Jack Moody

A Series of Poor Decisions, Part 4

The unfamiliar bitter drip—well, rather what has now become familiar in recent times—slides down the back of your throat and you gag as you pace outside a stranger’s apartment at four in the morning. The amount of cocaine you’ve ingested is too much, and you know this not as any veteran of taking illicit substances but because your body is screaming. You are aware of and have no other choice but to accept the fact that this may be how you die: standing alone outside the apartment of a man whom you met at a bar, waiting for an Uber to get you home, feeling your heart vibrate like a hummingbird’s then stop completely, then continue again after the excruciating silence fills the inside of your chest—over and over.

The fear that would normally begin washing over you at a time like this is dulled by the alcohol, and with this boost in morale given to you, you take a moment to understand that if this stranger’s coke was laced with rat poison or fentanyl your heart would have stopped by now and your breathing narrowed to asphyxiation. You have not keeled over and so this is good news.

The headlights of the car cut through the night and burn the insides of your eyes. It pulls up and you disregard any notion of social awareness, leaping into the front passenger seat. You are visibly trembling, fidgeting with the zipper on your torn and stained bomber jacket.

His name is Eric. He is a young, handsome African-American with long dreads and a soft face. He appears feminine and speaks with a low rasp as if trying to lull you into docility with his voice. You appreciate this and decide to trust Eric. With nothing else to do but expel word vomit to quell the effects of the narcotics, you begin to tell him everything that is on your mind without stopping, with surprising eloquence. You trust the words you are saying because they are said clearly and with certainty. This is what you tell him:

“Sometimes I want to be an alcoholic. I want the darkness to encompass me. I want to feel the tight constriction of dependence. I want to put holes in my body with each stinging swallow. There is a naïve power in taking control of your own mortality, commandeering the wheel and deciding your own death in the face of its inevitability. In a way it’s a form of revolt, of dissent. An avenue to express your anger and desperation that comes with the knowledge of your impending end. Sometimes you just want to give the middle finger to the stardust that birthed you into this explosion of chaos without your consent. You want to retain some semblance of authority over your own fate and wellbeing. It feels cheap to be drained of yourself by the very force that made you endure it all without ever asking if you wanted any of it in the first place. Like the Vietnamese monks lighting themselves on fire. With each extra shot you know shouldn’t be consumed, you are in protest of the entirety of the universe. And during the whole process, in the back of your head, you are thinking, what an asshole you are for thinking this way.

“I am so terrified of death. And yet I do everything in my power to ensure an early witness to it. I can’t explain it. I am a biological freak. My brain has been unspared by the gods or the fates but I am doomed to be a monster, to fuck up and destroy all that’s beautiful around me, to roam through darkness until my legs give out and I die at the feet of the villagers and their pitchforks. No matter how goddamn hard I try I can’t fucking fix myself. I don’t know why I do this. I don’t have any answers.”

You take a deep breath and turn to see that somehow Eric is still listening. “Do you ever feel like that?” you say.

“I think I do,” he says and smiles at you, boring his eyes into the spot below your nose.

“Can I light a cigarette in here?”

“Sure.” He rolls down the window. “You can keep talking if you like.”

You realize that the car is stopped and is idling in front of your apartment.

“I can turn off the meter, you won’t be charged,” he says. “You could just come over if you want. I’ve got drinks and everything.”

The dim orange glow of the sun is rising over the trees. You can hear the first morning’s birdcalls chiming back and forth around you. The damage to your body is beginning to emerge in the sharp pains dancing and pulsing around your temples. How long has it been?

You want badly for Eric to say something soothing enough to match his voice, some wisdom to impart that will dissolve your need to remove yourself from your own skin, but instead this is what you get.

When you fail to answer his suggestion, Eric confronts the core of what he’s trying to communicate: “Are you gay?”

“No,” you reply.

“Are you sure? I keep catching you looking at me.”

“I’ve been taught to maintain eye contact when having a conversation. I’m polite.”

“Have you ever tried though?”

Eric describes gay sexual encounters as if it’s a type of ethnic food. This does little to assuage you but you make an effort to study the details of his face. The male form does nothing for you but there are feminine features common in some men’s faces that can be focused on and found attractive enough to blossom across throughout the entire person.

“You’re really, really sexy,” he says. “You deserve all the attention. I can give that to you. Have you ever kissed a man?”

***

You have kissed a man once and only once. It was years ago, funnily enough while trading lines of coke with an old friend inside his car, parked outside the ruins of a closed down high school. He was a fellow artist, volatile and insane, but made his instability work to his advantage through his pieces. You had a habit of drinking to excess together and cruising down highways and downtown streets at suicidal speeds. He owned a handgun, the first one you’d ever seen, and would routinely pull it out amongst company, pointing it at his head or at others, explaining the fragility of life and how quickly it could be snuffed out with one adjustment of his index finger against metal.

That night in the car was the night he introduced you to cocaine. He drove across town in the middle of the night while you sat in the passenger seat, chain-smoking his Marlboro Lights and taking swigs from a fifth of Jim Beam.

“The guy we are going to see is a crazy man, Henry,” he told you. “Don’t look him in the eyes, and I’ll do the talking. He once fucked a severed goat head.”

There were many follow-up questions you had to this statement but kept your mouth shut and watched as he parked and stepped across the street into a waiting vehicle. The man in the car was blanketed in the shadows of the back alley and you couldn’t make out his face. You didn’t feel the need to anyway.

When he returned he opened up the little bag of white powder, dipped in his car key and held it up to your face. “Now close one nostril with your finger and snort hard.”

“Is this shit safe?” you said.

“As safe as it’s gonna be.”

You remember very little about your first reaction to taking the drug. It was underwhelming. It was nothing compared to the elation that came from alcohol, and you immediately understood that you would never have an issue with cocaine like you did with booze.

Thirty minutes later you were in front of the foreclosed campus, trading lines cut up with an expired J.C Penney card.

“Have you ever watched gay porn?” he asked, tilting his head back and vigorously rubbing his nose.

“No,” you said. “No, I haven’t.”

“Then how do you know if you’re not gay? How do you know you wouldn’t enjoy it?”

“To tell you the truth I couldn’t give a fuck either way. But I sure like pussy, so I figured that was the end of the road in the sexual spectrum department.”

“But what if you’re missing out on a whole other side of yourself, man? You could be walking around, living a half-life for the rest of your existence.”

“Look, if this is your way of coming out to me, my dude, you don’t need to spin a whole philosophical yarn to do it.”

“Damnit, man, that’s not what I’m saying. Here—I’m gonna kiss you now, and you’re gonna tell me what you feel. Got it?”

You snorted up another thin, pretty line, sucked at the cigarette in your hand. “This is ridiculous.”

“Is it? Is it ridiculous to question things? To want to know more about yourself?”

“Shit, that coke is short-circuiting your brain cells.”

He leaned in, the white debris crusted around the rims of his nostrils. “Just fuckin’ don’t be a pussy and kiss me.”

You let it happen. All at once, his dried lips were upon you and you felt the rough, sandpaper-like stubble scrape against the sides of your mouth. It was quick and impassionate. Purely scientific. You detached.

“So what do you feel?” he asked.

“Nothing,” you told him. “I feel nothing.”

He grinned. “Well, there you go! We disproved my theory! We gained insight.”

He leaned back into his seat, picked up the 36 Chambers CD off the center console, and began cutting up more lines.

***

“So, have you?” Eric repeats.

“No, I haven’t.”

He leans in close enough that you can smell the delicate cologne beneath his collarbone. “Why don’t you try? You are so handsome. I just wanna kiss you.”

You balk. The inescapable truth is that you are alone and painfully in need of human touch and affection. You can’t help but be flattered that someone, regardless of gender, finds you attractive. And so you want to give this to him. Maybe any sort of intimate human contact will satiate the lonesomeness. You need someone to show you that you are enough.

“I’m not gay,” you reiterate.

