Anthony Dirk Ray

The Monty Hall Problem

It’s a pleasant 68 degrees in Hollywood, California, on a gorgeous spring day in 1986.  This is toward the end of the last taping of the Let’s Make a Deal television game show. 

Monty Hall: Diane, go down there and take a look at your new car, just promise to take me for a ride, alright?  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for being such a great audience.  I have some money to give away. Does anyone have a scrubbing sponge?

Random audience member: I do, Monty. Right here.

Monty: Okay. Here’s $100 for you. Now I’m looking for the first person with a leather belt?

R.A.M.: Over here, Monty.

Monty: Thank you, sir. Here’s a one hundred dollar bill for you. Does anyone have an eating spoon?

R.A.M.: Me, me. Back here, Monty.

Monty: That is a spoon. Thank you very much. A crisp $100 for you, as well. For $200 of this show’s money,  someone show me a disposable lighter.

R.A.M.: I’ve got a lighter, hun.

Monty: Let’s see here. Let me strike it. Yes, it works. Here is your money, sweetie. You folks are on fire, how about one more hard one? I have $300 for anyone that has a needle. Not a sewing needle, but a hypodermic needle. Think shots and immunizations. Be careful looking for it now. I wouldn’t want anyone getting poked. 

R.A.M.: I’m a diabetic. I have one here, Monty.

Monty: Perfect. Still has the cap on it..Great. Well folks, I’m about to get out of here. This bag’s been burning a hole in my goddamn pocket all day. Thank you all for coming out. Drive safe. 

Catfish McDaris

The Most Beautiful Lady in Albuquerque

Bianca lived north of Albuquerque in the quaint little town of Corrales. She had a small adobe house with a wood burning stove and two fireplaces, Juanito had built for her. She worked for a rich family, caring for their horses and tending their garden. They had chickens and an orchard of apple and plum trees. Her boyfriend, Buffalo played in a country and western band. Buffalo had moved from New York to New Mexico to avoid the fierce winters. He knew about plants and herbs. Buffalo was currently reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. He’d found an abundance of asparagus spears under almost every tree in the orchard. Steamed with butter, garlic, and peppers, the asparagus was delicious. Bianca shared the spears with the owners of the ranch, the Smithe’s. They were usually only in New Mexico in the winters, being mostly snow birds from Boston.  

Juanito was Bianca’s brother, he stayed most weekends with her and Buffalo. He worked for the Santa Fe National Forest Service as a surveyor for timber roads and a forest firefighter. Juanito would leave Santa Fe every Monday to spend the week in the forests, staying in government quarters or in motels. He never rented an apartment, so he had a few ladies he stayed with or he’d head south to his sister’s. Juanito’s main lady was a scientist in Los Alamos, she was a bit too serious for him. Her name was Brenda and she loved sex, but needed to be loosened up. Brenda was a brunette with a dynamite figure and a brain to match.  

Juanito spoke Spanish everyday on his job, he was the only Anglo. His crew was made up of five men including the crew chief. They would depart from Santa Fe in four wheel drive trucks and head north, unless there was a fire to be fought. The crew often saw an old lady in a sombrero carrying an easel and paint box. She would be out walking near Abiquiu or Ghost Ranch or Taos. Juanito asked about her, they said she was Georgia O’Keeffe, an old gringa painter.  

Buffalo’s band was playing at a honky tonk in Albuquerque, he asked Juanito if he wanted to come hear them play. Bianca never went when he played because all the ladies loved his singing and usually wanted the whole enchilada. Juanito never failed to make an acquaintance, when he turned on the charm. The Smithe’s asked Juanito to build them a patio with native stone and a barbeque pit, so he spent a few months coming every weekend to Corrales. There were many rich people that had haciendas and kept horses in the village.  

John owned the biggest and most famous rock and roll club in Albuquerque. He was basically rolling in money. He liked the very best pot, liquor, and horses, plus he lived with a Playboy bunny. Toni was a centerfold and Playmate of the year. She was beautiful, lovely, perfect, and when she grinned at you, you were a gone goose. Her hair was golden blonde, upstairs and down.  

