Leah Mueller

Like a Cigarette Should

In the 1960s, news came on 
at 5 and 10: then midnight, 
to recap the same stories. 

Your parents always said something 
disparaging about Nixon, 
before turning their attention 
towards the consumption of

as many Benson and Hedges 100s
and Schlitz Malt Liquor tall boys
as their bodies could stand. 

Cigarette commercials 
featured grizzled cowboys, 
glamorous women, and

dapper men with black eyes 
who refused to switch 
from their favorite brand.

You liked beer commercials better:
Hamm’s, with its cartoon vistas 
of pine trees and tumbling rapids, 

and Lowenbrau’s promise 
of eternal friendship. In 1971, 

cigarette commercials were banned, 
while beer ads continued. It was
still legal to advertise smoking 

in magazines, billboards, 
and other forms of media.

Sunday newspaper supplements
overflowed with cigarette ads. 
It seemed like consumers
smoked more than ever.

Fifty years later, 
fewer people smoke, 
but almost everybody drinks. 

Beer ads have become 
sophisticated and boring, 
while folks die from cirrhosis.

Advertisers still want you 
to buy lethal products, but
they read the side effects
in ten-second soundbites,

or not at all. In the meantime, 
your body weakens a little each day. 

Still, you miss those commercials: 
the innocence of addiction,
the promise of eternal bliss,
and those goddamn pine trees.

Ty Daze

She Let Me Adore Her

They say ‘The struggle is real’
But let’s talk about the spell 
The dark magic only works though, 
until you realize your own– 

The spell is broken, shock takes over 
and you leave with your lessons 
learned. You weren’t truly aware before
beauty and darkness are partners in crime 

You suddenly feel strange  
about enjoying all those horror movies 
to the extreme. You’re always extreme
because you feel things deeply

That’s how you she was able to spot you, 
suck you off and suck your spirit dry 
Deserts envy you, a cactus double-takes; 
your thirst’s a bitch, your heart, a prick


From The Ones Who Adore Your Veins, RaVenGhost Press

C. Renee Kiser

Common Ground

I gave up  
all my little empathies,  
just like that 
I was his slut-angel, sincere 
and sick with adoration; 

I was a sucker, yeah 
I guess that’s what we had in common- 
in our own fucked-up ways 
I handed over my wrist with swirled eyes
And we knew only   
of hunger

is never anyone’s bitch  
It snickers in the bushes 
comes out of hiding 
when it damn well fucking feels like it


From: The Ones Who Adore Your Veins, RaVenGhost Press

Joseph Farley

The Pope’s Dildo

The head that wears the papal crown was bare. So was the rest of him. After a hard day of leading the world’s one billion Catholics, Pope Porky the Second needed to relax, and best way he knew to relax was stimulation of his aging prostate gland with his favorite vibrating dildo. .His anus was greased, his sphincter relaxed and ready. Pope Porky was prepared in every way except for one thing, he couldn’t find his fucking dildo.

“Where is it?” he growled yelling at the purple socks in the drawer where he kept his toys. He tossed balls of purple silk onto his bed. “It should be here!”

Search as he might, no dildo was to be found. Pope Porky turned his eyes towards the ornately painted ceiling of his bedroom and let out a cry of primal anguish.

Monsignor Pepe De Silva came running in response to the shout, his high heels clicking on the marble floors of the corridors. He arrived at the pope’s bedchamber and banged on the large heavy doors.

“What is it my pope?” de Silva cried. “Have you fallen and you can’t get up?”

“No, Pepe,” the pope wept. “It is worse than that, much worse.”

“What is it your magnification?”

“I can’t tell you until I let you in.”

The pope unlocked the door with his a television remote. Pepe De Silva rushed in, his shoulder slipping through his strapless habit, made from the finest sackcloth. He saw the pope wrapped in a sheet.

“Closed the door,” commanded Pope Porky.

De Silva closed the door.

“What is it?”

“Come closer,” the pope gestured.

The monsignor moved towards the pope. The pope embraced him.

“Pepe, oh Pepe,” Pope Porky slobbered.

“You can tell me anything,” De Silva reassured him with a hug. “What is bothering you so much.”

“Pepe. You know my dildo?”

“The one modeled after Michelangelo’s David?”

“Not David,” Pope Porky corrected, “just his cock.”