“I know,” he says. “I’m not saying you are, man. Relax. You’re up for new things. I respect that. I totally get it.”

All that you can hear is the arrhythmic pulse of your heart. “Okay then.”

The kiss that follows is an empty ghost. It is nothing more than a vague physical sensation. Nothing has been cured and no void has been filled, even for a brief moment. You are no more loved, nor accepted, nor whole. As Eric stares at you expecting some reaction, you wish only to throw your head into a solid wall so you may punish yourself before falling unconscious, and for however long that lasts, you will no longer have to deal with this putrid rot feeling that’s begun to climb out of you like a parasite.

This thing is inside you. This thing that breaks your soul and poisons your mind. It is not you, but something that has taken root somewhere within you. You know this. You have to believe this. You have not always been this despicable, miserable monster. You were once a child. You smiled. You were happy—you can’t recall any examples of this but know still that it is true. What has happened to you?

You are struck with the terrifying, drug-induced notion that the only way to feel normal again is to take a knife, plunge it into your abdomen, and dig around your insides with it until you find the invading creature, remove it and kill it.

“What about head?”

The words pull you back out from your own mind. You are not sure if you heard him right. “What?”

Eric’s hand slides down and begins rubbing his cock through his jeans. “How ‘bout you go down on me?”

You are suddenly much more sober. “Nah, man.”

Only bitter anger resonates throughout you. Any lonesomeness and depression is gone. You don’t know where the anger came from, but acknowledge that you would rather feel this rage and self-hate than what you felt before. You’d like to hurt something, set something on fire. There are holes in the ozone layer, islands of plastic trash the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean, rhinos bleeding to death from the stump where their stolen horn used to be, children dying from exhaustion in prison camps at the border. This is the world and you feel every iota of the pain and anger it screams out into the empty universe. All of it has settled and hardened into a coal-black stone at the center of your stomach, and you recognize that you are no longer in control.

Eric takes your hand with the one not busy unzipping his pants, pulling it towards his lap. “C’mon. Just do it. I come fast.”

You rip your hand away from him, the rage causing your breath to quicken. As you go to pull open the car door, you hear a click. Eric has locked the doors.

“Just do it,” he says. “Then I’ll let you out.”

“You’re making a mistake,” you say. “You need to unlock this fucking door.” You are not frightened. You feel nothing but the stone in your stomach.

“Look, man. Don’t make this weird. Just suck my dick.” Eric’s cock is out. His hand reaches around your neck to grab the back of your head. “I won’t tell anyone.”

The first punch lands in the pocket between his right eye and nose. You feel the bridge cave in against your middle knuckle and blood spurts out both nostrils onto his shirt. You’ve forgotten how punching a man in the face feels like punching a brick wall. Human bone is strong, but the nasal bone takes only about seven pounds of force to break. This is why many boxers have noses like a jutting cliff face. The second collides with his jaw, snapping his neck sideways and his head slams into the driver’s side window. Blood begins pooling out of his mouth like an overflowing sink. He spits out a tooth. You grab him by the hair and bash his forehead into the steering wheel. The horn goes off.

“Let me the fuck out,” you tell him.

Eric sits cowering in the corner with his hands up over his face, spitting blood into his lap. He reaches over and unlocks the doors. He says nothing.

You open the car door and step out into the morning air. Before the door can be closed, the car swerves into the street and is soon gone. You look down at your aching left hand and see his blood smeared across your knuckles. You wipe the blood against your shirtsleeve and walk into your apartment. You realize at this moment that you are very tired.

A few days later you describe the event to Donahue.

“If you’re gonna put this in the book,” he tells you, “make him some guy who picked you up hitchhiking or something. No one’s gonna believe that this shit happened to you on two different Uber rides.”

“Yeah, maybe,” you say. “Fuckin’ Uber though, man. They really need to vet their fucking drivers.”

Jack Moody

A Series of Poor Decisions, Part 3

Within five minutes of talking you understand that there’s something wrong with her. You recognized her as the airy waitress at the restaurant down the block who always told you your aura was navy blue whenever you tried to order your food. Now you are sitting next to her at the Sparrow, six and a half drinks in, and she’s asking where’s that cute little tattooed girl you always came in with?

“Which?” you say.

She smirks. “Cockiness doesn’t suit you,” she replies.

“It’s not that. I just can’t seem to make ‘em stick around long enough to make an impression.”

She looks at you up and down through wide-brimmed glasses that magnify the brown in her eyes. Her face is gaunt and narrow. She is shark-like and the steady, intense gaze she keeps on you gives the worrying impression that at moment she may decide for no reason other than instinct to pounce and bite off your nose. You don’t remember ever finding her attractive before but figure you must have been wrong because now you do.

“Well it doesn’t matter,” she says, and sucks her vodka-soda up through a plastic straw. “Never liked her anyway.”

“Yeah. Neither did I, I guess.”

“Well, God obviously had different plans for you. You should be thanking Him for leading you away from all that before it got even worse.”

You cough. “What was that?”

“God,” she laughs. “You thought this wasn’t God’s choice? He was watching over you, like He always will. I could see the poison she was seeping into you, every time you came in. She was no good for you. I knew it. But He freed you, Henry.” She smiles wide, as if she’s reminded herself of the beauty of this reality she’s chosen. “And now you don’t ever have to look back. Right? Isn’t that wonderful?”

You look down the bar, to where Donahue, whom you came with, sits at a table with some people he knows. Donahue is a tall, Scottish college grad with a wild mane of red, curled hair and a deep red beard that makes him resemble what you might get if a pillaging Viking raped one of his ancestors—which may not be so far off. Donahue is your good friend and editor, but when not fixing up your whiskey-soaked ramblings, also serves as your impromptu caretaker, ensuring that you don’t get yourself in so much trouble you’ll end up dead or arrested, but just enough to keep the pages flowing for him to edit. He is staring at you intently, his eyes wide and locked in distress as if trying to communicate that a live bear is behind you. He is holding up his phone and pointing to it with violent stabs. You grin and give him the thumbs up, and turn back around to the God-fearing predator.

“Do you not believe in God,” she asks.

“Ah, uh. No. No, not really. I mean, there’s always the, uh, possibility but—no. Not really.”

There is a brief pause, and her eyes scan you up and down once more. This doesn’t give off the feeling it previously did. It’s like she’s reading your soul to decide if you’re already damned to Hell.

Before she can whip out the crucifix and holy water, you add: “I mean, do I believe that there’s some kind of force in the universe that’s more complicated than we can understand—something bigger than myself, in whatever form that may be? Do I believe in karma? Could you call that God? Sure. I’m not an asshole. Do I believe in the big, all-powerful bearded man in the sky—the hyper-violent Santa Clause figure, watching you and weighing your sins and good deeds, deciding whether or not you’re gonna spend eternity getting your foreskin repeatedly torn off and put back on by red-skinned demons after you die? No. I got enough of that in Catholic school.” You stop for a moment, realizing you may have laid it on a little strong there. You backpedal: “Ah, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, though. Whatever gets you through it isn’t my business. I’m glad you have something that works for you.”

You have always found religion fascinating, and have studied just about every one out there. It’s a vital part of each country and peoples’ culture and way of life. Many people have done many horrible things in the name of these religions, but you can’t fault the average layman who just wants to sing in a building with like-minded people once a week and imagine that infinite nothingness isn’t the result of their inevitable death. Besides, if it weren’t religion it would just be something else. You understand that. That’s the quintessential aspect of being a human, ever since our first ancestors looked up and saw bright white bolts of lightening striking the night sky. Without these stories making sense of what we otherwise couldn’t, we as a species never would have gotten as far as we did.

You tell her all this. You just fail to mention that maybe it wasn’t such a great thing that we did make it this far, and that religion has turned into nothing different than any other money-grubbing, power-hungry, pedophile-hiding institution that only serves as another way to keep stupid people content, poor people even poorer, and ensuring that we as a whole don’t ask too many questions that may not be too conducive to their centuries-old, systematic destruction of free thought and healthy chaos.