Juanito happened to pass by John and Toni’s bedroom while delivering weed and she was naked. She made no move to cover herself, she just laughed and smiled mischievously. Toni fell backwards onto the bed and let her legs fall apart revealing heaven on earth with a royal invitation. Juanito was kind of frozen like a statue staring, he had a crowbar erection. He knew right then he was going to tap that ass like a keg of Old Milwaukee.  

John asked Bianca to ride his new horse, she asked if he’d been saddle broken. John said, the horse was gentle and tame. Bianca got on the horse and it reared and started galloping wildly away, John was almost shitting himself laughing. Juanito jumped in his truck and chased down his sister on the unbroken horse. Juanito wanted to stomp John face in, Bianca talked him out of it. John had lots of cop friends and low life amigos. Bianca had a good thing in Corrales. That’s when Juanito starting making his plans for revenge, he plotted and schemed and was diligent and patient. 

Juanito spent a weekend with Brenda in Los Alamos. He explained what had happened to his sister. Brenda was reluctant at first to help Juanito with his plan, but after some extra special love making, she agreed.  

Toni started receiving flowers with poems of love. Juanito asked her to come to Bianca’s house to hear Buffalo’s band practice. He taught her all the latest western dance steps. It wasn’t long before he had her eating sugar cubes and apples from his hand like a fine filly. Soon, Juanito was making passionate love to Toni, while John was taking care of his bar. Finally, one night Juanito helped Toni pack her clothes and they drove north. They camped for a few days in the mountains, near a hot springs, it was a paradise of sheer bliss. Juanito told her about his plan for her to stay with Brenda and take some college courses. Toni agreed if she liked Brenda and they got along. She was fed up with John being a tyrant and tired being a kept woman.  

Brenda and Toni hit it off like long lost sisters. They traded off making love to Juanito. He could’ve had them both together, but he preferred to concentrate on one lady at a time. Winter soon came, John had heard rumors that Juanito had played back door man on him, making off with his woman. There was never any real proof of the cuckold. That came later, like having his ugly nose rubbed in horse shit. 

The forests became impassible in winter, so Juanito was laid off for four months of the year. Juanito decided to visit some folks back east and take some turquoise jewelry to sell. Brenda and Toni drove him to the airport in Albuquerque. Juanito felt like a king walking through the airport crowds with his two gorgeous ladies. Men rubbernecked with lust, women gawked with envy. There were reporters and cameramen there for the band Jethro Tull’s arrival. 

They took photos of Juanito, Toni, and Brenda. The ladies were all over Juanito. Toni was recognized as a Playboy centerfold. The next day the headline in the Albuquerque Tribune read: The Most Beautiful Lady in Albuquerque.  

Jeff Hill


“It sure is beautiful here,” he says, overlooking the thriving nightlife of the city that never sleeps.

“Not yet,” she interrupts, grabbing his hand and pulling him back to reality, her eyes glowing in the black light of the party awaiting them.  “But it will be.”

The man hadn’t been seeing the woman very long, but when he knew, he knew, and you know what?  He knew.  He loved her.  He felt alive around her.  Something he hadn’t felt in years.  Not since his ex left him.  No note.  No explanation.  Just a ghost from his past who left him with the chains that would hold him from his future.

Until he met her.  The new woman.  The one who didn’t drink but partied like she did.  Drinking in a crowded room full of strangers listening to live music while the woman you love dances around you is the very definition of being alive.  And that is how he knew.  Because he felt alive when he was with her.

“It’s almost time,” she screams into his ear, only slightly audible as the bass kicks in and the crowd looks younger and younger and he starts to get cold feet.

“Maybe we should,” he starts, but she’s not listening.  She has put in her air pods, listening to the song he wrote for her.  The party becomes a concert and the concert becomes a rave, but she is slow-dancing with the man who loves her and his fear is only outweighed by his need to belong.  His need to be alive.

She reaches into her back pocket and pulls out a highlighter, marking both of their foreheads with the symbols of her people.  Offering protection from a God long-forgotten and incomprehensibly angry.  She kisses him.  He tastes a mixture of bubblegum and blood.  Not hers.  Not his.  But now theirs.

