Arthur Willhelm

She Only Loves Me When She’s Drunk

When we are the last two people
left at closing time

When she is flying down the street,
blowing stop signs,
and opening a wine bottle
with her teeth

“Fuck the police” she says
and passes the bottle to me

I don’t care for wine,
but i drink it anyway

she looks at me,
and with a kiss,
she tells me that she loves me

I take a long drag off my cigarette
and tell her that I love her too

The parkway is lit up like Christmas,
and we are lit up from drinking

I always look forward to those nights,
to hearing “I love you”

She only loves me when she’s drunk

John D Robinson

The Pick-Ups

‘He would, I’m sorry, she would
bring guys back from the bars,
mostly, old and fucked-up
horny alcoholics:
he’s, I mean she’s 6ft and paints
his face and dresses as a woman,
short skirt, high heels, he looked
fucking scary I can tell you,
she’d pick up these guys and
bring them back here to fuck,
but when it dawned on them
what the scene was they’d
get angry, frightened and
want to get away:
‘You can fuck him!’ she’d
scream and point to me,
I’d panic and I’d call the
police, the pick-up would
fuck-off fast and my son
would pass-out on the
kitchen floor in his dress
and the police would
arrive and tell me I
was wasting their time’

Brian Rosenberger

Sharing

The first time I cut myself,
I hoped I was letting the demons out.
My demons. Fear, hate, insecurity.
I thought I’d be rid of them for good.
I thought I could stare into the mirror
And not want to punch the reflection,
I thought I could smile naturally,
Instead of pretending.
I thought I could be like everyone else,
As the blood spiraled down my wrist,
My arm becoming a macabre candy cane.
I thought it worked. I was euphoric.
Blame it on blood loss.
My do-it-yourself exorcism unsuccessful.
Night turned into day and day into weeks
And my demons remained.

I met Darla at the Laundromat of all places.
I know, how romantic.
Sudsy Malone’s was a combination Laundromat/Bar,
A place where live bands played most nights.
She asked if I had any fabric softener.
I thought she was nuts. I never used fabric softener.
It turns out we had a shared insanity.
Weeks later, she showed me her scars, her demons.
She educated me on many things, including
The writings of Poppy Z. Brite, the Zen of Kite-flying.
And the best ways to remove blood stains.
I introduced Darla to Thai cuisine
and the films of H.G. Lewis.

Now we bleed each other.

John Knoll

CROSS-CLEANERS

He: What do you hate the most?

She: (thinking)

He: Shopping at Wal-Mart? Driving rush hour traffic? Government bureaucracy?

She: Just shut up. Will you please shut up? I hate your patriarchal prompting. Like I can’t even think of what I hate without you prompting me.

He: So that’s what you hate the most?

She: What?

He: You hate me because I’m a man.

She: I didn’t say that.

He: Then what did you mean when you said you hate my patriarchal prompting?

She: You’re so screwed up. You know that?

He: You hate patriarchy more than anything. Admit it.

She: No, I hate housecleaning more than anything. I hate housework even more than I hate you. I could easily leave you, never see you sad ass face again, but housework is always there. Wherever I go, there it is. Dirt. Dog shit on the rug. Cat piss stains on the sofa. Dirty dishes, I hate it. Housecleaning never goes away. Never will. Never. Never. Never.

He: I’m sorry you feel that way.

She: You’re what? Don’t you patronize me. You son-of-a-bitch.

He: There you go with that feminist rap again. I’m not patronizing you. I’m just disagreeing with you because housecleaning is like sex to me. It’s getting your hands in forbidden places, like cleaning shit out of the toilet bowl and secretly taking off your rubber gloves.

She: You’re sick.

He: O come on now. You know I’m a liar. And I’d appreciate it if you would quit interrupting me.

She: I’m not interrupting you.

He: Yes you are.

She: O excuse me. Please go on. It’s just that I’m so literal. I didn’t realize you were speaking metaphorically.

He: Thank-you. You see housecleaning is like sex because it has to be done and afterwards I always feel so much better; so clean, so pure. In fact, in a lot of ways housecleaning is better than sex.

She: Then why don’t you do more housecleaning if it’s so god-damned sexy?

He: Because I’m repressed.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Where in the World is Johnny Rico

I’d been living in Costa Rica, bored with the passive lifestyle I’d adopted in my retirement. I thought a remedy to my melancholy might be a short vacation away from this paradise. In any case, there had been too many rises and falls of the tides since I had last buried my toes in the sand of a Colombian beach.

Cartagena was beckoning me to become a willing hostage of her casual elegance, comforting charms, and the soothing touch of her ocean breeze. It had been close to eight years since I’d last seen her, back when I’d finally bid farewell to the “business”, and to my friend and former running partner, Johnny Rico, as well.

