Noel Negele

You have to have some good reasons to love yourself otherwise you’re just licking your own asshole

“This is 500mg’s each, take with caution”

He said with a grin.

It was a good and rare
sunny September day 
here in northern England,

People wore t-shirts and shades
and bermuda shorts 
and they smiled and strolled around
as pasty as an all-white toothpaste 
getting redder and rawer by the second
and they drank pints of beers
and their laughter was loud but well hearted
as people entered shops
and got out of them carrying bags,
and at the town center 
a Gypsy dressed as a Native American
was whistling one wooden type of
musical instrument or another
which made me laugh 
and I threw a pound in his box
and decided to take a second Gummy Bear.

I had two bags
on the left back pocket.
Each contained six of these things
and the bags are small
and child-like in color,
and it would be unsuspecting
to any decent passing folk that I was
gulping down 500mg more
of weed in me at that moment.

Later that afternoon
I was with a friend at a fancy pub
at some place or another
( I never contain names of places )
And I ordered a cocktail 
taking down two more of these things
finally thinking agitated by the possibility 
of these things being fake
and how much I loathe violence 
in general.

On my second cocktail
I decide to enter the pub 
myself and I start flirting 
with the bartender as I guide
her to make my Paloma cocktail—
she’s this wide shouldered younger girl
with nice blonde hair, a pleasant eagerness 
to her movements and all smiles.

I decide to ask for her number.

It’s midnight and I wake up
at a train going to
Manchester.
I don’t remember much, but flashes
of me stumbling and my friend
asking me if I’m alright.

All my belongings are with me,
even my shades,
tucked on the collar of my
all too plain black t-shirt.
Everything but the bartender’s number
and a train ticket.

I take the last two gummy bears
I have left on me
so that I don’t have to stress about 
a possible train fine
and I lean myself cozy and tired
against the vibrating window
and I see nothing 
but absolutely nothing
on the other side,
only my own drowsy reflection 
trying to avoid itself—
and sometimes the random street lamp
is some field, across some road
shading light to something 
lonely-feeling like a small brick bridge 
over an unused railroad
or a glimpse of it through
some black and much too thick woods—
and then
absolutely nothing but darkness again
and my own face again 
realizing I’ll have to spend the night in Manchester 
and leaning deeper into the seat
and out of the view of my reflection.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Woolly Bully

I was on a fishing trip with the Old Man and my Uncle Johnny when I was eleven, around the time I was starting to think for myself. Uncle Johnny wasn’t really my uncle but was the husband of my mother’s cousin. I was told to call him Uncle Johnny, so I did as I was told. He was a good-natured guy who told hilarious stories from his days as a “bag man” for the Chicago Mob. He also had incredibly large ears, which is why I believe he’d inherited the nickname “Eavesdropper,” which was shortened to just “Dropper.”

We had stopped at a roadside cafe on our way to the Wisconsin fishing hole, which  was unusual because the Old Man hated to stop or take a break from driving. Once we were on the road, that was it, express from start to finish. Memories of family vacations driving long distances always included having to pee in a plastic bottle. He wouldn’t even stop for my mother, when she needed to go, making her wait for a gas station instead. She later got a bedpan from her friend that worked at the hospital. My younger sister always wet her pants on vacation road trips. Then the Old Man would start hollering at my mother, saying it was her fault for letting my sister drink too much water. 

My older brother was quite an inventor and devised a contraption made from a piece of hose. It had a metal funnel on one end to pee into and the other end he hung out the window. I thought it was brilliant, but unfortunately it would flush back if you didn’t piss down the hose. And when he finally did succeed in pissing downward, the piss was swept up by the wind and got my Old Man’s arm hanging out the window all wet. That was the end of the “Easy Pisser.”

Anyway, Uncle Johnny wanted to get some lunch and liked the rhubarb pie at this particular cafe near Janesville. So the Old Man gave into his request after arguing about it for twenty minutes.

Johnny gave me fifty cents for the jukebox and the Old Man matched his donation. 

“What do you want me to play?” I asked.

“Play whatever you want! I don’t care,” Johnny replied.

“Ya, whatever you want,” the Old Man begrudgingly agreed.

