Brian Rosenberger

Killing People and Calories

Hello All,

This group is KPC for short. If you are psychotic, a psycho, neurotic, have issues with parental/authority figures, and/or suffer from religious oppression or oppression in general, have anxiety problems, have a love of sharp objects and the outdoors, are an outsider, looking to shed a few pounds personally and shed/carve pounds from others or feel the need punish or be punished, this group might be for you. Have problems with your diet, we also offer high protein recipes. Trim the fat. Your way and Our way. Teamwork works. We provide you with knife sharpener kits and professional tips from professional butchers. Cut calories? We dismember them.

Nothing burns calories like fear. It’s been scientifically proven!

Look into the mirror. This group is probably is for you. Don’t be shy.

We do not judge. We accept You for You.

Our goal is to cultivate an emotional, physical, and spiritual attachment between those with a desire to hunt and lose weight and those who want to be hunted and lose weight. A Win-Win for both, if you survive. But what’s life without challenge? Boring. Are you tired of being bored?

We provide the tools – knives, chainsaws, axes, machetes, spades, body bags, bottled water, chopped fruit and fresh vegetables before and after every session. You provide the running shoes.

Welcome to KPC. Get ready to run. Get ready to get on with the rest of your life.

Joseph Farley

Butterflies

It was a week into refurbishing of the 5th and Market Street station of the Blue Line, also known as the Frankford El. The El runs above ground for most of its route, but in Center City, the downtown section of Philadelphia, it runs underground. 5th Street Station was the jumping off point for Independence Mall, the Liberty Bell, and Constitution Center. This made it one of the busiest stops for tourists coming to Philadelphia. It was also the closest stop to where I worked.

I worked in the Curtis Building at 6th and Walnut Street. Once the home of the publisher of Jack and Jill and the Saturday Evening Post, it now housed offices, upscale bars, and expensive condos. I would have had to work three jobs to afford the cheapest condo. I lived much farther north, in Holmesburg, where the rents were much lower. It was a short walk across the Liberty Bell plaza to the El stop which could take me close to where I lived.

Signs had been up for a few weeks warning of a “Deep Cleansing” of the underground station. It certainly needed one. Despite the red, white and blue silhouettes of Independence Hall on the walls, it was a dismal place. It had the usual smell of urine associated with all El stops, along with the typical herds of rats, mice, and various six legged creatures. It was not clear why there was a sudden desire to clean. There was a rumor a high profile politician had complained. I doubted that was the cause. Politicians were not known to ride the El. There was a rumor reporters had uncovered a massive bedbug infestation. That sounded more plausible. Bad publicity can get results.

During my daily trips I had seen the red, white and blue placards come down, and the spraying of some kind of foam on walls, ceiling and support beams. Cinder blocks were exposed. Pieces of paint and other materials hung from steel beams and the cinder block walls like peeling dead skin. I wondered why the station had not been closed during the cleansing. Whatever made the walls and metal peel could not be good for human lungs. I considered using a different station a few blocks away until the project was done, but that would have cost me at least 15 minutes more travel time each day. The thought of spending more time on my commute was enough to keep me using the 5th Street station. I would try to hold my breath.

As I said before, it was a week into the “deep cleansing.” I was waiting on the platform for a train to take me home. The station was darker during the construction. A gloomy place had become gloomier. I missed the red, white and blue walls. They had brightened things up a bit. I stared into the tunnel looking for lights from the next train. I saw movement. One or two objects fluttering. They were large and reddish brown.

“Butterflies”, I thought. “Now that’s pretty fucking amazing. I’m standing here thinking how lousy this place is with the poor lighting, the chemicals, the weird smells, and the sense of decay, when along comes some butterflies. One of God’s miracles. Some nature, the nice kind, underground at 5th Street.”

I stood and watched and smiled to myself, until the butterflies landed on a wooden board covering a construction area. As soon as the wings were folded, I knew I had been wrong. Cockroaches. A pair of them. Each as big as my index finger. Not God’s miracle. God or the devil’s joke on me.

I vowed to get on and off at the 8th Street station starting in the morning.

But I didn’t. 15 minutes was still 15 minutes.

And butterflies are free to fly.

Just don’t look at them too closely.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Johnny Rico And El Oso Rojo

There’s a persistent knocking at my door. Actually I would characterize it as more of a pounding than a knocking.

It’s 2:19 a.m. and I don’t have to guess who would be so rude, so impatient as to disrupt and disturb me at this hour. I’m sure of the identity of the intruder AND of the fact that he must be off his meds. I open the door without even asking the person outside to identify himself.