“Yes, I know it. I helped you try it out after the Archbishop of Canterbury gave it to you.”

“Ah, yes,” Porky smiled. “How could I forget that night. How the mind weakens as we get older. That is why I thought I had just misplaced it, but I have searched everywhere. Now I fear that it was stolen.”

“Stolen? Who could have done such a thing?”

“I don’t know,” said the pope grimly. “But whomever it was, he or she is a real dastardly bastard.”

“Shall I notify security?” asked De Silva. “Or the police?”

“No,” said the pope. “This is too sensitive a crime. We need someone clever, someone subtle, someone discrete.”

“Who do you suggest?”

“Padre Brio,” said the pope, his features stern.

“Padre Brio?” Monsignor De Silva gasped. “Are you sure? He’s a loose canon, a wild man. He’s out of control.”

“He is also the best man I have,” said the pope.

“And the most dangerous,” sighed De Silva.

Padre Brio was laying on an inflatable mattress floating in a swimming pool in his retreat in Capri. He was working on his tan and enjoying semi retirement. He lifted a large cocktail with a straw to his lips and gazed at a pair of beautiful young women in bikinis splashing nearby. The young nuns were at the height of beauty and had been recruited for their unwavering devotion. Maria was a feisty lass originally from Naples. She could speak seven languages, and her black hair, ample bosom and full lips could stun a man, and many women as well. The nuns had trained her to perfection. Matilda, her rival in the water fight, was an expert in electronics. He slender frame concealed an inner strength fueled by fasting and meditation. She could go for a week without sleep, had done so many times, and she could be trusted unto death never to confess except to the pope himself. Which she had done on more than one occasion when blood was of necessity spilled. Padre Brio shifted his glance to the young seminarian, Antonio, 19, a bronze work of art, as the lad prepared to leap from the diving board into the deep end of the pool. Brio was not sure how this new addition would fit into his team, but he enjoyed the way he fit into Antonio even more than he had meshed with his previous counterpart. 

On parchment, Antonio was an agent in training, filling a role that Brio had once played when he was apprenticed at a similar age. Brio half suspected that Antonio’s role was also to spy on him for the Vatican, to make sure his faith, however liberally practiced, was within the proper range of thought. If that were the case, Padre Brioe could live with it. Brio made sure he lived in accordance with the strict rules, and privileges, afforded him by the Papal Indulgence that sat in his safe deposit box in Zurich. Such were the rewards of being the chief assassin and agent to the Vatican. Of course there were risks. Padre Brio’s firmly muscled chest bore the dark scars of entry wounds. He had been seven times, and stabbed twice more than that, but he still lived. Padre Brio was certain his survival was a miracle, a sign of God’s favor. The Pope had assigned two monasteries, one in Quebec and one in Poland, to pray for Padre Brio in twenty four hour shifts. Padre Brio could feel the power of their faith even as his own rose in his trunks.

A shapely Filipina in a white bikini strode over to the pool holding a towel and a bathrobe.

“It’s the white phone, Padre,” she said with a smile that accentuated everything erotic in her form.

Padre Brio’s eyes widened.

The white hone was a secure hotline. Only the Pope called on it. Regretabbly, it was in the trouble room and could be brought pool side. 

“Thank you, Sister Bianca,” the Padre said.

Bianca was gorgeous, but no one’s toy unless she wanted to be. She came from a family of escrima fighters, trained from childhood until she took the veil at seventeen. Bianca was deadly with a machete, knife or stick. Some of Padre Brio’s scars had come from training with her. Bianca accompanied Brio on some of his rougher jobs.

Brio paddled over to the side of the pool and climbed out. Bianca helped him towel off. Her hand brushed against his swollen member.

“Would you like me to take care of that for you Padre?”

Brio grinned. He slipped on his robe and lowered his Speedo. 

“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said, “but we should not keep the pope waiting for long.”

“Of course not,” Bianca replied sinking to her knees. “I will be quick about it.”


The Pope was angry at being kept waiting, but Padre Brio was in a good mood when he picked up the phone. 

“Your Holiness, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“You owe loyalty, obedience, secrecy and success,” recited the Pope.

“Bananas taste best when they are yellow and hard,” said Brio repeating the day’s code phrase.

“But some prefer bananas that are brown and soft,” replied the pope with the other half of the code phrase.

