Judge Santiago Burdon

Love Is A Stolen Car

I’m drinking at Jeff’s Pub with a guy who enjoys my company for some strange reason. My guess, he’s entertained by my sarcasm, wit, and what he considers my humorous dialogue.

He also happens to be my barber. Every once in a while, he’ll call me over for a free trim when he sees me out on the street. His name is Rudolph, owner/operator of Rudy’s Herr Cuts, but me I just call him Cracker.

A German immigrant, he is also a racist bigot with poor hygiene and a dedicated Catholic to boot. I may disagree with his every opinion and belief, but he’s the one buying tonight, so I ignore my objections for now.

“Hey Mexican,” hollers Jeff, the owner, from down the bar. “Almost closing time. Last call!”

“Only for me?” I ask. “Or everyone present? Because I would like to object, your honor. “

“I’ll get around to everyone else, but I thought I’d better start with you first. Jenk just called and asked if you were here.”

“So, what did you tell him?”

“I told him the truth. I don’t wanna get mixed up in any bullshit with you and your dealer. Just thought I’d let’cha know, Wetback.”

“Hey Cracker,” I say to Rudolph there beside me. “Did you spill beer down the back of my shirt? Jeff just said it’s wet.”

My drinking companion breaks into uproarious laughter, along with a few of the other drunks present.

“No Santi,” Cracker informs me in his German accent. “He means you swim cross river into U.S., getting wet. Get it now, Wetback?”

Meanwhile, Jeff is drying glasses down the bar.

“Hey Jeff,” I call out to him, “Cracker checked my shirt and says it’s dry.”

He ignores me as I finish my drink and make to leave.

“I must bid you all a fond farewell,” I declare, rising from my seat. “And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go…”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jeff asks, wiping the bar top. “Forget it, you fucking head case.”

“Gute nacht, Santi,” Cracker says, raising his glass as I head for the door.

Just as I open it, however, a massive shadow falls over me, its source now blocking my escape.

“Hey Jenk,” I say, trying to sound casual. “Surprise seeing you here. Was looking for you last week, actually, to let you know I won’t have your money until next Wednesday. I’m experiencing a bit of a financial inconvenience at the moment, you see.”

I owed him sixty for dope and twenty now in interest on top of that. He’d already given me my free walk two weeks ago, cornering me at our local liquor store. As a result, I knew there was a beatdown on the agenda for not paying him last Friday as promised, so I was prepared for it tonight.

“Now, I know you’ve gotta make an example out of me,” I continue. “Just one small request: please take it easy on my handsome face, as it’s the only thing I’ve got to get by on.”

“I ain’t lookin’ for ya bout dat,” Jenk says. “I should beat the shit outta ya, but dat can wait. Been lookin’ for ya cause Jess was workin’ at da Truck Stop and she OD’d. Ambulance took her away, don’t know if she made it or not.”

“Fuck…” I say. “My poor baby Jess! Damnit, I alway tell her not to go buying from dudes she doesn’t know. She’s always been so reckless…”

Meanwhile, it seems Cracker has overheard our little conversation.

“Come on, Santi,” he says, walking up from behind. “Your car is in shop, and buses not running, so I give ya ride. Come on, let’s go!”

“Get outta here,” Jenk says, stepping aside from the door. “We’ll talk mo’ later. Lemme know how she’s doing. I’ll be at the Fox Hole.”

I thank him and follow Cracker as he stumbles out into the night. The snow has really started coming down out there, like the angels are all brushing their hair at once.

“Hey Santi!” Jenk hollers out after me. “You better have dat CASH next week, or you won’t be walkin’ again for a while.”

I wave back at him, giving him a thumbs up as reassurance.

We reach Cracker’s car and he starts fumbling for his keys. He swears in German as he turns his pockets inside out, dumping their contents into the snow.

“I can’t find my DAMN KEYS,” he says. “I have them before, where in hell are they now?”

He stoops down to search the ground at his feet. I decide to try the car door. It opens and I slip inside. I check the visors, in the ashtray, even under the damn seat, and then there they are right before me.

“Cracker, get in! Your keys are right here in the ignition.”

Meanwhile, he’s still scrounging for his stuff on the ground.

“Cracker, what the fuck you doin’ cabron? C’mon, we can get that later!”

“You go head,” he says, rising unsteadily. “Lose ex-wife’s diamond ring. Just take car and bring back my place in morning. Go on now, Wetback, get outta here!”

“Thanks, Cracker.”

I fire up the engine and spin out of the lot, speeding off into the snowstorm.

It is then that I realize something important: Jenk never said which hospital they took Jessica to. And there’s four hospitals in this goddamn city. University Medical Center is closest to the Truck Stop, so I head in that direction, carefully now in these blizzard conditions.

I haven’t had a valid driver’s license in about two years, I’m forced to remind myself. I have numerous warrants for not appearing in court, driving on a suspended license, and various other minor infractions. Getting pulled over tonight would complete the third act of my personal Greek tragedy. Sophocles never wrote anything close to all the drama in my life. No, even better, my story is the lost third book of Homer’s Odyssey. I think of this like it’s a good thing for some reason.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel the withdrawals from not having a fix in about ten hours. I’d been waiting for Jess to get back with some money to score, but that hardly seemed important anymore.