“Oh good Bigotes, you are awake,” says Johnny Rico as he pushes his way into my apartment. “I hope I am not interrupting anything. Listen, I need your help to get revenge on the Jamaicans who ripped me off last month. I know where they are staying.”

I stand there dumbfounded as he makes his way past me and to the refrigerator.

 “Ya got any beer?”

“Are you for real, fuckstick?” I ask. “It’s almost 2:30 in the goddamn morning and you want me to head out on some revenge-capade to get back at some Jamaicans for a couple hundred dollars? Are you fucking insane? Of course you are, what a ludicrous question.”

“So what do you say, Bigotes?”

I keep asking myself over and over whatever possessed me to become an active participant in his deranged and demented acts of psychosis, time and time again. To this day, I’ve still never been able to find a good answer.

“Hold on,” I say, my initial reluctance giving way. “Just let me get some clothes on and do a quick bump before we head out.”

“Hey carnal,” he calls after me as I head into my bedroom. “Grab your Glock as well, just in case things get out of control. Ya know, some insurance.”

“Hey JR, I’m really starting not to love this whole scenario,” I call back to him as I step into my pants. “Guns? What exactly are you hoping to accomplish? And I want a rational answer. Not your usual off-the-wall psychobabble bullshit.”

I can see by the look in his eyes that he’s currently riding The Bipolar Express.

“I just want those Caribbean chulos to know who they’re dealing with!” Johnny screams in response. “They can’t come to Colombia, my country and disrespect me. These Rastamen need to be taught a lesson!”

“So now you’re a teacher giving lessons? In what, Johnny’s brand of street justice? Listen, I will accompany you on this mission of restoring your pride, but no killing anyone, or anything twice, do you understand? “

“I don’t want it to come to that either, but if does, I gotta do what I gotta do. Remember those two fucking Dominicanos I took out for you? It’s time for you to pay me back. Now let’s go! They have a house in Barrio Los Lomas.”

Reluctantly, I follow him outside and climb into El Oso Rojo (Red Bear), a truly monstrous automobile. Immediately I am swallowed up by its crimson plush interior.

***

Johnny had bought this 1974 Buick LeSabre from some corrupt Federal Police at an incredibly discounted rate. It’s blood red with a white convertible top. You’d have a difficult time going unnoticed in this oversized pimpmobile.

He’d had a Dodge Duster prior to this impulsive purchase, which wasn’t nearly as high profile and drew very little attention. Unfortunately, however, the Duster became a victim of one of Johnny’s psychotic episodes after a three-day cocaine binge accompanied by a case of scotch and a variety of prescription drugs he’d pilfered from his last stay in the psychiatric hospital.

He’d resided there for only one week. After that, they’d asked him to leave, having finally had enough of “His Riconess.”

He drove the Duster into a concrete retaining wall near the beach. Then, in some bizarre ritual to an ancient God, he set the car on fire.

After that, the Duster was left beyond restoration and never arose from its ashes. There was just no resurrecting it. He simply left it right there in the middle of the highway and never looked back.

***

“So carnal, what’s the plan?” I ask along the way. “You must have some idea how you’re going to address this offensive, don’t you? “

“Not really,” he says, “I thought I’d leave that to you. You are always very at good figuring how to attack a problem.”

We arrive at the house where the suspects reside and surprisingly they’re still awake.

We can see them partying inside through some large sliding glass doors. The music is blaring and you can hear them laughing, talking, and see them dancing around.

“What is that music they’re listening to?” I ask. “That’s not ABBA, is it? Is that fucking ABBA? You said these were Rastamen. Big, bad Rastamen who ‘set me up and ripped me off, Bigotes’. That’s what you told me, JR.”

In a rare moment for him, Johnny Rico has nothing to say.

“That’s how you described what happened, Johnny!” I continue. “Where’s their dreadlocks and Bob Marley reggae music, huh mon? No self-respecting Rastafarian would be caught dead listening to ABBA! Ya know what I think, Johnny Rico? I surmise you met these cabrons at that gay disco club in downtown Cartagena and attempted to rip THEM off. That’s exactly what happened, isn’t it? But they got the drop on you instead.”

“Callate cabron!” Johnny finally shoots back. “That’s not what happened at all. Don’t you think of me being gay. I go to the club for the music. It doesn’t matter how it happened. Those pinches stole my money, my coca and my watch. You’re making me angry, Bigotes. You better stop making the fun of me. I thought you were my friend, carnal?”

He’s irritated and truly upset. For all his goofing around, Johnny isn’t one for being the subject of ridicule himself.

“Well, how are we going to lure them outside?” I begin to laugh. “It’s not like they’re going to invite us in for cocktails.”

“Still think this is funny?” he asks. “Well, I’ve got a way to get inside. Hold on, Bigotes!”