“Who came up with today’s code phrase?” Brio asked. “Monsignor De Silva?”

Pope Porky grunted, “I picked this one.”

“And what a good phrase it is,” Brio kiss-assed.

The pope sighed, “So you did not like the code phrase. Don’t treat me as if I am an infant.”

“My apologies, your holiness,” Padre Brio said with with emotion while bowing slightly to the phone. “I did not mean to offend. How can I be of service?”

“A private and personal object of great value has gone missing.”

“What is it?”

“I dare not tell you over a telephone.”

“This is a secure line.”

“We are in Italy. There is no such thing as a secure line.””

“How will I find out what this object is?” Brio asked.

“Monsignor De Silva has sent a carrier pigeon. It should be arriving soon.”

A shotgun blast was heard. 

“What was that?” asked the pope with alarm.

“Probably my groundskeeper,” Brio said. “He fancies himself a hunter.”

“What can he hunt on a small island?”

“Birds mostly.”

“He better not kill my pigeon,” the pope growled. “It is a fancy breed.”

“He does not tell me what he kills, and I do not tell him who I kill,” Brio explained. ”It is an agreement we have.”

“He sounds like a scoundrel. Why do you keep him on?”

“He has relatives in the Calabrian mob,’ Brio said. “Those connections are sometimes useful.”

Benito Esposito entered the room. He was a short bull-face man with broad shoulders and a flat nose. A brace of birds hung from a string in his hands, including a pigeon with rare and colorful plumage.

“Boss,” he said in a deep voice. “I think this pigeon is for you.”

“Thank you Benito.”

Brio grabbed the pigeon and slipped the note from its leg.

“Your message has arrived.” Brio told the pope. 

“Good, take a look at it and tell me if you can help.”

Brio read the message and suppressed a laugh.

“Your holiness, I think I can help you, but you will need to provide me with a list, a complete list, of all who have had access to your bedchamber since you last saw the object.”

“That would only be three. Monsignor De Silva, Cardinal Scruggs and Monsignor Menida.”

“Is that all? What about security and cleaning staff? What about secret visitors?”

“I can get you the names of the guards and cleaning staff, but I do not know you mean by secret visitors, are you suggesting something untoward?”

“I suggest nothing,” Brio said. “I just ask questions. The answers suggest more questions. It is one way of getting to the facts, but there are others. I will check the security tapes.”

“The object was not used for three days before its loss was determined,” the pope said somberly. “If that helps any.”

“Every piece of information helps,” assured Brio. “I will get Matilda on it. How soon can we get the security tapes, visual, audio, whatever you have?”

“By this evening.”

“Good,” said Brio. “I hope you did not send more pigeons?”

“Of course not,” said the Pope. “They are in a compressed digital file sent to your secure computer.”

“Very well,” said Brio. “We shall see what we shall see.”

“I want this matter solved quickly.,’ ordered the pope. “No leaks, No screw ups. No scandal. The Church as has had too much scandal.”

“Of course your holiness,” Brio said oozing charm and confidence. “Have I ailed you yet?”

“No,” Pope Porky agreed. “Let us pray you do not fail me now.”


Matilda went over the tapes while Antonio and Maria ran background checks on all the guests on a list provided by the pope. As Brio had suspected, there had been a backstairs visitor, a disreputable ballet dancer from Budapest. Brio thought it was wise of the pope to produce this new information. Concealing it from Brio would have only delayed the investigation. 

“I doubt our good pope was taking dance lessons,” Brio told Maria. She was not pleased with the remark. 

“Remember your vows, padre” she hissed.

Touchy, Brio thought, but he should have known better. If not for Pope Porky’s dispensations, they would all be mournfully celibate, or at least trying to be, and none of them would be enjoying the cloak and dagger world, unless they were missionaries in China, Iran or Guatemala.

Antonio brought him the news he was looking for. Brio read the dossier his assistant had prepared, pulled from newspaper clippings, Interpol reports and attendance lists at inter-faith conferences. Brio double checked the facts himself, then called the Pope.

“Be careful who you dance with.”

“What do you mean?” Pope Porky asked with indignation.

“Your visitor has some unsavory connections.”

“The Mafia?’

“No,” Padre Brio said. “They are old friends. This is an older enemy who may try to play a game the Mafia plays well.”

The pope asked, “What game and what enemy?”

