over Mike’s leg, not his head. The security carts had not all been taken over by the crowd yet that evening. We flagged one of them down and they arranged to get Mike to the hospital, where they set his broken leg.

The rest of us made our way to the area where the stage was to listen to Wolfman Jack trying to talk a guy who had climbed one of the towers into coming down. He finally did. Then the Eagles took the stage to play Take it Easy. There were a lot of fireworks.

The next day, my longtime friend Dave and I decided to go and find out what the place was all about. Dave was also a Vietnam veteran. We walked down to the grandstands. On the way we saw various vendors selling many different kinds of drugs. Some were on foot. Others were set up like concession stands, selling their wares out of camping vehicles. Many of these had lines of people waiting to purchase their drug of choice. We bought some LSD from a vendor on foot. There were many vendors like this, male and female, moving among the crowd, hawking their wares.

It was very hot. Each day we were there, the temperature was above 100 degrees. We sat in the grandstand bleachers, people watching for a while. Guys were standing on their motorcycles and riding them on the track the length of the bleachers. Finally, a guy crashed his bike. We never knew how bad he was hurt. An ambulance took him away.

We didn’t think we were getting off on the acid, so we bought a couple more tabs and did them. Both of us started laughing . A few minutes after we swallowed the second tabs, we started getting off on the first ones. We went down to the area near the stage. There was a lot of good music. Everywhere there were nice looking girls, some topless, some in bikinis, some in their underwear, most of them high. We never saw any fighting or violence that day, or during the whole festival.

On our way back to the Winnebego, we were walking along and I stopped at a lemonade stand and ordered a lemonade. I was pretty high. A shirtless guy at the stand said to his buddy, “Another stupid fucker.” Then he sprayed me in the face with a garden hose. All the food and drink stands had been taken over by the crowd the first day…

When we got back to the Winnebago, there was drama. It seems like Don, a pioneer of psychedelic drug use in our town, along with a couple of girls, had visited our group. Then he stopped back by later and said,  “I’m getting vibes that someone here is tripping.” And my wife was… Gail told me he thought Don had “tabbed” her. He never did come back again. She was not having a good experience. She didn’t much care for smoking pot. She wasn’t liking acid at all…  I comforted her and reassured her much as I could until she finally came down.

The next day, I started to use bathroom in the Winnebego, but it was occupied. I walked over to a restroom nearby to sit on the throne. I didn’t have any reading material, but there was a movie. While I sat there taking a dump, I watched girls showering. It was supposed to be the men’s room. On the way back to our group, I saw naked people wallowing on the ground near a fire hydrant they had opened. Water was gushing everywhere. I also talked with a guy who told me that on the edge of the “city,” people were having a hog roast with some pigs they had stolen from a farmer.

When we were ready to go home, there was no sign of Kim or Terri. They hadn’t been around since the day we got there. We spent a lot of time looking all over the fairgrounds for them. Most people had left by that time, but a lot of people were still milling around. As I was walking along on the track, a naked man, wearing only sandals and stoned out of his mind, walked past me mumbling, “Old Testament, man,” over and over, as National Guard helicopters flew low overhead.

Several days after we got home from the festival, we learned that Kim and Terri had been stabbed and cut many times and left for dead up near Chicago, Illinois. No one was ever prosecuted for that vicious attack.

Sometimes these days, when I think about the Ozark Music Festival, I have many wild and crazy memories. One thing I learned there is that anarchy is not a good choice for a way to live. By some estimates there were 160,000 people there. By others, 350,000. I didn’t count them. I’m glad I experienced it, but like a few other things on this journey, I wouldn’t want to do it again.

John Sweet

the death days

says that fucker camus

says the idea of ideas, and i
see what he means but i 
still believe in both words and the
silences between them

i still believe in love as something
more than some cynical
top 40 hit

and sid, who killed nancy,
or sid, who didn’t, but she’s dead either
way while the ghost of god endures

and were you drunk on the
night you pulled the trigger?

jesus

just give me a straight answer, okay?

spare me all of that
patti smith bullshit

spare me rimbaud & burroughs &
horses and all of 
that vacuous 1975 hipster crap

all of that self-righteous sanctity

what’s left at the end of each day
is a false king waiting to
rape your children

a ship filled with fire moving
slowly towards some new world

the death days, which we
always mistake for
the best times of our lives

Karlo Sevilla

Pop Poem from the Pew

The old widow in black mantilla
knelt from the black bench
near the altar and prayed the rosary.
Rumor has it she mourns
not her late husband
but the lover she had
before she married.
(Perhaps it was Rudolph Valentino.)

Her arthritic fingers, bead after bead.
Her melancholic eyes, teardrop after teardrop.
Her muttering mouth, drop after drop of blood.

