Oliver Stansfield

The Hypothetical Bus

“If I was hit by a bus tomorrow,” she said darkly, “how long would you wait before screwing someone else?”

He gave her a look, sensing trouble.

“Who says I would screw someone else?”

“Oh come on…” she teased, “of course you would…”

“I don’t know… a couple of years, maybe?”

“And who would it be with?” she pressed.

“I don’t know who it would be with! I haven’t even thought about it!”

She took a sip from her drink and raised her hand to stop him.

“It’s only a hypothetical question. I’m not going to think that you’re actually going to do it…”

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and gazed around the empty bar.

“I don’t know. No idea… a taller version of Scarlet Johannsen, maybe?”

“Oh come on,” she said again. “There must be someone real? How about… Stacey.”

“Stacey!?”

“Yeah, Stacey. She’s got nice tits!”

“Nice tits!” He laughed. “That’s what you think I go for?”

“Well don’t you?”

He suddenly realised the traps snapping at his heels.

“I like yourtits…”

“We’re not talking about me! Stacey has nice tits. I bet she’d be good in bed, too.”

“Oh god… Okay, imagine I got hit by a bus. What about you?”

“What about me?” She asked innocently.

“Who would you sleep with?”

“Oh.” She paused for about two seconds. “Probably Derek.”

“Derek! What? So you’ve thought about this before?”

“There’s no need to sound like that. It’s only a hypothetical… Anyway, Diane says he’s incredible.”

“Oh great…”

“He has a massive cock.”

“A massive hypothetical cock…”

“No, a real massive cock.” She smiled again.

“Good for Derek…” He sighed.

She drained her drink.

“Good for Diane…”

Matthew Borczon

American Soldier

Henry took job with an automotive dealer. He would drive cars across country for sale or delivery. It wasn’t much of a job really but it allowed Henry to work mostly nights. Sleep had been hard to come by since coming home and he figured this was one way to make the best of a shitty situation. He also valued the opportunity to be anywhere but home. This was harder to explain, but Henry was tired of the questions about the war and even more tired of people thanking him for his service. He doubted any of it meant anything and people seemed annoyed if he did not appear grateful. It was just easier to avoid the world and be alone; and alone on a highway at night felt about as alone as you can get.

His sister had wanted to call the media to meet him when he got off the plane; his wife wanted him to go to his kid’s school to surprise them in his uniform. All Henry wanted was his feet on the ground and a quiet place to sit without looking out of the back of his head, without crawling out of his skin. It only took a few days to realize that was not going to happen. His radar was up constantly and everyone looked like the enemy, he still tasted sand in all of his food and he was afraid to touch his wife or kids for fear he would get blood on them. When the baseball field shot fire works over his house he was face down on the floor before he realized where he was.

At a stress debriefing in Kuwait he was told to expect this, but at the time he was just so ready to be going home he could not believe any of it. Now he just remembered a lieutenant telling them it may be awhile until you feel like a regular person again. Henry can’t even try to remember what that used to feel like. The nightmares were the worst, stretchers carried into the aid station with his children on them blown to pieces or dead. So he stopped trying to sleep, gave up the pills they gave him and decided to take this job.

It was all going alone pretty well until he started hearing things. First it was the sound of screaming soldiers crying out in pain. Or maybe it was the screeching of his tires on hot asphalt, he wasn’t sure. Then it was the cry of an afghan mother he heard the day he had to give her back her dead child wrapped in a towel in a hospital in Helmand. Eventually screams became voices and voices became ideas that start to feel like orders. Now he drives only at night, he turns up his radio loud enough to drown out the voices in his car. He tries to think about his wife and kids. About his mom and dad and all the things he loves. He tells himself it will get better over time. He tells himself people do get back to normal. He changes the radio station constantly looking for something louder and hopes he doesn’t hit a country station because he is pretty sure if he hears Toby Keith sing American Soldier he will drive his car strait into the nearest tree as he sings along.

Mark Mellon

Fortune Teller

Denton snorted cocaine off Annie’s compact mirror. Techno music blared. He drank Cristal and puffed a pre-Revolution Cuban Partagás cigar, one of four hundred left. At a roped-off table at an exclusive after-hours club, next to a beautiful young woman, he reflected on his persistent melancholy. Rio Pinto resonated in his mind.

Annie darted her tongue into his ear. Denton wriggled away. A puzzled look became dark eyed exasperation.

“Andy. Don’t you want to be with me?”

“Yes. It’s just work.”

“But you’re with me now. We’re drunk and high. In a little while, we go to bed. That doesn’t take your mind off work?”

Denton poured more Cristal.

“If I knew whether Rio Pinto goes bankrupt, I’d know what to do. It could mean my job.”

“Hey, I know. Let’s see Madame Tisiphone. You can ask her. At least she might distract you.”

“Madame who?”

“Tisiphone the seer. An old lady in the East Village who’s been around since the ’50’s, a real relic in this basement apartment.”

“How do you know her? You never struck me as the crystal ball type.”

“My last name is Terakis. From Crete, Andy. Greeks know other Greeks, even in big cities. Do you want me to call? She’s not cheap. Set you back a grand.”

“Call her. Might be fun like you say.”

Annie pulled her phone out. After an unintelligible conversation in Greek, Annie smiled and said “Efharisto.”

“She’ll see us in half-an-hour. That leaves enough time for the pet store.”

“What for?”

“You have to bring her a gift. A pretty bird, something like that.”

“Let me kill the bottle and we’ll go.”

Feet uncoordinated, steadied by Annie, Denton left the club. Manhattan summer’s hot, stinking funk hit him full. Denton wilted. Annie grabbed him by the armpits. He somehow managed to lock his legs beneath him. It was easy to flag a cab outside; every hack in town knew high rollers partied there.

“24/7 Pets at 12th and Broadway, please,” Annie said.

The store was brilliantly lit, crammed with cages. Customers were few that late. A corridor flanked by stacked cages held birds of multiple species and resplendent hues, a wild display of crimson, yellow, purple, and gold accompanied by squawks, skreeks and guano’s raw stench. Annie pointed to a brilliantly green parakeet.

“How much?”

“A very reasonable price, considering he’s rare. Three hundred fifty,” the salesman replied.

“Do we get the cage too?”

“That’s another hundred, but we provide two free bags of feed.”

Denton departed with the awkwardly held bird cage shrouded under a cover. They took another cab, cage between them. Denton flinched whenever the bird jumped. He drank Courvoisier from a silver flask to steady his nerves. The cab left them in Tribeca. Burr Street’s brownstones were restored and immaculate, any Bohemian element largely driven out long ago by gentrification.

“Here.”

Denton negotiated the stairs while holding the cage with fair grace for someone so drunk and high. Annie knocked, a buzzer sounded, and they entered. There was a sharp, not unpleasant smell, burning myrrh. The parlor was dimly lit, the furniture old and broken down. Gold and silver icons gleamed in a corner by a dozen red candles’ flickering light. A bronze statue dominated the room, a grim, bearded man in a long robe with a three-headed dog at his feet, fangs bared in savage grimaces.

An old woman studied the Daily Racing Form at a table. She looked up from under gray-white, curly hair. Bright black eyes like obsidian chips gleamed in her wrinkled, shrunken face.

“Ah, the Terakis girl. Geia sas, hello to you and your friend.”

She stood up. Her back was bent, but her tread still firm, the claw like hand strong.

“This is Andy Denton. Andy, Madame Tisiphone.”

“So, boss, you got a question for the Rich One?”

“Who?”

She pointed to the floor.

Plouton, boss. The one with diamonds and gold.”

“Satan?”

She waved a hand in scorn.

Plouton, he’s a lot older. More important too. Let me see the bird you got.”

Annie set the cage on the table and removed the cover. Tisiphone cooed at the bird.

Po po po, such a pretty birdie.”

She opened the cage door and put her hand inside. The bird hopped onto her extended index finger. She brought him out, stroking his wings with her free hand.

“Is a big shame, to make such a nice bird meet Plouton. Sure you want to do this, boss?”

“Why do you think we came here?”

“OK, boss. A thousand bucks.”

Denton set hundreds on the table. Tisiphone tucked the money away in her black widow’s weeds.

“Come to the kitchen.”