Upon my arrival, I hailed a taxi for the short ride to Hotel Caribe, an elegant five-star inn with a friendly, accommodating staff, nestled on the Boca Grande peninsula. Before I knew it, I was comfortably settled into my suite with a millionaire’s vista of the city.

Back in the bold reckless days of my youth, I’d be wired, revved up and ready to take on the night. But, owing to my advancing age, I’d decided to relax in my room for the evening instead. It was close to 7:30 on a Saturday night, with nothing much on the agenda.

I enjoyed an almost-hot shower and ordered room service, which was delivered much more quickly than expected. I focused my attention on the television, hoping to find something I could fall asleep to.

As I flipped through channel after channel, I was excited to discover several adult options. My excitement quickly dwindled, however, after thinking I might be charged a ridiculous fee for this service. Checking my hotel receipt for a possible clue produced no information, and referencing the brochures in the room ended with the same result.

Heading downstairs, I took a seat at the bar. I order a Scotch, neat, which the bartender pours with a generous hand.

“Thanks, carnal,” I say. “Appreciate your generosity. Kind of dead in here tonight, wouldn’t ya say?”

“Usually like this, early in the evening,” he replies. “Are you staying at the hotel?”

“Yes, I am. Tell me, how long have you been working here?”

“I think almost five years now. I like it very much. The people are very nice and always have interesting stories.”

“Bet you meet many new faces,” I tell him. “Let me ask you a question. I noticed on my television I have access to all channels, including certain pay channels. Do you know if this is included with the cost of my room?”

“If you have a suite on the top floor, I believe they are all free. Also, spa with massage and breakfast is included. Would you like me to ask the front desk to make sure?”

“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary. Say, what’s your name, so I won’t have to call you bartender?”

“Sergio, but everyone just calls me Serg. What is your name?”

“Santiago, but you can call me Santi, or Bigotes, if you’d like.”

“Bigotes, I like it. I could tell you were Mexican because of your Spanish, but you look very Italian as well.”

“I’m from all over. I live in Costa Rica now, but I have spent much time in Mexico. I lived here in Cartagena for quite some time as well, back eight years ago, right here in Barrio San Diego.”

“Bigotes, you have a face that is familiar to me… Where did you hangout, back when you lived here?”

“Everywhere and anywhere there were women, wine, and song. My friend and I had a favorite spot, right near my old apartment: Tu Candela Bar. Looking forward to going back there, maybe tomorrow.”

“Before I came here, that is where I worked, only as a waiter not bartender.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I remember you, Bigotes, always with another guy who laughed real loud. Rico was his name, I think. You both holler at each other and fight all the time. I remember you were the thinner one, and your hair was much shorter.”

“Well spank me with a spatula, that’s incredible. Johnny Rico, that’s him! You have a strong memory, my friend. Those days were quite some time ago.”

“You came to Cartagena to see your old friend again?”

“No, I haven’t been able to find him in years. I’m just on a mini-vacation, a short change of scenery is all. You have a great evening, Serg. I’m going to head back up to my room now. I appreciate your help.”

“No problema. I’ll be here until around 10:00. There is a wedding reception, here at the hotel tonight. Glad I’m not working the bar! See you around, Bigotes.”

“Nos vemos, Serg.”

Suddenly, my room somehow didn’t seem to fit the size of my temperament anymore. There wasn’t a movie on that interested me, and even the adult channels failed to capture my attention, despite them being free.

Damn, Serg had remembered Rico and me after all this time. I’d tried to get in touch with J.R. on several occasions in the past, but without success. His mother had long since died, and his sister didn’t want anything to do with him anymore, leaving me with nothing but a string of old memories and disconnected phone numbers. But that’s life.

Putting these thoughts aside, I make the decision to head out into the night, hoping to revisit some old familiar haunts. Mothers hide your daughters, Santiago is on the prowl!

I hail a taxi, and within minutes I’m back in Old Cartagena. The city’s quaint charm sparkles in the salty evening air.

After accomplishing my 4 D’s for the evening (dinner, drugs, drinking, and dancing), the mission bell rings once, signaling 1am. I chase down another taxi for the short drive back to the hotel, only this time with my companion, Valeria, now in tow. We had met earlier in the night, enjoying each other’s company at Cafe Havana, where a ten-piece salsa band had been playing.

My girlfriend de jour is an absolute vision of loveliness: humorous, compassionate, reasonably priced, and a talented dancer to boot. We were both pleasantly high from all the booze and cocaine chasers. By all appearances, she appeared ready to wrestle with the anaconda.