When she finished her prayer,
she stood up and dropped the rosary,
shed a final fountain of tears,
drooled a gush of blood.
(The spot she left, you’d think
Jackson Pollock dropped by
and dripped his art.)

Now I don’t know her true story,
but I swear there was blood
on the church floor.
(And I heard Michael Jackson
sing his song.)

John Tustin

EYES STUCK OPEN

My eyes are stuck open.
My eyes were blue.
My eyes are marbles now.
I look like a taxidermy,
This expression frozen on my face
Almost life-like.
My stuffed body behind the glass,
Hunched over the typer,
A glass half-filled with amber
At the side,
My hair a little wet and down into 
My face.

My eyes are stuck open.
My ears rest beneath my hair.
This museum is made of paper
And there is graffiti all along her walls.

Sometimes I am alone
But I always feel like someone is watching,
Even when the lights are dimmed,
The doors locked.

I see the people who come to gawk
In the silty air of day.
I hear what they say
But I cannot reply, argue,
Confess, agree
Or refute.
None of them know who I am
But many pretend
That they do
Because it is embarrassing to be ignorant
In a place of learning
Even though to learn
Is why they came.

My eyes are stuck open.
At least where my eyes
Used to be.

Stephen Baily

BET YOU CAN’T EAT ONE

–So, madam. How long were you and your husband together before you left him?

We were married a little over two years, your honor.

—And prior to that? Did you live with him for any length of time before your marriage?

My religion forbade it, or I’d have discovered the truth about him in time to call off the wedding.

—In your petition, the reason you give for seeking release from your marital bonds is your husband’s vulgarity. Would you mind being more specific? How did this vulgarity manifest itself?

For one thing, in his way of disposing of his—forgive me, but I can’t think of a more respectable word for it—his boogers.

—Just to be clear, you refer to bits of solidified mucus picked from the nose?

That’s correct.

—And what did he do with these? Flick them on the floor?

Not that I noticed.

—Fix them to the bottom of his chair?

I never caught him doing that either.

—Then what? Surely you’re not going to tell me he ate them?

The use he put them to was even worse than that. Try to imagine how I felt when I discovered—concealed behind the curtain on the windowsill by his side of the bed—what I at first sight took to be a rather dirty ping-pong ball. Except it definitely wasn’t made of—whatever ping-pong balls are made of.

—Do I understand you to mean—?

You do, and not only did he threaten me with physical harm if I dared to throw the thing out, but he kept adding to it every day, till it grew to the size of a peach, then of a grapefruit, and finally of a basketball. It was all I could do to stop him from exhibiting it at the county fair, he was so proud of his creation.

—Something tells me this wasn’t the  extent of his offensive behavior.

Unfortunately, no. He proved to be similarly devoted to preserving his toenail clippings.

—What for? He could hardly hope to mold these into spherical shapes.

Of course not, but he was religious about storing them in an old shoe box he liked to open and sniff whenever he was feeling blue. 

—I see. And is that it?

Not quite. What repelled me about him more than anything else was—not so much the loud belches he was in the habit of emitting even in mixed company but the disclaimer he invariably followed them up with.

—Feel free to quote it for the record.  

“Pardon me, I meant to fart.”

—In light of all this, I wonder you managed to stay with him as long as you did.

What made things easier was that his job—he’s regional sales manager for Bumfree and Sons, the toilet-seat manufacturer—took him out on the road every other week. That left me ample opportunity to swap horror stories with Mr. Rubson, our next-door neighbor, who was trapped in an equally unhappy marriage.

—His wife specialized in vulgarity, too?

Just the opposite. In her morbid fear of fleas, she never let him enter the house or sit down on the sofa without vacuuming him first from head to toe.

—I assume your religion, that you spoke of earlier, prevented the relationship between you and this sympathetic neighbor of yours from crossing the line into impropriety?

Till the day we made the mistake of drinking a gallon of Chianti together. I don’t remember which of us took the first step, but Elmer had hardly begun to unbutton when we were startled by the sound of a key in the front door. 

—Why is it adultery is so prone to interruption?

I couldn’t say, but I managed to keep my wits about me and, in a flash, bundled Elmer into the closet, just before George—pale from the bug he’d come down with—entered in a sweat.

“Fix me a pot of tea, will you?”

When I returned from the kitchen with the tray, George was sitting on the edge of the bed in his BVDs, painstakingly clipping his fungus-riddled toenails.

“Do me one more favor.”

With my heart in my mouth, I opened the closet door and, crouching to remove the shoe box, observed with relief that Elmer had concealed himself so well behind the hanging clothes only the tips of his tassel-toed loafers could be seen, if you looked really hard.

“Ah, that does a body good. I think I’ll try to get some rest now.”

