Stuart Stromin

The Hat

Samira forgot the hat the first time, so he had to go back to see her again.  Except for the absence of the hat, it had been fine the first time. She had done everything the way she always did it, with the murmur of her crisp accent, and the glare of her blue eyes.  It still felt like there was something missing somehow, and, when Leon left her little room and went down the steep, twisted staircase, and into the brisk air of the street, and the glow of the red lights against the gloom of the night, he realized what it was.  She had forgotten to wear the hat.

It was not the same without the hat.

She called it a hat, because her English was limited, but it was really a cap.  It was made of black rubber, kept to a dull shine, with a wide latex peak and a sharp crown molded to a soft point at the crest.  There was a white latex band that ran around it in a thin stripe.  It fit snugly on her head, making her seem even taller, over six-foot in spiky heels, with her golden hair streaming, and her gimlet blue eyes gazing from beneath the peak.

Leon had bought her the hat on a business trip one year.  He had not been looking for a hat, but he was looking for a gift.  When he saw the hat, Leon knew immediately that it was what he wanted for her. She loved the hat, when she received it, although she loved anything if it was a present.  There was no such thing as a disappointing gift.  Leon never arrived empty-handed. He brought her designer jeans, perfume, inexpensive jewelry, t-shirts from his travels, and once, for her young son, a toy train.  

From the first time that Samira wore the hat for him, it became part of her costume.  It matched her long latex boots, and her long black gloves, and her golden locks brushing her shoulders.  It went with the exposed girders, splintery rafters and hanging chains and the smell of wax in the dim light of the room.  They heard the raucous noise of the passers-by, drunken singing outside, and accordion music from a nearby bar.  He sometimes gulped down a stiff shot of vodka there, before he knocked on her door.  He did not want to feel like himself, he wanted to hide behind intoxication when they played out their ritual.

They had to do everything again from the beginning – with the hat this time – when he went back the next night.

She had a short crop, and she strutted up and down upon the mat, stopping with her face nose-to-nose right in his face, and her riding crop teasing across his unclothed body.  He felt the heat rising from her, and there was a sweet, musk scent when she was close to him.

She exuded a commanding presence.  She barked orders and made him march naked from wall to wall with one hand swinging at his side, and the other hand clutching his genitals.

“I am the Kommandant,” she insisted, tucking the crop under her arm,  “Left, right! Left, right! Left, right!”

“Yes, Kommandant!”

“I decide what is good, and what is not good,” she said ominously.

“Good, good, good,” he pleaded, “I am good.”

“If you are not good, you know what will happen to you,” she warned.

His eyes filled up with terror, and she smiled wickedly.

He always felt such a cathartic sense of relief when it was all over, as if she had done him an enormous favor by filling a desperate need.

She took the hat off, indicating that they were finished, and she could not wait to get out of the boots and back into her walking shoes and her street clothes.  He got dressed one button at a time with his back to her, so that they did not have to look at one another.

Afterwards, they sometimes went for dinner together in Chinatown.  There was a place where the ducks were hanging in the window on S-shaped hooks, and they shared a lemony dish with hot oysters on the half-shell.  They drank sweet beer served in chilled tankards.  She spoke to the waiter in a guttural language that he could not understand. From the restaurant, they could see the barges floating down the canals and the colored lights from the district reflecting on the ripples of the water.  They heard the peal of the bells chiming the hour from the Old Church, as it grew later, but they lingered over the meal.  Neither of them had anywhere in particular to go, and the kitchen stayed open until midnight.

The square tables were close together, and the people beside them could overhear their conversation, but they kept everything innocent.  They had known each other for many years, and, like old friends, they talked and joked about everything under the moon, except the taboo of what had just occurred between them in her room.  Now, after the fact, when it had worn off for both of them, what they had done seemed traumatic and depraved.  It felt like they had committed a crime. They had a familiar aftertaste that lingered from the time they did it before until the time that they would do it again. They were not ashamed, but there was a grubby feeling that stained them on the inside. She never wanted to speak about it; for her, it was work, and the dinner was personal.

There was only one other subject that they never talked about, and that was what had happened to his family.  It was a long time ago, and besides, that was in another country.

Mather Schneider

Fancy Language

I used the word “creosote”
in a story the other day
and this guy (another writer) said,

“What’s with all the fancy

“Fancy language?” I said.

“I hate it when writers
try to act like they’re
smarter than I am,” he 

“Creosote’s a
plant,” I told him, “hardly

“Fuck plants,” he said.