Finally reaching the hospital, I attempt to ditch the car at its emergency entrance, but I am forced by a rent-a-cop to move. Instead, I repark it in Doctor Rosenberg’s designated space.

Running up to the entrance, I slip on a patch of ice the near the doors, falling face first into a concrete bench where an old lady sits smoking. Blood gushes from my nose, which is broken I can tell already.

“Are you okay dear?” the old lady asks. “That was some fall.”

I cup my hands over my nose to stop the blood. That’s when I notice the gash in my forehead as well, gushing down into my eyes.

“Ya, just fine,” I lie. “Thanks.”

“I don’t think so,” the old lady insists. “Dear you’re bleeding badly. Do you need some help?”

“Could you walk me to the desk inside?” I ask. “I’m trying to find my girlfriend. I need to know if she’s alive. Please.”

The old lady takes my arm and leads me over to the triage desk, where two nurses immediately attend to me. I’m seated in a wheelchair and rolled into an exam room, where they begin to care for my injuries.

“How did this happen hon?” the attractive nurse asks. “Were you involved in an automobile accident?”

The towel on my face is quickly soaked with blood, dripping down onto my pants.

“No, I had an unfortunate run-in with the bench outside.  You should have someone take care of the ice out there, or you may have a few more patients before the night is over. Can you get the name of the woman who walked me in? She witnessed the accident and I may need her testimony.”

“Certainly,” the other nurse says, “but first we need your information.”

“Of course,” I say, “but could you please first check to see if my girlfriend was brought in for an overdose this evening?”

“Sure, what’s her name?” the attractive nurse asks.

“Jessica,” I say.

“Last name?”

“Uhhh, Jessica…”

Damn, I can’t even remember her last name. In fact, I’m not sure she ever told me, and I don’t recall ever asking.

“I’m embarrassed to say, but it seems I can’t remember her last name. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, you obviously whacked your head pretty hard out there. What’s your name, can you tell me that?”

The other nurse goes to see if Jess is here as well.

“Of course,” I say. “My name… my name is… ahhh… Wait, I know my own name! I remember coming here to find Jess, and then…”

“Do you have any identification?”

I make a big show of searching for my nonexistent wallet, coming up empty handed.

“It’s okay, just relax,” she says soothingly. “The Doctor will be in shortly. It looks like you’re going to need some stitches, and your nose is quite possibly broken as well. Just relax and we’ll take good care of you, okay?”

The other nurse returns with a smile.

“I’ve got good news for you,” she says. “Your girlfriend is here and resting comfortably. She’ll recover from her incident just fine.”

“Can I please see her?” I ask. “I want her to know that I’m here for her. I need to see for myself that she’s okay. Do you understand?”

“You aren’t going anywhere just yet,” the nurse says. “You’re still bleeding, and I’m sure the Doctor is going to want x-rays.”

Well, I’m relieved to learn she’s alive at least. It wasn’t as though I were in love with Jess, just concerned about her is all. Wait, was I in love with her? Maybe my memory really had been affected by the fall.

“I’ll see if she’s awake and let her know. Who should I say is here to see her?”

“He’s experiencing some temporary amnesia. Just let her know it’s her boyfriend.”

The nurse leaves again as the Doctor finally makes his entrance, all chipper and smiling.

“So, how we feeling tonight fella?”

‘Fella’, nice touch. Was this guy out of some 50’s movie? He begins examining my injuries.

“My name is Doctor Rosenberg,” he says. “I’ll be your attending physician. Looks as though you’re going to need some stitches for that nasty laceration, and unless your nose has always pointed that way, I think it’s broken. We’re  going to need to take some pictures. Your face is beginning to swell so we’re going to apply some ice to the area. Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort anywhere else?”

“Well, my entire body is sore and my skull and face are in excruciating pain. Also, my car is parked in your spot. I apologize, but I was in such a hurry to find my girlfriend who OD’d. Again, I’m sorry.”

“Tell security to cancel the tow,” he says to someone behind him. “Good thing you mentioned it. Now, on a scale from one to ten, ten being extreme, how much pain are you in?”

“Eleven!”

“It says here in your chart you’re experiencing some amnesia,” Doctor without a parking spot says. “You remembered where you parked your car though. Long-term memory may be temporarily effected. Okay we’ll address it later. Let’s get you some morphine for the pain and some lidocaine in that wound for stitches. Are you allergic to anything big guy?” he asks.

“Only angry women, ex-husbands and cops,” I reply. “I always seem to get dry mouth and break into a cold sweat whenever I come into contact with them.”

“You’re a comedian huh, funny guy,” he says. “Do you remember when you had your last tetanus shot? I guess probably not. We’ll get you a tetanus injection as well. Okay, sit tight, we’re going to get you stitched up in no time. Waiting on the surgeon Doctor Thompson. You didn’t obstruct his parking space too, I hope?”

“Can I get something for the pain, Doc?” I ask. “My face is killing me…”

“Your face is killing me too!” he goofs. “Damn, that was funny. The nurse will be in soon with your injection. I’ll be back in a jiffy. Sit tight big guy.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

He leaves me alone, holding the bloody towel against my face. ‘In a jiffy’, he said. Doc watched a lot of classic movies I guess? Such thoughts occupy my mind as I eagerly anticipate my morphine.