After I restored the shoe box to its place, I tucked him in and left the room. I was confident I’d be able to sneak Elmer out once George—ordinarily the soundest of sleepers—drifted off, but, every time I looked in, he was tossing under the covers, no doubt because of the fever he was running. Hours later, when I had no choice but to climb into bed alongside him, he opened a rheumy eye and looked at me wearily.

“Maybe if we talked a little,” he said. “Have you heard the one about the proletarian buzzard who inherits an old mansion and determines to join the upper crust?”

Like the dutiful salesman he was, George was always trying out new jokes on me, with a view to incorporating them into the line of patter he used on prospective customers. 

—That’s all very interesting, but if you could get to the point?

The point is that the first thing the buzzard does is to hire an old friend of his, a rabbit down on his luck, to help him revive the mansion’s neglected garden. 

“We’ll need fertilizer,” the rabbit says after tasting the soil. “I’ll take your new Bentley and get some.

During his absence, a camel in a tuxedo appears at the front door.

“You advertised for a but-laire?”

So aristocratic is the camel’s bearing that the buzzard at once puts him in charge of the house, before resuming his exertions in the garden. He’s busy clearing weeds with a hoedag when the rabbit, toting a heavy sack, returns and rings for admission.

 “Who the hell are you?” he demands when the butler opens up.

“I’m Mr. Ca-mel. I answer the bell for Mr. Buz-zard, who’s out in the yard.”

“Oh yeah? Well, do me a favor.”

“Certainly, monsieur, if I can.”

“Tell him Mr. Rab-bit is here with the shit.”

At this, I laughed so hard George took it for a tribute to his knack with a narrative, but the truth was I feared I’d heard giggling in the closet and was doing my best to drown it out.

—Did you succeed?

Beyond my expectations, because, soon afterwards, George and I both fell asleep.

In the morning, he was feeling so much better he let loose with a long contented fart.

“Pardon me, I meant to belch.” 

—That’ll do, madam. You can stop right there. The court has heard more than enough about your husband, and is persuaded to rule in your favor.

You’re saying my petition is granted? I’m free to marry Mr. Rubson?

—If he’s free to marry you. What happened to him anyway? Did he escape in one piece?

As soon as George bounded from bed into the shower—where I knew he could be counted on to spend at least ten minutes perfecting his yodeling—I hastened to extract Elmer from the closet.

“Poor darling, you must be starved.”

“Not a bit,” he assured me as I hurried him out of the house. “Those potato chips you smuggled in for me were delicious!” 

J.J. Campbell

floozy

she was a heavy set
blonde with curves 
in all the right places
 
piercing eyes and a
tattoo on her left foot
 
as she told my mother
about her recent cardiac
event, i was undressing
her with my eyes and
wondering if her panties
were edible
 
i’m sure she noticed me
as our eyes met once
or twice
 
she was the kind of doctor
that probably has fucked
a patient or two
 
or maybe that’s just one
too many porn movies
i have been watching
lately
 
when we got back to 
the car my mother told 
me she didn’t like her
 
i chuckled and 
said i understand
 
mom said she looked 
like a floozy
 
i laughed
 
that was exactly 
why i liked her

Scott Simmons

Tears Of An Editor 

I rejected an aspiring poet today.
There’s a bad feeling in my stomach.

Maybe it was wrong to crush their dreams.
Then I burped and now it’s gone.

I’m oh so very remorseful about it. 
Time for the next one.

Donna Dallas

Fascination Hallucination

I open up 
spill out the sea 
with it all the lies  
and all the fake leads 
float in
sand castles flattened by heavy boots 
slide down as I erode 
under your fist 

I long to be crushed by something larger 
than a tidal wave of goodbyes 
and the flaccid vacancy of hellos 

We’ve succumbed to the Netflix gods 
they seduce us with their series upon series 
I’ve yet to feel anything 
even if it’s a pin prick 

When I feel something other than numbing delight 
I’ll be sure to call you in – 
to share this fascinating hallucination 
if it takes you over 
we can plug the holes of our treachery 
with our stubbed toes 
our tears 
and our ripped $2 bill 
each torn half tucked into our wallets
centuries ago
written in black marker on each: 
when all hell breaks loose 
tape here

Daniel S. Irwin

Tuesday’s Child

Tuesday. 
I was going to kill my neighbor’s dog.
Somehow, I never got around to it
And it slipped into Wednesday
Thursday, I had lost the mood for it.
Friday, I couldn’t remember why
I wanted to do it in the first place.
The weekend was wonderfully
Wild and crazy, ups and downs,
One of the usual weekends for me.
Monday, I sunk back into normality.
Tuesday,
I was going to kill my neighbor’s dog.
Of course, I never got around to it.
That’s crazy, I’m due for a change.
Now Wednesday… by Wednesday,
I was back in the asylum by then