I knew better and I don’t know what made me think I could actually play whatever I wanted, but I gave it a shot.

I made the mistake of playing “Wooly Bully,” which pissed the Old Man off. He thought Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs were all black musicians, when actually they were all white guys.

My Old Man was a racist down to his Catholic soul and hated Blacks. He always used the ‘N’ word. I never found out the reason why.

“What the fuck you wasting my money on?” he hollered. “Wooly Bully, what is that shit? You’re not supporting a bunch of niggers with my fucking money.”

He got up and pulled the plug on the jukebox. Then he slapped me on the back of the head.

“What the hell are you thinking? Dumbshit!”

“Hey take it easy on the kid,” Uncle Johnny said. “He didn’t do anything wrong. You said he could play whatever he wanted. What’s wrong with you?”

I’d never seen anyone stand up to the Old Man before and was even more surprised by his reaction.

“Ya, well he knows better than to play that shit.”

“Relax, take it easy. This is a fishing trip to get away from all the stress. Come on, give the kid a break.”

Now I believe the reason my Old Man didn’t give it to Uncle Johnny is because he was connected, a “made man,” and you don’t want to be screwing around with the Italians.

I ordered a cheeseburger, which pissed the Old Man off even more because they charged an extra fifteen cents for a single slice of cheese. After my Old Man bitching about the overpriced cheeseburger, my Uncle Johnny bought me a piece of rhubarb pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It was excellent. 

After finishing our meal, Uncle Johnny lit up a cigar, which caused the Old Man to start bitching about the smell and laying down the law about smoking it in the car. The Old Man chain smoked cigarettes like a convict, of course, never considering anyone else’s feelings. 

“Come on John, let’s get on the road.” 

“Right behind you. Come on Santi.”

“Why do you call him that? His name is Judge. He’s going to be a big shot lawyer someday.” 

Unfortunately, he had no idea I would end up appearing before so many judges in my lifetime.  

We stood at the counter, waiting for the waitress to come with our bill. I could feel the tension stretching  thinner and thinner, like a rubber band getting ready to snap. Johnny was eyeing some Payday, Hersheys and Milky Way candy bars while the old man grew more impatient. I heard Johnny quietly humming before he suddenly started singing and dancing around all nutty and crazy like, “Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully. I kinda like that song. It sticks with you, huh Santiago.”

“I guess so?” I replied. He had me laughing, causing me to forget all about the jukebox incident.

“Excuse me miss,” the Old Man shouted at the waitress. “I’d like to pay the bill and get on the road, if you don’t mind?”

She walked over, glaring as she slapped the bill down on the counter in front of him.

“Guess she doesn’t want a tip, acting like that,” he said to the cashier.

She never said a word, just handed him the change. He walked out in front of us as we followed, but before exiting I saw Uncle Johnny throw a five spot on the counter.

On the side of the restaurant sat an old black man with a guitar, playing and singing some gospel music. I have always been attracted to music. Any type of music. I ran over to the raggedy old man and he gave me a toothy grin. I had seventy-five cents left that I didn’t put in the jukebox, which I threw into the hat sitting next to him.

“Now you’re trying to piss me off,” the Old Man screamed, grabbing my arm and dragging me back to the car. “Why are you giving that bum money? He’s probably a drunk and will spend it on booze.”

“I hope so,” I wanted to say but knew better.

I never wanted to go on this fishing trip in the first place, but Uncle Johnny thought it would be nice to spend time together. He liked me and always gave me a Christmas and birthday present. So I thought it was the right thing to do.

“Now check the boat trailer and the shit in the boat,” the Old Man ordered. “Make sure everything is okay. Go on ya little shit!”

I don’t know what got into me then, but it was to be my first act of retaliation against the Old Man. I walked around the back of the car while he was checking under the hood, unlocking the hitch on the boat trailer. 

“Looks good Dad!” I yelled as I got in the car.

“Here, got us some candy bars,” Uncle Johnny said, handing me three Milky Ways. “They were free just sitting there.”

“Uncle Johnny, did you pay for these? “

“Believe me Santiago I’ve paid, I’ve paid.”

He gave me his signature wink and a smile, rubbing the top of my head affectionately.