Yes, seeing as you are planning on sleeping with this good Christian woman, you leave that part out.

“Plus,” you say, and take a sip from your drink, “it’s not like you’re a Scientologist or anything.”

There’s a palpable moment of tension as her eyes bore into you. “I’m a born-again Christian,” she says. “I converted from Scientology.”

The whiskey goes down your windpipe. Through the coughing fit you manage to sputter, “Well…welcome back!”

She slaps you on the back. “You alright there?”

“Yeah, yeah. Wrong tube.”

“Well, good,” she laughs. “I can’t have you dying on me yet. At least not until I’m done with you.” She winks and stands up. “I’m going to the bathroom. But I’d like to keep talking to you. You’re smart. And open-minded. A lot of smart guys aren’t open-minded. And vice versa. Don’t you go anywhere until I’m back. I think we should take this to my place and I can offend you with more of my beliefs.”

“I’m not easily offended,” you tell her.

“Good. That’s good. Be right back.”

The second she’s gone Donahue beelines over to your barstool. “Man, you gotta check your texts.”

“Oh, that’s what that meant?”

“Listen, I’m trying to help you. As your editor I insist we leave this bar right now and go somewhere else before she comes back.”

“Why’s that?”

“She’s crazy. Do I need to spell that out? You’ve spent the last half-hour talking to her.”

“Yeah, I gathered. A bit pious, isn’t she? But hey, I don’t judge, baby.”

“A bit? Trust me, Henry, I’m trying to help you here.”

“Yes, and I appreciate that.” You pat him on the forehead and tickle his chin. “But from what I hear, this is God’s plan.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Exactly!” You hold up your drink and guzzle the watered down remains. “She’s not a Westboro Baptist or anything is she?”

“No, but—”

“Yeah I didn’t get that vibe. Feel like she would have led with the ‘death to fags’ angle pretty quickly. She’s not gonna try to indoctrinate me into a death cult then? Fuck me and hand me the Kool-Aid for the approaching inter-dimensional spaceship?”

“Don’t be a dick. You just gotta listen to me—I know her. You don’t need to get tangled up in that.”

“Oh come on, Donny, now you’re just tempting me. At this point I gotta find out.”

“Has she brought up her love of all things Trump yet?”

Your eyes light up. “Oh ho ho, not yet. Should I ask?”

“Yes. Yes you should.”

“Well, that settles it then. You’ve convinced me.”

Donahue sighs and grabs your shoulder. “Okay, good. Good. Then let’s get out of here now then? I’m guessing the convent is gonna be wondering where she escaped to pretty soon anyway.”

You look across the room and see that she’s on her way back over. “No, no, you shoo. How can I possibly not go through with this now?”

His face drops down to the floor. “I don’t know, moral integrity? Oh yeah. I forgot you’re incapable of possessing that.”

Just before she reaches the two of you, Donahue gives his final warning, like an ashamed father: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“If I had a nickel.” You smile at him with the whiskey sloshing around the inside of your head like a storm is raging across your brain cells.

He grimaces and shoots you his best frustrated, defeated look before retreating back to his table.

I’m not mad I’m just disappointed.

Your poor decision sits back down beside you, glancing over questioningly at Donahue. “So, you coming or what?”

“Does Christ have stigmata?”

She forces a snort. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

***

You sit with her in a small, gated backyard. The cigarette passes between the two of you, and past the gate, beyond the hill below, is the freeway. It is empty and quiet and dark. A wall of discarded trash like a protective barrier lines the shadowed asphalt. It is all you can seem to focus on. The roads are like veins running down the mangled arm of a dead drug addict. They are dried up and no longer hum with the movement of blood. They are of no use. You prefer it this way—the quiet lifelessness. It allows the beating of your own heart to fill the insides of your ears and remind you that there is still time to change. How you choose to take it, though, is that it means tonight you do not yet have to.

“What do you want to do with your life?” she asks.

This knocks you off guard, though you don’t know why, as the majority of your life you have never had a problem deciding what path you want to take. Through one way or another, the answers have always been there glowing in your face and you have attached yourself wholeheartedly to that next option that inevitably presents itself. And when that next path has dried up and halted at a dead-end, you have never needed to float aimlessly in the purgatory between decisions. The next step has always shown itself to you and you promptly move forward in that direction. You recognize that you are lucky in this regard. Most people wander their entire lives searching for purpose. Purpose has always found you. There has always been some new path to traverse.

Despite this, inexplicably you respond, “Sometimes I think I know and sometimes I don’t.” Though you decide there may still be some truth to this.

“I want to do something big,” she says, blowing out smoke. “I always knew I would. I’m gonna join the Air Force.”

“The Air Force? Why?”

Without the hesitation you imagine a semi-sane person would feel before disclosing this type of thing, she proudly declares, “So when the time comes I’ll be first in line to join President Trump’s Space Force.”

You give yourself a moment to absorb this. “Like, the outer space…force?”

“Yeah,” she says. “I wanna be the first woman on the moon.”

“Well, that’s noble.”

“So I can see for myself if the Nazis really put bases up there.”

“Ah.”

“And think about it,” she points the cigarette at you from between two fingers, “how else am I ever gonna really be able to prove the Earth is flat unless I go up there and see it with my own eyes?”

You are now fascinated by this woman, and wish for nothing more than to keep listening to everything she has to say, and then to fuck her. You have never fucked a flat-earther, and would consider it an honor to have the opportunity to attempt fucking the crazy out of her.

“That’s a fantastic point,” you say.

Her eyes narrow to slits. “You’re making fun of me aren’t you?”

You don’t wish to lie to this person, and so are overcome with relief when she continues talking without waiting for an answer: “That’s fine though, it’s not like I don’t get it all the time. But you have your opinions and I have mine. And we can each respect them, can’t we?”

“Of course,” you reply, and you mean this. You would rather have an open-minded ex-space alien worshipping, Trump supporting, born-again Christian flat-earther than a close-minded liberal any goddamn day of the week.

“I figured,” she says. “That’s why I like you. I’m guessing you’re not a big Trump supporter either. No one seems to be in this town. I love the man. I think he’s the greatest president we’ve ever had, and I’m proud I voted for him. I don’t have a problem telling people that. You don’t feel the same. And that’s okay.”

“How do you know? My MAGA hat’s just in the wash right now.”

“Very funny. All I’m saying is we don’t need to share the same political beliefs to have good sex. Right? Unless that violates your moral codes.”

“It would violate my moral codes not to. I mean, I think the guy’s a fucking idiot and he’s probably on the spectrum, but hey who isn’t, y’know? I can ignore my political leanings for fifteen to twenty minutes.”

“Make it thirty.”

“Deal.”

She grins and reaches out to slide her hand up your thigh.

“Just one thing,” you say, putting out your cigarette. “When you’re about to come, call me Donald.”

The act is the closest to patriotic you have or will ever feel. You decide this is your duty as an American, and with each violent thrust causing her to scream and convulse, it is as if you are fucking her with the American Flag itself. You decide this is a metaphor for every war against bigotry, tyranny and racism, and what you are doing now you are doing in the name of freedom and liberty. With your dick, you are fighting back for the greater good and you will not lose. It is at the moment the King James Bible vibrating on the bed stand finally falls to the floor, and the female ejaculate rockets directly into your face like a well-aimed Scud missile, that the thought briefly but genuinely comes to you: “I should run for Senate.”

Jack Moody

A Series of Poor Decisions, Part 2

You are more drunk than you can ever remember being, although you can’t recall much of anything anyway, including how or where you arrived at this state of inebriation in the first place. What you are aware of is that you are alone and you are driving a car, and that the car you’re driving isn’t yours.