Before I am able to ask him how, Johnny backs up El Oso Rojo, revs the engine and, with all tires squealing, we careen toward the glass patio doors at an accelerated velocity.

“Johnny you motherfucking psychopath!” I scream. “You’re going to get us both killed!”

“Invitation”? Johnny screams maniacally, “we don’t need no stinking invitation!”

Within seconds, El Oso Roja smashes through the glass doors and into the Jamaicans’ living room. I watch them all jump up at once and quickly vacate the room.

“Come on, Bigotes!” Johnny yells.

He immediately pulls out his 38 special and starts firing off rounds after the fleeing Jamaicans. In all the years I’ve known my lunatic sidekick, I’d never once seen him shoot that antique revolver.

“Bigotes, cover me!”

Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you
Mamma mia, does it show again

This bizarre soundtrack accompanies us, still playing on the undemolished stereo, only adding to the already surreal scene.

In the meantime, my own gun has found its way into my hands. I squeeze off a few rounds of suppressing fire as Johnny charges ahead.

Next, I take aim at the stereo and kill the fucker.

“I hate that fucking song!” I scream.

Meanwhile, Johnny is screaming insults in Spanish, demanding the Jamaicans show themselves.

In response, they begin throwing out money and a few gold watches through the door to the other room.

Just to make sure they don’t try anything stupid, I decide to blast the large mirror covering almost the entire back wall. Shards come crashing down on top of Johnny as he’s crawling crablike on the floor, snatching up all the loot.

“Cabron que haces pendejo?”

Scrambling to his feet, he swipes a brass lamp off a table for good measure as he comes running back to El Oso Rojo.

We hop inside and I fire off a few more rounds at a painting of women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads.

“Let’s get the fuck outta here, Rico!”

“Wait, there’s something I want…”

 “Johnny, what’cha doing? Come on, venga!”

Exiting the vehicle, he runs back over to a picture hanging on the far wall. It’s one of those grotesque velvet paintings of some busty woman, Marilyn Monroe or possibly Madonna or someone else. He shoves it in the back seat carelessly, breaking its wooden frame in the process.

“Johnny Rico has left the building!” he screams, grinding the shifter into reverse.

Back out on the street, I observe the neighbors on their porches and watching through their windows. I smile and wave at the gathering of spectators.

“Those are very bad people,” I shout at the assembled crowd. “They molested my cousin when she was only just ten years old!”

At this blatant falsehood, some folks actually start applauding our dirty deed.

“We didn’t see or hear anything!” an old man yells out. “God bless you!”

***

Burning rubber on our way back to my apartment, an idea pops into my head.

“Hey Rico,” I say, “why don’t we grab some beers, put the top down, and watch the sunrise from the beach. Sound like a plan?”

“What did I say earlier?” he replies. “You always know how to make things better, carnal. Always suggesting the perfect solution!”

We reach the beach and sit together in silence, not saying a word.

Johnny lights up and passes me a joint, and I take a giant hit for mankind.

“I love you carnal,” Johnny eventually declares. “You are more than family to me.”

“Ya man, I know, I know.”

“Hey,” he says, suddenly remembering, “I haven’t counted all the plata…”

Plunging his hands into his pockets, he slowly fishes out wad after wad of bills, piling them up on the center console between us.

“Hijo de puta!” he cries. “Look Bigotes, we got a lot back!”

After he finishes counting up the booty, he lets out a hoot that I’m sure could be heard in Bogota.

“There’s over $1,700 here!”

“That’s in Colombian money, Johnny. It converts into what, about $23.68 in gringo plata?”

“No carnal, that is in gringo money after the exchange!” he insists. “Here hermano, take some. You’re always with me when I have no other friend! Here tome, I want you to have this!”

I accept his generous offer, later discovering that he gave me over $750.

“Thanks carnal, much appreciated,” I say, raising my beer to his. “A toast to a friendship to last long after forever.”

We clank our cans to the declaration.

“Hey Bigotes, you can have the lamp too,” Johnny says. “It would look good in your home. I think maybe in your bedroom to replace that ugly lamp with all the flowers. And a watch for you and a watch for me, to remember our aventura en El Oso Rojo.”

“Thanks carnal,” I say. “I’m just relieved we made it out alive, ya lunatic son of a bitch.”

“Son of a bitch? Yeah, I never knew my mother. Mi abuela (grandmother) says she was a bitch though, so maybe you are right.”

“Johnny, I’ve met your mother on several occasions and she’s a very pleasant woman who loves you despite your insanity. So stop with the compulsive lying. This is me, Bigotes, remember?”

I take a closer look at the watch he’s given me, a Louis Moinet, an incredibly expensive timepiece. I strap it on my wrist and stare at its second hand, seconds of my life ticking past.