The lights turn from black to yellow to red and then white and she covers his ears as the hundreds of rooftop dancers and late-night would-be lovers begin to bleed from every orifice, scream the screams of their past selves, and shed their earthly skins, growing wings and fangs and talons and flying off into the night that will know His name again.

All of this, for the man, occurs in silence.

Cars crash into one another.  The lights of the city all go out.  Fires spread and the prayers of all but the woman go unanswered.  He starts to wonder if he did the right thing, as she removes her air pods and walks over to the DJ’s equipment, turning the music off so they can hear the destruction of everyone who hurt her and her kind before she met the man on top of his rooftop after the breakup with the ex that almost did him in.

“It sure is beautiful here,” she says, overlooking the hell on earth that will become her Father’s kingdom.

And, looking at her, directly into her eyes, the man whispers, “It is now.” 

Ken Fleckenstein

The Boy off Steinway St 

You looked just like your picture yet your eyes were more afraid than mine. We learned we both lived in Providence at the same time, had went to the same bars, hated the same clubs, and had the same types though I wasn’t here for small talk and commiseration of our overlapping time periods.

I remember your apartment was dark despite feeling the sun pulsating through your bedroom. You told me you didn’t have an air conditioner and I really wish you had put that in your profile next to your intimately detailed body measurements. You nervously offered me a lime seltzer and told me your ex had just moved out so you had his leftovers and even an old pile of his clothes that sat in the corner. You took a second to point it out and stare at the pile in silence. I could see you were still trying to get over it yet you made sure to tell me you weren’t one for this kind of thing and that you had just made an account because, as a single queer man, that’s what you were suppose to do, right?

I didn’t know.

It would take more soul searching than this to fully understand that. It was not my first and certainly not my last.

You must’ve read my signals wrong as I unbuttoned my shorts so you grabbed your bottle of lube. It was running low and I wondered how much if it was shared between you and the ex I thought nothing of and how many other small things like the lime seltzer you’d ask me to share of his. Your actions seemed so familiar yet your shaking hands understood the weight of emotions breathing down our necks in this dense, thick, summer sweat.

I urged you to slow down but you didn’t know what that meant until I was grabbing my underwear from the corner of your mattress with no box spring. We both had different lessons to learn of desires, needs, and what to do with piles of dirty clothes that belonged to someone that moved out a week ago. I didn’t want to stick around to learn and you didn’t want to try.

Tying my shoes on the way out your cat waltz over to me. With a small pet I asked if it was a boy or girl.

“Oh, he’s a girl but he has male cat energy, you know what I mean?”

Truthfully, I had no clue what you meant; my brain was too ashamed to process the gender fluidity of a feline I’d never see again.

Sex Doll Gumbo

Horror Sleaze Trash proudly presents Sex Doll Gumbo, by Ryan Quinn Flanagan & Catfish McDaris. Comprising two chapbooks, Saga of Juanito and Alphabet Soup, this collection represents a dual effort from two of the most subversive voices in underground poetry today.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author who lives in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work has been translated in Bangla, Spanish and Italian. He enjoys listening to the blues and cruising down the TransCanada in his big blacked out truck.

Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 30 years. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee.



u.v. ray

The Passenger

it’s my last night in new york – still blazing and all the nightclubs are throwing out – not yet anywhere close to hitting baseline – with my fuses blown i’m caught in the symbiotic divide between the grey a morning and the violet luminescence a night

welter a white noise scuzzing round in my head – voices materialising throo the veil indistinct like a discharge a short-wave radio static – it’s 4 in the a.m – array a glittering street lights shift across the winnders a the taxi as it freewheels like blud throo the veins a the city in a stream a red tail lights – the cab slows down as we drift past the china doll XXX titty bar and they’re blasting out milkshake by kelis – two thin thai girls wearing nothing but tiny gold bikinis are standing outside the door smoking cigarettes – taxi driver’s got one good eye and the other one made a plastic – i ask myself was he in an accident or malformed in the womb  – the fucking thing freaks me out man – it just stares fixed in place – it don’t move in its socket at all as he eyeballs me in the rear view mirror and whistles with his tongue stuck throo his teeth

ooooh them girls just look at them knockout girls    he says

them kind a girls ain’t nothing but a badluck charm   i tell him   that kind a pussy is