Soon the nurse returns as promised.

“Alright, I’ve got something for the pain and I’m going to introduce it through the catheter we put in earlier,” she says as she sets things up. “Now, you might get a little nauseous after the injection. If you feel like you are going to vomit, use this pan okay?”

“How many milligrams?” I inquire, trying not to sound too concerned.

“Fifteen,” she says. “It’s a strong dosage, so you should feel the effects immediately. I know you’ve probably built up a tolerance from your drug addiction. We took that into consideration.”

“Wait,” I object, “how did you come to such a conclusion? I never sssaaaiddd IIIII…”

Instantly, I’m so high I cannot speak. Slurring words, seeing double, and feeling absolutely euphoric. There is some mild nausea, yes, but nothing I can’t handle.

Next, she leans forward and starts jabbing another syringe around the cut above my eye. She’s so close to me now, I can see down the front of her loose scrubs. Full breasts cradled in pink bra.

“Find what you’re looking for down there, mister?” she asks. “How are you feeling? Has your pain subsided?”

I nod my wobbly head, my only semi-coherent mode of communication at this point.

“Hello sir,” says a new voice as it enters the room. “I’m Doctor Thompson, the surgeon that’s going to stitch up that nasty gash in your head. Are you feeling any sensation here?”

I can feel him touching the cut but trust me, there is no feeling except for the righteous high now rushing through my body.

“Nada ting, Doxzer,” I reply.

“Okay then, let me get started here and we’ll try not to leave a noticeable scar. Please lie down while I get the suture.”

He begins calling out things to the nurse as I lay back, staring up into the bright light above until it blinds me with its intensity. Someone throws something over my eyes and I drift into a realm of peacefulness.

I fade out for a while, oblivious to the carnage of my own body. Some time later, I’m awakened by the sound of the Doctor quietly singing a Rodgers and Hammerstein number from South Pacific.

“We’ve got mangos and bananas we can pick right off the trees. We’ve got volleyball and ping pong…”

“Hey Doc,” I say, trying to get his attention. “What year is this, anyway? Seriously, I feel as though I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone…”

At least that’s what I was trying to say.

“Lie still,” he says. “Hard to understand your speech.” Then, after a moment, “Did you say the Twilight Zone? Now that’s a great television show. My singing’s not bothering you, is it? We’re putting on a production at the country club, and as you can probably tell I need the practice.”

“Ya, that’s just swell.”

Wait, did I just say ‘swell’? What the hell was happening here? Okay Santi, get ahold of yourself, it’s just the drugs talking.

“You meant the Twilight Zone was a great show,” I say. “But really, what year is this?”

“You don’t know what year it is?” he asked. “Relax, we have a neurologist is on hand to evaluate your memory loss. Almost done here. Then we have you scheduled for an x-ray. We need to get some pictures of your cranium, see what type of damage the fall may have caused.”

While the Doctor finishes up, I’m thinking to myself how this whole amnesia thing would make the perfect setup for a story. Bump on the head, memory loss, beautiful nurse, time warp with everything gone black and white. Sure, I’m embellishing that last part, but still.

“Okay buddy there we go,” he says. “That’s some of my finest work. Four stitches on the inside and seven on the outside, small and close together so the scar will be less noticeable. I decided to stitch up the bridge of your nose as well. I’m sure it’s going to have to be reset. It definitely appears to be broken but we’ll get an x-ray just to be sure.”

“How are we getting along, Skipper?” Doctor with no parking space comments from out of nowhere. “You’re looking better than I assume you feel. We need some x-rays so they’ll be coming for you shortly. Are you regaining any memory? Also I notice your pupils are still quite dilated, so you most likely sustained a concussion.”

“I’m still a bit confused at the moment,” I say. “I can’t seem to collect my thoughts or grasp all the questions you’ve been asking. I need to see Jessica so I know she’s alright. Please, indulge my concern and allow me to at least see her.”

“Just relax for now,” says Dr. South Pacific. “We’ll have you all patched up in no time!”

A few moments pass before a long-haired guy with a pocked face and tattooed arms comes breezing into the room.

“Transportation for one Mr. Jessica,” he says. “Need to get you down to x-ray town!”

He looks at the plastic bracelet on my wrist. I notice it actually identifies me as ‘MR. JESSICA’.

“Very cute,” I say. “Who came up with that? Was it you, Nurse Beauty Queen?”

“See you later, Mr. Jessica,” she giggles as I’m wheeled away.

“I’m Brandon, your designated driver,” says the long-haired guy now behind me.

“Outta the way, coming through!” he hollers, passing others in the hallway like a NASCAR driver on speed.

“So what happened to you guy?” he asks. “Somebody beat you up? Car accident? What’s your story?”

“There I was,” I begin, “just minding my own business, not bothering anyone, when this woman at the bar asks if I could score her some cocaine. Well, I figured it was possible to score her some, pinch a little for myself, and make a few bucks on top of it. She wanted a teener (1\16th of an ounce) and gave me $150.00. So it takes me ten minutes to score the shit. It only cost $120. I pocket $30 and head back. Only, what I didn’t know was that she was an undercover cop.”

“No shit man, what happened?”