“The game is blackmail,” Brio said grimly, “and the enemy is the oldest enemy the Roman Catholic church has.”

The pope gasped, “The Lutherans?”

“Older than than that.”

“The Muslims?”

“Older still.”

“You can’t mean…” 

“I do,” Brio said firmly. “The Patriarch of Constantinople.”

“You mean Istanbul?” the pope corrected.

“Call it what you will. I believe your object is on its way there now.”

“Why?” the pope inquired. “What good would it be to the Patriarch?”

“It is most likely wanted for leverage in unification talks between the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic churches. What has been the major stumbling blocks to unification? Married clergy? No. Latin versus Greek for liturgy? No. The two stumbling blocks have been the refusal of the West to admit that the Latin translations on which the Western faith is founded were poor translations, the Eastern translations being more accurate from the start. The second major stumblingly block has always been who is top dog. Who bows to who? If the Patriarch can get you to bow to him, if you bend, the Patriarch will have the power, the prestige and the patronage that goes with it. After that, who knows? In another five hundred years the other christian churches may follow suit like loyal children and bow to the Patriarch. The Patriarch would control all of Christianity. And who would control the Patriarch? I think you know.”

“We can’t let that happen,” the pope said angrily. “We cannot diminish the the See of Peter.”

“We won’t let it happen,” Brio assured him. “I’m leaving for Istanbul with my team in a matter of hours, but I need an extra player.”

“Who do you you need?”

“I want sister Gerturde.”

The pope was silent.

“Sister Gertrude is retired. She is greatly troubled by her former life of service to the church. In her moral crisis, she has taken a vow of silence and transferred to a Carmelite Convent. No one gets in. No one gets out. It is high walls, small cells, days and nights of deprivation and prayer.”

“I would have thought she had enough of that when she was in that KGB prison,” Brio said thoughtfully. “It was very difficult to spring her. Cost several lives. If that is what she wanted, she should have let me know and I would have left her there. Now I need her.”

“Do not mock Sister Gertrude’s faith,” the pope scolded. “I fear her vocation is stronger than yours.”

“So is her wrist lock, but I still need her special skills.”

The pope sighed. 

“This may not be the best thing for her soul, but if it is for the good of the Church…?”

“It is essential to the survival of the Church.”

The pope conceded.

“I will see to it that she meets you in Istanbul.”


Sister Gertrude was an enormous Dutch nun, an expert in Judo and other martial arts, such as the little know drunken style and ox style. She was also an expert torturer, a talent that had greatly challenged her faith and caused her fits of despair. In between jobs she was often plunged into dark binges of prayer, denial and flagellation. But when the pope called, Sister Gertrude always came. She never failed to follow through with an assignment, no matter how much physical pain or spiritual anguish it caused her.

The pope’s mischievous dancer was performing at a theater in Istanbul. He was a bit player on stage, but a much larger player in the world of religious espionage. A triple agent, he had worked for the Russian Metropolitan, the Greek Patriarch and the Church of Scientology. He had been lucky until now, but his time was running short. 

Matilda became a maid for a day at the hotel where the dance troop was staying. It only required a uniform, a fake mustache and a lot of chutzpah. Matilda searched the Hungarian dancer’s room. She did not expect to be so fortunate as to find the dildo. She did not, but was able to bug the room with cameras and listening devices. Bianca covered her head in a scarf and watched the front door, posing as a street vendor. She followed our dancer where ever he went. She later reported seeing him meeting with a known Orthodox priest. No packages were exchanged. 

Antonio stationed himself in the hotel bar. He lured one of the other minor dancers into a tryst, drugged him and assumed his identity before the evening performance. In between acts he jabbed the suspected thief with a needle. Brio, disguised as a stage hand, helped get the package to the street and shove him into a waiting car with Maria at the wheel. Sister Gertrude was waiting in the safe house. It was safe for Padre Brio and his team, not for the intrepid dancer. The poor man nearly died when he saw Gertrude’s instruments laid out on the table waiting for him. Despite his apparent fright, he was a tough bastard. It took more than a crushed testicle and a few missing finger nails to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the dildo.

“It’s hidden in my ass,” the man confess. “It has been there the whole time.”

“Incredible.” Gertrude stammered. “You must have one deep anus.”

“It is my pride.
“Was your pride,” Brio said.