It was a few miles north of Madison when the boat and trailer finally went off the side of the road. It crashed into the trees, flipping several times before its fiberglass body shattered to pieces.

We ended up fishing from the shore, but surprisingly we caught a large amount of walleyes and crappies. The Old Man never confronted me about the boat. And I never offered an explanation. 

Whenever Uncle Johnny saw me after that trip, he gave me a secret wink and then he’d  start singing, “Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully.”

I think he knew.

Ben Newell

Pulled Pork

“That’s right, asshole,” Deputy Buddy Turnage muttered around a considerable chaw, “just turn that hippie van around and get the fuck out of here.  Go find someplace else to drink your beer and smoke your pot and throw your goddamned Frisbee . . .” 

His Caprice cruiser baked in the late afternoon sun, baked like chicken at the entrance to the park, a source of comfort for families and law-abiding folks looking to enjoy the beautiful spring day, an effective deterrent for the hard-partying crowd seeking diversions of a less than savory nature.  

Turnage raised a plastic cup to his mouth and unleashed a torrent of brown spit.  Eyes concealed behind mirrored aviators, he watched the van with satisfaction, smiling as the long-haired driver executed a U-turn in the parking lot and headed back to the highway.  

No doubt the long-haired driver and his long-haired commie freak friends were up to no good.  Otherwise they would’ve come right on in, easy as you please.  Good old fashioned police presence had put the kibosh on their plans.  As well as the sign recently posted at the entrance gate:  NO COOLERS ALLOWED.  The sign had been his idea.  A mighty fine one, too.  Now troublemakers had to go somewhere else to get their kicks, preferably across the county line where they would be somebody else’s headache.    

Turnage’s stomach growled.  His was a large stomach, an incredibly bloated belly which stretched the seams of his shit-brown uniform shirt.  He ate garbage and hadn’t gotten a lick of exercise since his high school football days.  Dr. Buckhalter had given him a stern warning at his last checkup.  “You’re a heart attack waiting to happen,” the doctor had said.  Turnage had promised to do better.  

But damn if those jumbo pulled pork sandwiches heaped with coleslaw down at Dax’s Drive-In weren’t the closest thing to heaven on earth.  In fact, he could go for one right about now.  The iced honey bun he had washed down with his morning coffee had worn off hours ago.  He needed fuel to get through the remainder of his shift.

Turnage cranked the cruiser and pulled out onto the highway.  He wasn’t even halfway to Dax’s when his mouth began to water. 

***

After eating lunch Turnage had spent the afternoon running radar on the short stretch of I-20 within his county, a fruitful undertaking as he had netted three speeders and helped a stranded motorist with a flat tire.  Now, fresh wad of Beech-Nut tucked in his jaw, he returned to the park at the brink of dusk, one final drive through before heading back to the station.  

The parking lot was empty.    

With one exception.  

Turnage grinned when he saw the hippie van.  

He wheeled in beside it and climbed out of his cruiser, hitching his trousers as he walked to the rear of the van and saw the California plate.  

Should’ve known, he mused.  

Land of fruits and nuts.  

He walked around and peered through the passenger side window.  Nothing incriminating within view.  But that didn’t mean diddly squat.  He could see them down there by the lake, a group of five long hairs with their backs turned to him.  They hadn’t even seen him pull in.  At least he didn’t think so.  Probably stoned out of their gourds, he thought.  Well, this was his park, a family-friendly park, and that kind of thing just couldn’t be tolerated, not on his watch.   

Turnage stepped off the asphalt and descended the grassy embankment.  It wasn’t steep, but his knees popped just the same.  The hippies were some sixty yards away.  Turnage walked with purposeful strides.  One of them turned around when he was halfway there, setting off a chain reaction.  Turnage saw pale faces framed with long, stringy hair parted in the middle. 

He reached the party and stopped, towering above them with his hands on his hips.  His smile became a sneer when he saw their red and white Coleman cooler.  

“Can you folks read?” he asked.  

“We can read.” 

Their spokesman, Turnage thought.  He saw three men and two women.  They looked older than he had suspected.  These weren’t college kids.  And that made it worse.  These folks should know better.  Strangely enough, he didn’t see any beer cans, nor did he smell the pungent odor of weed.  The speaker and one of the women were smoking cigarettes.  The cooler lid was closed. 