“I get back to the bar and hand her the dope and she flashes her badge in my face. Two other guys come after me and I hit one of them in the head with a beer bottle, smashing beer all over the place. The other cop slips in the mess before he can get me. I turn to run and she fires a warning shot. ‘FREEZE’, she screams. So I pull out my own gun as well.”

“What the hell did you do? What happened next? Come on, man!”

“She arrested me for indecent exposure.”

“Haha, funny! You really had me going for a minute there. So you don’t want to tell me what really happened?”

“Slipped on some ice and kissed a bench.”

“Ouch! Your other story was far more entertaining…”

Finally, we arrive at our destination.

“Okay,” Brandon says. “Here we are, Mr. Jessica. Not sure I wanna hear that story…”

“I’ll tell ya if you do me a favor..?”

He bites, and after I relate the tale, he agrees to go find Jess and bring her to me. No one will suspect him, seeing he’s hospital transportation and all. And no harm visiting while we wait.

After what feels like an hour (must’ve been five minutes), a Latina nurse walks past, informing me in Spanish that the x-ray tech is on his way. She also asks if I’m an illegal because, if so, they’ll have to call ‘La Migra’. I tell her I’m not sure because I have amnesia. She pats me on the shoulder and gives me a wink.

“Bueno historia. Suerte,” (Good story. Luck,) she offers before leaving.

Suddenly it comes echoing from down the hall like birdsong. The sound of Jessica’s voice. As Brandon comes wheeling her around the corner, she doesn’t even look so bad, but I’m just glad to see her alive.

“What the hell happened to you, Santi?”

“Mrs. Jessica, I presume?” Brandon says.

“Jenk found you, didn’t he?” Jessica asks. “I ran into him earlier and he asked if I knew where you were. That bastard can’t wait a couple days for his money?”

She leans in to embrace me, tits falling out of her hospital gown in the process. I take her in my shaky arms, weaving my fingers through her long, unkempt hair. We share a kiss and she pulls back to take a closer look at me.

“Oh baby, just look at your beautiful face… Wait, are you high?” she suddenly asks. “Your eyes look like pin holes… Are you holding, Santi? Answer me!”

“Hey Brandon,” I say, “Can we get a little privacy here?”

Without a word, he heads off for the vending machines down the hall, searching his pockets for change.

“Ya only got ten minutes,” he hollers back over his shoulder. “Gotta get her back before they notice she’s gone.”

“Jess,” I say, “they shot me up with some morphine, so yes, I’m high. But no, I’m not holding. And Jenk didn’t do this to me. I slipped on ice running in here to find you and fell right into a bench. Are you okay? You scared the shit out of me, baby. Ya never listen to me about scoring from assholes you don’t know.”

“Are you Mr. Jessica?” the x-ray tech interrupts. “We need some pictures of your head.”

“Mr. Jessica?” Jess snickers. “That’s cute, how did you come up with that?”

“I’m having some memory issues at the moment. I can’t even remember my last name, let alone yours.”

The tech begins to wheel me away from her.

“My last name is Jameson,” she calls out after us. “I’m in room 714. Come see me when you’re finished? In case you can’t remember, we got married last Saturday and I still haven’t had my honeymoon!”

Damn, I hoped she was only kidding. She had to have been, I was… wait, what was I doing last Saturday? Fuck if I could remember.

I finish with the x-rays, confirming my broken nose and intact skull, and they diagnose me with a concussion as well. My nose gets crunched back into place, and they finally clean the blood off my face.

“It looks as though you’ll be spending the night with us,” Nurse Beauty Queen informs me. “We’ve got you in a room right next to Jessica. And don’t worry about the pain, Doctor Rosenberg has ordered two more morphine injections then pills. You’ll be here twenty four hours for observation. How’s that sound?”

“Do I have a choice?” I ask. “I would prefer to be released as I’m not sure I have insurance to cover it. Also, I borrowed a car to get here, and I need to return it soon.”

“No need to worry about the cost,” she continues. “Your stay is on us. Security reviewed the video and your description of the incident checks out. And the woman who witnessed the event gave a statement. So you are in the clear.”

‘Will you be keeping me company?” I ask.

“Now Mr. Jessica, what would your girlfriend say?”

“Oh, ya…”

Brandon appears with a grin, ready to whisk me away.

“Are you ready, Santiago?” he asks. Let’s go and get you tucked in.”

“Santiago?” Nurse Beauty Queen says. “How did you find out his name?”

“His girlfriend told me.”

“She refused to tell staff anything when we asked her for info…”

That’s my girl. She’s got my back, wouldn’t tell them a thing. Makes me proud of her, a shrewd and loyal friend.

I get settled into my room with pajamas, the TV remote and a bowl of Jell-O.

Jessica comes by before too long, looking like a vision of loveliness. She crawls up onto the bed and snuggles in with her head on my chest, one leg draped over mine.

“You came for me,” she whispers. “You searched to find out where they brought me. You care about me. You love me, Santi, I know it.”

It is then that a nurse I don’t recognize enters, followed by two policemen.

“Mr. Jessica,” she says, “these officers are here to arrest you. We had your plates checked to find out your name, and the car came back as stolen.”

Jessica crawls off as the cops move in, immediately cuffing me to the bed.

“Handcuffs,” she comments, “how sexy!”

“Jess, stop! I can’t think about sex at a time like this.”