He stuck his hand into the dancer’s dark recesses and felt around. There was something there. A string? Brio pulled it. The man laughed.

Brio realized his stupidity.

“Everyone out quickly!”

Our dancer was in no condition to run, but he did not seem to care. Brio’s team barely got out of there before the dancer’s intestines exploded, taking half the house with them.

“What now boss?” Antonio asked.

“We trace his steps,” Padre Brio said. “He must have ditched the dildo somewhere in town.”

“I’ve checked his room already,” said Matilda.

“We have not checked the theater.”

The show was over. The performance had not been the best, being shy two dancers, but the audience had been indifferent and had not noticed the poor quality of the art displayed before them. The troop had returned to their hotel. The police were another matter, They seemed to be creeping around the theater in uncomfortable numbers, as if they had been tipped off that something was up. This is where the ladies proved most useful. Turkish sexism made them less suspect to the local police, and men being men everywhere, they were easily duped by their charms. Even Gertrude drew the attention of one officer. The poor soul did not live long enough to give her the tussle he had desired. It was a messy affair, but Brio had come prepared. He had his team plant pamphlets in Kurdish on the bodies so local rebels would take the blame for the casualties. The dressing rooms revealed no secrets. Nor did the prop room, but the stage was another matter. Matilda ran a series of sweeps of the area. She saw something odd in an x-ray scan. She notified Padre Brio.

“Look at that sandbag used to leverage one of the backdrops. There is a long shape inside it.”

Brio looked at the ghostly shape on Matilda’s hand held monitor.

“Could just be a bottle of booze hidden by one of the stage crew,” Brio cautioned.

”Could be,” Matilda agreed, “but we’ll never know until we look.” 

Antonio shimmied up the rope attached to the sandbag. He cut open the bag with a dagger. Sand poured onto the floor. The back drop behind the team raised slightly. Brio watched the grains fall until the dildo appeared. It was a work of exquisite craftsmanship, a gold and jeweled vibrating dildo, presently missing its batteries, a work of art suitable to please a pontiff.

Bianca, who was on watch, signaled Brio to hurry as more police had arrived, looking for officers who had not called in. Matilda had previously arranged for a diversionary explosion a quarter mile away, should it be necessary. She pushed a key on her cell phone. The small bomb detonated. The blast drew the police away from the theater long enough for Padre Brio’s team to slip off into the dark. A speed boat was waiting on the coast near Marmara. The papal dildo safe in a latex sack, was secured in Sister Gertrude’s unassailable vagina. In an hour hour the team was on an Italian fishing trawler, skirting Greek territory. A seaplane met them south of Kithira. They landed near Brindisi. Two limousines were waiting. Padre Brio, Sister Gertrude, and Bianca climbed into one vehicle. Matilda, Antonio and Maria git in the other. They were driven to a private landing strip and a jet ride to Rome. 

Pope Porky was ecstatic upon seeking his beloved dildo again. 

“Padre Brio,” he declared. “Buy some purple socks. I am making you a Monsignor.”

“As you wish your holiness,” Brio said, “but what about my team?”

“My blessings and forgiveness to you all.” 

The pope called to Monsignor De Silva, “Get the cards.”

De Silva bowed, exited the private chamber where the pope was having his audience Padre Brio and his team. De Silva returned with what appeared to be a set of business cards. He handed one to Padre Brio and each member of his team. Each read the card he or she had been given.

Padre Brio looked at the card in his hand. It read, “Get of of hell free,” and bore the papal signature.

“Go ahead,” said Pope Porky. “Enjoy yourselves. You’ve earned it.”

And we will, Padre Brio, thought. We will, until the next time that duty calls.

Noah David Roberts

Movement and Play

Will you write a poem about me, 
I want to be a muse

I move through desecrated boneyards
through empty vessels

I move through the memory
of time and what time is,

the burden of healing is upon me
and only me, generations of

will you write a poem about me,
I want to be a muse

cast upon the month of April
cast upon the sea

cast upon the water, dark water
which seems to be the whole world,

wearing nothing but a kimono
in dim thunderstorm evening,

I move through deserted cobblestone
move through drunken alleys,

move through play and ropes,
move through nurses and klonopin,

move through eternity with one eyeball
locked upon the sunlight

casting shadows upon darkness,
I want to be a muse

will you write a poem about me?