We arrive at the hotel, deciding first to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Surprisingly, the room had filled with a large crowd while I’d been out, everyone dancing to a DJ spinning reggaeton, my newly adopted favorite genre of music.

We were fortunate to find two seats at the bar. It was then I recalled Sergio mentioning a wedding reception at the hotel that night. Generally, I make it a rule to not attend weddings, because I always feel so helpless to stop the proceedings. As I always say, marriage is what happens when dating goes too far!

I ordered our drinks, and Valeria headed off to the ladies room to do a bump. When she returned, I excused myself to use the restroom as well, peeking into the adjacent banquet hall as I walked past. There I observed a fair-sized group, dancing in celebration of the two willing victims of love.

That’s when it suddenly hits me.

Above the noise of the reception, my ears perk up to the sound of that old, familiar laugh. It rings out in my heart like a song from long ago.

Could it really be? The lunatic laughter of the only man I’ve ever called a friend?

Stopping for a closer look, I peruse the guests inside. And sure enough, seated at none other than the bridal table, is the man I suspect to be “His Riconess” himself.

He was grossly overweight with long, stringy hair and a short, scruffy beard. He wore an all-white suit with dark sunglasses, despite us being indoors at night. His overall look was one I’d call “Neo-Italian”. I watch him as he takes a long drink of wine, then erupts into another one of his crazed cackles.

There can be no mistaking it. After years of searching in vain, I have finally stumbled upon the one and only Johnny Rico.

I watched as the large, unattractive bride sat down beside him, kissing his stubbly, blubbery lips as the guests all applauded, clinking their glasses with flatware. It must have been a cold winter in Hell, if a storm of this magnitude had breached the Devil’s compound.

Rico got hitched. He was now a married man. I should really congratulate this hostage of love, I thought, then pay my condolences to the wide bride on her fine choice of a husband.

I returned to the bar, where seated on my stool was some scoundrel trying to woo Valeria away from me. He makes a hasty exit as I walk up, planting a kiss on my rent-a-date for the evening.

“Don’t go anywhere,” I tell her. “I’ll be right back.”

Flagging down one of the waiters, I asked if I could borrow his blazer, tipping him generously for the rental. Next, I draped a white towel over my arm, donning my reading glasses for effect. My look now complete, I set out on my ambush, returning to the banquet hall as a hotel employee.

Walking briskly past the bridal table, I came around the back of it, completely unnoticed by my old friend. Standing behind him, I slowly leaned forward, whispering just loud enough for others to hear.

“Excuse me sir, but you appear to be very drunk. We won’t be allowed to serve you any more alcohol this evening. In addition, your guests have purchased drinks from the bar, with a bill almost four hundred dollars. We will need you to pay it immediately!”

He begins to stand, but I force him back down, pushing down hard on his shoulders. He whips back around at me, ready to strike, but that’s when he sees my face.

In an instant, his expression of rage dissolves into joyous disbelief.

“Un milagro! Milagro a Dios! Carnal eres tu?” (A miracle! Miracle my God. My buddy, is it you?)

Leaping to his feet, he wraps his arms around me, squeezing all the air from my lungs.

“Someone told me you were dead,” he said, as I attempted to extricate myself from his grasp. “Killed in Mexico, they said, by enemies of your cousin.”

“I was killed,” I replied, “but they made one mistake – they didn’t kill me twice!”

“I am so happy to see you are alive, carnal.”

Meanwhile, Valeria is now standing near the entrance of the banquet hall. I signal for her to come and join us. She smiles and walks over, every man in the room fixated on her beauty as she graciously glides across it.

I order a bottle of mescal for the table to help get this party started.

“Thank you, Santi!” Johnny screams. “Now we get drunker than a hundred Indians!”

Half a bottle and several lines of coke later, we were both up onstage, singing together our karaoke favorite:

I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
I GET HIGH WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

We finish our little number and Johnny immediately starts taking off his clothes, asking the crowd if they want to see an obre de arte (work of art). He whips out his dick and starts prancing around the hall like a ballerina, causing quite an uproar in the process.

His bride doesn’t seem to find his little performance quite so funny, however. Her attempts to intervene are met with an inebriated Johnny completely ignoring her pleas for him to stop.

It was then that I asked the DJ to play Satisfaction, by the Stones. I sing and dance in my best Mick Jagger impression, my spastic moves sending Johnny into hysterics along with the rest of the crowd.

Finally, we settled back down around our table, slamming more mescal as Johnny apologized to his bride and their guests for his antics. Meanwhile, our fans had raised their applause once more, clapping and demanding an encore.