Well, I thought, 
fuck people too.
In fact, fuck stories,
fuck communication,
fuck feeling,
fuck words,
fuck history,
fuck it all.

(Creosote bushes live 
where almost nothing
else can. 
They decorate the desert
and when you crush the 
small green leaves 
it smells like rain.) 

Michael D. Amitin

“The Exquisite Relief of Alphonse”  or “Fuck the Alps”

february, lemmings scurry up powder mountain
snort blue air
dip fine wine firelight boogie
very-white shapely sloped alps
ski vacation it’s called here 

foggy town paris
the poor stick around, stocking
grocery store shelves, sweeping rue de funk
afterhour sip the slippery slopes of alley cheap booze

keep your powder dry
store king hollers
over zoom gloom
to the working crew

alphonse takes a horse-size piss
scratches his
daily double, lady luck
shines him a quarter moon 
over three cent town –
takes another shot and says
fuck the alps

Karl Koweski

Isis in Sweatpants

from where I lay across
the mattress altar,
nude as a sacrifice
trussed in bed sheets,
I bear witness to my
Isis in sweatpants
dancing before her
full length mirror,
this propped portal
to an inverse world
of realized possibilities.

two frenzied goddesses
match motions
to the furious beats
of playlist natives.

her whipping  black hair
creases reality.
the reflection of her
chameleon eyes
mesmerizes me,
inspires rigid worship.

her hips bend my will
to her contours.
her pores soak in
my adoration
until her skin glows 
with sweaty divinity.

her moves send
ripples of resurrection
through my flesh,
seducing my nerve endings
with the desire to break
my Egyptian cotton bonds
and dance beside her.

Nick Romeo


I would meet you in the sports aisle
Or it might be the mystery
Either way it will change quickly
Into new intricate romance
When I wrap my arms around you
Clenching you tightly from behind
Whispering haikus in your ear
Your beauty being the highlight
Along with radiant core
You gasp as my lips touch your neck
Meekly telling me your boyfriend
Is not too far away from us
I smile You should call him over
Bring an army and take some notes
This is how I treat a woman
Who is packed with hours of delight
Who deals in dopamine coinage
Your heartbeat speeds up as you clench
My arms which still cling to your waist
I am not going to let you go
A duplicate does not exist
You close your eyes with a deep breath
One-by-one books burst into flame

Andy Seven

The Butcher’s Beautiful Daughter

Plump of breast, firm of thigh
the butcher’s beautiful daughter
caught my marbled eye
beef hearts cow brains livers kidneys and tripe
a most exceptional maid
slaughtered me quicker than a butcher’s blade

Deep crimson hair
dripping down her shoulders
like thick drops of blood
steaks and chops and wings
tore into them with relish
epicurean desires an irresistible fetish

She looks fetching and sweetly pleasant
as her father slitted open a butchered pheasant
blood red lips blood red hair
hanging on the hook of her
blood red nails
tearing through all the cuts served rare

Giovanni Mangiante

Can’t You Tell I’m a Romantic?

She picked up the hamster and pointed in between its legs
“He’s got such big, big balls, but he’s hiding them now,” she said.
I felt disgusted. I had caught her twisting my dog’s tits earlier.
Now this.

“He just eats, and then sits on his big hamster balls.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“And then he falls asleep.”

I had read about situations like this in poems and stories,
but I didn’t think people like that were real.

“I can’t do this,” I thought. “Am I a work of fiction?”

I was reading Notre-Dame at the time, and neither Esmeralda nor Gringoire
ever mused over nor played with Djali’s tits.

“It’s curfew. I can’t tell her to go,” I thought. “The cops could get her.”
“Why’d she bring that fucking thing here anyway?”

I saw her reach for the creature’s genitals again.

“Stop it,” I said. “Leave him be. He’ll maybe drop ’em later.”
“Yeah,” she said. “You’ll see. He’s got these biiiiiiiiig balls.”
“Alright,” I said. “Let’s get something to eat.”

John Grochalski

white jeans

tights ass
in white jeans

the way you sway 
down an aisle

kills poetry
and makes slaves

tight ass
in white jeans

what does it feel like
to own the living world of men?

tight ass
in white jeans

wars should’ve been fought over you
christ should’ve died for this instead

nations conquered
wild beasts tamed

tight ass
in white jeans

you have laid claim to my art

the goddamned mona lisa 
bows before you

and the moon looms hollow 
in your presence

Chase Dayton

General God Gets an Extreme Makeover

He puts his night vision goggles to his eyes and scours the wilderness. His team has organized a panty raid at 1100h. Operation Muff Dive. He chomps on his cigar and blows rings over the target. Locked On. 