Jay Passer

Toasting the French Symbolists with Phony Absinthe at Vesuvio’s on Columbus

I hate poets, I said.
why do you write poetry then, she asked.
because I’m one of a kind, I said.
what about the Beats, she asked, what about Emily Dickinson.
you want Chinese? I asked. Yee’s is good, and cheap.
you said you idolized e.e. cummings, she said, when you were in high school.
I’d rather talk to a painter any day, I said. poets are filthy animals.
but one of a kind, she inclined, like from Noah’s Ark.
don’t be funny, I said. let’s have a toast.
why’s this stuff green, anyway, she asked.
the leaky brain of Verlaine, I said, with a hotshot of Rimbaud.
how about some pasta, she said, how about Little Joe’s.
I’d commit suicide, I said, if I could afford to.
you could jump off the Golden Gate, she offered.
but that would tarnish my renown, I pointed out, as a maverick.
I guess it’s easier than getting a job, she said.
fuck the police, I said.
speaking of, she said, how’re we gonna pay for this.
toilets don’t clean themselves, I said.

Marc Blackie

Inevitable Silence

Inevitable Silence – A cold dose of erotica for the discerning insomniac.

‘Inevitable Silence’ is the new short film from Marc Blackie, who has graced the pages of HST more than a few times in the past.  For those who may be unaware of his work it has, rather inelegantly though not inaccurately been described as ‘…though directed by David Lynch with a hard on’ and can be thought of as an uncomfortable stew of despondent erotica, with a dash the surreal and awkward.

The current film, which features ten performers largely shot in their own homes during the 2020/2021 lockdowns is a critique of sorts of a dozen condescending sleep hypnosis sessions, with a pessimistic narrator guiding the listeners through a murky unconsciousness:

Allow me to guide you as you drift off, like a discarded prophylactic in an overflowing gutter.

Downwards to a level that will help you to sleep, to relax, to cancel and void.

Focus on the words, allow their meanings to pierce and burrow into you. 

You need to remember that nothing can save you. 

Prepare yourself for total abandonment. 

Be like a fatherless child. 

Be as alone as you possibly can be and then find a way to increase your isolation. 

Think of the slight sound your mother let escape from her mouth on the moment of the first kiss upon your father’s lips and how it is implicated in the dirt beneath your fingernails and the teaming bacteria in your saliva. 

These words drift over a series of scenes involving various UK adult performers, models or friends of the director as well as two cats, a dog, several snakes and a talking inflatable Japanese sex doll.

The film will be premiering at the Polish Post Porn Film Festival in June before getting an online release with further information and a trailer available at http://www.inevitablesilence.co.uk 

John Patrick Robbins

The Death of Sobriety

Frank awoke to the smell of Boozer’s putrid breath blasting him in the face as the rotund bulldog mix just glared at him from his neighboring pillow. Frank said nothing, as like a car wreck victim after the initial shock of impact. He waited for the pain to arrive—along with the rumbling that preceded his initial stomach cramping—which always surely summoned his dash to visit the porcelain God. But as the pain slowly crept in, the lard-ass little dog just stared at him as he burped, letting out an elongated fart that was followed by an enormous shit on the pillow where so many part-time loggers had once rested their heads.

The dog just stared at Frank as it slowly got up, heading out before the flavored aroma hit the room. And Frank, if not in the mood to purge, was given some high inspiration as he ran to the restroom, emptying out his stomach’s contents as the most intense pain hit him in the gut.

A drunk becomes accustomed to puking and seeing his stomach’s blended contents on full display. But as he continued to wretch, Frank noticed a sight most all true drunkards are familiar with. Blood is normal from straining, and when you turn your gut into a nightclub it just goes with the territory from time to time. But when that said blood appears like coffee grounds you know you’re in trouble.

Frank was about to release yet another onslaught when the pain hit like a freight train. It was if a damn Mack Truck had just crashed the party and parked itself upon his chest.

“Oh shit!” Frank managed to blurt out as he strained. Trying to make it to his feet as the room began to spin, he soon felt his body begin to crash to the floor as everything went dark.

Frank had no idea how long he had been out. He choked in pain as the distant sound of the heart monitor awoke him. He was beyond weak and it seemed like there wasn’t anything upon his body that didn’t hurt.

“Mr. Murphy, you need to try to relax. You have suffered a heart attack. I know this is all alarming, but you’re in the hospital and you suffered a heart attack.”