  enough to drive any man to the nuthouse

but i don’t really look at nothing – i’m just a disconnected viewer operating on disparate frequencies – the last strands a my existence stretched out across the sky – acute pinpoints a light detonate in my peripheral vision – colours fading all fast and thin – black silhouettes – freeze frame stills jump cut all around me as if everything is playing out on a roll a black and white film and sumbody hit ffw>> on the video machine 

the cab lurches to a stop at a red light where on the corner there stands a bunch a skinny transvestites their bony fingers beckoning cars and all their jewels glinting in the passing headlights – the taxi driver shifts the auto box to P and he sits and drums his hands on the steering wheel in time to a roxy music track playing on the radio – graffiti sprayed across the steel shutters at the bank of america says corporate blood money / donate here– driver asks me what line a work i’m in and i tell him it’s a line a work more lucrative than blud diamonds – he laughs and waves his hand and says he don’t even wanna know nothing about that kind a shit – i keep staring out the back winnder up above the tower blocks looking at the vast expanse a stars and i bomb another wrap a speed and tell him that’s good cuz people who know too much get chopped up and put in cans a tuna fish

gleaming expressways shift in and out a the city – old crumbling buildings with paint peeling from walls stand alongside the steel and glass a the new – at 60 mph the driver holds the steering wheel between his elbers and sparks up a cigarette – he balls me in the mirror again and smiles with his teeth yeller as mustard

come off it hotshot who you think you tryna kid

we glide throo the streets as the night begins to dissipate – merging at the infinite horizon an amalgam of smoke and flame – everything is broken – the gods and angels are dead – hudson river glittering as the sun prepares to ignite – i’m being driven back to my hotel past empty billboards and vacant lots – four parked police cars on the sidewalk outside maggi lee’s 24hr chop suey café – red lights revolving strobing the street but nothing can animate the kodachrome picture a three incinerated bodies lying like heaps a charcoal on the ground – a young cop and an older cop stand and scan the scene with their flashlights and throo the taxi driver’s open winnder as the cab crawls by i hear the young cop say

jesus it’s just about enough to mek yr hair stand on end ain’t it – you know the

  first time i saw sumthin like this i threw up

and the older cop nods his head sagely and looks around – he douses his flashlight and hooks it back on his utility belt

i reckon i’m gonna have me sum a that good old chop suey while we wait for the

  coroner   he says

the old long yard the taxi driver tells me they call this place but it’s just a wasteground full a ruptured concrete and bits a railroad track jammied between a brick building and a chain link fence surrounding a dilapidated concrete basketball court that’s sposed to be for the neighborhood kids but is littered with syringes and broken glass

for the most part i myself never ask no questions about stuff no more – anaesthetized all i wanna do is absorb a shit load a speed into my bludstream – fuck myself up – fry my brain until the blud seeps from every pore as the price a fissile plutonium falls and our politicians itch to drop atom bombs

on the surface everything appears to sparkle and shine but i look in the faces a strangers on the streets tonight – everybody in trancelike states totalled on oxycodone and the intravenous bullshit drip fed to them throo newspapers and shell shock television shows – everybody at odds with life – howling like stray dogs in the alleyways becuz a the fatal manoeuvres in their lives 

i tell you summat   the taxi driver says    the dead bodies round this joint are amongst

  sum a the city’s most fortunate sons

from the car’s glove compartment the driver fetches a half bottle a vodka and takes a swig –  he puts the bottle between his legs and pulls a left heading west and five minutes later the headlights a the taxi contour my hotel as the driver rolls the big old Ford to a stop outside – he flicks on his yeller hazard warning lights punches a button on the taximeter and holds out his hand for the dollar bills

and you know it’s all too late – the rolling a the dice is underway – all the people out there fighting their silent private wars – and there’s no use praying now to the old stone gods that no longer exist and wouldn’t lift their little finger for you even if they did

so here’s to the beauty of this world and all the workers on the factory lines – here’s to all the drinkers in all the bars and all the gamblers at the roulette tables – here’s to the lonely and all them who’ve bin driven demented – here’s to the suicidal – the lost and broken hearted – here’s to the drifters of the streets –  and here’s to all those who sit alone late at night in tenement blocks burning cigarette holes in their own arms cuz they’re scared a the nightmares that come every time they close their eyes