The awareness of your loneliness seems to operate through a game of extremes; that is, you are able to stave off the guilt and self-hatred while living in the happy gray medium of handleable intoxication, but it is while existing whether in the overwhelming sensory acuteness of sobriety in the morning, or while struggling through the suicidal depression that inevitably comes at the end of the night after drinking far too much, that you are unable to focus on anything but the exact thing you’ve been drinking to avoid. Tonight you find yourself at the latter end of the spectrum.

You realize that you need to do something to quell the urge to drive your car into a guardrail, something that will flood your brain with however many endorphins can still get through.

This is when you get the idea. On a main road not too far from you is a popular strip club. Next to that strip club is what has only been explained to you as a brothel. It’s called the Cat Club and it has been there for as long as you’ve lived in the area. It’s a tiny little shack of a building with multi-colored lights strung up around the entrance and a sign next to the door with the silhouette of a voluptuous woman and the words: OPEN 24-HOURS. PRIVATE MASSAGES.

You’ve never understood how something so blatantly a whorehouse could have sat on the side of this high-traffic road for so long and remain in business, but you don’t know what exactly goes on in there. You’ve never been into the Cat Club, but tonight you decide you will find out.

You pull up to the side of the Cat Club at three in the morning, open the door and fall out of the car. It’s the only building on the entire road that still has its lights on other than the 7-11 down a block or two. Stepping towards the entrance you remember the rumors that went around for a while that one of your old friends from high school started working here after she became addicted to meth and heroin. You hope she’s here because it would be nice to see her again.

Inside, the Cat Club is narrow and claustrophobic. The lobby is hardly larger than a prison cell. A little desk sits to the left of you with a call bell sitting atop it, and ahead a small corridor runs down about thirty feet with two doors on either side that each open up to a private room. Small TVs are attached to the walls in the corners, playing softcore porn with the volume off. The video quality is bad, and combined with the miniature size of the screens it looks more like two vague collections of beige squares slamming into each other. The lighting is low and glows red. This is your favorite part about the Cat Club so far. You’ve never liked bright lights. You can hide in this kind of lighting.

Before you can ring the call bell, a woman drifts out from one of the rooms. She is a little shorter than you, with long brown hair and blue eyes. She wears an appropriate amount of makeup for her line of work. Beneath it you can see the age etched into her skin and in the fading glow in her eyes earned only by people who have endured the kind of pain that would break most. There is a weathered beauty in her face. You imagine she must be around thirty-five. A see-through black negligee drapes over her body, tied together with a satin ribbon around her stomach—underneath perhaps the biggest breasts you have ever seen in your life. They spill out quite on purpose, mountains of white flesh pushing out against the negligee as if at any moment by sheer weight they’ll tear open the seams and break free.

There is some kind of brief exchange that you immediately cannot recall, and she smiles and leads you by the hand into the first private room. You smash into the wall on the way in and almost trip on an electric fan sitting on the floor beneath you.

“You okay there, honey?” she says, and laughs.

You nod and try your best to sound reasonably sober, but all that comes out are nonsensical mumbles spoken with a swollen tongue. If she didn’t know before, you know that she does now. This doesn’t bother her though, and she continues leading you into the room, and sits you down on a wide, cushioned bench against the wall.

The room is just an extension of what you’ve already seen: Attached to the walls are two small televisions playing porn with the volume off. The walls themselves are decorated with vague Thai designs and paintings of positions from the Kama Sutra. Lining a few shelves nailed into the walls are dozens of unlit candles and various statues of fertility goddesses from entirely different cultures. In the center of the room is a basic massage table. Beyond that, in the corner opposite you is a small bed with a purple curtain pulled back around it.

The woman smiles, standing over you with the door open in case you turn out to be a serial killer and she can escape when you pull out the meat cleaver. “So what’re you looking for, honey?”

“How much do you charge?” you manage.

“If you really want to have fun I’m three hundred. But that’s full service. You get everything: a massage, hand job, blow job, fuck my tits. Even you’ll come once I’m finished.” She laughs and taps your nose with the end of her fake nail. “Otherwise it’s one-twenty for just the lap dance. Then you can watch and finish yourself.”

A literary magazine just recently paid four hundred dollars for one of your stories. You decide that buying a prostitute with money you’ve earned from writing is simply putting that money back into your writing. This is research for your next book. This may even count as a tax write-off.

“Whole thing,” you say. “Three hundred.”

She grins and strokes her hand down your chest. “Perfect—ah…I’ll just take your card and charge that down the hall then.”

You nod and pull out the card, and inexplicably tell her, “I’m a writer. I spend my writing money on you. You cost one story and you are worth one story. Spend money to make money, right?”

She looks around the room and giggles uncomfortably. “Sure, honey. Be right back.”

When the woman returns she hands the card back to you. “It was declined, babe,” she says. “You got another one?”

“Don’t think that’s right,” you retort. “My writing money. It’s in, uh—savings.” It is not lost on you even in your advanced inebriation that you are attempting to dip into your savings account to buy a hooker. You assign yourself the mental note that cash is much less uncomfortable for both parties if you find yourself in a similar situation in the future.

She takes the card back out of your hand, eyeing you up and down with a flicker of pity. “Alright then. One second.”

The next time she returns, she appears a bit less annoyed with you but the margin is still wide. “It only let me charge two hundred. You may need to go to the 7-11 down the street and pull out the rest of the cash yourself.” She pulls you closer into her chest. You can smell the cheap perfume masking the sweat of whoever was in this room before you. “Can you do that for me? I’ll be right here, babe.”

“Yes,” you say. “Yes I can.”

She takes off your hat and places it onto her head. It doesn’t fit right. “Just in case,” she giggles. “Now you have to come back.”

You stumble under the harsh fluorescent lights of the convenience store and weave to the back where the ATM waits for your bad decision. The store clerk says something as you pass but you just throw your arm up over your shoulder and say you’ll give him twenty bucks, and to fuck off and get off your back.

The ATM is a foreign construct. You stand in front of it for a full five minutes before the memory returns to you how one is supposed to access the thing. You go into savings, do the mental math, fail, and attempt to pull out two hundred dollars. It declines. Without reading what comes on the screen you try again. Declined. On the screen again pops up the warning you’d ignored: Suspicious activity on account. Cannot withdraw more funds.

You’ve attempted to take out too much money too many times from different devices. You are—as you have been countless times in different ways—cut off. You stare at the screen. You have been defeated.

The store clerk yells at you as you leave, and you charge out the door without answering. You really would have given him those twenty bucks.

The woman is waiting for you in the lobby. “Missed you, babe. You got that for me?” You explain what happened, and the woman frowns. “Well, you won’t get the works. That’s too bad.”

She leads you back into the room and instructs you to sit back on the cushioned bench. She closes the door. Her bare legs straddle you and she leans back, thrusting against your limp cock. The negligee falls to the floor. Without the clothing’s support her breasts are too large and sag down to her stomach under the weight of age and gravity. You begin to unbutton your jeans, and reach up to touch her hanging tit with the free hand.

The second you make contact, as if waiting for this to happen, she jolts up from the bench. “Nope, nope. You grabbed my tit too hard. Get the fuck off me. You grabbed my tit too hard, we’re done.”

“Wait, what? What?” You’re confused. You had barely brushed against her.

Her entire demeanor has shifted. “You grabbed my tit too hard, we’re done here. Have fun jerking off to porn and get the fuck out.” She tosses you a tissue from the table adjacent and walks out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

You immediately stand up, button up your pants and wobble back out into the lobby. The woman is there standing alone, drifting into a different room. “Hey, hey,” you slur, “what did I do? I didn’t do anything to you.” You realize you are leaning against the desk for support.

“Doesn’t matter,” she says. “You’re done, goodbye.”

“My money, lady.”

“What did I say? You’re done—get out. Go ahead and write about this, dumbass.”

She glides away into the private room, aware of what she’s gotten away with.

You are too drunk to form an argument. You have no one to argue with any longer anyway. You are too tired.

After six tries you are able to get the key into the car door. You throw the keys on the front seat, close the door and begin walking home. The smoke from the cigarette in your mouth twirls up towards the streetlights and disappears.