A narrow hall led to a kitchen with a bathtub, perhaps the last in Greenwich Village with this antique arrangement. A wall held shelves lined with metal cans marked INDUSTRIAL FORMALDEHYDE. Tisiphone went to a table, took a length of cord, and expertly pinioned the bird’s wings. She set the immobilized bird on the table, opened the windows, went to the shelves, and took down a can.

“Is a small bird, boss, so we don’t need much. Better stand in the hall. You can watch there. What’s your question?”

“Rio Pinto. Will-“

“All I need, boss.”

Annie and Denton went to the hall. Tisiphone put on a black rubber gas mask that gave her a strange, sacerdotal air, like the priestess of some arcane, Gothic cult. She emptied the can into the tub. A pungent odor tore into Denton’s respiratory system like airborne daggers. Chanting in Greek, Tisiphone took the madly chirping bird and dropped him in.

The bird’s cries grew shrill, frantic as he begged for release from torturing fumes and liquid. Hand to one ear, Madame Tisiphone crouched and closely listened. When the bird died, she pulled on a rubber glove, opened the drain, and turned on the spigot.

“Boss, the bird say a ship loaded with gold and silver gonna crash on the rocks with all hands lost.”

“What’s that mean? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Prophecies don’t address things directly,” Annie said.

“Well, we did do this just to pass time.”

Denton smiled at Madame Tisiphone, a brief baring of teeth used with people he’d dismissed.

“Thanks for the show. We’ll be going now. Keep the bird cage. Plus the dead bird.”

Annie spoke to Tisiphone in Greek. Denton tugged Annie’s elbow. She snatched it away, but nonetheless left.

“You could have been more polite, you know. In Greece, you’re supposed to be respectful to older folks.”

“Yeah, well, we’re not in Greece.”

She was distant the rest of night, even during sex. Denton was past caring though. He simply wanted to get his nut off and collapse into oblivion, there to sleep before the ordeal of another long day slaving for money at Centurian.

***

Centurian had nothing so crude as a boiler room, an unpartitioned whole floor crammed with desks where men and women vied to unload as many bad investments as possible, to harpoon a “whale” with a phone call. Instead, associates grubbed for money respectably, behind closed doors in private offices. The atmosphere was more like an old white shoe, Wall Street law firm, with oak paneled walls, hushed corridors, and gilt framed fox hunt scenes.

What associates did during scant free time was their business. They were expected to come in early and stay late. Denton exited the express elevator at the 113th floor at seven, hungover, already exhausted due to insufficient rest. Secretaries smirked as he traipsed zombie like to his office. He popped a canister into his Keurig coffee maker. Coffee hot and steaming, Denton added two headache powders, stirred the cup, and poured the bitter potion down. Caffeine and aspirin had their palliative effect. His mind began to function somewhat. He remembered last night and Wikied “Plouton” on his laptop. A picture appeared of a bleak, bearded figure, a caption beneath.

Plouton – euphemism for Hades, Greek god of the dead. Due to fear, little official worship was paid to him. At the Ploutonion in Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in Turkey, pilgrims sought prophecies by tossing live, pinioned birds into mephitic waters from a cave’s mouth. Priests interpreted the birds’ death cries as cryptic, Delphic responses to the pilgrims’ queries. His opinion was particularly sought with respect to business, as he was regarded as wealthy beyond compare since he owned the world’s earthly riches.”

Tisiphone said a ship loaded with gold and silver would founder. Rio Pinto was the biggest miner of valuable minerals on the planet. He took out a vial and took his first hit of the day. Coke further stimulated him, made Denton decisive. He hit the intercom.

“Yes, Andy?”

“Unload Rio Pinto. Now. All of it. Tell everybody else to dump it too.”

“But they just got a capital infusion two days ago. Are you sure we should-“

“Yes, I’m sure. Unload, Jake. How hard is that to understand?”

“Sure, Andy. Absolutely no problem.”

Denton tried to keep racing nerves in check as the day progressed. His efforts weren’t helped by a visit around eleven from Wes Hardin, a partner and his direct boss.

“Howdy, Andy.”

The suit was Brioni, the tie Ralph Lauren, but the smile and accent were pure East Texas peckerwood. He took a seat and looked Denton in the eye, any trace of levity or friendliness gone.

“What’s this about Rio Pinto? You gone loco, son?”

“Inside info, Wes. They’re going belly up. You could say Rio Pinto’s a ship about to founder.”

“That’s right poetic, son, but poetry don’t cut it around here. A lot of clients are in bed with Rio Pinto, side contracts and counter derivatives. They’ll take some losses today and want an explanation.”

“Relax, Wes. Events will bear me out.”

“Sure hope so for your sake.”

Hardin left. Denton took more hits to restore flagging confidence. Sick with worry, he constantly monitored the Internet for news. At six p.m., Jake burst into his office.

“Andy. Rio Pinto’s bankrupt. The filings were just made public in Sydney. You saved us billions. How did you know?”

Adrenaline shot through Denton, a high greater than any achieved before. The buzz only grew as people streamed into the room to praise him to the skies. The acclamation reached its peak when Hardin entered, shook Denton’s hand and said, “Damn spam, Denton. Got yourself a crystal ball?”

Denton gave a Cheshire Cat smile.

“Close enough, Wes.”

***

“But we saw her a few days ago, Andy. And you didn’t seem to like it.”

“No, I did, so much I want to do it again. Let’s ask another question.”

Annie dragged off the joint, exhaled smoke, coughed, and passed it.

“That poor bird got killed, Andy. It was horrible. We had no right to do that.”

“Oh, please. It’s just a bird. And it’s not like I want to, that’s how she works.”

Annie’s cold look told Denton this tack wasn’t working, so he changed course.

“Look. I was rude. Fluke or not, her advice was right. I want to thank her. Let me do her right and you too. I know how sensitive you Greeks are.”

Annie kissed Denton.

“If you put it that way, it’s not so bad. I’ll call her after we finish this joint.”

The same salesman waited upon them at 24/7 Pets.

“Got any big birds?” Denton asked. “A hawk or an eagle?”

“We happen to have an English hunting falcon. Over here. We have to keep her apart from other birds.”

The falcon sat in a corner in isolated splendor. Dappled brown and white, with huge wings and a snow white throat, the eyes were covered by a leather hood.

“Have you had any experience with falcons?”

“Plenty. I plan to hunt at our place in Long Island.”

“But we-“

Denton silenced Annie with an angry, sideways glance.

“This bird is expensive. Two thousand.”

“I’ll take it.”

Denton paid for the falcon, a cover was put over the cage, and they left with another sacrificial victim. A cab took them downtown.

“Andy, we can’t hurt this bird.”

“We can’t keep it either. Did you see those claws? Anyway, she’s expecting us.”

Tisiphone opened the door.

“So, boss, you come back. Maybe old Madame Tisiphone can see the future, eh?”

“You’re the best goddam prophet ever. Sorry I doubted you. To prove it, I got a present. Look.”

Denton removed the cover. Startled, the bird flapped great wings.

Aman, what have you brought? A most splendiferous bird, boss. But a big bird means a big question too. It’ll cost plenty this time, boss, five grand.”

“Here.”

Denton put his Rolex Oyster Supreme on the table.

“That watch is ten grand.”

Tisiphone whistled. “Tha to pahro, I’ll take it. Say the question.”

“Lohrman Freres? Will the French gover-“

“Enough.”

She bent down, opened the cage, and stuck an arm inside. The hooded bird jumped onto her outstretched wrist. Madame Tisiphone took the falcon out and breathed in the bird’s ears. She slipped the hood off. The bird regarded Denton with savage, predatory black eyes, but stayed on her arm.

“Sure you want to kill such a splendiferous, beautiful bird, boss? And for money, always money too, never love or your future? Po po po.”

“Why do you keep asking that?”

Tisiphone stroked the bird.

“Maybe I wanna test you, boss. Come on.”

In the kitchen, the bird let herself be bound as before, despite her size and ferocity. Tisiphone opened the windows, turned on a fan, and went to the shelves.

“Two cans for so big a bird.”

She donned her mask and poured formaldehyde into the tub. The smell was worse, stronger, more astringent. Madame Tisiphone put in the falcon.

Amazingly loud and varied calls poured from the tub as the falcon floundered to death. Tisiphone listened intently to every squawk. She pulled the plug, turned on the spigot, and shepherded Denton and Annie back to the living room where she removed her mask.