Frank struggled to remove the oxygen mask, but even that action seemed impossible as the words the nurse had just spoken resonated in his head.

The moments after would all seemingly blend together as doctors did what they did best: bitched, fussed, and racked up the bills as they attempted to put your highly intoxicated ass back together again.

Frank’s head was splitting. Apparently, on his visit to embrace the floor, he had collided with the thunder mug and busted open his skull.

Days later, Doc Miller stared at his ever-so-frustrating patient, shaking his head. “You know, I’m amazed you are alive, you prick.”

“So tell me, Doc, what’s the bad news? I mean, besides the bar here being permanently closed. I mean, really. First you don’t allow my sister to visit me, then you tell me no drinks either. You are killing me, pal.”

Miller didn’t even seem to notice his patient’s humor as he looked over his file.

“That wasn’t your sister, that was a hooker. And being your liver looks worse than an old piece of charcoal, I think your drinking days are behind you, Papa.”

Frank attempted to laugh, but the pain in his ribcage only served to drag him into yet another coughing spell.

“How did you know that wasn’t my sister?”

“Because no female in her right mind would ever mourn your ass. And you forget about that party? We both shared Amanda.”

“Yeah, I thought you looked familiar. Hey, you pay an escort enough frog skins, she’ll pretty much be anyone you want her to be there, old sawbones.”

Miller just stared at Frank; for once in his existence, unfazed by his friend’s sarcasm. He took a seat, then stared out the window.

“You know, I wouldn’t wish this fucking job on my worst enemy, dude. Every day, I have to look at people with a straight face and tell them, sorry, sir, but your train’s leaving and no matter what I do, or how much money you do or don’t have, there isn’t shit I can do about it.” 

His friend and doctor fought back the tears as he looked off into space.

“I see people all looking to me for answers when at best all I can do is throw them treatments. I hate this fucking job! And now I’m treating a friend I can do absolutely nothing for. Trying to figure out just how the hell I’m going to break all this shit to you.”

Frank for once did not have a snarky reply, but he honestly felt bad for the man he knew outside this environment.

It seemed like forever until Frank broke the awkward silence.

“So, am I, like, bad enough to get, like, one of those Make A Wish requests? Like you give these dying dwarfs, or whatever?”

His friend fought back the urge to laugh. “Sure, you heartless prick. What will it be?”

“Well, I was thinking maybe they could shut down The Magic Kingdom for me. Maybe hire Ric Flair to hang out with me, and some Russian hookers with a sack of blow. I mean, sure he looks like a piece of beef jerky, but fuck, he is still The Nature Boy, after all.”

“Wow, and you call yourself a writer. Honestly, I expected more.”

“Well, I figured, being it’s a kid’s charity, asking if they could sequester Sofia Vergara to sit on my face would be a bit much.”

“Would you settle for a Snickers bar and a hand-job instead?”

“I swear, you’re really not my type, you tubby bastard. But if I can have your stethoscope and prescription pad, you got a deal.”

They both cracked up at that one as Frank broke into yet another coughing spell.

“Look here, Bill Hicks, you gotta take it easy as possible. I’m serious. Your body has been through hell. I’m shocked you even got through this shit.”

The two friends continued to talk about all the usual shit that goes along with having a heart attack, the ‘dos and don’ts’ that Miller largely knew his kamikaze friend would pay little to no attention to.

“You know, that batshit agent of yours has been here the entire time.”

“Has he been miserable and distraught?”

“That kid’s been a total train wreck. I swear, he seems to never sleep, and lives off coffee and cigarettes alone.”


Miller shook his head at his friend’s reply as he stood up, making his way towards the door.

“Hey, you want me to let him in?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been through enough hell. I can’t wait to listen to this dipshit complain about page counts and other crap I could truly give a fuck about.”

His friend didn’t even bother to reply as he headed out the door as no sooner his high-strung agent, Simon, was in the room.

“Fuck, man. How are you?”

“Well, I suffered a heart attack. Just about cracked my skull and got more tubes running out of everywhere, minus my ass. So, yeah. I’m doing great. And yourself, dumbass?”

“Fuck you, man,” Simon replied. “You know I don’t word things right. I was kind of worried about you.”

“Come here, kid,” Frank said, his arms open as his awkward agent-slash-best friend opened his arms in return, moving towards him.