We stayed until the sun had bled every drop of crimson-colored dawn from the morning. Just two displaced souls in search of a destination that neither knew for certain existed.

Little darling it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling it seems like years since it’s been here
Sun, sun, sun here it comes

Oh, in case you were wondering, the grotesque velvet painting..?

…Madonna!

The Architect, By Steve A. Champion & Craig Anthony Ross

The Architect

The Architect, By Steve A. Champion & Craig Anthony Ross
Palewell Press, London UK
September 2019

A radical social treatise about African American gangs in the 21st century. This book is more than just a blueprint for self-transformation and the reconstruction of gang culture. It is also a unique step-by-step guideline that shows gang members themselves how to do it. Ross and Champion’s analysis builds upon – and expands – the work that Crips gang co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stanley “Tookie” Williams was committed to before his death. The Architect seeks to change the narrative about gang members by providing them with an independent and self-sustaining plan of action and empowerment.

This book is the first of its kind. The authors are two well-respected Crips emeritus from Los Angeles, who are now prominent in the criminal justice reform movement. They also reside on death row at San Quentin State Prison. Ross and Champion’s street and prison experience enables them to offer in The Architect authentic, honest dialogue about the problems gang members face and the potential solutions to those problems.

The Architect was written for gang members. But anyone working for real community change should read it. The triumph over violence requires extreme responsibility—not just from gang members, but from everyone.

https://www.sacredeyeofthefalcon.com/the-architect—how-to-transform-yourself-and-your-world.html

Contact: enquiries@palewellpress.co.uk

IMG_3287Steve A. Champion

IMG_3288Craig Anthony Ross

Benjamin Blake

IMG_6510

The Night I Drank with Charles Bukowski’s Ghost

I stepped into the bar.

It was dark, cave-like. Barflies lined the wooden counter, hunched over cans of beer and glasses of whiskey.

I walked over to the bar. “Scotch and water.”

The bartender, a tall man from what looked like Arab origin, fixed my drink and took my cash. On my left was a rotund black man, balding and mustached. To my right, was a pair of elderly men, white of hair and pale of skin. Off in the shadows sat a cagey negress, her once jet-black hair streaked with gray.

I sipped my drink. The fellow to my left spoke.

“Hey, brother! I’m Pancake!” He extended a hand, which I shook.

“Ben.”

“Hey, Ben. Pleased to meet you! We’re all musicians here! Do you play?”

“Yeah, a little guitar and bass.”

“What you riff on, man?”

“Huh?”

“Fender, Gretsch, Gibson, Epiphone?”

“Epiphone. I have a real nice acoustic I got for cheap.”

“Alright! Let me see you play that bass, Ben!”

I took a sip of whiskey, and started playing air guitar along to the bluesy track coming over the speakers. Pancake near shit himself with excitement.

“Yeah, Ben! Rock that bass, man! Ooooh, yeah, brother!”

The place came to life from that moment on. The patrons started chatting, people introduced themselves to me, the bartender was all smiles and efficiency. It was like I had passed some alcoholic test and was welcomed into the ranks of the booze-pickled regulars.

The bar was The King Eddy. Situated on the edge of Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. Infamous former watering hole of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, and Tom Waits. I was in the City of Fallen Angels for one night only – I had a flight to catch from LAX the next day, so what better way to kill the time than downing drinks in a dive bar.

Despite its initial apparent seediness, The King Eddy was a friendly place. It felt like home. I was welcomed like family and everyone was friends. Conversation burst and bloomed amidst laughter and endless drinks.

“You chose a good day to come here,” Joel, the bartender stated once I finished my first drink. “Second round is free on Tuesdays.”

The King Eddy swiftly became my favorite bar.

I reached into my messenger bag and pulled out a paperback copy of Bukowski’s Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook.

I turned to Pancake, handed him the book. “You ever heard of this guy. He used to drink here.”

Pancake looked at the cover, smiled. “Yeah! Bukowski! He’s here, man. I knew it when you walked in. He’s here with you, man.”

Shit. This was really something. A strangely wonderful moment.

I drank up.

Pancake and the old guys left. Joel and I started talking about the history of the place. How it was a speakeasy during prohibition (there’s still a tunnel beneath the building that was used to smuggle liquor into the basement), and how one of the old guys who was there before had remembered Bukowski drinking there. He was handed a photograph, and after staring at it, had said: “Yeah, I remember him. He sat at the far end of the bar and wouldn’t talk to anyone. No one liked him.”