Retaking the stage, we then sang our other song, I Shot The Sheriff (Marley version), only changing the lyrics to where we shot both the sheriff and the deputy.

During the lead break, Johnny pulls out the same .38 he’s had since I’d first met him, firing off rounds into the ceiling like a drunk cowboy in a saloon. In response, the wedding guests hit the floor, some taking refuge under tables, others fleeing screaming for the exits.

Now, I know my reaction should have been to disarm my lunatic sidekick immediately. However, I’d found myself in such a state of disbelief, all I could do was laugh, completely unafraid of the danger.

Within minutes, two security guards storm the banquet hall, demanding that Johnny surrender his pistol immediately. Knowing him, I knew their request would be met with defiance.

As they reached the stage, Johnny tossed the pistol over to me, thus diverting their attention. As they passed him by, he swept up a nearby chair and slammed it into the back of one of them. Meanwhile, I pointed the gun at the other, ordering him to stop.

I added that I would blow his fucking balls off if he didn’t.

Side note: Threatening a Columbian with death is not always a successful deterrent, but  living without their dick or balls is a fate they consider worse than death.

He stops as ordered, standing motionless with is hands out before him. He tries appealing to my sensibility, which has been all but drowned in tequila by this point. Acting on the tequila’s advice instead, I kick him straight in the balls, connecting with the force of a punter. He drops to his knees like a nun at mass, grabbing his crotch in pain.

Meanwhile, Johnny is punching the shit out of the other guard on the floor, his porky wife literally on his back, screaming for him to stop. She obviously has no idea of the man she’s just married.

And here I am, standing over my own victim, still pointing the gun at this terrified man.

“Bigotes todo bien carnal? No el mata! No el mata!” (Mr. Mustache, everything good? Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him!), Johnny yells.

“Why not?” I yell back. “He tried to hurt you, mi hermano. I can’t let that type of behavior go unpunished.”

The guy starts crying, begging for his life. I tell him I don’t understand Spanish, and with his life on the line, he chooses to argue that he heard me speaking Spanish earlier, accusing me of lying with a gun pointed at his head. I am so overwhelmed by his stupidity to argue with a crazed gunman, I burst into another uncontrollable laughing jag. My buddy joins in, his wife still riding him like a bucking bronco.

Meanwhile, some of the guests have returned, watching the situation intently. The DJ, for his part, seems totally unfazed by the fiasco. He puts on Street Fighting Man by the Stones, and I resume my Jagger dance over the security guard on the floor. Everyone begins laughing and applauding once more.

Eventually, I extend my hand to help the security guard to his feet, which he accepts.

What he didn’t know was that I’d folded two hundred dollar bills into my palm. He inspects them surreptitiously, then walks over to his partner, passing him one in like manner. Suddenly, they are both grinning like game show winners.

Our celebration is cut short, however, by the arrival of six or seven Colombian police officers with rifles, some of them adorned with helmets and shields. Valeria comes up from behind and slowly takes the pistol from my hand, pulls up her skirt, and tucks it away in her panties. She whispers that I can retrieve it later, kissing me on the cheek.

The cops scream at the DJ to turn off the music, pushing through the crowd without apology.

They immediately confront the security guards, demanding an explanation.

“Lo que está pasando aquí y solo tener un informe de que alguien está disparando un arma a la gente. Diga me!”  (What’s going on here? We had a call that someone was firing a gun shooting at people. Tell me!), a large military type demands to know.

“This is my wedding party,” Johnny interjects, “and the only guns here are those you brought yourself!”

“Hey Johnny,” I tell him, “how about you let the guards answer and shut the fuck up? Use those lips to kiss that new wife of yours, instead of inciting these officers just doing their jobs.”

“We thought there was a problem when we heard screaming and came to investigate,” one of the security guards informs the police officers. “It was this one,” he says, pointing at Johnny. “He was acting all crazy with his Mexican buddy over there, pretending to shoot each other.”

“The song had gunshots in it,” the DJ explains. “Everything is good. Solo bueno, solo bueno.”

He puts on some narco-corrido song, Sangunarios del M1 (Bloodthirsty Men of the M1), demonstrating the realism of the gunshots.

The cops appear unconvinced, however, ordering Johnny and I to stand against the wall. They start frisking me, asking us both over and over where the gun is stashed. Some of the other guests continue to explain to the officers there was no gun.

“Where is the gun, Bigotes?” Johnny starts joking. “Just give them the fucking gun so they’ll leave us alone!”

“Are you for real, bufo?”  I scream at the bastard. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you fucking insane?”

“This is my wedding reception,” he sneers at the cops, “and I would appreciate it if you officers either left or joined the party!”