A prostitute just rolled you for two hundred dollars.

Jack Moody

A Series of Poor Decisions, Part 1

You are drinking at the Guilty Sparrow. It does not matter what day or what time of day it is, as this is the sole activity you now participate in if you’re not jerking off, vomiting or fucking—if not all three at once. You are with your old coworker Joseph, as you often tend to be these days. He is a heavyset, perpetually depressed Hispanic hopeless romantic—always stooping low over the bar counter like a dying tree to illustrate this—with a serious drinking problem to match yours. In the last few weeks you and Joseph have taken to each other’s company quite well. You’ve always stayed friends since the day you were fired, but he finds company in misery, and he has been unable to find anyone more miserable than you. His girlfriend of five years left him when he asked her to move in. This was a year ago now but he still talks about it. He can drink more than you and you don’t like that, but you love him.

He’s talking to your friend Miles. Miles is a gaunt and unpredictable drug addict with an underlying issue of undetermined mental illness. His constant erratic movements and incoherent rambling always unsettles you until you’ve drunk enough to ignore and then enjoy his unique brand of company. You’ve known him since the two of you were four years old and he had frosted tips like a member of the Backstreet Boys. He used to mix cocaine and heroin in a needle and shoot that. He wore sleeves to hide the track marks and became very paranoid when people asked about why he wore his sleeves in ninety-degree heat. After the two of you talked he got on methadone and kicked the junk. He still does every other drug but at least he doesn’t do heroin, and you love him.

Miles and Joseph are talking about the baggie full of pills that Miles has pulled out onto the bar top.

“This is Ecstasy,” he says. “My guy told me it’s the best shit he’s gotten.” He opens up the baggie and pops two into his mouth. “You want some?”

“Fuck yeah I do,” says Joseph. He reaches out and pops one in his mouth as well. He begins chewing.

You look over at them from the side of your vision. Before you can ask him why he’s chewing an Ecstasy pill, Joseph swallows and says, “This is a Flintstones vitamin.”

“No, it’s not,” says Miles. “It’s Ecstasy. My guy told me it was the best shit he’s ever gotten.”

“Yeah, the best Flintstones vitamins he’s ever gotten. You bought a bag of vitamins from your drug dealer. Mine was cherry flavored.”

Miles leans in and peers through the plastic like a scientist studying a petri dish through a microscope. “You’re fibbing.”

“I’m not. How much did you pay for that?”

“A hundred fifty,” Miles tells him.

“You just bought twenty dollars worth of Flintstone vitamins. How many have you taken so far?”

“Four, I think.”

“And how’re you feeling?”

“Nothing so far, but it just takes a second.” Miles pauses and ponders this, staring through the shelves of liquor in front of us like he’s experiencing a war flashback.

Joseph picks up the bag and pulls out a little green one, shoves it front of his face. “Dude, it’s shaped like a fucking dinosaur.”

Miles looks at this and you can see the exact moment his heart breaks.

“What you’ve taken has made you healthier. You have literally achieved the opposite effect of Ecstasy.” He eats the little green chewable in his hand. “Apple.”

Miles is distraught. He gets up and leaves to call or stab his drug dealer. This is when the person who’s been sitting on the other side of him is revealed to you.

Her hair is shoulder-length and curled and strawberry blonde. Her eyes are large. Her legs are long and bloom out from a pink pencil skirt. She sits erect, almost regal, despite her apparent intoxication, suggesting it had been hammered in at an early age to remain ladylike, regardless of how her own personality would eventually steer her towards anything or everything otherwise. She is sitting alone. You lean across the bar without hesitation. There is no time for hesitation any longer. There are too many holes bleeding from every part of you, and the irony is that the more you fill them with what they require, the faster you are going to die anyway. There is no time for hesitation.

“You are fucking gorgeous,” you tell her.

“Ah hehehehe.”

She laughs like that, high-pitched and overacted. You do your best to ignore this.

“Well, thanks,” she slurs. “You are too.”

Joseph butts in, taking it upon himself to be your wingman. “Y’know, my boy’s an author. You ever fucked an author? Do you read?”

“Ohhhh is he?” This doesn’t appear to impress her but nonetheless she moves to the seat closer to you. “And who are you?”

“I don’t think she reads,” he whispers to you. “I’m Joseph,” he redirects to her. “Isn’t my boy good looking? Who wouldn’t love that face?”

You’re not sure if he’s just trying to get you laid and live vicariously through you or he’s gotten so drunk and lonely that some feelings are coming out.

“He’s gorgeous,” she says and grabs your leg.

“I’m Henry,” you tell her. You feel the need to reciprocate, honor the friendship and maybe get Joseph’s dick sucked instead. “What about my friend though? You think he’s cute?”

She appraises his appearance through one eye. “You’re both cute. I’d fuck both of you.”

Anna the bartender comes by and rolls her eyes. She’s become accustomed to a very different Henry than the one she’s been used to in these last few weeks. “Another round boys…and…lady?”

“Shots!” Joseph shouts. “Three tequilas, no training wheels.”

“Wooo! Shots!” the girl screams, throwing her hands up. “You guys are so much fun. Like ah hehehehe…so much fun. Her bedroom eyes drift between the two of you.

You realize as the shots are put out in front of you that you never got her name. This doesn’t bother you.

Joseph holds up his shot. “So, what’re we cheersing to?”

“I wanna fuck both of you at the same time,” she says.

Anna makes a face like she bit into human shit and walks away.

“To fucking both of us!” he screams. He looks at you and shrugs as the shot goes down, like, So…down?

If you were sober this would be one of the worst ideas you could possibly think of. Right now you can’t imagine why this ideas has never been expressed until this moment.

“I want one of you to fuck me in the ass while the other fucks my mouth,” she says.

You almost choke on your tequila. “Yeah, yep. We can do that.”

You and Joseph exchange glances. “We’ve gone this far,” he mumbles. “It would be uncouth to leave her hanging at this point.”

“It would be ungentlemanly,” you agree.

She eyes both of you. “Okay, okay, lemme just check with my boyfriend.”

Her boyfriend.

Joseph launches into a fit of laughter.

“Is this like, an open relationship situation?” you ask.

“I’m not sure. I can’t remember,” she says. “Lemme call him and ask.”

Joseph looks at you, his entire face lit up. You’ve never seen him enjoying himself this much before.

Call him and ask? you mouth to him. She’s fucking crazy.

He shrugs and talks with his hands: Is that bad?

I didn’t say that.

She steps away to make the call and see if her boyfriend will give her the okay to get double penetrated.

Joseph watches her walk out the door with the phone on her ear. “What would you rather take?” he asks.

“I’d rather the mouth but I’ll take one for the team if you need me to.”

“Not a fan of anal?”

“Not for me, no.”

“That’s fair. Alright, it’s settled then,” Joseph decides. “Makes you wonder why her pussy wasn’t an option, though, doesn’t it?”

“I was just thinking that,” you say. And you were. You really were.

Before you can dwell on that for too long she returns, sits down next to you and straightens out her skirt. “He didn’t answer. Poor baby must be asleep. Wanna take me home?”

“Is this the home where your boyfriend lives?” you ask.

“Ah don’t worry about that,” Joseph interjects. “We’ll figure that out when we get there, right…uh—what was your name?”

She throws her head back and kicks up a leg. Her stilettos look like weapons. “Ah hehehehe. You’re so funny. You guys kill me. Seriously.”

Joseph leads you down the street in a direction you can’t stabilize yourself enough to be aware of. It’s nighttime. You wish you were a sailor so you could navigate by the stars, but realize you’re so drunk there are multiple copies of each star in the sky and so even if you could, fuck all it would do for you. You think about how often pirates must have gotten lost at sea in the 1700’s.

The girl piles into the back while you collapse into the passenger seat like someone had thrown you.