“Coolers are prohibited in this park,” Turnage said.  

“We didn’t know,” said the smoking woman. 

They wore old jeans, threadbare T-shirts, battered dollar store sneakers.  They were unwashed, unkempt, transient.  Turnage saw paper plates, napkins, plastic forks, everything spread out atop a dirty blanket.  

“You folks having a picnic?” 

Nobody said a word.  

“I bet that cooler is loaded with beer.  I hate to break it to you, but this here is a dry county.  We don’t allow—”

“No beer,” the spokesman said.  “Just sodas and food.”  

“Sodas and food, huh?” 

“That’s right.”

Turnage eyed them warily.  “Mind if I take a look?”

“We’d rather you didn’t.” 

“And why is that?”

“Leave us alone,” said the other woman, the non smoker.  “We haven’t done anything wrong.  You’re harassing us.” 

Turnage got a kick out of that one.  He stepped closer and placed his boot atop the cooler.  He moved his foot back and forth, agitating its contents.  Ice rattled. 

“It’s a fine day for cold beer.  Yes, indeed.  Unfortunately you all picked the wrong place.  But I’m a reasonable man.  Pour the beer out and throw away the cans and I’ll let you go about your day without so much as a ticket.  How about that?” 

“There’s no beer,” said the spokesman.   

“Says you.” 

“We don’t even drink—”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying.” 

“Enough of this bullshit!”  

Turnage had had enough.  He kicked the cooler, fully expecting an avalanche of ice and 12 ounce cans.  It took several seconds for the whole thing to register, the contents of the cooler spread out atop the blanket—the upper portion of an arm, a muscular thigh, a pink tongue—

“Jesus!” Turnage reached for his sidearm.  

Too late. 

Much too late. 

They attacked, five against one, an all out blitzkrieg.  They took him to the ground.  Turnage didn’t stand a chance as he felt a knife plunge into his gut.  

The cult made short work of the deputy.  

And ate good for two whole weeks.

Saira Viola

Blowing Bolan On a Purple Haired Unicorn 30 Seconds of Hot

Mascara rocka!
Kitchy koo Prince of pop land
With your halo of black popcorn curls
and glitter frosted eyelids
You bang that gong!
Strut and slide-rouged face glamsta
Love Warlock
Rolling those electric
snake hips in the blue pit
charming mesmerising
Tender all the way through
Making her feel sexy in the mouth
Making her pussy scream
And her purple rose tattoo shout
You sent that ectomorphic princess
to cosmic paradise
Fucking the innocence out of her eyes
Batting your thick-lick lustrous giraffe lashes
on a life size purple haired papier mache unicorn.

Harris Coverley

The Bath’s Edge

I wander into the bathroom
and you’re bathing
the white crackling froth of the foam
your short curled brown hair dampened
your face liberated totally of makeup
patches of vulcan red between
your regular skin
white as the inner flesh of a ripe plum

and you grin
beneath those solid blue irises
and I lean in
and kiss that smooth forehead

and you are so perfectly innocent
and free
within that happy primal water

your small breasts relaxing
above the hot murk
your immaculate cunt invisible 
your toes arisen at the water’s far end
poking out like eager spectators

and I feel your hand going up my thigh
that purple nail polish flaked and dulled
and you get to my zip
and zup it down

“do it…I do want it”

and you pull out my cock
already thick with simmering blood
and you take the head in your mouth
that burning tongue
and swallow it whole
down the whole
back and back

and I feel your hair
and you cradle my balls
with the initial hand
as your other hand
retreats beneath the waterline
to stroke your clitoris
so sweet
so tender
so bloomed
so good
and I think of it so: a fruit on the tree
begging to be picked

and I cry your name
with a single tear of pleasure
driving down my cheek
my spine snapping
my shins raw and angry against the bath’s edge
as I rush into your mouth
too fast
so fast
I could not dare to hold it

and you choke a little
and pull back

you pipe my cum into your palm
looking at it with such wondrous kindness
and suck it back up
between those pale lips
which then smile so graciously

it is gone
a quick breakfast

and I have never been in love like this
within any second I have ever before existed

I kiss your lips still salty
and then each soapy soft nipple
worshipping each breast of yours in turn

I wipe down my cock
and leave you to soak
as you put the hot tap back on
in for a long set

it is only eight-thirty in the morning
and I already know that the rest of the day
will be as beautiful
as you

and even if it isn’t
it doesn’t matter.