“I see you found your friend!” a voice rings out from behind us. We both turn to see Sergio approach. “There you both are, arguing and yelling the same as I remember in the past…”

“Officers,” he continues, “I know both these gentlemen very well. What you’re accusing them of is not at all what happened here.”

“Who are you?” a cop barks at him. “Do you work here?”

“I am Sergio Mendez Ortiz, the Bar and Banquet Manager,” he answers. “I appreciate your quick response to what you thought was a dangerous situation, but whoever reported the incident was incorrect.”

“And how do you know that? Did you witness the event?”

“I did,” Sergio tells them, “and I can assure you there was no gun.”

Eventually, by some miracle, the cops begrudgingly accept Sergio’s explanation. As they start heading for the exit, that’s when Johnny decides open his big mouth again, spewing out comment after comment of contempt.

“You should apologize for ruining my wedding party!” he calls out after them. “Aren’t you even going to say sorry? You disrespected my wife, my friend, and all our guests.”

The commander turns to Johnny with a none-to-pleased look on his face.

“One more word out of you,” he warns, “and your bride will be sleeping alone tonight, while you become a bride to some convict. Understand?”

I run the short distance over to my carnal, literally clamping my hand over his mouth. He tries to spit out another smart-ass comment regardless, prying at my hand in an attempt to incarcerate himself.

“He understands, officer,” I assure him. “Thank you for your…”

The DJ cranks the music back up to a deafening volume, and suddenly everyone is dancing once again.

I walk over to Sergio and shake his hand, passing my remaining money to him.

“Sergio, we appreciate you rescuing us from being arrested.”

“No problema,” he says with a wink. “Just don’t let me see that gun around here again.”

“What gun?” Johnny asks, laughing.

It is then he gets his first taste of married life with a pissed-off Latina. Without missing a beat, his bride starts in on him in front of the assembled guests.

Completely ignoring her, Johnny turns to me instead, drawing me into a tight embrace. He still can’t stop laughing, tears running down his face.

“I’ve missed you carnal,” he says sadly. “You are more than family to me.”

“I know, Johnny,” I tell him. “Let me toast to your wedding. Do you have any money on you? Lend me a bill till I can get to a machine. I gave everything I had to the security guards and Sergio, and I want to tip the DJ for giving us an alibi as well.”

“No money?” he asks, his bride still yelling in his ear. “You aren’t even going to give us a wedding gift?”

“Wedding gift?” I cry in indignation. “I just spent three hundred dollars paying off people for your stupid antics! Wedding gift? I sincerely hope your screaming wife has the patience to put up with your mental illness.”

Finally, she gives up on her rant, exhausted by his utter lack of recognition. She quickly walks away with an older woman I  assume to be her mother.

“Johnny, I think she is crying,” I tell him. “Go and apologize, and tell her this type of behavior is likely to continue over the course of your marriage.”

He stumbles off after her, and I go to find an ATM.

I find Valeria waiting for me at a table, being hit on by every guy at the party. When she notices me walking toward her, she stands and extends her hand for me to take.

Walking arm in arm, she accompanies me to an ATM down the street. Along the way, she slips her hand into my jacket pocket, depositing the gun within.

“Santi,” she says, “I am ready for sex with you. Do you want to go to your room soon? You already payed for everything, and I need to call my mother to tell her I’m okay. Should I tell her I will be home Monday? I like you very much, Santi, and want to spend some time with you…”

Now, this isn’t my first initiation with a prostitute. I’d learned long ago just to fuck ’em, not fall in love with them. But Valeria is young and still hasn’t learned.

Finally, we reach the ATM, withdrawing four hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills. Meanwhile, it is 3am in a Colombian city, and I know better than to just stand there flashing my cash. After being victimized, gringos have no idea why they’d been robbed. Why? Because you deserved it for being fucking stupid, that’s why.

We begin to walk back the short distance to the hotel. You can smell the aroma of bread and donuts baking from the shops nearby.

It is then that a homeless street junkie confronts us, large rock in one hand and what appears to be a steel bar of some type, maybe a curtain rod, in the other. He demands that I turn over my money, my watch, and the gold ring on my left pinky finger, which belonged to my daughter.

I first attempt to reason with him, offering a small donation to his drug fund instead. The suggestion is received poorly, and he displays his anger by swirling the curtain rod like a lightsaber, as though he were a Jedi master.

“Santi, give him the money!” Valeria says, clinging close. “I am afraid Santi, please! Tranquillo, senor, I will get it…”

“I’m not giving this carapecha (dickface) a fucking peso!” I scream.

Next thing I know, Valeria has Johnny’s gun back in her hands, pointing it directly at Skywalker.