“So where to?” Joseph asks the girl. He is shit drunk, but you have done enough tonight to make the bleeding stop for now, and so you could hardly care what happens at this point. You don’t hurt anymore and that is all that matters. She gives him vague directions and Joseph tears down the street like he’ll win a prize for getting there within a certain time limit.

Joseph insists on talking while driving, twisting around with one hand on the wheel to make eye contact with her. “So we should just come in, is what you’re saying. I’m sure he won’t mind. He can watch! Maybe he’d be into that.”

“That is true,” you add. “Cucking is becoming a more and more universally accepted sexual kink these days. Have you ever typed ‘cuck and bull’ into Pornhub? It’s a thriving community. We don’t judge!”

“No not all,” says Joseph. “It might wake up something in him. Maybe he just needs a little push to learn that we accept him.”

“I agree. Let us give him the courage to step out of his shell and accept his desires. We’d be doing him a service, I think.”

“In fact, it might even be detrimental for him not to watch us fucking his girlfriend,” says Joseph. “I don’t think it’s fair of any of us to deprive him of the sexual awakening that this could provide. I’ll go as far as to say we’d be doing him a disservice if we don’t.”

“Just something to think about,” you tell her.

“Ah hehehehe. You boys are too funny. And so fucking sexy. I want you both fucking all of my holes.” She starts pulling down her blouse. “You wanna see my boobies?”

Her specific choice of vernacular is off-putting, but Joseph is unperturbed, and shouts, “Yes!”

You turn around and there they are. Her tits are out in the backseat. She starts playing with them and making fake orgasm faces like a poorly trained porn star, her mouth open and her tongue sliding across her lips, her eyes rolling to the back of her head. If you hadn’t before now, you decide that she is insane.

“Oh shit!” Joseph takes his eyes entirely off the road to enjoy the show taking place behind him.

“No, no, no.” You wave your hands in front of his face. “You drive, I’ll watch for the both of us and relay it back to you through descriptive words.”

As you say this, the girl throws her body into the back of your seats and points to a turn that you are at this point about to pass. “Oh shoot, there! Turn there!”

Joseph spares no time, whipping his Ford Explorer at a hairpin turn, slamming into the curb and launching you three feet into the air. The car lands on its right two wheels, and the left two follow after a moment of angled suspension like a spiraling rollercoaster, slamming down onto the cement with the force of an anvil dropping from a two-story building.

Nobody moves. The car stays idling in silence. You stare forward, your eyes wide with the feeling you imagine someone must experience after recognizing they almost just died. Joseph says nothing, his hands gripping the steering wheel.

The girl points her finger towards the house you’ve nearly crashed in front of. “There I am! Thanks, boys!” She takes your phone out of your trembling hands, puts in her number, calls herself, and kisses you both on the cheek before jumping out and skipping towards her door. “I’ll let you know if boyfriend will let you fuck me! Have a good night!”

And she disappears inside her house.

You and Joseph continue staring forward.

“We never even got her name,” he says.

A grin stretches across your face. “No,” you laugh. “No, we didn’t.”

The next night you and Joseph are back drinking at the bar when you receive this text:

Hello. Thank you so much again for the ride home. But boyfriend and I decided that we aren’t going to go for the threesome. I’m sorry I showed you my boobies, that wasn’t cool. That’s not something my dog and I agreed on. Hope you’re having a good night! Bye bye.

You show this to Joseph.

“Her dog?” he says. “Well that explains a lot.”

Leah Mueller

Seven Ways of Looking at Toilet Paper

1. Bleached white and insubstantial as the word of an ex-lover. Rip it in squares, swab your private parts, examine the paper’s surface, toss it into the swirl. Repeat as often as necessary. The bathroom is your laboratory. Sometimes two or three squares will do, other times it takes 10 or even 12. Much depends on your solid food intake. Do the math.

2. If you go to Morocco, don’t expect toilet paper as a matter of course. You stupid fucking tourist. Next you’ll be wanting a throne for your pampered American ass. Purchase a roll at the market and carry it around in your backpack or purse. It won’t be Charmin, you pompous WASP. Moroccan tp is grey and scratchy as an elderly wino’s three-day-old beard. Shut up and be sure to buy several rugs before you fly home.

3. The 2004 Portland Rose Festival had a Charmin trailer with posh bathrooms. People stood in line, waiting for the chance to excrete waste. They looked bored. At the doorway, uniformed attendants handed rolls of toilet paper to everyone. “Welcome to the Charmin building!” they sang. “Enjoy yourself!” Inside the bathrooms, happy music played while cartoon videos of dancing animals flickered onscreen. A devious and effective ploy to win over potential customers to the wonders of quilted Charmin.

4. Your goddamned roommate didn’t position the new roll properly. Everyone knows the end is supposed to go over, not under. Defection from this rule is grounds for homicide in some states. “Your honor, I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen.” You hated your roommate—his taste in music, the disgusting way he got food all over his teeth while chewing. Good riddance.

5. Coffee filters work in a pinch. A friend of mine taught me this back in the 90s. A few weeks later, she became homeless. I always wondered whether there was a connection.

6. There’s a toilet paper shortage. Folks fear they’ll reach into their cupboards and find them barren of tissue, so they’re buying entire pallets of toilet paper. Housewives laugh maniacally as they drive away from Walmart, fresh rolls secured with bungee cords into their overflowing SUV trunks. How could we have let this happen? Is this who we are as a nation?

7. I go to bed and dream of toilet paper. The dream is like the Charmin trailer, only with better music. At first, the rolls are soft and soothing as clouds. Then they begin to multiply like the brooms in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” As soon as I grab one and put it in my cabinet, six more appear. The music speeds up and becomes increasingly sinister. Everything is out of control. I wake up in a cold sweat. Thank God it was just a dream. But morning is months away.

Sam Cossey

Scumbag

I’m a piece of shit. I’m sitting in the Cliff Inn in Hunstanton eyeing up all the girls who come in. They stand at the bar showing off their thighs under their miniskirts and giggling. I take a mouthful of lager and stare at them appreciatively. I could and probably will have at least one of them in the toilets before last orders are called. But I’m in no rush. They’ll still be there at the end of the night.

I neck the last quarter of my pint and wipe the frothy remnants off my beard. I get up and walk to the gents to do a shit, giving a wide grin to the dolly birds at the bar. I’m pleased to see that the birds return the smile, the little flirts, and my grin stays plastered on my face as I enter the gents.

I drop a sticky, black shit into the bowl and get as much residue off my arse as I can but no matter how much I wipe there always seem to be some left and so eventually I call it a day and walk back to my seat giving the girls another good look on my way.

Sitting at the table on my return is old Martin Diamond. Diamond’s a sad sack with sunken eyes and thin grey hair who sits in the pub every night until closing. He always wears beaten up old white trainers, blue jeans, and a blue fleece. My first instinct is to tell him to fuck off but then I see that he’s bought a round so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Hi, John,” he says.

“Hi, Martin,” I say.

I sit down and have a quick sip, raising my eyebrows by way of thanks.

“So I went to Waterstones yesterday to get a book on tortoises,” says Martin. “‘Hard back?’ The girl on the till says. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘with little heads’”

“Oh piss off you old bore,” I say.

Martin gets up to leave with his pint.

“Leave the drink,” I say.

Martin looks at me and clearly doesn’t like something he sees in my eyes and puts his point down on the table before hurrying off to the bar to buy a replacement.

Some time later the bell rings out from behind the bar as the landlord calls out last orders at ten forty-five. I head to the bar with some of my empties. I nestle myself in between the girls I’ve been watching get steadily more drunk over the course of the evening. There’s a plump girl in a green boob tube I’m particularly interested in. She has long fake eye lashes and sparkly eye shadow. Her hair shows the faint signs of a dip dye but this clearly hasn’t been seen to for a few months and is losing its vibrancy.

“Evening,” I say.

“Alright?” Says the plump girl with a filthy grin.

“Fancy a fuck?” I ask.

The plump girl looks me up and down.

“Yeah, go on then,” she says.