“What did the bird say?”

“Mostly cuss you a lot, boss, call you goddam sonofbitch, other stuff. Plenty spirit in that bird.”

“What about Lohrman Freres?”

“She say ‘The Roman galley throw a spar to the drowning twins.'”

“Why can’t I just get a straight answer? OK, Madame, thanks as usual.”

Pleased Annie kept her farewell relatively short, Denton sat near her in the cab only to have her draw away.

“What do you think the prophecy means?”

“Andy, for a smart man, you’re so stupid. A spar saves the twins. Twin brothers. Freres means brothers in French.”

“OK. I’m not deaf.”

At his place, primed on coke and certain of victory with Tisiphone’s prophecy, he grabbed Annie and pulled at her dress, only to have her push him away, an angry, troubled light in her eyes.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Andy, before we even start thinking about that, you have to promise me something.”

“OK.”

She looked him straight in the eye, but he was distracted by her perfect breasts.

“Andy, pay attention. I don’t want to see any more birds killed. It’s making me sick. The first time I didn’t know any better, but the second time I did and I feel terrible. You’ve had your way twice now. I won’t be part of this again. If you ever mention taking another bird to Madame Tisiphone again, we’re through. Do we understand each other, Andy?”

This wasn’t the first time a girlfriend had put Denton on notice, so he knew how to respond. He pulled her close, stroked her hair, and spoke gently.

“Don’t worry, honey. That’s the last time. Promise.”

Reassured, Annie sighed, curled up against him, and slept. Still flying on coke and adrenaline, Denton lay awake and dreamt of the wealth and power the new tip would bring.

***

On a rare, clear day, Denton enjoyed the panoramic view of Manhattan from his corner suite. His teak, sedan size desk was crammed with bric-a-brac and adult toys. Fine abstract art hung from the walls, nothing to him, but impressive to visitors. He padded in sock feet over a thick Persian rug to the black Aeron chair, sat, and spun around with a broad grin, hands twined behind his head. A knock on the door brought Denton bolt upright. He slipped on tasseled loafers and straightened his tie.

“Come in.”

Hardin entered, a big smile on his broad red face. Denton knew this meant trouble, being also a consummate phony.

“Look at Centurian’s newest partner, not even near thirty, sitting in his own suite. Tell you what, I’m damn proud, Andy.”

“Thanks, Wes. You embarrass me, talking me up so much.”

Hardin sat down.

“Andy, once you make partner here, it ain’t like some law firm where you sit on your laurels and let associates make hay. No sirree, bob, you got to hustle even more. You catch my drift, son?”

“No worries, Wes.”

“Glad to hear it. You did good with Rio Pinto, even better with Lohrmann. You ain’t just saved money, but made some. But it’s a topsy-turvy, dog eat dog world and we need new results now. Know anything about Gilded Sacs?”

The biggest investment firm on Wall Street, a titan that made Centurian look like a puny wimp. Gilded Sacs should be on top, but who knew with economic chaos worldwide? Denton played cagy.

“Just mixed signals. Have you heard anything?”

“There’s rumors they’ll go tits up any day. Nothing sourced or attributed, but some folks smell a big, dead rat, if you get my meaning. Get that crystal ball working, hear now? Pull a rabbit from the hat another time for the team, Andy. Can’t put it any more sincere than that.”

“You’ll have the answer tomorrow, Wes.”

Hardin rose.

“Keep taking care of business, hear?”

Good mood ruined, Denton ignored work and instead snorted coke while he brooded over his latest dilemma. He needed another prophecy, but if he even mentioned taking a bird to Tisiphone, Annie would dump him and she was his only connection. By six, purple, red, and orange streaks tinted the western horizon, the vial was empty, and Denton had hit his nail biting, floor pacing, wits’ end. His phone buzzed.

“So we having dinner, Andy? How about Pylos on 7th? They do good meze.”

“I’ll come get you.”

Hot, humid air stifled him outside, as yet uncooled by twilight. Cabs were few and he walked uptown to find one, a single thought in mind. There had to be a way out.

Startled, a large street rat scuttled before him. In a state of extraordinary concentration due to massive coke consumption, Denton grabbed an asphalt chunk and slung it with speed and reflexes no straight person could match. The missile caught the fleeing rat on the head and knocked him cold. Denton hurried to the sprawled animal. With the same celerity and presence of mind, he slipped the laces from his shoes and hogtied him, neat as any domestic beast bound for slaughter.

Denton slipped the rat into a coat pocket and hailed a cab. He called Annie from the cab.

“I’m here. Come outside.”

Annie emerged, stunning in a low-cut black top, skin tight jeans, and Louboutins. She got in the cab and they kissed.

“I want to see Tisiphone first.”

“I thought we were done with that, that we had an understanding.”

“I just want to thank her, that’s all. You know, let her know how grateful I am. Look at me. Have I got a bird?”

He held up his arms to demonstrate his birdless state.

“All right. Maybe you’re getting more considerate. Let me find out if she can see us.”

An intolerably long call in Greek followed.

“She’s just finished with a client. It’s OK.”

“Excellent.”

Denton felt like his old, self-confident self. A plan had formed, albeit haphazardly. Once more, he’d bend the world to his will.

Then the rat came to. Despite being bound, he vigorously squirmed around in Denton’s pocket. He clamped a hand over the pocket to hold the rat still.

“What are you doing?”

“Ah, I just got an itch.”

“How high are you? Did you do all the coke without me? And where are your shoelaces? You’re being really weird, even for you.”

“So I forgot to put them on. I’m a little buzzed.”

His shoes kept slipping off as he walked down the stairs. He kept a hand on the rat. Tisiphone opened the door. A distinct chemical odor wafted from the hall.

“You pardon the stink, huh? I just got done with a client. So, boss, you got a pistol in that pocket?”

Denton giggled.

“No, Madame. I want to tell you how grateful I am and- And I need to know what’s up with Gilded Sacs.”

Annie gasped. “You lying jerk. I warned you-“

“So you got another question, boss? How’m I supposed to answer with no bird?”

“Look.”

He held out the rat. To his surprise, both women recoiled.

Vlaca. You bring a filthy rat before my icons. Malaka.”

She snatched the rat away, tossed it outside, and slammed the door.

“Only high animals are fit to talk to Plouton, a fine bird or magnificent bull.”

Terminally stressed, Denton sweated as his hare-brained scheme fell apart before him. Powered solely by coke, panic, and greed at this point, he snatched Annie by the wrist.

“What are you doing, Andy?”

“I haven’t got a bull. So take her. She’s fine, isn’t she? I have to know what’s going to happen to Gilded Sacs. I’ll pay ten thousand, twenty.”

Annie snatched her hand away and ran behind Tisiphone. The seer’s face grew evil. Rather than a wizened, old, East Village weirdo, she resembled Medusa, a hideous female demon, baleful face contorted with rage.

Poutsokefalo. You want to ask a question so bad, maybe you do it yourself, eh?”

She seized Denton’s arm and twisted it behind his back. Apparently frail, the old woman was powerful as any club bouncer. Denton tried to break free, but she hustled him down the hall and into the kitchen. She slammed him into the table, bent him over, knocked the wind from him.

Tisiphone remorselessly and masterfully bound his hands.

“Pay for your hubris.”

No longer human in her black rubber mask, she dragged him, grabbed him by his hair and the small of the back and held him over the tub, more than half full with a white swan’s carcass in it. The smell made him gag and cry hot tears.

“No. Please. Don’t.”

She shoved him down head first. The agony was instant. Denton thrashed about, tried to bodily heave himself out, but Tisiphone firmly held him in place with a foot rammed into his back. He attempted to hold his breath, but involuntarily gasped from the pain. Formaldehyde flooded down his throat, a toxic stream that made him choke and spasm, which only forced more fluid into his lungs.

He screamed for mercy once again, only to have his burning eyes dissolve into a vision of a shadowy, horizonless plain where dead souls flitted about like tiny, pathetic gray bats. A heavyset man sat before him on a platinum throne. Black haired and bearded, his eyes were gleaming gold coins, each tooth a precious gem. His suit’s pinstripes were formed of tiny flaming letters that repeatedly spelt Hades. The grim visage puffed a cigar rolled from thousand dollar bills, knocked off silver flakes of ash, and smiled.