“First of all,” she says to him, “you didn’t say please. Now I’m going to shoot your fucking balls off, you hijo de perra!”

At this, I instantly got a monstrous erection. What a woman! This demonstration of foreplay on her part had aroused me to a point of near ejaculation.

The wannabe Jedi scurries off, and Valeria returns the gun to my pocket once again, giggling as she softly puts a finger to her lips.

“Valeria, that was awesome, baby. Damn, you really are the total package! We have got to get back to my room…”

She grabs me by the head, pulling me in for a kiss.

“No! No!” I protest. “Don’t touch me! I’m so excited right now, I might just cum right here!”

She laughs and grabs my crotch anyway, giving it a loving squeeze.

We return to the hotel, and I immediately start pulling her toward the elevators.

“Bigotes! Bigotes!” Sergio calls from across the lobby. “Wait, I have a message for you, from your friend. He’d asked for your room number, but it is not our hotel’s policy to give out personal information.”

“A wonderful policy, Serg,” I say, taking the note from him. “Thank you.”

Johnny’s phone number was scrawled inside.

“Santi, venga,” Valeria urges. “Please, let us go!”

“Buenas noches, Serg!”

He smiles and waves after us as we enter the elevator.

“You shouldn’t have called Skywalker’s mother a bitch,” I reprimand Valeria on our ride up. “She may well be a very pleasant woman.”

I had just enough time to finish this little lecture before she grabs me and kisses me with her tongue, telling me I was in for one passionate night.

And yes, folks, it was a good night indeed. So I actually wound up staying in after all!

The following afternoon, I call Johnny’s room, and a housekeeper informs me the guest has checked out. I try his cell phone instead, and a recorded message informs me the number is no longer in service.

“Perfect, Rico,” I sigh. “Now what am I supposed to do with this gun?”

“What gun?” Valeria asks.

Nos vemos, Johnny Rico!

Casey Renee Kiser

My Handyman

He opens the blinds
so the sun shines on my naked grin.
He says, “I’m going up to get coffee.
Why don’t you lie there a while
and bask in the glory
of getting your ass hammered.”
Love still drips, my eyes shut.
I thank the Universe
with all my might.
My heart is fixed.

Bill Suboski

Darker then Amber

Amber would later realize that she had underestimated George. She had been careful when she made contact but George’s lack of intellectual curiosity had lulled her. He had seemed singularly uninterested in learning, an accurate perception on her part. But she was young herself, only thirty-one, and she had made the near fatal error of believing that lack of awareness meant lack of guile. She had forgotten, or never known, that to be unaware is to be unrestrained.

And she didn’t know about George’s former background as a hitman. Her ability enabled her to locate other gifted ones, carefully honing in on the little lights that shone into her world. When she had walked near the plaza she had known. There was a bright light and a dim one, both from above.

The bright light was as expected, one she had seen many times. She didn’t know what to make of the dim one. It puzzled her, but she pressed on.

There was a knock at the door. It was just after eleven am and George had only been up a few minutes. He was still in his robe, about to take a shower. Five had been preparing his breakfast while seven readied his shower and there was a knock at the door. His mother never knocked unexpectedly. All deliveries were expected in advance. This was not just a knock, it was a mystery, a visit without provenance, a knock at the door.

George pressed the Source button on his TV remote and flipped over to the hallway camera. The visitor was a young woman, seen from above and to the side. She was average height and build, with straight black hair in a page boy cut. She wore slacks and a blouse, but George was intrigued by her large breasts. He had never been with a large breasted woman.

Even as he watched she knocked again, and the sound came from both the door behind him and the TV in front of him. He pressed on the customized remote and spoke uncertainly into the microphone.

“May I help you?”

She turned and looked up, to face the camera where his voice came from.

“Actually, I believe I can help you.”

She asked to come in to speak with him. George was wary. He had never actually had a true and normal relationship. He simply did not know how to proceed. He was not fearful of her or cautious to admit her. He was simply uninterested and was about to dismiss her when she said, “You don’t have use of your gift anymore, do you?”

That got his attention but it was a guess on her part. She had never seen a dim light before and she was guessing what it might mean. She suggested that they could meet in a local restaurant. George didn’t leave his penthouse. She knew about gifts. But what clinched the deal for George was the idea of seeing those breasts, albeit still covered, but live and close-up.

It was agreed she would return with lunch at 1 pm. George slipped an hundred dollar bill under the door and said into the remote, “Make it a good one.” He watched her briefly frown on the TV but she took the money and left in the elevator.

George made the girls clean the apartment then shooed them across the hall to his Mother’s. She objected until he peeled off some more bills and said, “Get lost for today.” She sneered at him, and a moment of hesitance, and she almost said, “What are you up to, George?”