I lead her to the gents where we occupy a cubicle and do the unthinkable.

***

I stand in the cool summer night and light a skinny roll up. I look over the road to The Cliff Inn and the gaggle of girls which contains my conquest among their number. They go off into the night giggling away. Either going back to one of their flats for some coke and fizz and the chance to share nudes with some guys online or maybe to get a taxi to King’s Lynn to find a late night bar and see some real life nudes. In the grisly flesh. I fancy that the girl I screwed is walking slightly bow legged and I smile to myself.

I turn and walk away down the cliff road to the beach. She had been pretty enough. And a great shag more importantly. Obviously a fun time girl. She had performed an act of great kindness upon my person. Yet I never want to see her again. I’m lonely and I want companionship so why can’t I give her the four chambers of my heart as readily as I gave her the four inches of my dick?

I walk along the beach for a few minutes before making myself comfortable, leaning my back against the soft, red cliffs., looking out into the black expanse. In the distance glisten the twinkling lights of an oil rig. I can see the faint, white lines that indicate a breaking wave. Here, on Norfolk’s rare west coast I feel at peace.

The problem is, as I see it, I don’t want any of the girls I meet. I don’t want then long term anyway. What I want is one of those teenagers. They are wild these days. Rim jobs to them are as normal as hand jobs were when I was a teen. Nowadays they give blowjobs upside down until their faces are covered in thick, gloopy saliva. They slap themselves in the face while giving head. I’ve seen then do it on ManyVids and Chaturbate. That’s what I want.

I sigh. I’m tired and bored. I’ll get up at some point and make my way slowly back to my flat where I’ll have an own brand beer and fall asleep in front of my storage heater. What’s the bloody point?

I look out over the sea to try and imagine what is on the other side of the bay. Lincolnshire? Is it Skegness? What does life look like from over there? From the other side. Only one way to find out I decide and I get up to begin the walk to Skegness. It’s fifteen miles as the crow flies but to take each of the three sides amounts to closer to fifty.

***

I walk the twelve miles to Castle Rising and make it there as the sun is coming up. My legs ache and I have the first dull edge of a hangover between my eyes.

The A149 had been completely deserted as I made my way southwards towards King’s Lynn. I ran from side to side of the road only half hoping that an articulated lorry would take me by surprise and flatten me under its load.

At Castle Rising I hide myself under a hedge to turn off the headache and try to get some sleep. This is a pit stop. The calm before the storm. When I make it to King’s Lynn tomorrow evening I’ll find myself some loose tart to chuck one in and some plonk to distract me from an indifferent universe.

I don’t know how long I slept but the sun is beginning its drop towards the horizon when I wake up. My back feels damp from where the ground has been in contact with it.

I stagger to my feet, joints stiff and creaking and I continue my journey to King’s Lynn.

When I arrive at the town centre the late summer sun is still warm and everything I see has that orange filter. The evening is coming on quickly.

I head to Savers to buy a cheap bar of soap and then find a quiet, private spot at the Great Ouse to have a quick wash. Just pits, penis, and arse. The holy trinity. My dick has the congealed remains of the spunk I shot out into that girl from last night. I’m reminded of maggots. Then I wonder if washing my dick in river water is a good idea. Could flesh eating bacteria travel up my urethra? I wash my face and hair and try to forget about it.

***

I walk into King’s Lynn’s only proper nightclub, Qubez, and start to look for some girls who might be loose enough for me to bag without too much effort. There are some right lookers around. King’s Lynn. What I really want is one of those basic bitches with the round glasses. A soft girl. But I don’t suppose many girls wear their glasses on a night out. I make myself comfortable by the bar. There’s never much point in putting in too much effort until nearer closing time when everyone’s drunker and getting desperate.

It’s nearly two AM and I’ve spent the last few hours drinking Jack Daniel’s and coke, risking not only the whiskey blues but also whiskey dick. I’m not unduly worried about underperforming with a girl though. My main motivation, after yesterday’s sleep under a bush, is to have a comfortable bed to spend the night in. The sex is secondary.

There’s only a dozen or so people left in the club including some tanned, brunette stunner in a short orange dress who’s now at the bar next to me. Her legs are too thin but then my stomach is too fat so who am I to judge?

She places her order at the bar and I say “I’ve got this” and hand over my debit card, hoping there’s enough left on the overdraft to cover it.

Before too long I’m walking through the empty streets of King’s Lynn with the stunner on our way back to her house. At one point she pushes me against a kebab shop window and kisses me passionately on the mouth so that I have to walk the rest of the way with a semi and the tell tale wet patch of pre-cum on my chinos.

She has a nice house. Victorian terrace with a hall entrance. Her next step up will be a double fronted terrace or a semi-detached before hitting the dream of a detached house in the country. No shared walls. I find out that her name is Alice.

Alice leaves me in her living room while she goes to grab some beers from the fridge. She leaves some music channel playing but I ignore it and go to look at her bookshelves. Books by Jordan Peterson, and Douglas Murray, and Christina Hoff Sommers and other people who refer to themselves with no irony as the intellectual dark web.

Alice returns with two beers and before we have finished them she is lying back on the corner sofa with her dress pushed up to her stomach, her knickers hanging off one ankle and my stupid face between her skinny thighs, eating her out.

Idiot-like I roll my tongue around her soft sex, no idea what I’m doing until I hit the hard bud of her clitoris and decide, rightly or wrongly, to focus all my attention there.

“Convincing others of the superiority of one’s own morality is a difficult thing to achieve,” says Alice. “This is because of the subjectivity of morality. We are all intuitively aware of the correct thing to do morally but others have an annoying habit of experiencing the world through their own entirely subjective morality and so may believe that my ‘correct’ way of acting is not the same as their ‘correct’ way of acting. That is not to excuse those who act immorally and in doing so infringe on another’s liberty or wellbeing. Of course, the person who murders though sees nothing immoral in the act of murder has done wrong because they have impinged on another’s freedom. But where another’s actions do not affect our own freedom, yet we still find their behavior odious, we are inclined to shame them anyway. As such we must find another way to frame our moral beliefs to turn them into an objective rule.”

What are you saying?” I ask between licks.

It’s from a book by Mia Baxter,” says Alice. “A former dissident YouTuber who has since made the pivot to self-publishing her own books in which she explores the value of conservative morality in the twenty-first century.”

I look up and see that she has a book in her hands and is reading aloud from it. I go back to my job and try to find a rhythm in the text which will inform what I’m doing.

To this end we turn our subjective, moral belief into something hard and undeniable,” she continues. “If we take the example of vegetarianism we see that first the vegetarian will try to convince the meat-eater that it is wrong to eat animal meat because it removes the freedom of the animal to not be eaten, in the same way we do not murder because it removes the freedom of another human to not be murdered…”

She drones on while I continue my task, unsure of the positive effect my work is having. Alice certainly seems more interested in her book. Eventually I have to stop because I have worn the skin off the end of my tongue and I know it’s going to turn into an ulcer by the next day.

That was nice,” Alice says politely. She walks out of the room and I follow, assuming we’re turning in. Instead she heads to the front door and opens it.

Well, goodbye then,” she says.

Aren’t I staying here?” I ask.

Why would I want you to do that?” she says.

I don’t have anywhere else to go,” I say.

Alice looks at me with pity and frustration.

Fine,” she says. “But you’ll have to sleep on the sofa.”

***

It’s five o’clock in the morning and I can see the sun’s already up and shining bright and white through a crack in the curtains. I have the headache of a nascent hangover and my legs ache. I don’t think they ache from the alcohol though. This girl, Alice or whatever, has a really uncomfortable sofa and I slept all hunched up.

I flip through a copy of the book by Mia Baxter that Alice had left thrown to one side next to the sofa. A pretty girl grins out at me from the cover. She is wearing a white blouse and a black pencil skirt with sheer tights over her legs. She’s wearing glasses which are obviously fake. The book is titled Millennials and the Meta-modern Age.