“What a shame,” she says. “I’m not wearing anything under this gown. Look.”

She lifts to prove her statement. She drops and I turn to the cops, prepared to fully explain.

One of them starts reading my my rights, the other suggests I listen.

Cracker is either pissed I haven’t returned his car yet or he’s just too drunk to remember even lending it to me. Either that, or he lent me a stolen car and said abso-fucking-lutley nothing about it?  I’d most likely go down for this, goddamnit.

“Oh Santi, you stole a car for me!” Jess says. “How romantic… You really do love me!”

“Nurse, nurse!” I cry. “Morphine please!”

Danny D. Ford

Slow

His house
smelled like
old piss and
oven chips

one year
he invited a few of us 
round for a birthday party
when his mother
put the tray 
of frozen nuggets
on the table
siblings of all sizes 
eagerly grabbed
at tiny brown pucks

they were dirt poor
he seemed half 
a step behind
in his head
always 
looking off
somewhere

he was kind
they all were

his house sat
at the end 
of a terrace
right on
a sharp corner
a sign outside read
‘SLOW!
Accident Hotspot

after a small cake
& song 
we all went outside 
to look 
at the blood stains
on the pavement
where a woman 
had been clipped
by a lorry
earlier that week

Elizabeth Bedlam

Tina & the Rasp

Tina hated the way she looked. It was always getting her in trouble. Her wide blue eyes. Bouncy flaxen hair. That perky, sharp nose. Those cupid bow lips, pink and ripe as a virgin cunt. She looked down, her chest was too big for her tiny frame. Her narrow hips. That thigh gap a man could easily slip his hand through and slide his fingers up into her….she scowled, thinking about it. 

“It’s over,” She told herself. On the side of the sink sat the steel foot rasp her mother used to remove the calluses from her feet. Tina exhaled, feeling she had to choose now, before they took away her choices. Before someone else made them for her. “Fucking do it, Tina,” She said to her reflection. 

Tina reached down for the instrument, but she didn’t take her eyes from the mirror. She wanted to remember how she looked before, so if any self doubt crept in later, she could assure herself she made the right choice. She’d remember before, she’d be thankful for after. Her fingers wrapped around the cold black plastic grip. It was lighter than she expected. A long rectangle board of raised stainless steel pyramids in the center. She’d watched her mother in the living room, filing away at the soles of her feet. Shredded dead skin peppering the floor, reminded Tina of grated parmesan falling over ziti. Sometimes Medusa would wander into the room and lick up the salty flakes from the carpet. 

“Oh, damn it! Tina, grab your dog! And you let that thing kiss your face? Ha-ha.” Her mother said, a cigarette clasped between her tight lips. Tina could still hear the dragging of steel biting skin. Back and forth for the entirety of the evening news. “Tina, vacuum this up, will ya? I need to go soak my feet. Thanks, baby.” She’d pat Tina’s shoulder as she passed. 

Her mother was working tonight. She wouldn’t be home till late. Tina didn’t have to rush, but she hadn’t been able to think of anything else since the idea came to her. It had occupied her mind for close to a month. What if she did it? What would happen? How would her friends react? Society in general? 

Tina remembered Rob’s weight on top of her, and her stomach muscles tightened. She’d thought about this ever since him. She wondered what he’d think about her after tonight. Maybe he’d finally stop bragging to his friends. Maybe they’d all stop smirking when she walked past, knowing what he’d done to her. And her not doing a damn thing but laying there and taking it.  

Whatever the reaction from Rob or whoever, it would be better than the one she got now. She was only seventeen and already she wanted to be old and fat. Being thin and beautiful was a curse. A joke. A gift she was ready to grind off and hand back in pieces.

“Fuck you, God. Take it back!” Tina said. She pulled the rasp across her one cheek, then the other. She examined the ragged red lines. Soon blood found its way through. It beaded and ran down in a slow, even fashion. 

The more Tina scraped, the easier the file glided over her skin. Her forehead, down the bridge of her nose. It hurt, she wouldn’t pretend it didn’t. But it was a pain steeped in pure satisfaction. 

“These. You’re nothing but trouble.” Tina mumbled, looking down at her chest. She pulled her shirt up and held it under her chin. Pulling her bra aside, she filed down her nipple. Soft, rosy skin opened easily and wept crimson after only a few drags of the rasp. She dropped her shirt and watched heavy red blooms form over each tit.

When the handle became slick, Tina dropped the file into the sink. Her vision was mottled. She felt her high wearing down. She turned to make her way to her room, but crumbled onto the cold tile floor. It felt good against the heat of her face. For a moment, she wished she’d filed her cunt as well. She began shaking, her body throbbing. She didn’t think she had the strength or the will to get herself up off the floor. 

Blood beaded on her eyelashes. Tina blinked and looked out the door into the hallway. She could see the light changing on the walls as the sun set. Medusa wandered in. Her evening walk was late. When Tina failed to stir, the dog began lapping up the cooling blood, the curled strips of skin that littered the floor like rain and fallen leaves. Tina listened to the sound of the dog’s wet tongue running over tiles, just beside the nub that was her ear. Medusa laid down next to the girl, content to wait. 

Soon it became dark. Tina fell asleep and for the first time in her life she liked the way she looked.