A convent of naughty nuns, 13 clicks to the west, their perimeters unsecured. Sitting fucks. He knows from past experience that nuns never shave their ambushes. He grits his teeth. Deep furrows traverse his war head. He knows from Major Chad’s intel that it is Game Night at the Convent. They’d be expecting a pizza man and that’s just what they’d give ‘em. 6 covert pizza men, 6 extra-large sausages. 

He puts the goggles down. 

Then puts them back up and then back down. Back up. 

Again, he puts his night vision goggles down slowly and then up slowly and down again. Slowly. Mistakes get your ass killed out here on the Border.

His epaulets shine, his three-pointed hat is goddamn magnificent in the moonlight, a capstone on the pinnacle of manhood. He blows smoke rings around the full moon.

He puts the goggles back up to his battle-tested smoke-shrouded face. Of a sudden, standing at unease before him, a helpless civilian glowing night vision goblin green, hands behind her back, chest thrust forward. She’s crying hard. He puts down the goggles and whips out his huge gun and shoves it between her sob-shaking cannons. This is private property and she’s wearing no badge. Grounds for immediate termination. He had sworn to protect the Borders. And he’d be goddamned in the ass if he would see his oath broken on his watch. 

“Identify yourself or I’ll shoot your tits to Kingdom Come.” 

“Oh, please don’t! I don’t have a name. My parents were too poor to name me. I’ve been sent here as a POW from the Cosmetology School. It’s been ravaged and pillaged and I’ve been told to come here and look for a General and to do whatever he orders me to do! I don’t know anything else I swear! I learned young not to ask no questions.” Cosmetology school, eh? He puts the gun away. Her bazookas are slicked with tears. 

“Well, it looks like your luck keeps getting worser.”

“Why? Oh no!”

“That’s why, ‘sir’.”

“Why ‘sir’?”

“Why sir what?”

“Why sir is my luck getting worse, sir?”

“Worser because I’m General McGuffin. And I’m no luck at all.” 

“Sir thank God, sir!”

“Don’t be thanking God, prison girl. You thank me. I am your God from here on. I’m bigger than God. God cannot save you, but I can kill you. No one fears God but men would rather swallow razors covered in monkey shit than disobey my commandments. God cannot give you wealth but I am strong enough to take whatever I want.”

“Oh, sir thank you General God, sir!” She drops to her knees and hugs his Betty Davis thighs. “How can I begin serving you sir? Anything, you name it.”

“You said you were sent from the Cosmetology School?”

“Mmm hmm. Sure was.”

“So you’ve been briefed on style parameters for a range of various beautification strategies, trained in techniques of personal surface modification, and entrusted with classified vertically integrated esthetic restructuring projects?”

“Oh definitely, sir. Yep.”

“You don’t say.” He fingers his chin’s cleft and swallows hard, a sparkle in his eye.

“I say whatever you want me to say, sir.”

“You uhh, you stay here. I’ll be right back. You move and I’ll … uh … I’ll blow your tits off back to the Stone Age!” Giddy!

“Sir yes sir!” She salutes him and he walks off excitedly, holding his fists, barely containing himself, beginning to run, slowing, stopping, straightening his lapels, giggling then coughing, repeating, until he is out of sight.

General God returns with a rolling showgirl vanity set, designed specifically for the conditions of the Field. It spells ‘Z-o-l-o-n-a’ in LED lights in a rainbow arc above the mirror, before which he sits wide-eyed, prison girl standing behind, holding his head, cocking her own at an angle of concentration. “How about this …You have such great structure … Or we could do something like this … This is really hot now … With your tones I suggest …” 

A full makeover project is conceived and executed with precision and commendable valor. General God does not flinch, his nerves steeled by war, not even when a slip of the eyeliner pencil jabs him in the pupil. “Just a little co-llateralll damaaaage,” he sings.

Prison girl puts on the finishing touches and spins him around to see the finished product of their allied expertise. He slowly raises the goggles to his eyes and looks at himself. He pauses … then lets out a long-restrained squeal, a wind tunnel smile blasted on his face. He throws the goggles away and throws his arms over the nameless cosmetologist, his hero!