Mporo na se voithiso? Can I help you?”

***

Annie sat weeping on the couch when Tisiphone returned. She lit a cigarette and made notes with a pen on the Daily Racing Form.

“He isn’t-“

Tisiphone shrugged.

“Don’t worry, Annie. I fix it.”

“But this is terrible. Andy’s- I mean, you just-“

Agapi. Don’t worry about that kariolis.”

She returned to the racing sheet.

“He didn’t say nothing about no Gilded Sacs, but I gotta few good tips for Belmont.”

David Sprehe

Altar Call

The centipede touches me from behind. The jaw pincers encircle my neck. I part my legs. It forces them further, curling between them. My heartbeat is slow, booming in my ribcage. I can hardly catch breath. From between the body segments, the cock forms, searching, finding, entering. My calves tremble. My feet raise from the floor. I cradle my breasts, igniting subtle nerves. The bug cock swells, stretching my cunt. The bug cock pulses, boiling my organs. I dizzy, sweat beading on my skin. My body rejects. I accept. The antennae stroke tenderly my uncut, Pentecostal hair. My abdomen convulses. My pussy rips. I fart, and release a turd. The pincers tighten, lift. My neck muscles stretch, stretch, and scream. My face reddens, swells, throbs with undrained blood. I dig my nails into my tits, and gouge the flesh. The centipede thrusts, tearing through my wall. Organs are covered in the webs of its semen. I smile, froth rolling down my chin. My skull pops from my spinal cord. My arms fall and dangle. The body relaxes. The pincer grip lightens. I moan the release.

Screams break through the speech of tongues. Women faint in horror, black sludge leaking through their panties, staining their skirts. The men pale light green sick and trembling. Children groan, and clutch their stomachs, bloody diarrhea filling their pants. Mucous fluid dribbles from their lips. The pastor drops his Bible, his mouth agape. The congregation has lost sweet rapture. I approach. The pastor pisses himself.

“Join your flock, Reverend.”

Forever the lamb, he obeys. I undress and sit upon the altar platform. I run my hand through my thick tangle of pubic hair. I hear my mother scream. I play like I’m not supposed to, play with what’s hidden, hidden and so shameful because even good can be sin. I quiver, so slightly. My lord-god sticky strings from my fingertips. Inside, hatching. My babies move about in darkness and confusion, bloating my abdomen. I grunt, pushing, farting on the altar.

“Come,” I call sweetly, “Come out.”

My children crawl out of me, hundreds, all of them beautiful red brick like their Father. Their tiny legs touch my skin. My heart glows. I contract violently. Every muscle works to expel. More and more children. I am covered. Every inch. My babies bite, spurting digestive fluids. My skin melts. Babes fall away, fattened and joyful. I press my fingers into my exposures, bleeding with the touch. My babes drink. I look out on the congregation. My vision is blurred. I am fading, willful, giving all for my babies. Even the air now is pain. I never knew, never knew the hurt so good. Like it was meant above all else. Christ mutilated, strung up, killed in the Sun. His followers ate his dead body. I know this, a sudden revelation. Christ’s holy body was taken from the tomb and eaten. Judas was hung for ejaculating at the taste, soiling the solemn ritual with humanity. My laughter translates as blood, flowing through my teeth.

“Spirit,” I cough. “Holiest Spirit.”

I scream. The pain hit hard every point. Not pain. Beyond. Far beyond. The congregation flees. My babes sense my distress. They gather, and bring forth the pastor’s fallen Bible. The babes bring the Bible to mommy. Love mom. Mom? Mom? I… I… Pain doesn’t cease. Pain intensifies forever. God… I tear pages from the Book and stick them to my exposures. Blood seeps through, but I am comforted by my new skin. Mom? Mommy?

“Good babies,” I say. “Let mommy rest. Let mommy rest…”

I lie back. My new skin burns, but I am suddenly cold.

“Hungry mommy hungry.”

My vision flutters. “Eat, babes. Eat. Eat your fill, so you can grow big and strong. Big and strong…”

Steven Storrie

From The Wreck Collection, now available from Alien Buddha Press

***

Contemplating the Missouri

So that’s really the deal huh?

Sure. There’s an element of that.

Well I’ll be damned.

Why, don’t you think so?

I dunno. Get the shovels.

The moon was out and there was a bite in the air. Three men stood next to a beat up black Cadillac, its headlamps the only light in the thick of night. One of the men, in a black suit and tie, went to the rear of the car and opened the trunk.

Christ! he exclaimed, reeling back in horror.

You not used to the smell yet? one of the other men chuckled. Get her out of there.

Well come and help me.

Anthony never said anything about that.

Well we get paid the same, don’t we?

Yeh. Why doesn’t he help?

Sam, the man who had opened the trunk of the car, pointed at the third figure, standing adrift from the grisly scene.

Who? Elvis?

The third figure that night was indeed Elvis, or an impersonator at least. However, this was no run of the mill Elvis impersonator. This was the best. Looking as young and handsome as he did when he swivelled into view in the 50’s there wasn’t an ounce of fat or a diamond ring on him. And decked out in a white dinner jacket, ripped blue jeans, black leather boots and a white cotton V-neck vest, all supplied by Dolce & Gabbana, there wasn’t a fucking jump suit in sight. This was no Vegas job. This was the King.

He don’t dig.

Explain to me again why he’s here.

I dunno. Anthony paid for him. He’s meant to sing a few songs. Kinda like a tribute, I guess.

You don’t think that’s a little sick?

If I ever thought about things I’d never get out of bed on a morning. Here, he said, I’ll get her legs.

Elvis stood silently watching the two men as they lifted the woman from the vehicle and laid her on the ground.

Damn shame, the one called Pete said.

Sure is, the one called Mike replied, shaking his head.

She used to be a model, ya know.

I believe it.

22.

Yeh. And now look.

What did Anthony tell you?

That it was an accident.

You believe that?

I dunno. I never thought about that either.

Why him anyway? You rang the place, right?

Yeah. But they said their Sinatra rang in with a hangover and The Beatles were fully booked. There was no-one else any good. Anyway, that’s fucking Elvis. You don’t like the King?

He’s ok, but four limeys digging would have made for lighter work, he’s just a lazy bastard.

Oh, come on…

Mike and Peter took to the task at hand, eliciting groans and grumbles with every spade full of dirt they dug up. Hanging back in the shadows, resting on the hood of the silver convertible that had brought them out there, Elvis happily strummed his guitar until it was time for his big performance. He sound tracked the digging with storming, excoriating versions of ‘That’s All Right Mama’, ‘Viva Las Vegas’, ‘Burning Love,’ and as the sun began to dip and the heat ease off ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ and ‘Wearing That Loved on Look’. With the end of each song Mike and Peter filled the silence with furious debates and disagreements as to why they were here at this time, what a waste it was that they had to bury a body as beautiful as this, who was going to drive back, and how well The King was doing.

I tell you, man, that is his best song by some distance.

What is?

That one just then, man. ‘Burning Love’.

Get outta here.

I’m telling you. You should hear the version form Hawaii that he did live, it’s red hot.

I don’t care. I don’t like it, it sounds silly.

Well you should clean your ears out more often, you moron.

Hey fuck you! I don’t have to like it just because you do and so I don’t…

What did you say?

I said it’s a shit song and I don’t have to like it if I don’t want to.

A shit song?

Yeah.

Listen, you. If you don’t shut up I’m gonna dig another fucking hole next to this one just for you.

Whoa, hey! It’s just a song, man. Calm down.

Just stay out of my face.

Hey, I don’t mind Elvis; I just don’t like that one. Why isn’t he playing ‘Jailhouse Rock’ or ‘Hound Dog’?

Because he’s not a jukebox! You dig that hole and let him play the songs. Ok?

Whoa ok, ok.

Right.

The wind whipped between the men, the kind of wind that gets beneath your bones, blows through your ribcage and chills your blood.

You been different lately.

Different how?

I dunno. Just different. Different.

Yeh well.

More tetchy. More questioning.

Yeh well maybe it’s my age.

Maybe it’s more.

Maybe.

Elvis began rehearsing a beautiful, tender version of ‘An American Trilogy.’

So how about it?

How about what?

What’s eating at you?

I dunno. You ever wonder about how things turned out?