John Gartland

White Noise

In homage
to post-modernism,
part two of my act is
fucking with Foucault.
Acrobatic sex on stage
with the deformed, see
some big bang blew the
madhouse inside out,
distortion is the slippery
default state
of every thing–one
I fuck over, and under
the circumstances

I repeat my denial of
everything to date,
and propose next,
to passionately lick the
fragrant ass-hole
of chaos,
teach my students
to flagellate,

And hysterically
suck my dialectical
marxist dick.

Want to watch?

David J. Thompson

This Is The Jacket

Last night my girlfriend came to bed 
wearing only a brown leather jacket.
Wow, I said, cool jacket, but then 
she pointed to a hole in it. Oh, that sucks, 
I told her. It’s ruined. No, she answered
in between kissing me and reaching 
into my boxers. This is the jacket
Andy Warhol was wearing back in ‘68 
when that crazy woman shot him.
My Aunt Donna was working then
as Warhol’s mom’s visiting nurse.
She wanted to throw it out,
so my aunt just grabbed it.

The jacket ended up somewhere
on the floor by the time we finished.
I whispered in her ear if she was thinking
what I was thinking. Of course, she said
swinging her legs out of bed. Two bowls
of Campbell’s tomato soup, coming right up.

Judge Santiago Burdon

The Sinaloa Squeeze

“Are they shooting at us?” asks Johnny, behind the wheel.

“Of course they are!” I shout back at him. “How do you think the back window just shattered? Did you think it was them projecting bad vibrations our way? Damnit Rico, now what did you do?”

It had all been going so well. I knew it was too good to be true. We’d been contracted by El Jefe (The Boss) to collect the money owed to him by various traficantes. Drive around Sinaloa picking up debts and deliver the money back to him. That simple, nothing complicated or dangerous about it.

The easiest job ever, and Johnny throws dynamite into a fire.

Another bullet ricochets off our truck as we fly down the road, our pursuers close behind.

“Johnny, tell me what happened back there at the bar. You’re supposed to be watching my back, pinche guey! You hit on some cabrón’s girl again? Lose at pool and not pay the guy?”

“Desculpe me carnal (forgive me friend), they were trying to cheat me…”

“Ya, just like the time in Medellín, when you lost at poker and I wound up paying those fucking chulos for you. They were going to cut off your huevos and let you bleed to death, and all for a measly $75, you cheap bastard!”

Johnny’s voice quavers as he tries to speak, his eyes staying focused on the road.

“Digame que hiciste?” (Tell me what you did) I ask.

“Santi, please…”

Bullets whiz past us, one of them taking out my side mirror in the process.

“Shut the fuck up, Johnny! After all the years we’ve been together, you’re gonna lie to me? Mentrioso pedazo de mierda envuelo en piel!” (Liar, piece of shit wrapped in skin) How much do you owe those chulos? And tell me the truth, don’t make this any worse! Digame cuanto naco? (Tell me how much hillbilly)”

“I only lose two times! Then he say, give my money, cause all Colombianos are cheaters.”

“How much? I don’t need to hear your cuenta de hada.” (fairytale)

 “I think $100…”

“Okay, we turn around and go back. You’re going to pay those Mexicans what you owe them.”

“But Santi, I don’t have $100 to pay them.”

“Then how much do you have?”

“I only have like $60 on me…”

“What the hell, Rico! You’re betting with money you don’t have, and you’re betting on pool? This is long overdue, but let me tell you the ugly truth: you suck at pool. My dead grandmother could beat you with one arm and she went blind at fifty. That’s how terrible you are at playing pool!”

“Santi, it wasn’t my…”

“I’ll lend you $50 to pay those chulos. I just hope the owner didn’t call El Jefe and tell him what happened. The Cartel kills people for less than this.”

“And another thing you should might want to know, I didn’t pay for the beer or chicharrones either…”

“What the fuck were you thinking? You obviously weren’t thinking at all. Johnny, one of these days, you are going get me killed. I swear to something, I don’t know what, but I will come back and KILL YOU TWICE to make sure you never enter that Heaven you imagine exists! Now, turn around and head back before these Mexicans kill us.”

I look back to assess the damage to our truck, and that’s when I see them right behind us.

“Shit!”

Their truck rams ours, hard, from behind. Johnny swerves as we’re both tossed around the cab.

“Rico, we have to shake them!”

He slams on the brakes, cutting the wheel as he floors the gas and slams it into first. Somehow he manages to execute a perfect one-eighty turn, leaving those Mexicans in the dust.

“Maybe we should stop here and pay them,” Johnny suggests, “Then we no have to drive all the way back.”

“Ya sure, stop in the middle of nowhere and negotiate with some Sinaloa gangsters. Perfect, no witnesses, no protection. You with your antique .38 and me with my Glock that doesn’t even have a full clip. Might as well just ask them to kill us and steal El Jefe’s cash! Doesn’t matter we’d be dead, Jefe would find our bodies just to kill us both all over again. Now get back to the bar and step on it!”

We’ve still got a few kilometers left to go, and already the Mexicans are back on our tail. At least they’ve stopped shooting for now.

“I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me, Rico. Otherwise you’d never suggest such a dangerous meeting with these guys out in the middle of the desert. What aren’t you telling me, you crazy Columbian pendejo! I can’t get us out of this if I don’t know what we’re up against. Spit it out already!”