The one woman in the bar had moved from out of the half-light and taken a stool next to me. She introduced herself. Her name was Joyce. Her voice was like silk. Soft and smooth and demure. It was incredible. I’d never heard anything like it. I was taken aback by the absolute tenderness of this woman. At first glance, she had seemed callous and standoffish. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A Hispanic guy walked in, took the stool on my left. He ordered a beer, sipped from the can, and sighed.

“I came right from the coroner’s office. My little brother was hit.”

I turned to him. “Shit. Like he got shot?” I asked, indelicately making a gesture of a pistol being fired several times from a jaunty angle.

“Nah, man. He ain’t no gangbanger – well, not anymore – it was a hit and run.”

“I’m sorry, man. That sucks.”

“I can’t go home. I couldn’t handle it. Here, no one gives a shit about me. It’s good.”

Manny – the brother still shuffling around this mortal coil, quickly started a game of sorts. Favorite movies, favorite bands, etc., etc. You could tell he was trying to take his mind off what had happened.

We all drank on.

The drinks were interspersed with sidewalk cigarettes. I smoke like a goddamn train when sober, so when drunk I’m a veritable fiend. Joyce joined me. She bummed a cigarette and I lit it for her with a match from a book Joel had given me.

“You know,” I said, leaning against the outer brick wall, “you have the sweetest voice I think I’ve ever heard.”

She smiled. I kissed her. I had escaped from the clawed clutches of an ex-girlfriend that morning. Came down on the train from the Central Coast.

I was making the most of my newfound freedom.

A young Mexican girl walked into the bar, took a stool and ordered a drink. She kept to herself, enjoying her can of PBR.

Joel said his relief was due soon, and ten or so minutes later a black guy strutted in, went behind the bar and started messing around with something. Joel’s back was turned as he leant on the bar, talking to a regular.

“Hey, Joel,” I said. “Is that your relief?” I nodded to the black guy.

“Yeah, man.”

“Alright. Just checking.”

All sorts of down and out types had come in during the evening. Tweakers, bums, crazed women, middle-aged men searching for Percocets. I had already bought an 1801 silver dollar off a crack head for three bucks (unfortunately, it was a counterfeit). So I was already pretty wary of new patrons. I had formed a swift kinship with the place, already feeling somewhat responsible for it. As it turned out, the guy wasJoel’s relief. I think the black guy wasn’t terribly fond of the fact that I had considered otherwise.

How the hell did I know.

Someone mentioned that is was an open mic night that night. I was drunk enough to want to participate. On a whim, I decided to approach the Mexican girl.

“Do you write poetry, by any chance?” Of all the fucking lines in the world.

Surprisingly, she said she did.

We checked out each other’s work, and were relatively impressed. I tried to convince her to read later. She said she was too shy to do that.

I told her to drink up.

It neared 10 p.m. I was only planning to stay for a couple drinks. Initially, I was supposed to be meeting an old friend of mine at 5. A Filipino guy named Joe. Joe never showed and I never left.

The problem was, that I had checked my suitcase at the Amtrak luggage storage at Union Station, and had to collect it by 10. So I walked the several blocks to Union with Joyce, and got to the luggage check kiosk just as they were locking up for the night. Talk about good timing.

We took a cab back to the King Eddy.

The place had changed with the shift in shift, and not for the better. By the time Joyce and I had gotten back, the vibe was oppressive.

The relief bartender said something about thinking I had left. I told him I had only gone to get my shit. He was a weird son-of-a-bitch.

I had a feeling he had it in for me.

Joyce stared at me from across the bar. I smiled, an arm around the Mexican girl. What a fucking guy. One woman wasn’t good enough for old Ben, oh no. He had to have two! He had to pick up every female in the fucking place.

The bartender turned and told me he was cutting me off. I asked him why the hell would he do a thing that.

“You’re too drunk.”

“How am I too drunk? I’m not slurring, or stumbling around, or spilling my goddamn drink all over the place.”

“You’re holding on to the bar.”

“I’m fucking exhausted. I just walked to Union.” The truth was I was leaning against the bar because I had an arm around the Mexican girl’s un-clothed midriff, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

“Alright. One more drink. But that’s it. You go after.” He poured my Jack & Coke, slid it over to me.

I took my time drinking it, more interested in that moment, in wooing my little Mexican Princess. A couple minutes later, he noticed I’d hardly sipped from my glass. He was incredulous. I guess the fucker wasn’t used to anyone standing up to him and arguing his point. He lost his shit. Snatched my drink, tossed it in the overflow bucket, strode out from behind the bar and grabbed me by the back of the shirt.

“I fucking told you to leave.”

“Hey, man. What the fuck are you doing?”

He dragged me to the door and threw my ass out on the sidewalk.

My suitcase swiftly followed behind.

Guess they didn’t like me either.