Things?

Things, things. Life.

Ah so you do think?

Yeh. It’s gotten to be a bad habit of mine.

Yeh. Do you in worse ‘n whiskey. Quicker an’ all.

I know it. So, do you think about it?

No. I take it day do day. Why? What have you been thinking?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. He squinted into the night

It’s something or you wouldn’t have brought it up.

I guess, I think… I guess I always felt I was bound for something more.

Something more? Pete began to laugh. Something more than this? This life not all you imagined it would be? Sleeves rolled up, he gestured with his shovel at the hole and the prostrate, greyish coloured body lying next to it. What more could a person want than this?

Very funny.

I’m being serious. You wanna be like some working stiff? Afraid of his shadow and lying to himself just to get through the day?

Ah, he waved him off.

I’m serious. You see em in the club. You know what I’m talking about

Oh, I do huh?

Damn right you do. You see those guys. Those balding, soft around the middle guys. Flabby and haunted. They have that look of desperation on them. They eye up the girls with an ugly hunger as they sink further into their cups. But they don’t do anything about it. They just keep fucking their wives with their eyes closed and go to work on time, all the time. It’s a waste of life.

It’s a steady existence.

It’s a lack of guts.

I was good at school. I was good at sports.

Oh Jesus…

I’m serious.

You should get a drink. Snap out of it.

I amout of it. I see things clearly. Clearer than ever.

Sam dropped his shovel and wiped his brow. He looked at Pete.

So, what are you saying? This is your retirement party?

I don’t wanna do this no more.

Just like that.

No, not just like that. I’ve been giving it some thought for a while now. I’m fifty-one years old.

Exactly. You do know you’ve left it too late for high school football, right?

Why is this amusing to you? Isn’t there something you wanted to do? Something you wanted to achieve?

No. The way I see it this is my lot in life.

Your lot?

My lot. My lot. What did I say?

Alright.

Everyone gets a place in the world. Everyone gets what he deserves.

You think she deserved that?

That’s not what I’m saying.

Look at her. Why don’t you look at her when you talk about her?

I don’t have to do what you say.

You’re a coward, that’s all. You’re a coward.

You better watch your words. We’ve been friends a long time but you better watch your words.

Friends? When were we friends? When were we ever friends?

Just watch your words, that’s all I’m saying.

A silence passed between them as the night breeze continued to swirl. They were about an hour into it, the hole about halfway dug.

A ‘coward’, Mike began, is someone who can’t face what he’s got or who he is. Benedict Arnold. He was a coward.

What do you know about Benedict Arnold?

I know. Alright? I know. You weren’t the only one who was a genius at school.

I didn’t say genius.

He was a coward. He wanted to be a General. No matter what. He couldn’t look himself in the eye, hated who he was. Hated the truth of his being. Nothing made any sense to him without him being a general, so what does he do?

What does he do?

You know what he does. He sells out his own kind because the British promise to make him a General. He betrays his brothers. He’s a traitor. All because he was a coward.

Then he didn’t even get to be a General.

Right.

The Brits sold him out.

Right.

And he killed himself.

Yep.

So, what’s your point?

My point is I can face who I am. I don’t expect any more than this. One day I’m gonna be with the devil, way down in the hole, just like this pretty girl is right now. The worms will do the rest.

You don’t think there’s any more than that?

I don’t worry about it.

Let me ask you a question.

What.

Would you want your kids to do this?

Do what?

This, this life. For a living. Would you want your kids to do it?

I would if they could face themselves in the mirror and sleep at night.

Ah that’s bullshit. That’s fucking bullshit, man.

Then why did you ask? Why did you ask if you weren’t gonna believe my answer?

I’m telling you. I’m done. After this I’m done.

You’re done.

I’m done. I’m telling him first thing tomorrow.

Really? You’re going straight to the top?

First thing tomorrow.

Let me give you some advice.

What?

Don’t.

Cute.

Ok let me give you some real advice, seeing as how you’re set on this.

What?

Do it by phone, do it far away, and do it some place no-one will ever find you.

I ain’t afraid of them.

Well you should be. If you’re smart as you say and you’ve gotten to thinking all the sudden then you should be. You wanna end up like him? Pretending you’re somebody you’re not?

Elvis surveyed the men from the hood of the Cadillac. He was still clean, pristine. They were by now filthy and sweating and covered in mud.

So, what are you gonna do? In the morning, when you wake up unemployed?

Unemployed?

Unemployed. That’s what you’ll be. Unemployed.

I ain’t no bum.

No, you ain’t no bum. But you’ll be unemployed. Just like all those other bums. So, what are you gonna do? With your time? What are you gonna do?

I dunno. I always wanted to do something in sports. Maybe coach ball.

Oh, Jesus now I know this is a dream. Now I know your stitching has come loose.

I got a sister in St Louis I ain’t seen in years…

Missouri? You’re gonna live in Missouri?

I didn’t say live. Did I say live? I said go…

Right.

Anyway, what’s wrong with Missouri?

Let me tell you, I’d rather be where she’s going than in Missouri.

It’s easy for you to say. You don’t have that feeling.

Christ your feeling things now? He’s thinking and he’s feeling. Come on then. What do you feel?

You wanna know?

I asked.

So, you wanna know. Ok. I get this blackness in the pit of my stomach. I dunno. I can’t shift it. I go to the river and can’t seem to do it. I think all of the time about this girl I met for two minutes at a cafe in Paris. I can’t sleep some nights. I sweat and stare at the ceiling. I throw rocks into the water and think of my brother.

I thought you said sister.

I’ve got both. What? I can’t have both?

Have what you want.

I got it wrong, that’s all I’m saying. People make excuses for why their life didn’t turn out like they wanted. I’m not doing that. Ok. I’m saying I know I blew it. I had chances, opportunities.

Hey good for you.

Ok, I’m not talking to you about it anymore.

Talk to Elvis then.

Pete stopped suddenly and looked around. There was nothing but space for miles in any direction. Endless, unspooling space. Nothing but the vast emptiness that fills the desert, fixed with the deathly, hushed silence of all the things it has witnessed and all the secrets it has had to hold.

What’s to stop me putting a bullet in both you and in him and taking off?

You do that you better not miss, friend. You better be swift and true.

Peter stared into Mike’s eyes. He imagined reaching for his gun, drawing and shooting in one swift motion like they did in the movies of his youth. He saw his friend fumbling for his own weapon, a hole dead in the centre of his forehead stopping him still, that look of surprise and disbelief etched into his face as he dropped to his knees, not saying a word, the sentence frozen and halted on the tip of his tongue. He tried to see something in those eyes that he felt wasn’t in his own. He wanted to see a flicker, a sign, something that proved he was right. That things could change. That there was such a thing as redemption. All he saw was a hard, stoic coldness. The hollow look of the haunted man. He knew the look well. He had seen it himself every morning for as long as he could remember.

Ah, what’s the point?

Well, it’s good to know that you didn’t get religion.

Peter laughed.

It’s good to know that much at least, Mike laughed.

Finally, the hole was dug. They pulled the body of the young woman in as slowly and respectfully as they could. Pete laid her out straight, her hands rested on her lap. Then they had Elvis pull them out.

Ya know, Peter began, wiping dirt from his hands, when I was a kid, my old man loved Elvis.

Yeh?

Yeh, really loved him. Had a tattoo and everything. Said ‘God bless the soul of the King of Rock n Roll.’ You like that, Elvis? I always liked that.

It’s pretty good.

Yeh it was. My old man was the coolest. Everybody loved him. Ask anyone around town about John Arthurs, they’ll tell you.

Yeh I heard he was a legend.

You’re God damned right. The man was my hero. He was my hero and I never ever told him that. Can you believe it?

Ah, don’t beat yourself up about that too much. None of us ever say the things we really want to. And not enough or not in time.

I could never have been like him. I always wanted to, but I just never could. When I was real little he had all these Elvis records. I remember one of them was a set that made up a picture of the King, like a jigsaw puzzle. I would lie on the kitchen floor and spread em all out, trying to make that picture. My mom would get mad at me and yell for me to move while she made dinner. She didn’t mean nothing by it. I was just in the way. You know how kids get.

Well, no. But I know what you mean.

Right, shit. I’m sorry.

Don’t mention it.

I forgot.

It’s ok, forget it.