“I think maybe I hit a guy with poolstick in the head. He no get up, then I run when I see you outside. Everyone start yelling and coming after me.”

“Johnny, I didn’t see anyone chasing you!”

“Because I put broke stick in doors to stop them.”

“You think you may have hit someone, you don’t know? No, no, no, of course not! Rico, which muchacho did you hit? It wasn’t the guy in the black shirt and white cowboy hat, was it? Tell me it wasn’t him. Was his name Rafael?”

“I think maybe someone call him Rafa. Yes, he have white hat. You know who is him?”

“Johnny, that’s Miguel’s, the owner’s son. Dios mio, we’re in deep shit now, pinche guey! Floor it already and quit looking behind us. Rico, you’re paying to fix the glass and any bullet holes as well!”

“You don’t have insurance for truck when you rent it?”

“What insurance, cabrón? This isn’t a rental! This is Sebastian’s truck and he’s going to be pissed when he sees this.”

Meanwhile, the Mexicans have closed the distance between us, pulling up along the driver’s side. The guy in the passenger seat points an AK-47 out the window, screaming at us to pull over.

Johnny looks over at me, showing no fear in his eyes. We’d both prepared for this day since the very first run we’d ever done together. Even with a machine gun pointed at us, I can tell he’s about to do something drastic.

“Rico, don’t do it!”

Just as he’s about to swerve and try running them off the road, the truck falls back and resumes following us once again. 

“Johnny, we have to clear this up. If El Jefe gets wind of what went on here, it’ll be a bad, bad thing for both of us. I’ll do the talking and I won’t let anything happen to you. Tu eres mi carnal. (You’re my best friend) You trust me, don’t you?”

“Si, I trust you always, but I don’t trust these pendajos…”

Finally we make it back to the bar. Two police cars are parked out front. Now, you might imagine they’ve come to settle our little disturbance, but keep in mind that this is Mexico. The police enforce their own laws, protecting their interests and the interests of anyone willing to pay for their services. Most all of them are on someone’s payroll, usually whoever controls that area of the Cartel’s operations.

“Relax, Johnny, everything is going to be fine. There’s no reason to be nervous. Just whatever you do, don’t look as though you’re afraid.” 

I do my best to reassure him, even though I have no idea how I’m going to handle the situation myself.

Miguel is out front, talking with the cops. I direct Johnny to park nearby. The truck that had been following us pulls around the back of the place, most likely to hide their weapons from the authorities.

I instruct Johnny to stay in the truck and wait until I call for him. As I turn to pat him on the shoulder, I see his gun on the seat between his legs.

“Johnny, either put that away or shoot yourself with it right now. Do not under any circumstances start shooting! Do you understand me?”

He nods reluctantly, but as usual I’m not banking on his compliance.

I exit the truck and start walking toward the officers. The guys who had been following us appear at the bar’s entrance, glaring in our direction.

“Buenas officers,” I say, “me gustaría una oportunidad para explicar.” (I’d like a chance to explain)

“You have a lot of explaining to do, Santiago,” the first cop says, turning to me with a grin. “You forgot to pay your tab and you left before you could buy me lunch. I’m glad you come back. Now you can buy lunch for both me and Enrique.”

It just so happens to be Officer Ceasar Fonseca from La Tuna, El Jefe’s hometown, and a cousin of his as well. The other cop I also recognize, Enrique Gallardo from Guadalajara, whom I’d met on several occasions out on El Jefe’s ranch.

“What a pleasure to see you both again,” I say. “I’d be honored if you would join me for lunch. I’ll buy, of course.”

“Claro, Santiago,” Enrique says. “Gracias.”

“Miguel,” I say, turning to the bar’s owner. “I am so sorry about your son. I guess my friend and Rafael didn’t quite get along. I would appreciate a chance to make it up to him.”

“Who?” he asks, “that lazy bastard who hangs around all day drinking my beer and fucking the waitresses? He’s my girlfriend’s son, not mine. I don’t care what happens to him, but you will have to pay your friend’s tab.”

I peel him off a C-note and shake his hand. Everything settled.

“Hey Johnny,” I yell back to the truck. “Let’s have lunch!”

He flashes me a smile so wide, I’m not sure it will fit through the door.

Jyl Anais

The Superhighway of Samsara

How many ways 
can I say
“I’m not dating 
your resume?”

You can put your dick
back in your pants,
take your SEAL training
and your surgical skills,
get in your Jaguar,
and take the next exit back onto
the superhighway
of samsara.

Because I’m not
auditioning to be your
next trophy wife,
and I’m not 
your mistress,
a woman you can call
when you’re bored 
with your wife or
when it’s convenient,
in between your 
real priorities.

If your wife can’t trust you,
neither can I.

I may have wandered into
the arctic wilderness of your heart,
but I’m an emotional survivalist
and can find my own way home.

I’m not an accessory
or a toy to play with. 
My dignity 
will always be worth 
more to me 
than unlimited access 
to your assets.

I could be a spiritual master,
incarnation of a goddess,
accomplished artist,
attend a college more difficult 
to get into than Harvard,
have a heart of gold,
model on the latest runway,
use remote viewing 
to help solve a sexual homicide,
and speak to the dead regularly,
be as loyal 
as the sun 
rising every morning,
but in your eyes 
I’ll always be reduced 
to my tits and ass.