But instead she took the money and left in the elevator a few minutes later. He told the entertainment to stay in the other suite until he called for them. In no circumstance would they come back until he called for them. They didn’t care; they both welcomed being out of his company. George was completely unaware and unconcerned – they would be gone

Amber arrived just before one and knocked again. George opened the door, an uncertain smile on his face; he seemed shy. He had nervous tics. He was often awkward and tongue-tied. These were traits she interpreted as endearing and influenced her to overlook the creepier aspects of his personality. Still, the way he kept staring down at her breasts made her skin crawl. She was accustomed to this from men but she still didn’t like it. But as time passed and they talked over the course of the afternoon he did it less and less until by late afternoon he was making steady eye contact.

And the tale he told, halting at first, about life with his oppressive mother. She used her gift to enrich herself and to force George to do her bidding. She could not be resisted. He just wanted to help people. Her powers of certainty and doubt were ineluctable. George just wanted to help people but his mother did not care at all. She physically and mentally abused George. As he had grown he had been more and more insistent with her until one day she used her gift to turn his off. He could no longer help people; he was visibly upset by this. His sorrow moved Amber to tears and when she cried he joined in. She resolved to help him.

It was all a lie, of course, and George was no better at deceit than honesty. But his story was animated by passion and therefore more convincing than if objectively told. Amber had no way to know that that passion originated in grievance rather than injury.

Ellen Bailey had checked into a downtown hotel. She would return home tomorrow. For now, she would try to sleep and to escape her thoughts, just for a night. She had ordered room service, but when the food came she could eat none of it. So many what ifs and should have beens. But at the end of the day, she had failed her only son, and he had failed the world. You killed people, Georgie, and therefore, I have killed people. And I…can’t live with that.

She picked at the cooling lasagna and forced herself to take a bite. These last weeks, since she had shut down his gift, she had known what must happen. She couldn’t face it. At least, not all at once. And so she had tried to approach it by degrees. She did not know who the strange young woman was who had appeared today. But this change, this odd break with routine, George receiving a visitor, could only be bad news.

Everything about George was bad news. He had used his ability to possess that dog a dozen years at the birthday party and he had killed another boy. She knew this; she couldn’t prove it but she knew it. He would sit on the porch when he was a boy and make people passing by stop and give him money. She didn’t have to prove anything. Everything about George was bad news. And that cheerleader, just a few years ago…George had not killed her but he had caused her death.

She had not liked the glint in his eye when he sent her away today. Something was happening. More bad news, more sad news for someone. She had avoided what she must do. But she could no longer.

Tomorrow when she returned home, George would have a terrible accident and she would spend the rest of her life helping others. She would spend the rest of her life making amends and aching to forget. She was able to take another bite and even enjoyed the lasagna. I cannot change what has happened but I can change the unwritten future. She turned on the TV and gazed through some nameless movie and slept deeply and dreamlessly until morning.

George texted Amber when his mother returned the next day. He intercepted Ellen in the hallway and told her he would be sending his girls over again. She appeared defeated. He sneered at her, “Did you have a good night?” but she waved him off.

The two naked girls entered a few minutes later. Ellen hated the sight of them. Everything about them made her feel sick and ashamed. George’s interpretation of sexuality was a perversion of intimacy. His reduction of two young women to mere sexual appliances, and their willingness to be reduced for such boorish reasons as money was a coarse and cruel twisting of connection. Everything about George was bad news. Ellen pointed to the back bedroom and they scurried out of her sight.

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door. Ellen had a growing sense of foreboding, but she answered.

“Mother, I would like you to meet my new friend Amber.”

The younger woman held out her hand in greeting. Ellen reached forward. It was odd to shake another woman’s hand. Amber held the grip and Ellen couldn’t pull away. She took a step backward but this pulled the younger woman toward her. She could not break the grip. She felt something emptying out of her. Then Amber released her hand.

She was unsteady. She almost fell. She watched as Amber put her hand on George’s forehead. George smiled.

“What did you do?”

She heard her own voice, a despairing wail.

“What did you do?”

“She transfers gifts, Mother. That is her gift. She has taken your abilities, stripped them out of you and put them into me. Permanently.”

He turned to Amber.

“Go wait for me in my apartment. Get undressed. Kneel on the floor – knees apart. I want to see those big boobs.”

Amber realized her mistake. In a rush she knew that everything George had told her had been a lie. Her eyes widened with fear. When she transferred powers she felt the ability. And what she had just transferred into George was the power of command. His mother had not ever fully disclosed the scope of her ability. And now it was his. Any command he issued would be obeyed: jump off this bridge, rob this bank, stop breathing.