IMG_6505

Thumper Devotchka

Don’t you know who I think I am?

“I don’t think this wedding will go ahead and that’s sad,” I mumble through tears and smoke. She doesn’t say anything, she doesn’t usually say anything, this is not shocking to me but it is hard to comprehend.

I say everything, not really for her or I but because I have always had this mouth on me and a historical need to fill silence, often with emotion and, as she kindly tells me before bed, drama.

“I don’t know what to believe?”

“Listen, neither do I,” I respond as I’ve responded for the past 5 years. My emotions are loud, intense and manic. We live together in semi harmony and to be reminded again that all of it is too much lonely, predictable and ultimately boring.

This whole life, if I am honest with myself, is deeply boring. Even with the theatrics I struggle to feel connected. Interested. Here.

I tell a friend, “I could pack my life into a suitcase and leave.”
I think I read that somewhere but I use the material as my own.

Often when I feel like nobody I paint the walls with somebody before me. Idols. Villains. It isn’t important as long as it fits the script.

Some lyrics remind me I have been used for my body a few times while in blackout. I try to swallow the psychological reminders. She notices. Asks me what’s wrong.

I am honest, mostly to my detriment. Honesty makes people uncomfortable. Crying even more so. I am honest, and I cry. She doesn’t like this.

People make very little sense to me.
Fragments of them touch my heart and then I fall out of love (if I’d ever been in it) and return to myself. My selves.

It’s all about me still when the cards are down.
I have an escape rope and an internal off switch, perfect for times like this.

No one else can keep up with the rings I run around myself. No one asked them to.

Everyone in my hallucinations plays the marching drums. We go to war all the time. I am not scared of overflowing. There is beauty in my intensity. There is wisdom in my ability to flit in and out of states, timezones, love affairs and sadness.

And there’s carnage. Blood. Guts. Dust.
I’d be alone if I knew how to but I am a child every second day and children… need looking after.

Morning is here. My eyes roll back. It’s happening again. Life. It sneaks up on me and I swallow it like a badly manufactured vitamin. It doesn’t taste nice but everyone tells me it’s good for me.

I feel even less invested in further altering who I am upon waking. I stare at her in bed and think, ‘I don’t like you anymore,’ a strange mantra considering it may not be real.

Spitefully, I make some noise getting my things together and leave without saying goodbye. If I’d have said “have a good day” it would have been dishonest, something I’ve learnt people do not like. I weaponise my authenticity as a way to disarm others when they feel upset with me.

“I am honest.” Now what?

“I don’t know what to invest in!” she half shrieks at me from under the covers. It makes me sick and angry and un-attracted to her. All side effects of the idea she may leave me before I leave her. ‘Get in quick’, I think.

Investment. I’m not meeting my end of the bargain. I am a pyramid scheme who got what I was asking for and never really returned from it. My body is still in the old apartment. Another house haunted. Another ghost formed out of circumstance.

I eat the flashbacks and the bathroom. I blame myself again and move on to the next thing.

Tonight, it is her disappointment and the fact that my battery won’t charge. Fuck! My battery won’t charge.

My priority is distraction, especially after this skull fuck of a conversation.

I piggyback myself home from a free course I was granted due to my Government Standard insanity. I talk my way out of a 10 grand debt and simultaneously force a toothbrush down my throat and pat myself on the back.

My love will destroy you.

Brian Rosenberger

My Therapist

She says I’m depressed.

No shit. Really? No PhD needed for that diagnosis.

Even my Mom says the same and I only talk to her once a week on the phone.

My therapist suggests making new friends, trying new things… Maybe joining a book club or a wine tasting group.

I tell her it’s a Kindle age. I have no time to read and George Thorogood summed it up pretty good already, when he sang “I drink alone.”

I tell her I drink to make the day taste better.

She makes a note in her always handy notebook.

Long fingers, short strokes. Always a pencil, never a pen.

Sometimes she licks the graphite.

She favors green nail polish. Like the skin of some endangered rain forest frog.

I’ve noticed. At $35 bucks an hour, I’m paying attention.

She asks if I’m seeing anyone. That’s therapist code for dating/fucking/sharing my thoughts and feelings with another human being while NOT being charged at a professional rate.

I respond truthfully and say only my co-workers, who are all male, one step up from Neanderthal, and herself. I point out that she’s paid by the hour but so are most of my co-workers.

She looks at her watch, scribbles in her notebook, brings the pencil to her lips.

I’ve never seen what’s in her notebook. Never asked.

Therapy session over, we shake hands. She has a very delicate handshake, like her hand is made of porcelain or egg shells. Then she smiles, all pearly whites, saying I’ll see you next week.