“You’re a magician! Oh! It’s me it’s me, it’s really me! Hi Zolona! Missed you, you fierce bitch!” Zolona is a strikinglybeautiful Glamazon warrior princess with metallic russet hair to the shoulders, severe bangs, long lashes curling up to eyebrows drawn like violin F-holes, powder blue lids lined cat-like in heavy pink; her cheeks are the rosiest dawns, her lips like yellow rubber love. “I love it!” 

“Now, the finishing touch.” Her tricorn! She gasps, meaty hands to her chest. 

She’s very excited and dancing around as if she’s just been given a medal of honor and a long Edda-ish chapter in history. But then … then she slumps back in her chair, folds her arms and pouts as if she had woken up on the wrong side of history. Poor Zolona! She tosses her hat and mumbles.

“What’s wrong, sir?”

“I still have nothing to wear-uh.”

“Hmmm … Oh I know! How bout you can wear my dress?”

“I couldn’t!” he blushes. “I would just die for that dress!”

“Sure you could, sir.”

“But then you’d have nothing to wear! Oh it’s no use.” Zolona, sad Zolona — she sulks.

“How about you take my dress and I wear your uniform and take your gun?”

“You’d really do that for me?”

“Of course I would, sir!”

“That would be absolutely fabulous!”

They swap. 

She admires himself for a while but then gets sad again, as if her personal guiding Star had turned out to only be swamp gas. She pouts.

“Now what’s wrong, sir? You look stunning! Any guy would kill you for a chance to be with you!”

“I know. It’s just … I don’t feel that way. Never mind. You wouldn’t get it. It’s a girl thing.” 

“You stop it this second! My duty as a cosmetologist is to make you feel however you want! We take vows and everything.”

“You’d really make me feel like I want to? You’d do that for me? I never get to feel like I want to.”

“You betcha, sir!”

“No more sir. I call you sir now.”


“And you’re not prison girl anymore. You’re the General. I’m your prison girl. Me. Zolona.”

“Call me General Hecate.”

“I committed heinous fashion crimes during the culture wars, General Hecate. I should be punished, sir.” 

“You’re right. We know all about you prison girl.” The General unholsters his service pistol and puts it to Zolona’s chest.

“You’re gonna be real mean to me aren’t you, sir?”

“You can count on 3 things, prison girl. Death, taxes, and General Hecate showing you zero goddamn mercy.”

“I want to pay my debts to society, sir. I want to be rehabilitated and become a productive citizen.”

“Then stop talking and take off those panties. And if I see you even think about sniffing your own drawers, I’ll shoot your little balls right off.” The General flicks Zolona’s bean bag and watches it shrivel like some bashful reef critter. 

Zolona takes off her g string — pauses to look at the General, he pointing the gun at her legumes, shaking his head — and at the threat of genital disfigurement, miraculously resists the urge to savor her musk. 

“Now get back on that stool and get your legs up, girl. Put ‘em on my shoulders.” Zolona’s pumps dangle over the General’s shoulders. From his bandolier he removes a large shell. “This here’s your medicine. Free birth control, courtesy Uncle Samael. 1500 mg of Salt Peter plus a little something extra. Call it a standard issue surprise. Open wide, maggot, and say ‘ahhhh.’ Feels like rehabilitation, don’t it?” The ballistic suppository is loaded into the chamber. “If that falls out, I put it in your head …” 

Before the General could finish his threat, Zolona starts to gurgle and convulse, going off like a coffee maker, her pumps hitting the ground behind the General’s boots. The tremors continue until Zolona’s cheeks bulge. Then she calms herself and looks coyly at the General before smoothly, with dainty and expert charm, removing the bullet from her yellow rubber love lips with a satisfied smack. She gives a fey little belch.

“Tada, sir!” she says with a self-satisfied head tremor. (Contrary to the impassive look on his face, General Hecate is highly amused. What an impressive asshole! He’d let her have her fun. She’d get her dishonorable discharge from planet Earth soon enough.) She claps her hands like an imbecile. “Oh I’m just kidding,sir! Life’s just too goddamned short not to get all you can from your fudge round, even in prison. Can I get an Amen? Here, I’ll rehabilitate myself again.” With improbable dexterity she reloads the bullet back in, sideways

The General tries not to laugh. Zolona’s imagination is Hecate’s playground. Anything Zolona desired could and would be used against Zolona. Hecate couldn’t wait to get to Major Chad. But first she’d have to get weirder, totally twisted, entwining with his fate until the thread snapped. 