Brian Rosenberger

My Gods

If you believe…
There is a God of Butterflies, a God of Lottery Tickets,
A God of Storm and Thunder, of the Ocean Waves,
Sibling Gods of Dream and Despair,
Even Gods for Cats and Dogs,
And Gods of Love and Hate,
Even a God of Poems.
I don’t believe in any of that nonsense,
Save for the God of Hate.
I believe because I feel the God’s presence. 
It’s like an anchor at the back of the skull,
A hand embracing my heart,
A dull ache that never goes away,
A pain that become pleasure.

Many deities but all in the same vein of worship.
You get it, my fellow believers.

Waiting in line, Co-workers, In-laws
Children, Traffic, Asparagus 
Commercials, Emission Tests, Taxes.

Bow down on your knees and pray.

And if our God needs sacrifices…
I’m just a mortal waiting in line.

John D Robinson

HOW CAN HE

How can he write when
there is blood on his hands,
destruction upon his breath,
hope between his fingertips,
love an explosion sprinting
through his blood,
how can he write when 
people are dying of hunger,
of disease and madness
and violence,
how can he write when
water is gold and the air
strangled and polluted,
when girls and women are
violated at the vileness
of men in every village,
town and city across
the globe,
when the planet is acting
out suicide before his eyes,
how can he write?
because he has to,
he has no choice,
it’s all he can
fucking do.

John Patrick Robbins

Where The Horses Once Ran Free

He sat there on the beach for no reason but to simply escape. The drinks were as meaningless as the conversations these days.

Everyone was fake when you get to a certain level you expect that. It’s a weird kind of badge of honor and a curse you bear with ambition.

Real writers understood it, most that read the pages and envied did not. You do anything long enough and better than the rest you will be hated.

And when you realize you made it, you will be too fucking exhausted to care.

Frank didn’t give a shit to ever write a follow up to that curse of a novel. It sold, it afforded him his vices.

And to him that seemed like an even trade for the life blood of his soul. He had lost it all and everyone thought it was a blessing.

It was just another delusion and nothing more. He sat there, with the only bastard stupid enough to remain with him through everything.

And if that old bulldog Boozer could open his own food cans he probably would have jumped ship as well.

Frank had his phone off for two weeks straight. It wasn’t unusual for him to vanish but it was odd for him not to be writing.

He told them all he was blocked but that was pure bullshit. He sold a few stories now and then to maintain interest.

The pages breathed life until the day there was no life left in which to write about.

Rebecca picked up stakes and went back home he heard. It had been a year since last they had spoken.

Yet another hurricane was bearing down on the outer banks and as always the debate arose amongst the locals and tourists alike.

Do we stay or carry our asses?

Frank had the windows boarded, well he paid to have the windows boarded. The generator was gassed up and the bar was stocked and Frank as always was fully loaded.

It’s the fucking wait that gets everyone.

And as Frank kicked back with a cocktail in hand, he thought he was either hallucinating or in route to get shot when he looked to see Rebecca standing at his door.

“So Satan, how the fuck are you? And if you don’t mind me asking, who’s guarding the gates of hell in your absence?”

Rebecca cut her eyes at Frank letting him know if she could turn folks to stone, Frankie certainly wouldn’t be talking.

She didn’t say anything so after a minute of extremely awkward silence, Frank just turned to go get a refill.

And as he poured another scotch he heard his former best friend close the door behind her.

He mixed her one as well and left it on the bar, taking his place back on the couch, As Boozer laid in his bed whimpering at the sight of Rebecca.

“Hey buddy, how have you been? I got a treat for you.”

She said, kneeling down.

Boozer was old, going grey around the muzzle and partially blind but much like his owner, too fucking stupid to die.

And no matter how stiff the drink was, that awkward silence hung heavy in the room.

Rebecca took her seat at the bar and finally broke the verbal Mexican standoff.