As she started walking she felt her fingers unbuttoning her blouse. She wanted to vomit. Whatever he said…she would obey. There was no choice. Disobedience was impossible. As she walked into the apartment, removing her blouse, she realized that she was the perfect weapon. He could use her to find and steal the gifts of others. Oh, god, please don’t let him realize that…

Bra off, pants undone, her mind reeled as she began to truly understand what had just happened. She slid her underpants down. The power had informed her as it passed through her. His ability to command others was absolute. He could command anything humanly possible. He couldn’t change the laws of physics or biology. But he could demand total honesty, total disclosure, and total obedience. At least a slave could rebel. She could not.

He could make her remember things that had not happened and forget her best memories. He could command her emotions. He could change who she was. She would have to think as he commanded, believe as he told her. This would be a rape far more complete and total than merely sexual. Even if he didn’t use her as a leech on other gifted he would never let her go. As she knelt naked on the floor, as commanded, she began to comprehend what her new existence would be and she wanted to die.

Suddenly the two lights, one bright and one dim, became two bright ones as George used his mother’s stolen power to reactivate his own gift.

Ellen whispered, barely audible, “Please kill me quickly, George.”

George smiled.

“Thank you, mother. Thank you for everything. I have had fantasies and desires I couldn’t explore even paying the girls. But I don’t need to do that anymore. Now I can just tell them. Every fantasy…my harem. And I have a beautiful new slave – a very useful one with big tits. But my happy household will need a maid, of course. That’s where you come in – maid Ellen.”

“Please, George…kill me.”

TERROR MANNEQUIN, By Douglas Hackle

TERROR MANNEQUIN_cover

TERROR MANNEQUIN,
By Douglas Hackle
201 pages

Douglas Hackle (aka Big Daddy D, aka D-Eazy, aka Tha D-Child, aka Tha D-ster, aka Tha Big Dippa, aka Douggie-Style, aka Tha Douginator, aka The Dougerizer, aka Dazzlin’ Dizzy-D McNasty, aka Dig-Dug McDoogenstein McDrizzle, aka DJ Dougzilla von Chillmasta, aka Fyodor Dougstoevsky, et al.) is up to his old tricks again and possibly a few new ones with the release of his latest novel, TERROR MANNEQUIN.

***
Forty-year-old Glont Lamont is a longtime employee of Fun 4-Life Corporation, where he gets paid good money to play videos games, watch TV, get drunk, get high, devour pizza, ride the company roller coaster, take long-ass naps, and toss off like a madman in an insane asylum. There’s only one problem: Glont’s sick of his job! Nowadays, all he really wants to do is work long, grueling shifts 7-days-a-week doing any sort of awful, backbreaking, tedious, demoralizing, soul-crushing, severely undercompensated labor.

But with Halloween just a few days away, Glont has more important things to worry about than his workplace woes. Namely, he must take his two “freak” nephews out reverse trick-or-treating, which is a form of annual ritualistic tribute whereby the cruel townspeople force his nephews to walk door-to-door on Halloween night to hand out candy to people instead of receiving candy themselves.

And this year, the last stop on the trio’s reverse trick-or-treating itinerary is Fallingwater—built on a natural waterfall, Frank Lloyd Wright’s world-famous architectural masterpiece is now closed to the public and allegedly haunted by an evil supernatural entity known as TERROR MANNEQUIN…

BUY A COPY HERE

***
Praise for TERROR MANNEQUIN:

“If you want a Halloween read unlike any other, you’re gonna wanna pick this one up.” –Gregor Xane, author of Brides of Hanover Block

“Very weird, very gory, and very funny. Douglas Hackle has written the literary equivalent to The Toxic Avenger, a blood-soaked, genre-defying, anti-horror novel.” Danger Slater, author of Impossible James

More praise for Douglas Hackle:

“Hackle may be the best absurdist story writer working today.” –Bradley Sands, author of Dodgeball High

“…the best bizarro absurdist in the business.” –Amy M. Vaughn, author of Skull Nuggets

 

 

 

Jack Henry

right on a red light in NYC

they say
you shouldn’t turn right
on a red light in NYC
but i am not from NYC
and didn’t realize
that at 2am that rule
remained valid

she said
‘what if a cop saw you?’
i said
‘i guess i’d get a ticket
i’d never pay’

sitting on the couch
she asked permission
to suck my dick
and i smiled
‘why ask?’

it should have taken longer
but i’m impatient
in many different ways

we agreed to meet up
again
in three days

i found my car
and drove away
headed toward Connecticut
but not before
i turned right on a red light

one more time