here’s to all the losers in the game

they got a candy machine in the foyer a the hotel – i drop a dollar in the slot and press the button and pick up the bag a gummy bears that fall into the tray – the blonde night receptionist tells me to be looking over my shoulder up there and to make sure i lock my door

we’ve had sum rough looking customers check in tonight   she warns   bunch a guys

  just passing throo on their way to lenoxville 

the receptionist says she suspects they might be on the run summat to do with all that bad blud down in lakewood that’s bin all over the news

couple a people dead   she states closing her eyes tight like she’s going to sleep

 i walk over to the elevator and punch the call button

it’s the same the world over   i shrug    when yr number’s up it’s up pumpkin

i ride the elevator up to the 5th floor – back in my room i switch on the teevee with the sound turned down and hit the minibar – there’s old lipstick stains on the dirty glass i’m drinking whisky from

i lie back on the bed and stare at the dull grey walls – stretch my arms out like angel wings – there’s a spring busted in the mattress and i feel it sticking in my back – a reflection a red neon light slithers throo the winnder blind

my flight home is at 10pm tonight

James Babbs


When I answered the phone and heard him say Jimbo I knew exactly who it was.  It didn’t matter how long it had been since the last time I’d seen him.  I slowly let my breath out before I spoke again.

-Mark, I said.  It’s been a long time.-

-Yeah, he said.  How you doin’ little brother?-

-Okay, I said.  What about you?-

-Ahhe said.  You know.-

We both waited.  I guess neither one of us wanted to be the first one to continue.

-LookMark finally said.  I wanted to see you.  Will you meet me somewhere?

I said, I don’t know.  Things are kind of busy.-

-It won’t take long.-

-Alright, I said and he gave me the name of a bar.  I told him I knew where it was.


He was a dozen years older than me.  Grown up and gone from the house before I had made it to the second grade.  Most of the time it felt like I didn’t even have a brother except for an occasional letter or a stray phone call in the middle of the night.  I remember, when I turned 21, he just showed up out of the blue, laughing and hanging out with me and my friends like nothing was wrong.  And he insisted on buying me my first beer.  And a shot, he said.  I had to do a shot and a beer.  It was a good night and Mark seemed to be doing okay but in the morning he was gone with his scribbled note left on the front door–stay out of trouble kid, and then I didn’t hear from him again for another four years.

When Dad died I wondered if Mark would show up for the funeral.  Him and Dad never got along too well.  There was always something between them.  I think they were too much alike.  Both of them filled with restlessness.  I remember Dad talking about all of the things he had wanted to do before he married Mom.  I remember Mom telling me how Dad had wanted Mark to come work with him in the garage but Mark told Dad no.  It broke your father’s heart, Mom said, but he never admitted it to Mark.  Both of them could be really stubborn at times.  Maybe Dad resented Mark for going off and doing his own thing.  We never heard from Mark.  I think Mom kept looking for him the night of the visitation but he never showed up.  The next day at the funeral I could tell Mom was thinking about Mark but he never showed up and Mom and I never mentioned it.

Two years later when our Mom died Mark called me on the phone.  He told me how sorry he was he couldn’t be there.  He said it was just too hard.  The connection wasn’t very good and his voice sounded far away.  At one point I thought I had lost him and I almost hung up.  But then I heard him again.  Oh yeah, he said.  Too bad about Dad, Jimbo, but I’m sure you took care of it.  And before I could tell him what I really wanted to say the phone disconnected and he was gone.


So it was after ten and I knew I should’ve been going home but there I was heading toward this bar where Mark wanted to meet me.  I could hear Kelly’s voice telling me I shouldn’t go.  I could hear her saying I should tell my brother no.  I should tell him I’m sorry but I can’t do it this time.  But wives didn’t understand what it was like for brothers.  Hell, I don’t know.  Maybe I didn’t really understand it myself.  I mean, how many times had I agreed to meet him?  How many times had he asked me for money?  And how many times had I given it to him?  If Kelly ever found out.  But like I said, sometimes, wives just didn’t understand.