“So, you leaving or riding this one out?”

“Well I was going to head to Martha’s Vineyard to live it up like a Kennedy then I thought. Oh yeah, I’m still at best, a semi- famous writer who no longer writes. So yeah, me and the Boozehound are going to stay here and guard the bar.”

“Maybe if you worried less about the bottle and those whores you’re always chasing, you could actually write something for a change.”

“Shit and give Simon a stroke by actually making him happy? Fuck that besides, how many stories can a man pen about one night stands and booze?”

“I wouldn’t know being as I haven’t read anything by you in a year or more.”

Frank finished off his scotch looking at Rebecca.

“I thought I sent you that last one I sold to The New Yorker?”

“You did, but I just put it in my cat’s litter box. “

“Oh well, I always did try to market my work to pussies and landfills. I really hate those environmental nut cases. Refill my dear?”

Rebecca just stared at the T.V.

“I don’t know why I even came here.”

“Sure beats the shit out of me as well kid, but being as you’re here, have another round for old times on me.”

Frank replied as he poured Rebecca another.

They sat there for a while, Frank turned the television off for the moment was awkward enough, without adding the weather forecaster about creaming his shorts rambling on about a hurricane.

They sat there at the bar opposite of one another, two strangers who had once shared everything.

Frank knew there wasn’t a damn thing he could say to fix the scars of the past, as he saw no point in reopening old scars for the sake of nothing better to do.

“You know you’re a real bastard!”

Rebecca said, finally breaking the silence.

“You know, once there were wild horses running all over these beaches. It was a beautiful site. Then along came the yuppies in their quest to be one with nature and of course had to remove all that nature stuff because it’s not very cosmopolitan having your head in the stars and horse crap on your lawn.”

“Stop avoiding facing me. I don’t give a fuck about your stories I came to talk to you!”

“I can’t change what fucking happened okay! You rejected me sweetheart not the other way around. So, go play victim to somebody who actually buys into you bullshit sweetheart! You wanted delusion but we cannot fight our true nature so get over yourself princess!”

“You’re just a self-absorbed piece of shit you know that! Besides you can’t love anyone because you’re always going to love that stupid bitch!”

Frank threw his glass into the wall as it exploded into a million pieces.

Rebecca went dead silent.

Frank said nothing, just picked up the bottle and went and sat on deck out back, listening to the one constant in his life, the ocean.

And as he sat there, he heard Rebecca step outside.

He never turned around for there was nothing left to say. A closed chapter is a mile marker, you never pine for it, you simply move on.

She vanished from his existence leaving him to his world of page counts and papercuts.

And now as Frank sat there by the fire, he looked at the manuscript that was the curse of his trade.

It was a mile marker as he viewed the gun and the bottle as both were illuminated by the fire.

The Devil Is My Co-Editor was promised to the publisher and its only copy sat in the hands of someone far beyond burnt out from living his life’s pages.

He knew the cost of another so called best seller and all the trappings that yet more success would bring him.

So, reflecting for a half of a second, Frank simply tossed it into the fire and was now burden free.

He then killed the remnants of his drink and started to reach for the gun when he viewed that mangey old mutt of his get up, walk around in three circles to only proceed to take a shit and in return, start eating that very same deposit.

Frank’s stomach was never that great to begin with as it turned while he fought the urge to vomit.

As he thought to himself, why the fuck could he have just done like Hemingway and bought a fucking cat?

He canceled his proverbial departing flight leaving the gun outside and went to grab a refill instead.

As he picked up his laptop and tossed it out the door, locking the door just in case it got any ideas.

Boozer whimpered at the door. Frank just opened it and tossed his dog bed outside with a can of food.

“Sorry old man, but I think I need some alone time, besides you got a real taste for shit and I hate for it to influence my non-writing activities.

Frank closed the door. The old dog stood there for a second and simply laid down and went to bed.

The horses once ran wild up and down these beaches in Carolina, until nature was deemed a bit too wild.

Frank didn’t regret burning his only copy of his manuscript, besides he had to keep a low profile.

For if his neighbors had even a clue about his antics, he may just end up on that endangered species list too.

The drinks poured endless as once the page, like the horses had once run free.