Ok.

They had already started filling in the hole. Soon it would be time for a song to be played.

Look, I get it. I liked comics, right? I wanted to be a superhero or someone. But I was just a kid. That ain’t the real world. Besides, it costs too much to be a hero these days.

What are you talking about?

Nothing. I’m just saying I know where you’re coming from. We all wanted to be something when we were kids. But at some point, we gotta accept we are what we are. It gets to a point in life where you’re so far down the road it’s too far to turn back.

Yeh.

Yeh. You become a stumblebum boxer or a bit part actor. You get mud on your boots or blood on your suit. You’re a two bit nobody but you make the best of it. You play the cads you’re dealt.

Maybe.

Trust me.

You really think that’s the deal then?

Count on it.

I dunno…

I do. Not everyone gets to be the champion, Pete…

They stopped what they were doing and looked at the King.

Are you ready then?

He’d better be. He hasn’t done a thing all night…

Elvis moved slowly to the grave and began strumming his guitar. With perfect silence all around him he played a gentle, tender version of ‘Kentucky Rain’. When it was over, he slid back towards the car, to the same place he had stood for hours, and fell back into total, intractable silence.

Beautiful. That was my Mother’s favourite Elvis song. God rest her soul. You don’t think he’ll say anything, do you?

Naw. He knows Anthony too well. Besides, he knows if he does there’s a hole out here for him, too. And he’s only gonna have us to sing for him.

The sun was coming up when they patted down the sand, backs and limbs violently aching. The King had on his shades. Pete looked out at the palm trees that were greeting another rising day, still and calm in the gentle breeze of dawn.

‘Quittin time’ Mike said, packing away the equipment and dusting himself down. Man, I need a shower.

Just think, Pete said quietly, the rest of the world is only just waking up right now.

The pair then turned their guns on Elvis.

The three men stood motionless, two looking at the sun that was slowly climbing over them. Mike finally spoke.

Come on, he said without turning to face Pete, instead looking straight ahead, arms outstretched, putting his finger to the trigger. I’ll buy us both coffee.

You’ll feel differently after you get some sleep.

***

From The Wreck Collection, now available from Alien Buddha Press

Judge Santiago Burdon

I Should Have Known Better

The beer is just as warm as the stale air blowing lazily from the swamp cooler. Cooler my ass, it’s 107 degrees outside at 9:30 in the morning and the thermometer drips upward.

I’m sitting at the Meet Rack on Miracle Mile in Tucson. Safe bar, nobody ever fucks with me. And today would be a bad day to challenge my patience. I haven’t had a fix in thirty-nine hours. The “Heebee Jeebeez” are starting to crawl under my skin. The condition of my stomach comes into question. Here I am like Jean-Paul Satre’s character dealing with Roquentin’s curse.

Feeling nauseated, trying to hold back my wanting to vomit, and I occasionally gag loudly. Got kicked out of the Pussycat Lounge for puking on a table earlier this morning. It feels like cats scratching at me from the inside. And I have no idea when relief will arrive.

It’s dry. The whole city is dry. I can’t even locate a fucking mandrax or quaalude to take the edge off. The Chicanos on the Southside can’t scare up Xanax and there hasn’t been any decent heroin around in weeks. Swear I’d shoot cough syrup right now if it contained enough Codeine.

She said she’d meet me at the library on North 1st ave at 9:00. I’m late and now a no-show. Just can’t muster the energy or enthusiasm to walk that distance in this scorching, merciless solar torment. Besides, I’m not hard to find. It’s not like I have an active social agenda. I am similar to a homing pigeon. It may appear that I am wandering from my confines, but I always find my way back.

Especially when dope is involved.

She enters the dive bar, gliding across the floor with the grace of a swan. Her tits are like ripened mangoes and easily visible through her sheer summer dress. I was sure she was created by the gods from sea foam, navigating her half shell through calm seas.

Nope, she was born to Jewish parents in New Jersey.

“Hey baby, how ya feeling?” she whispers as she slides her fingers gently through my hair.

“I said  library not libation,” she continues, lecturing me.

“How the fuck ya think I feel?” I say. “I’m  sick from withdrawls and need a bump bad, baby…”

“Okay, let’s get outta here. Did you pay for that beer you didn’t drink?”

“I”ll pay Jimmy later. He’ll be happy just to get rid of me.”

We head out to her MG with the convertible top down. The heat slaps me with intense sincerity and I ask myself why I live in the desert. Almost every plant that grows and survives in this wasteland has some type of thorn or quill-fashioned brier or barb on it as protection from scavengers. There’s a variety of venomous snakes, lizards and insects sharing this ecosystem. These are my neighbors.

I sit down on the black vinyl seat of her MG with the top down. Instantly I let out a scream to rival those which echoed throughout the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition. My legs exposed from sporting cutoffs make contact with the seat and they are instantly fried, burnt, charred to a crisp. Suddenly I forget about my other symptoms, concentrating solely on the ravaging pain in my legs. I swear I heard the sound of sizzling.

She throws a towel over the seat while giggling, attempting not to laugh. I think, I should’ve known better. She pats my leg affectionately and says… yes, you guessed it.

“Silly, you should’ve known better.”

“Where we headed?” I ask as she starts the engine and puts in gear.

Her dress dances in the breeze, occasionally providing me with a brief glimpse of her trimmed pussy — elegance defined. Sex is the farthest thing from my half mind at this time, however. She smiles, her hand on my shoulder as we drive along.

“Pascua Yaqui reservation,” she finally answers. “Black tar baby, Mexico’s finest just arrived!”

On Grant Road, just east of I-10, is the Indian reservation best known for its fat women in black dresses, Indian fry bread, and incredibly potent heroin. I cringe with anticipation as we race past the Multiplex Movie Theatres and into Geronimo’s neighborhood. A small dust devil sweeps past us as we park near the elementary school. I can feel the souls of a thousand warriors resting their eyes on this Dago kid from the south side of Chicago.

But enough with the mysticism; back to the main theme.

“Okay, give me the money,” she says. “How much ya got?”

She’s not gonna like my answer.

“Fourteen dollars and like sixty four cents,”  I respond, sheepish like a guilty child.

I think, she should’ve known better.

And then, just like it was possibly rehearsed, she grabs at the dollar bills and the CHANGE as well and says, well, what else?

“I should’ve known better! You know it’s twenty dollars! Guess I’ll cover ya again…”

No smile on her now.

“Still love me baby?” I call after her.

“YEAH, LIKE A TOOTHACHE!” she screams over the sound of a ringing school bell.

I hear her mumbling obscenities as she walks towards the brightly painted, multicolored schoolhouse that looks as though it belongs on Sesame Street. She enters the yard where the young braves are gathered. And with the swiftness of Elvis leaving the building, she’s back with the cache.

“Just smell this shit baby,” she giggles in anticipation.

I open the cellophane and inhale the scent of redemption.

She slams the gear shifter into 1st, and we are on our way back to her apartment on North Campbell.

Once arrived, I light a candle, unwrap my kit, and I draw some water from a red Bugs Bunny cup.

“What’s up Doc?” I chuckle sarcastically.

The smoke from cooking the dope wafts off into Heroin Heaven, and I fill the syringe with the remaining brown liquid. I slide the needle under my skin, into a vein that I fondly refer to as ‘the ditch’.

Blood billows into my gun and I push the plunger.

HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN.
BANG BANG SHOOT SHOOT
WHEN I FEEL MY FINGER ON YOUR TRIGGER.

Quietly I sing along to the Beatles’ song in my head.

I hear her voice faintly in the distance, calling to me from the kitchen.

“Hey asshole, don’t shoot that whole twenty-dollar bag. This is strong shit, not that street dope you’ve been used to!”

My answer, a loud THUD as my body hits the floor.

Guess I should’ve known better.