I pay at the desk. The receptionist is young, 20-something, about 10 on the cuteness scale, and always smiling, always friendly.

Maybe she realizes I’m clinically nuts and doesn’t want to provoke negativity.

She’s attractive, knows it, and should be selling worthless products on late-night infomercials in a bikini, or else involved in local politics. I’d place an order and/or vote.

After paying for my session, I stop at the bathroom on my way out. I jerk off in the stall, imagining my therapist, her green nails carving into my hips as my cock fills that pearly white mouth.

I think the therapy is working.

 

Jason Lachlan Christopher

Those Are People Who Died

1988. I’m six. My first funeral. Never met Mike or his parents. Mom is crying and hugging other relatives I’ve never come across. They talk of things from previous decades, remembrances of a time before I existed. I go up to the casket. Overheard the “napping against the tree” story from Mike’s dad. Still looks like he is napping. This is the first dead body I have ever seen.

Mike was mom’s cousin. Was in his early-30s. Been out fishing with friends all day, drinking beers on the boat while they tried to catch walleyes. Sun went down. Mike and friends went back to shore. Friends hitched the boat to their truck and said goodnight to Mike. He climbed in his truck and drove home. Country road twisted and turned back in on itself. Mike, still boozy, going too fast, went off road. Front right end of his truck struck a tree. Mike wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. He burst through the windshield, bounced along the ground and slammed into a different tree. Old man that came upon the accident later said it looked Mike had sat down with his back to the tree and taken a nap.

Mike still has the brown bushy hair and moustache that he has in pictures next to the casket. Pictures from before he died. He wears the kind of glasses friends and I will later in life refer to as “Jeffrey Dahmer glasses.” He’s smiling in all his pictures. Friends hug him. Parents lean on him and give him kisses on his cheeks. Redheaded woman named Roxanne poses next to Mike, her right hand on his chest, her head on his shoulder. Someone told me they were dating. I don’t see Roxanne at the funeral.

***

Grant Medical Center. 1989. I am seven-years old. In a waiting room on a floor high in the building, reading a book called Eating Ice Cream with a Werewolf. Uncle John is sitting next to me, watching a baseball game. Keeping me company while my mom, dad and aunt Cathy go back to my grandfather’s room. Grandpa Jack has cancer. Will be years before I learn that he developed cancer only a year or so after I was born 1981. A period of remission happened, so no one ever told me he was ill.

Aunt Cathy comes out. Takes me by the hand and leads me down the unusually dark hospital hall. It is April. It is spring. Sun blasts through the windows at the end of the hall. Lights above us are turned off. I smell urine, medicinal creams, bleached fabrics and an odor I will later come to think of as the “stink of death.” Smells like rot, like a body being eaten from the inside out. In my older years I consider it the smell of fear.

The stink is making me sad. Cathy leads me into my grandfather’s room. Mom and dad are there. Uncle Pat and his wife are sitting in the corner. Didn’t even know they came. Cathy’s sons, Brian and Andy, are standing next to the large hospital window. Both older than me. Andy graduated high school last year. Came up from Miami University to see grandpa. I think Andy is cool.

Grandma sits at the end of the bed, watching her husband.

Stand in front of my parents. Mom puts her hands around my shoulders. Grandpa talks to Pat about something when he notices me.

“Jay!” He pats his hospital bed. Mom helps me up and I sit next to him. Tubes all over him – coming out of his arms, from under his gown, one hooked to his nose. Rubs my back, asks me how I’m doing. I talk as a little kid would talk, still unaware of how heavy the whole situation is. Grandpa laughs at my stories, wants to know how school is going, asks me why anyone would ever want to eat ice cream with a werewolf.

He points to the state office tower. Columbus spreads out below the window. I follow the aim of his finger.

“See that? I helped build that.” He was a pipefitter, a loyal union man, took pride in his work. Navy guy in the 40s. Drove one of the Higgins boats during the invasion of Normandy in WWII. The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan? He went through that.

Talk a little bit longer before mom says it’s time to get me some lunch. Hug grandpa Jack. He kisses me on the cheek. I leave not knowing this will be the last time we speak.

Weeks later. Lunch. Mom, aunt Cathy, grandma, me. Eat hospital food in the hospital cafeteria. Grandma is crying. Grandpa is unresponsive, on life support. Mom says he looks like he’s sleeping. Time to let him go. Pneumonia has settled in. His cancerous body, too weak to fight anymore, breaks down and allows pneumonia to win the war.

“I can’t lose Jack,” my grandma whispers.

At the funeral, I think he is smiling. Lay my hand on his. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Kantner, comes to the funeral home to pay her respects. Mom bawls when she sees her, hugs my teacher tightly. I sit on Kantner’s lap later and she rubs my arm, tells me things will be okay.