You do know how to divide by
the lowest common denominator.
I know I’m only as valuable 
as how often
you want to fuck me.

I don’t give a shit
about your PhD,
your BMW,
or that you won
the biggest verdict
in history.
What I care about 
is the way you treat me.

Jonathan Woods

A Woman I’d Been Seeing

Helena, a woman I’ve been seeing off and on and who works over at the National Enquirer, texted me a picture of Jeff Bezos’s junk. You know, the one that’s been getting all the media attention. 

How had she come by it? Was it just floating around the office for all and sundry to consult? Like the Oracle of Delphi? Or did she have a special inside connection to the top brass among whom iPhone snaps of famous dicks suitable for blackmail would have limited circulation? 

When the image arrived in my inbox, I glanced at it. Read Helena’s comment: “This is it! J.B.’s junk. Totally awesome, yes!?”

It looked pretty nebbish to me.

But the full frontal issue for me was its provenance. Was it really his? Or a clever forgery?

I mean, the junk in the .jpg from Helena wasn’t tattooed with the name Bezos or even his initials. And no chain of custody had been established, like the cops are required to have for admissible evidence. (I’m a big Law & Order fan.) 

All I had was Helena’s word for its authenticity and she definitely didn’t score 100% on the truth-o-meter. More like 67%.

There was the time when she said she had a stomach bug and needed to stay home close to the ceramic bus. That night I spotted her in Veselka’s with some guy in a suit. They were eating stuffed cabbage and laughing at 1:00 a.m. I didn’t call her for a week. Then there was the weekend she went to Cleveland because her mother was ill. It was February. Nobody goes to Cleveland in February. I later found out she went to Miami (probably with the same guy). I discovered the airline ticket stub in her apartment—interleaved as a bookmark in Portnoy’s Complaint.

That Helena said it was Jeff’s junk meant diddly-squat. It could have been anybody’s.

Then it occurred to me: How many peckers had Helena been involved with in her 28 years? Five? Fifteen? A hundred? It’s a subject we never discussed. And, frankly, I didn’t want to discuss it now. What if she turned out to be the female equivalent of Georges Simenon? 

Jealousy swept over me like a riptide, carrying me out to deep waters. I was sure the .jpg prick belonged to the guy in the suit.

As it was mid-November and sleeting, I put on my tweed overcoat, my gray Bogart-style Borsalino and a scarf. In my pocket rested the snub-nosed .38 my roommate had asked me to keep while he went to prison for armed robbery. 

I took a cab to 2nd Avenue. 

It was my lucky night. There he was, the suit guy, sitting at a table in Veselka’s. But not with Helena. A skinny blonde faced him—scoop-neck T-shirt, no bra. She looked cold. They were both eating borscht with sour cream and drinking beer.

I took a seat at the counter, ordered a decaf tea and waited.

Soon enough he went to the men’s room. I decided not to approach the blonde and show her the pic. “Is this his?” It would have been too weird. Instead I followed him. 

He was standing at the urinal, junk in hand, mind somewhere. I stepped up behind him, jammed the snub nose of the .38 into his ear. He blanched. 

“Show me your pecker,” I said.

The one in the .jpg Helena sent? It wasn’t his.

I clubbed him on the side of the head anyway. He slumped floorward. I fled.

Later that night the truth hit me. 

Helena was sleeping with J.B.! What a shag hag (!), as my Brit friends would say. 

I read in the Times he was coming to NYC about the new Amazon HQ. According to the paparazzi and glam gossip sites, he always stayed at the St. Regis. 

Then Amazon dumped its New York plans. But that didn’t mean J.B. wouldn’t come to NYC. To catch a Broadway show. Mayhap to boink Helena!

* * *

Every day, like Elisha Cook, Jr. in The Maltese Falcon, I sit in the lobby of the St. Regis, hidden behind my copy of the Daily News, the .38 in my pocket, waiting.

But my patience is wearing thin. If he doesn’t show soon, more than likely I’ll have to shoot Helena instead.

Wayne F. Burke

SECURITY

Sam No Shirt talks on and on while cupping the telephone receiver to his ear and taking swigs off a brown quart bottle of beer. A black stripper comes in at ten; she bends over the desk to sign in. I look down the front of her dress and she smiles at me. She looks a little like Haley Mills, the actress…Then a taxi cab driver; then a guy who works as a proofreader; then some punk rockers who use the hotel studio; then the drunk, walking as if pushed from behind, and crashing through the door to the elevator; then a dope dealer dressed all in black like Johnny Cash; who even looks like Johnny Cash–a Johnny Cash who has spent time in a concentration camp. Then the girl who brings guys up to her room comes down and demands I move the drunk, who has, she says, passed out in the hall by her door. I get up from the desk and walk to the elevator,a big stack of keys jingling at my waist. I get off at the 4th floor. The drunk is face-down, his dress shirt and red face soaked from the bucket of water the girl who brings guys to her room at any time day or night doused him with. The drunk’s key is in his door. I drag the drunk into his room and throw the key in after. The girl who brings many guys up to her room not to play checkers, and whose face is painted like several kinds of flowers, slams shut her door.