Just as they were about to embrace, Frank landed a hard nut-shot as his agent—and literal punching bag—doubled over in pain.

“Fucking weirdo. Look at you. I always knew you wanted to blow me. I swear, I think you were semi-hard, you nutcase. Hey, you got a flask on you?” Frank asked his doubled-over agent. “I’m thirsty as a motherfucker in this place.” 

“You fucking asshole! Why do I even give a shit? Goddamn, that hurt.”

“Stop being a pussy. It’s not like I popped your cherry there, princess. Hey, you think this bought us some slack with the publisher?”

“Being you owe them five books and haven’t delivered one in almost three years, I think it would have been easier had you just died, you bastard.”

Frank had to crack up at that, and as Simon finally took a seat the two friends largely spoke about everything but what loomed upon the horizon. For Simon, he knew it was largely pointless. His client and friend was always one foot in the grave, so to speak. He had grown as jaded as Frank himself. But no matter the assured destination, Simon knew he would go down with the ship.

And as the hours passed, they went over everything; from reflecting on the miles behind them, to the shitstorm that lay ahead.

“Dude, I got to ask, what the hell kind of shit were you doing that you took a crap on your pillow, man?”

Frank looked at his semi-braindead agent, and marveled at how he literally existed on this plane of existence.

“Well, I tell you, kid…sometimes you just get tired of having sex with beautiful women and enjoying the best drugs, so you got to mix it up. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how far Shelia got her hand up my ass. At least, I hope that was her hand.”

Simon looked at Frank, his demented brain working overtime as Frank knew full well his agent was a full-blown pervert unlike any other.

“Yeah, man, but what about the shit on the pillow?”

“I meant to let it cool, then I was gonna stick it under the pillow for the Poo Fairy to give me some money for it, you dipshit.”

“So it wasn’t some strange sex thing?”

Frank just rolled over on his side, not even bothering to reply to his friend’s question. He knew soon enough what awaited him at home, and although he hoped Simon had the sense to have cleaned up the mess, he knew that was really placing a high hope upon someone who at best was a subpar low standard.

Frank would soon be sitting once again at his desk facing the ocean, attempting to pen his last few pages as Simon kept the wolves at bay—who by now would smell the blood as the critics circled the waters like sharks. The true game was on, with the highest stakes possible. 

Sure, Frank could slow down and try to milk what last few days or months, or even years, out of whatever he had left. But instead, he preferred to pour another drink, press the gas pedal, crank the music, and pen his truths; going down in flames with glee. Much like the heroes of his past, he knew there truly was no easy out for people like himself.

Anyone could silently fade, but the best go up in flames, casting the illusion to inspire those to live in spite of the odds.

Life is a gamble, and the house always wins…so they say.

Harley Claes

Reflections on Willing Affliction

I pick and choose my captors
make them a merciless muse and a dear of a drug
i like to be captive to that endless flow
of literary jizz from the collective jazz mind
that is the backdrop to teacup terrors
smashing plates as i avoid mirrors

I adore the toxic defined
and refined me as little I as can be
the guardsman of my heart keeps me in check
and travels away from me not more than a sec
so i do not have to fend on my lonesome
for heart scraps and sympathy
like the victim complex they labeled me
pity PITY!
I do not want your pity,

I’ll keep to his pride and tend to it
like an overgrown garden
because i pickpocketed this project
it keeps me busy and writing
effortlessly in my journal,
with inspiration riveting
from every isolation

Those hard-hearts had left me
i’m content with this burial i arranged,
they already fashioned the hole
and pre-ordered the flowers
i liked for my gravestone

And now the knight is mine
he felt it was safest in my tower
if he was there
and placed me in his lap
his pride and joy
his queen the spazz

Kristin Garth

Plastic Girl 

She could have been a plastic girl.  Left bruise 
blue sheets for an artificial world of 
synthetic putting greens, some lighter use 
by an aged man of means.  He might love 
her if she would submit to rhinoplasty,
breast augmentation or at least a lift,
a tummy tuck, nutritional regime.  The 
nude photos she DM’ed  show an adrift
corn fed abused nineteen year old he’s consoled
so many nights via chat room/telephone 
in her childhood bed.  Could she give control 
to some old man in Hilton Head who’d own 
a waif or a synthetic blowup doll 
just not the ordinary girl he saw?