David Sprehe

Pudding

Fluids secreted. Blood pooled beneath the moistened tissue. Warm turned hot with the pressure. Skull bugs quivered the waveform nuance. Translated proper tremble. Only these chemical geometric skull bug ejaculates emulate the sputter notation. We are nothing, if not instruments. I don’t know if I or died. All I knew was white hot wet slithering. I licked its drip. No breath. Soul forced into small Robot hole. My tits turned jelly. Flesh pudding slopped into the sheet. Tickled my armpits, almost a come in itself. His skin poured over my front. Mixed in all gloppy and stank. My immune system ate. My whole exposure was a tongue. I could taste his soggy flesh at a million points. I uh I started hallucinating (god lord them tingles! I sparked so much I turded). I stabbed a fork into my clit. I was spread out on the kitchen counter bleeding, rubbing whipped cream all over. I puked, but it was really him collapsing. Our bodies fused. I didn’t want to. He was dead. Psychologically speaking, a hollow nothing, even when alive. I was just out to get banged and have a good time, get bullshit off my mind. Took me a freakin’ week to eat his stupid carcass. I had to be careful because if I absorbed to quickly, and mutation occurred, it would probably be cancerous. The dude was a real PTSD, methhead piece of fucking shit. Definition of junk food. I doubt any part was useable. Except, of course, his wiener. I preserved his penis. A simple modification of the secreting chemicals in the uterine wall will create protective placenta for any object within the womb. This can be perfected through careful practice. Simply take a sanitized, smooth object and push it up the vagina while thinking of the object as a baby. After becoming convinced that the object within the womb is a child, proceed to gently coax it out. Soon beautiful feeling will fill the pleasant existence. If placenta is not ejected after the object has exited, please try again. This is an important gift God has bestowed. I jerk off with his dick inside my womb. Honestly, it is better than the sex. I was thinking, maybe, to see if it can combine with my eggs. I’ll turn it into a pet I can fuck or something. A little dick dog. I don’t know. If anything, I’ll eat it too. Dick on the cob. I want my teeth in the shaft. Tear the flesh. Chew the sucker. I want to swallow. The dick should keep for a year or so before it gets all sick and gross. Besides, I like the little bump it makes. I pretend I’m pregnant. I want to get pregnant just to play with myself. Not really. I want kids. Maybe. No I don’t. But I will masturbate while -IF- I get pregnant. A lot. Swollen dripping tits and moon bellies make me giddy. I watch preggo porn on my phone. Makes my toes twiddle.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Buenas Madrugada (Greeting To Dawn)

She just looks at me with these big charcoal eyes and doesn’t say a fucking word. She’s got a beer in one hand and a joint in the other and she’s sweating like a whore in church. The motel room has the AC cranked . It’s so cold you could hang meat. She stands there naked, paralyzed with fear. There’s another Angel of the Night passed out naked on the bed. The knocking at the door continues. It’s not the typical Cop knock. In the United States, Colombia and Mexico the policia golpea con fuerza (knock with force), but I’m in Perez Zeledon, San Isidro, Costa Rica, and the knock is soft and unassuming.

I begin to laugh at the bizarre spectacle taking place. The knock is now accompanied by a male voice.

Este es el guardia de seguridad. Responder.”

Just the security guard. I got this, I tell myself.

Voy,” I yell

The panic stricken girl takes refuge in the bathroom locking the door.

I answer the uninvited visitor with a cheerful “buenas” after opening the door.

Señor, hemos tenido una queja sobre el ruido (we’ve had a complaint about noise).”

Who would complain about too much noise. I hear music , loud talking and laughter leaking out  from other rooms. The sounds flooding the predawn darkness with acoustic precipitation ,but I make a sincere effort to handle this situation without confrontation.

“Yes no problem. I’m sorry for the disturbance,” I say in Spanish.

“And a question.  Is it possible you could give me a beer?” he asks.

“Of course, no problem.”

I grab a cold cerveza and hand it to him.

“Anything else, sir?” I ask.

“If you have a cigarette I would like that very much.”

I give him a couple of smokes, he shakes my hand and nods his head in a grateful manner.

“Good night or morning,” I say with a laugh.

So the reason for his visit wasn’t about the noise. It was purely a search to satisfy his vices. Gotta love the Ticos, constant quest for immediate self gratification and without ever saying por favor or gracias.

I knock on the bathroom door.

Andrea todo bien mi amor. Era sólo el guardia que sólo quería una cerveza. Abre la puerta, nena,” I beg of her.

I hear the lock click and I  turn the knob but she has blocked the door with wet towels. I push with force and it gives way. I see her cowering in the shower, shaking with a terrified expression.

“Baby, what’s going on with you? No more coca porti. Come on, Diosa, get outta there. Take an Oxaforte,” I offer, “it’ll make you feel better.”

Bigotes soy muy high,” she whispers.

Yo se bebe. Ya venga conmigo. Quien te cuido? (Come with me. Who takes care of you),” I ask.

I have known Andrea for 5 years. She stole my heart first time I spent a night and fifty dollars with her. It was Quepos, Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast when her cousin Diana  introduced us. Sometimes there’s this connection, a fire, an electricity between two souls. And there was truth in her flame no doubt in her spark. Unfortunately, it always becomes convoluted and gets messy, the sheets, the libretto,  the emotions and living.

“I had her trapped between my skin and my soul.” Mana.

She stands still holding the beer and joint then hugs me not out of affection but with the emotion of a child seeking security.

“You’re safe baby. You trust me, right?” I say.

Si papi siempre contigo,” she answers.

I carry her to the bed and take the unlit joint from her hand but she refuses to relinquish the warm half  can of beer.

Yaneth, my other companion and friend of Andrea’s, wakes then heads to the bathroom.

Que hora es Bigotes? Es madrugada?” she yells from the doorway.

Si yo creo casi. Y ser tranquilo que sólo tenía el guardia de seguridad aquí. No aumente la música así que...”

And just as I ask her to be quiet and not play the music loudly, she cranks up the volume on the TV and the music screams. She begins dancing and it’s difficult to stop the sexual display. Naked, with a body that would make men beg for just one chance to touch her gossamer skin. She’s fucking gorgeous and every move defines sensuality with refinement.

I give Andrea an Oxaforte and an Ambiene to take the edge off. She swallows the pills with a hit of beer and gives me a tender kiss.

Adelante, sé que la quieres. voy a ver,” (go with her I will watch) she says.

“It’s ok? Just me and Yaneth without you?” I ask.

You need to understand that there’s an etiquette or code of conduct when dealing with prostitutes, especially Ticas. A special client or boyfriend such as I am to Andrea is considered property or a possession. It’s a depraved twisted relationship where the doctrine only applies to my actions and doesn’t take her’s into consideration.

Andrea is a working girl and can fuck anyone she chooses for of course a price. Which is on a sliding scale depending how much she likes the client. If I fuck someone else (especially a friend of hers), that is a violation of the terms to the supposed agreement.

I was involved with a Tica off and on in a Liaison de Amor for a couple of years sometime ago. Veronica was a working girl that considered my involvement with another woman as a betrayal.

“If I fuck other women you say I am cheating on you. But how is it ok for you to fuck other men and I am suppose to accept your behavior?” I asked. “If you fuck other people then I fuck others too.”

“NO! You fuck other women to have pleasure.” came her retort. “To have an orgasm and pay them for that. Sex with others for me is work and not for pleasure.”

Of course I never believed  for a moment that she never enjoyed her work.

I just don’t subscribe to that type of logic. And so ended that relationship. However, I discovered that school of thought was a widely practiced rule by many.

Yaneth continues to dance, rubbing her breasts against my face, placing my hand between her legs.

“VENGA BIGOTES FUCK ME!” she implores.

Andrea pushes me towards Yaneth. She sways gracefully to the music.

Un chino porfa BEBE!” Yaneth asks.

Now a chino for you rookies is, yes, the word for a Chinese person in Spanish. However, in street lingo, it also identifies a cigarette minus some tobacco with cocaine added in. It’s a pleasant high which I prefer over smoking crack. Crack instantly takes me to a level of euphoria that makes it impossible to function socially.

I comply with her request and twist up a monster, removing the filter and inserting a small piece back in its place. I look at Andrea and she appears relaxed, having opened another beer. I can’t believe she’s still awake.

She smiles and extends her hand for me to pass her the chino.

“I don’t think so baby,” I say. “A half-hour ago you were freaking out. Wait a while and pass on this one, ok?”

Then it happens. A Tica displeased with being told what she can and cannot participate in by a man is  considered disrespectful.  She objects with a display of anger that would make a weaker man tremble in terror.

“Who are you to tell me no! You’re not my fucking husband or my father. You can’t tell me what to do!” she screams.