So the General unzips his pants and puts the pistol through the opening and then up to Zolona’s face. “Suck it and hum reveille, prison girl.” 

“Yay!” Zolona expertly fellates her own pistol and hits every note. Then she does it bebop style, really swingin’ with it. Then she does it backwards in a virtuoso display. A mound of red dress rises as he sucks, hums, and the General reaches down and squeezes, threatening to turn that mound into a moan if’n it dare rise again. “We don’t suffer no showoffs around here, girl.” Zolona drools and makes a gaggle of noise, eyes crossing. The General removes the pistol. Prison girl has a request. 

“Sir requesting you to spit on me please, sir. My fashion crimes were of such a nature that I feel further abasement is needed if I am to return to civilian life and move to the suburbs.” 

“Request granted, maggot.” The General fires away and turns Zolona’s face into a mess hall. She lets his spit ooze from her forehead down her nose into her mouth, chilled and thick from the night breeze. She swallows. “Oh thank you for the good grub, sir. I better be careful or I’m going to leave prison fat as a moocow!” Goodness gracious, this was getting to be too much, too much! These dominator types truly were diseased characters! Hecate almost felt bad for them, realizing they must’ve experienced something horrible in their pasts. Oh well. This was euthanasia in that case. She was an emissary of the collective consciousness come to take out the trash.

“How about dinner and a movie? My treat. Then we’ll get back to the rehabilitation, I promise.”

“Thank you, sir! I love movies. Really helps pass the time in these POW camps.”

“You’re gonna love this one.” The General snaps his fingers and cues the action music. 

Explosions in the distance. Bullets careening. Helicopters chop the air. Chickens, pigs, dogs running around. Acrid fumes rolling in. The General hits the deck, covers his face in mud, and takes a bullet from the bandolier. Zolona is tied to her stool screaming for someone to “Please! Oh please!” save her, a distressed damsel.

The General crawls low through the muck, all hell breaking loose, to an army radio jeep. They wouldn’t call in those pizzas, not today, not on his watch. He removes the field knife from his boot and cuts the crotch out of his camo pants: into the jeep’s gas tank he stuffs the cutout crotch of his pants. He pulls a pink and gold zippo from a cargo pocket and lights his cigar. Then he lights the rag with the cigar and walks away in slow motion, puffing his stogie, as the jeep blows to smithereens behind him. He then executes a series of gymnastic maneuvers that terminate at the base of a tree which he shinnies up, blowing gardens of smoke as he ascends. He grabs one of the trees thick vines and jumps. His target is locked.

He swings from the tree like Tarzana, legs spread like a mud-faced Michelle Jordan, approaching the stool-bound damsel with extreme velocity … Target Zolona: Engaged. His exposed crotch collides with Zolona’s face at full speed, lifting her out of her stool and carrying her with the momentum, her whole face squid-gripped and invaginated by his loins. At the apogee of the swing he lets go of the vine and they fly together like face-groin conjoined angels, both with arms and legs spread, and like this they return to the earth, she on her back, he on top.

They are still for a moment after landing. The music has stopped.

The General can’t feel her breathe into him anymore. Time to disengage. Pressure released. [That noise. Like an airlock on a spaceship.] His ears pop. Now he stands over her. Zolona’s face is gone. He must have removed it by accident during this last stunt. Oops! Teeeheee. Collateral damage. At least they got the shot. 

Zolona struggles for air, all the muscles and viscera of his face visible, alive, moving, eyes bulging.

“I think I’m ready for my close up now, sir.”

“Gimme back my dress you nasty little prisoner. You got it dirty.”  The General strips him and makes him do pushups. His eyes fall out. Last thing they see is a descending boot. When he takes the pumps she wails, trying to cry but no longer able, just blood spurting. 

“I just wanted to be pretty, sir.”

“You are, Zolona. Now drop dead, gorgeous.”

“Don’t let me die alone. Will you be my mommy?”

Hecate holds him and lets him suckle on the pistol. It’s time to end this movie, this gonzo nightmare. She takes away his pistol and gives him one of her bazookas. She smothers him with her tits. He dies with a smile on his no-face, his wig still on, crooked. Very tender goddamn moment. 

Hecate whistles and the coyotes come take care of the body. Fade to black. 4 stars. Two thumbs up. 

Now time to find Major Chad.