It looked like a rough crowd when I entered the bar.  I didn’t see Mark but I went ahead and took a seat along the wall.  I ordered myself a beer and Mark appeared from out of nowhere.  I barely recognized him.  His head was shaved completely bald.  He reminded me of Dad.  The same eyes and his smile with that slight hint of mystery.  Right then I realized my brother was getting old.

-Jimbo, he said.

I thought he sounded tired.  He eased himself into the chair on the opposite side of the table.  He ordered a ginger ale but I didn’t say anything.  I just kept touching the sides of my glass with the tips of my fingers.

-How much do you need?  I finally said.

I saw him laugh and then he closed his eyes.

-More than you’ll ever know, he said.  

But he said it so softly I wondered if he meant to say it out loud.  He looked right at me.

-Jimbo, he said.  It’s not about money this time.-

-WellI said.  What is it?-

But Mark wasn’t in any hurry.  He leaned back and ran his hand across the top of his bare head.

-So, how do you like it?  He said.

I told him I’d thought about doing it a few times.

-But, I said.  I don’t think the wife would approve

-Oh, he said.  So, are you in love?

I thought it was a strange question for my brother to ask me.

-Yes, I said.  I guess I am.-

-Good, he said.  You deserve it.-

I thought he was going to ask me about her but he just reached into his pocket.

-Here, he said.  I have something for you.-

He opened up his hand and let the small stone drop on the table.  I just looked at him.

-You don’t remember?  He said.

-No.  Should I?

-Well, Mark said.  You gave it to me.  You weren’t very old.  You told me it would protect me.-

-And you kept it all these years?  I said.

He shrugged and took a sip from his ginger ale.

-But why are you giving it to me?  I asked.

-I don’t know, he said.  I guess I don’t need it anymore-

I wasn’t sure what he meant but I could tell it was useless for me to ask.  I picked up the stone and held it in my hand.  I finished my beer and Mark bought me another one.  Later, when we walked out to the parking lot I asked him if he needed a ride.

-No, he said.  I’m not headed any place you are.-

He touched my arm.

-Stay out of trouble, kid, he said.

Then he turned and disappeared into the darkness.

Driving home I thought about the stone Mark had given to me and a memory came back to me.  It was a birthday party when I turned eight.  There were ten or twelve other kids and Mom made us hamburgers and homemade French fries.  I remember we were all in the backyard.  Mark wasn’t there but he showed up when Mom was getting ready to serve the cake.  He was drunk and Dad and Mark got into a huge fight.  Mark kept wanting to sing Happy Birthday to me and all of us kids thought he was funny but Dad told him he needed to leave.  I remember how Mark pushed Dad and Dad rushed at him.  I remember how Mark fell on the cake and we couldn’t help but laugh until Mom started crying and Dad told us kids to go in the house.  Dad said he was going to take us to the food court in the mall and we could have anything we wanted.  I remember Mark sitting on the ground with cake smeared in his hair and all over his clothes. I heard Dad telling him, maybe you shouldn’t be here when we get home.  I remember the way Dad looked at Mom.  It must’ve been later that night/, after I had gone to sleep, when Mark came into my room.  I just remember waking up and seeing his face.  He put his finger to his lips and told me to be quiet.  That’s when I gave the stone to him.  Because he said he was leaving and he might not see me for a really long time.  I told him Denny found it down by the creek and he gave it to me.  I said, it’ll protect you.  I remember Mark said, oh yeah?  From what?  I told him, from anything, and he laughed.  Okay buddy, he said.  Okay.  You better go back to sleep.

Gordon P. Bois

Shake Hands With Death 

He lives way too close to the funeral home.

He’s so close, that he can practically shake hands with death.

What does this mean for him?  Ease of access for when he finally dies.  It’s like a really disturbing, makeshift convenience store for the terminally ill, the dying and the dead.  All he needs now is a shopping cart for when they wheel his dead ass across the street. 

One would think that the realtor would have said something about this before finalizing the sale, but no.  He figures that the shopping cart should’ve been included, when he bought the house, but it wasn’t.  Anything for a sale, he reckons.  He supposes that it’s too late now.  The cheap bastards! 

“How do I go about getting myself a shopping cart now?  Do I ask the owners of the local grocery stores?  Do I have to buy it outright?  Probably not.  I’ll bet there’s leasing options though.  It’s a sad world we’re living in.  All anyone is concerned about is making the mighty dollar!” 