I immediately hand her the chino and strike a flame with the lighter. She inhales then passes it to Yaneth. She takes a hit and passes it back to Andrea, completely bypassing me.

“Hey, what’s going on here? What about the Gringo? Are ya gonna share?” I protest.

They both start laughing and hand the chino to me. Yaneth starts kissing Andrea and pulls down the sheet, uncovering her goddess-like naked body.

Now we’re back to the original game plan, I think to myself. I take a short hit and pass it back to Andrea, and she blows me a kiss.

Te amo Bigotes. (I love you Mr. Mustache),” Andrea sings.

Just at this moment in time, it can all change in the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

Yo tengo tu amor. (I got your love.) Yo tengo tu amor. Yo tengo tu love.”

The song serenades us from the music video on the TV. Who said the darkest hour is always just before the dawn? They were so far off course.

Buenas madrugada,” I say.

Hope there are no more interruptions.

John Patrick Robbins

Hell Is Writing

I sat there bored and hung-over.

I sat there and I had no fucking clue why.

The little coffee shop was filled with other poets or in all truth yuppies that called themselves writers.

Social assholes whom thought reading their work aloud made it good.

It was terrible enough sober, but add a gut ravaged by a night of heavy drinking and it was dam near torture.

I was there due to a friend’s request.

I seldom read for people,

My work was either love or hate with the reader but usually I didn’t have to experience this first hand.

I herd some people whispering behind me.

“Hey who’s that guy?”

“He new or something?”

“That’s the guy I told you about he never comes to these things.”

“Got a few things published here and there total asshole from what I’ve herd.”

“How’s his writing?”

“Oh I never read him, he’s too much into drinking and antics like I said he’s a real asshole.”

I herd the woman repeat this to the guy beside her.
It was funny how my reputation as a prick seemed to follow me everywhere.

Some woman with a nose ring and flat ass took the stage if you could even call it that.

“I’m going to read you a haiku.”

I threw up in my mouth held it in.

My stomach was really kicking my ass today.

I got up walked outside I never wasted my time with crap.

I wasn’t saying the woman was a bad writer I just hated neat nice shit.

I loved the flawed things in life.

I sat outside lit a cigarette sat down on a bench watched the cars pass.

It was far more original than the stuffy room filled with judgmental moody bastards all needing their egos stroked.

“Jack is everything okay?”

Sheryl was looking down at me her face shown the concern she new I was about two steps from the nearest bar.

And already over the coffee shop shark tank.

“Yeah feeling like shit is all, Had to get some air sweetheart.”

“I was scared you were going to leave before you read for us.”

“I know how uncomfortable it is for you at these things.”

“Yeah, not my scene.”

“So why did you come to begin with?”

“You asked me to.”

“Yes but you really don’t seem very interested in the other poets.”

“Cause I’m not.”

“Why some are very promising?”

“They’re shit and their work has no life.”

“It’s just the same boring fucking thing over and over.”

“And what makes you so much better?”

“Cause I don’t care what they think, and my work is many things it’s but never boring.”

“Even when it’s shit least it can only be mine.”

Cheryl laughed.

“You’re such a prick! I think that’s what draws me to you.”

“Yeah, I can be a charming bastard on occasion. Wanna ditch this party, go have some drinks?”

“I can’t, I’m hosting, and you still haven’t read yet.”

“Yeah, I don’t think they will mind.”

“Come on and cut the crap, Jack. Just go in there and be you, relax. Besides, we can go have a drink afterwards.”

Against my better judgment, I went back in.
It was time to face the hangman so to speak.

They called my name and suddenly I was facing the crowd.

“Look, before I start, I want to say hello to a certain someone in the back. I’ve heard I’m an asshole, thank you for such kind words.”

I read my poems and some were pretty damn good, but I never let them see me.

The page does my speaking for me.

Lee Kirk

Such Unholy Shapes

All three of us had our hands outstretched touching the cold spot and then it happened. The acid kicked in, widening my eyes like breakfast plates.

‘Look Kev, this is going too fast for me. You obviously know what your doing but I’m sorry this is freaking me out.’ I say, pulling the plum-red robe hood back.

‘What do you mean? Are you not game? We have come so far. We have made a break-through!’

‘Aye to what though? We don’t know what this cold spot really is.’

‘He’s right,’ says Matthew, lightning another cigarette, pulling the hood of his robe back, revealing a stubbled, pock-marked face.

Kev shouts ‘Your both breaking the intent! Leave your robes as they are. Can you not smoke please?’

Matthew inhales longer on it, then blows out a plume.

Kev pulls his robe hood back. His eyes magnified through the lens of his glasses. The left lens is blood-smeared.

He repeats ‘Matthew can you not smoke when we are trying to make contact!’

The acid had its grip on Matthew, you can see a menace work behind his eyes.

He says ‘Should it not be warm and inviting this celestial realm? Ouija boards are full of shit. I believe you spoke to someone Kev, but we have been misguided… Look! over there at all that death. All we get is a cold spot?’

I think we should stop I said shaking my head at Matthew.

Kev just looks at both of us.

I say ‘Look man, I’m feeling this trip. I need to lie down now.’

‘It’s not for lying down, I got us the acid to focus on the intent. That was the point of the chant,’ says Kev.

Earlier Matthew and I followed Kev’s voice with the chant notations. It was simple, more like a mantra. We did this for three hours.

The sacrifices were hard. It had to be personal or otherwise the ritual would fail. I went first and picked my dog Eerie, Matthew chose his Mum and Kev his ex-boyfriend.

‘To the new life!’ I said as I dropped a boulder from shoulder height right on Eerie’s head. Red mush poured out his mouth all over the wild garlic stemmed next to the glen.

Matt got his Mum during housekeeping, said her screams were muffled by the Dyson 40000 model but she saw him in the reflection of the half-moon mirror.

Kev’s kill was Marcus, his ex-slut boyfriend who gave him chlamydia. Marcus had a black bin bag pulled over his head while the hammer smacked all around until it softened.

Anyway. We, were stationed at the entrance to the communal living room. My words were coming out slurred. I didn’t even understand them anymore. I left the chalk circle. Walked past the sacrificial bodies lying head to toe starshaped. I fell on the couch with many-sized cushions, exhausted. Drained. Empty.

‘I love you both,’ Kev shouts ‘But, you need to understand what we are doing is very real. When it opens you will understand and witness its almighty glory!’

The muted television glows behind him. The static frost crackles silently illuminating the white walls with a majestic spectral glow.

Kev loses his balance, knocking the pyramid stacked empty beer-cans onto the floor, beer dribbles onto the ouija-board fashioned from old bathroom tiles. Kev reaches for his rucksack, pulling out a Polaroid camera. The acid has him now. I just lay there between the cushions, staring at the cold spot. Something terrible is coming from that spot, in the form of geometries? then a white flash before my eyes.

CLICK!

I turn to the flash and see Kev pointing the polaroid at the cold spot.

‘Kev man, can you not take any photos of me in this state,’ says Matthew with a furious sneer.

‘It is my duty to archive this moment. It’s content for the website!’

CLICK!

‘I told you to stop that’ said Matthew, pushing Kev.

‘Matt calm down, I’m ju…’

‘I TOLD YOU, DON’T TAKE ANY FUCKEN PICTURES!’

I see the geometries meld into a little black hole that silently grows into a huge 8-foot oval shape behind Matthew, just as he moves forward punching Kev twice in the face, Kev cups his nose, screams and lunges at Matthew pulling him down while smacking with his left fist into the side of Matthew’s face. They both roll back and forth on the ground, punching savagely into each other.

Something sifts within the infinite depth of the oval, a long black thin arm stretches from the hole.

Reaching over the hand touches Kev’s back as rolls on top Matthew. He raises his left fist to strike again. The portal disappears. The television switches off as Kev’s eyes turn red.

He looks down at Matthew. Strikes down with the left, grabbing the jugular, white-knuckled, squeezing all his fingers deep inside making loud tearing sounds. Matthew’s gagging drowns out the flesh sounds as blood shoots out in all directions; over me, over the bodies, the walls and the carpet.

I pull myself up from the couch, swaying with psychedelic intoxication. I fall back on the cushions.

Kev’s red eyes stare towards me as he rises.

‘TO THE NEW LIFE.’

He walks towards me.

I should probably scream but I don’t know how to.