I decide to sample a few pages:

The age of the grand narrative has returned; Millennials have adopted a unifying social theory which encompasses post-colonialism, climate change, and identity politics. Every single attitude of the millennial zeitgeist is informed by an adherence to this cocktail. Veganism, electric cars, shopping locally are all lifestyle choices informed by the political attitude and designed to limit the convenience of Western lives. It is contemporary asceticism and displays the quasi-religious aspects of the millennial world view. This feeling and the rules which are used to express it are socially enforced by the neo-puritans via public shaming and cancel culture. The need to virtue signal is so great because it is the only sure protection against this culture.

Millennials are changing the culture of the world as they begin to move into positions of cultural power. They are shedding the cynicism which typified the post-modern world and embracing a conscious naivety. Events are no longer critically examined, only viewed through the prism of the pseudo-religion. Certain institutions are beyond reproach. The NHS, the UN, NATO, the WHO. These are all surrogate parent figures existing to allow the millennials to not have to think, the acronyms do the thinking for them. The ultimate end of the millennial world view is an enlarged state, a Corbynite-Marxism, with influence in all areas of an individual’s life.

And on and on. The standard sort of stuff youd expect from a right-wing internet firebrand who is trying to distance themselves from the racism they used to peddle. I rip out a few pages and hide them under the sofa.

I get up and storm through to the kitchen where I eat four Weetabix, two at a time. I leave the milk out and the fridge door open. Then I open the freezer door too. I don’t know why but I’m in a foul mood. I take six cans of Coke from the slowly warming fridge and force them into the pockets of my trousers and jacket.

On my way out of the house I piss in the corner of the hallway. I exit the house and leave the front door wide open before heading back to the quayside to make my way along the Wash to Boston.

I drift around Boston for the day drinking the tins of Coke I nicked. I sit on benches and walk through green spaces. I look at the Stump, the impossibly tall church tower. I feel nothing. Neither hope nor enthusiasm. Neither calm nor reassurance. It’s just a cold building.

As evening draws in I head into the first club I find. It’s called Club de Brasilia and there is a drag act on. She is made up to filth and has a perfect body. I feel myself chubbing up just watching her.

In an obviously planned piece of pseudo-improvisation, this young guy who seems to work for the club collecting empties briefly jumps onto one edge of the stage to collect an empty glass.

Hey,” says the queen. “Stay down that end of the stage. I won’t let you come up my end. At least not without buying me a drink first.”

She winks at the audience which roars with laughter. It’s an old joke and not an especially good one but I find myself laughing as well. The queen then bursts into a rendition of Freed From Desire by Gala which sends raptures through the sweaty, writhing, heaving mass of glistening bodies. The queen is wearing a strapless dress and you can see her well muscled arms and legs quite clearly. Queens round here are a tough bunch. To dress as they do and perform and mince around they have to be tough in East Anglia. Especially here in the Fens where bigotry is commonplace. These queens need to be able to throw a punch as well as take one. Thick skulls.

It’s later and I am propping up the bar. The queen who has been compering through the night is standing next to me.

You’re funny,” I say. “And fit. Can I buy you a drink?”

The queen looks me up and down. Sizes me up. Because of the low lighting in here she can’t see how hagged I look so she says yes. I ask her what her name is and she says it’s Mamie van Whoren which makes me laugh.

Before I realize it we are walking through her front door; a nice semi-detached suburban job. We are both pissed and we kiss violently, tongues slipping in and out of each other’s mouths. We stumble up the stairs and into her bed. I try to touch her penis but she won’t let me so instead we do it the old fashioned way. How the Greeks used to.

I sleep in her bed that night with Mamie’s head on my chest.

I wake up refreshed and I go downstairs to have a shower. I know I could be happy with Mamie but I set out to get to Skegness so that’s what I’m going to do.

Without waking Mamie I leave her house, closing the door softly behind me and with a pair of her knickers in my pocket that I took from the washing basket.

***

I get off the bus in Skegness and go for a mooch around the town. After looking at the clock and buying a Ginster’s steak bake at Spar I go to see that fat fuck the Jolly Sailor. It’s summer and it’s hot so there’s lots of people around. I find myself staring at people. Girls giggling in their short shirts and bikini tops. Pair of Vans on all their feet.

I walk down the pier and spit over the end. Watch my frothing gob disappear. I head under the pier and abuse myself while sniffing Mamie’s knickers which I then bury in the sand. Very reverent. Ritualistic. I fall asleep.

When I wake up its dusk so I head to the Pleasure Beach and have a go on the roller coasters for a bit. Eat some candy floss and a burger. Drink a coke. I get upset with everyone looking so young and happy so I leave and try to find Europa Point.

On my out of the Pleasure Beach I see a dog tied to a lamp post so I kick it in the side as hard as I can. I think I feel a rib crack under my toes. Soft and muffled under its fur. It falls to its side and whimpers.

I get to the beach and stand where I think Europa Point is. I look out into the black. The sun has gone down and the only indication of what is sea and what is night sky is the appearance of twinkling stars on the black plane.

Is that Norfolk over there? Hunstanton?

I’m not very happy. But I used to be. I was happy before I started trying to fuck girls. I know now that I never wanted to be with any of them. I wanted to be them. I wanted to be pretty. Have soft skin and wear nice clothes. Be an object of desire. Young. Tight.

I decide that I should probably go home. I walk out into the sea. It’s cold. I’m instantly drenched to my knees but I keep walking. I have to get home. The water is up to my navel. A swell of sea water knocks me back and I almost fall over and under. My clothes are heavy. When the water is over my nipples I plunge forward and begin to swim. After a couple of strokes I am taken under the surface and I can’t get back up. I struggle for a little while before instinctively opening my mouth to breathe. My lungs fill with salt water and I drown.

Stranger Than Kindness, By Nick Cave

stranger_than_kindness_nick_cave

Canongate Books, 276 pages

Nick Cave changed my life when I first discovered him, sometime back in the mid-90s, by which point he’d already built a career spanning decades and the musical landscape I perceived at the time was growing ever more bleaker by the second. Personally, I’m still with him where he stated, “I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” Still, the younger, saltier Cave of that era now seems a far cry removed from the older, more mellowed version of today, and the two of them finally chance to meet within the pages and on the cover of this gorgeously intimate book.

Cataloguing a lifetime’s worth of writing, artwork, and various other artifacts from Cave’s childhood through this present day, Stranger Than Kindness represents a selection of pieces from the exhibit of the same name, which finally opened last month at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen. For those unable to attend, I would highly recommend this book for the insights it provides into the life and works of its subject.

—Arthur Graham, Editor in Chief

BUY A COPY HERE

Mitch Green

Icarus Machine

Lustful creatures in tumor heavy skies. Castle weary air heavy to wear. It is all we are known for in these pacific currents, pooling like death around and around the valleys and veins of uprooted nuance. Be it the mistress in cold blood of all the lizard dogs that slither her carcass. Mutinied, they pleasure paralyzing paradise with wispy caress to annihilate the god of human.

Shapeshifting shiners blur the cheekbones to once more color the stratosphere a new shade of black. The icarus machine knows not how to fall forever, but bares the scars of what it takes to burn infinitely. Like a chameleonic actress harking to thieves should they steal her soul, turns blue of wretchedness, and wrings the temper from the forehead of damned intrusion.

Falsifiers unclothe the deathbed paramount and we become moths to flame before the disheveled lair of Carthage. No better are we if we rapture the carnal sin of youthful wanting, than lustful creatures who are now as feverish as a carcass in cold blood.

Moaning earth, ejaculate the lure.

John D Robinson

The Alphabet Advice

Now, after 4 decades
I cannot remember
his name but
I remember some
advice he offered:

‘When you go down
on your woman,
write the alphabet
with your tongue and
by the time you
get to ‘M’
she’ll be satisfied
no bullshit’

He was right,
and I’ve kept
to this advice
ever since,
never reaching
beyond the letter J.