He swears that they’re all in on it.  “Opportunists, every one of them: the realtors, the grocery store owners, and you guessed it, the funeral directors.  Bunch of scammers is what they are!”

Hyperventilating, he decides to take a seat and catch his breath.  “I better sit this one out and relax.  If I’m not careful, I’m going to give myself a heart attack.  I’m sure they’d just love that.  I can see it now, me, dead as a doornail, minus the shopping cart.  How then, do you figure they’re going get my dead ass over to the funeral home?  Drag me there?” 

“If it was winter, they could slide me across the street in a toboggan.  Wait a minute, I don’t own a toboggan.  I haven’t had one of those contraptions since my childhood.  I suppose I’ll have to go pick one up at the local crappy tire store.  See, what did I tell you.  Another store owner who’s in on the take.  Pathetic!”

“It’s no wonder that the community is always preaching to its townsfolk about shopping local. And do you want to know how everyone hears about this?  Well, I’ll tell you, it’s in the local paper and heard on the local radio station.  That’s two more businesses in on this money-making racket. 

Everyone seems to be in on it.  It’s greed that drives them, every damn one of them.  Shop local, they say.  Not for me.  You can count me out!”

Vivian Pollak


“Poe is so overrated” came the muffled response.  

I see. Vain, sophomoric, and one-dimensional till the end, I thought.

And as if he couldn’t help himself, “…and so are the Beatles!”

I flicked my Bic through the aperture in the door.

There he sat with that stupefied gleam of sexual anticipation in his rheumy eyes. What a bonehead. And, what a boner too! Right through his green tights!  A boy scout badge-worthy tent! Maybe I missed one last opportunity?  I’d put a lot to energy into our 17th Century European Historical Bondage costumes.  His oxford-red argyle chapeau with the craft feather was still nestled snugly on his cranium and the cobalt blue felt cape with the gold bells was fluted symmetrically about his torso.  He was handcuffed to the wrought iron turrets. Very secure indeed. My own harlequin costume with the breast holes cut out and my hard nips ready to commence full-throttle fire-drone mode, made me feel silly all of a sudden. 

Howsomever, what luck to have discovered this abandoned broken down cottage with the wine cellar, in the deep bushes of nowhere. An old swingers pad. A friend of a friend of a friend put me wise to the place. Seriously distant degrees of separation. On our way in, I spied two ceramic gnomes in the garden, their faces in freeze-frame fuck-friendly smiles. But upon closer inspection, I swear those little buggers were cheering me on. Poor dears: they appeared to have been nibbled on by desperation rabbits.  

“Now wait here, Fortunato.”  I cracked up at my sense of humor in giving the game away.

“I will be back in a jiffy.  With the belt and the riding crop!” I added.

I checked the lock one final time.  

Ah, Fortunato. 

I have thought deeply about revenge. And Poe. And narcissism. And evil. But I’m alright. I left a copy of Poe’s Complete Tales under the chair. Once he slumps, it will be his final bit of reading material. 

“Hey! Hello! Little Dove? I’m really randy!”  The bells, though muffled, jangled distinctly.

On my way out, I scooped up both weather-worn gnomes and wrapped them snugly in my ruffled codpiece.

“I shall name you Edgar; and you Allen.”

In pace requiescat.

HST: Prose in Poor Taste, Vol. 3

The long-awaited 3rd volume of HST: Prose in Poor Taste has finally arrived!

Featuring work by Jason A. Feingold, Ben Fitts, James Babbs, John Yohe, Matthew Licht, Victor Cass, Elizabeth Bedlam, Zane Castillo, Anthony Dirk Ray, Judge Santiago Burdon, Ronan Cartwright, Kiki Von Kristmass, Kevin Brown, Eric Lawson, Judson Michael Agla, Tim Frank, Stuart Stromin, David Thomas Peacock, David O. Hughes, Duncan Ros, Charles Austin Muir, David Wesley Hill, Sean M.F. Sullivan, Kevin M. Flanagan, Ve Wardh, Jonathan Woods, Earl Javorsky, and Joseph Farley.