As they bury grandpa, a bagpiper in a kilt plays “Amazing Grace.”

***

Someone banging on our apartment door. 1994. It is summer. I am twelve going on thirteen. Mom opens the door. A neighbor girl, Ashley, is screaming and crying.

“Jeremy! Jeremy!”

She points to the backyard. Mom and me step outside. Her older brother Jeremy has fashioned a crude noose and is hanging from one of the hook-steps embedded in the telephone pole. His body thrashes. The hands are pulling at the rope around his neck.

“Oh, Jesus! Oh shit! Jason, call 911!”

I run inside, grab the cordless phone, call for a squad. As I’m on the phone, I step back out on the front porch. Mom tries to climb the fence separating the apartment’s backyard from the glass factory behind us. Jeremy’s arms are looser, his body only twitching. One arm gets too weak and falls away from his neck. Mom balances herself on top of the fence and is about to climb the hook-steps when the rope breaks and Jeremy falls roughly fifteen onto the factory parking lot.

Mom jumps down. Woman on the end of the phone says paramedics are on their way, that I can hang up. Run to the fence. Other kids from other apartments have come outside, are spilling over and through the broken fence. Shimmy through an opening. Mom has pulled the noose off his neck and tossed it aside. She gives him mouth-to-mouth and pumps his chest with her hands. Ashley is weeping. There is clear snot rolling out of both of her nostrils.

Mom keeps giving him CPR until the squad arrives. They go to work on him. Mom corrals us kids away from the scene, moves us back to the other side of the fence. Fire truck arrives, and they try to help the boy. Seems like days but is only maybe five minutes when one of the paramedics calmly says, “Call it.” They mean call the time of death. Saw that in some movies. While the others load Jeremy onto a stretcher, two paramedics jump the fence to talk to everyone. Mom tells her story. I tell mine. Ashley says parents are at work. She says Jeremy talked about killing himself every day. They thank my mom for trying to help. Ashley goes with them to the hospital.

Jeremy was only fourteen. Mom and me don’t talk much for the rest of the day. Jeremy’s parents never come around to ask mom what happened. I recommend going over to their place and talking to them. Mom says they probably don’t want to talk.

***

My second grandfather is dead. Dad is sitting next to me in the funeral home sobbing, stifling moans of sadness. It is only maybe the second or third time I’ve ever seen him cry. Once was when we went to see the movie Sling Blade. Billy Bob Thornton’s character has a moment where he berates his abusive, bigoted, now-disabled father. Dad cried at that scene.

It is 1999. I am seventeen, almost eighteen. It is June. Ralph Sharon is dead. He was 84. He was a mean sonnavabitch, meaner than my dad ever has been. He was more physical, more willing to fight, somehow even crueler with his words. He talked of burning his neighbor’s house down in the 70s, when a black lesbian couple moved in. He tolerated them, sometimes even stood in the driveway and talked to them. I think he didn’t burn the house down simply because he didn’t want to go to prison. Had there been no risk, believe he would’ve happily torched the place. Lifelong attitude wasn’t far removed from David Duke, presidential candidate and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

But he’s dead now, and I feel nothing. Don’t care. Mom kept me away from dad’s side of the family for a reason. Room is filled with sniffles and weeping and hugs and reminisces of the other grandfather I had. The one I barely had any relationship with. I have to be a pallbearer today. I think about dropping the casket on purpose and claiming it was an accident. Nah, too risky. Don’t wanna deal with drama. Just want to get this day over with.

Dad grabs my hand, squeezes tightly. Don’t know if this is legit or part of a show. Hold it for as long as I can stand and break away, venturing toward the casket. Ralph is inside. He is frowning. He looks miserable. The funeral people couldn’t even work their magic to make his dumbass face look faux-pleasant. He is angry, even in death.

We bury him. I go home, play Mario Kart 64 with my friends.

***

January 2004. I am 22. Terrible snowstorm moved in. Have to go to work. I despise snow. I despise winter. Driving is a treacherous, time-consuming. Back end of my car sways if I go just a smidge over 25 mph. Going to take forever to get from Canal Winchester to Pickerington, to my job at the movie theater. Call one of my managers, Zack, tell him I might be late. He says to be careful and take my time.

Crawl down High Street, heading toward Route 33. As I get closer to the freeway, I see a couple cars parked alongside the road. Fucking wonderful. What is going on?

A van is blocking our lane, preventing us from crossing 33. Passenger side is facing us. It is smashed in. Notice another car parked on the opposite side of High Street. Its front end is crumpled, and black smoke is pouring out of the hood. Two teenage girls and a man who looks like their father are standing upwind from the smoke. Man is holding a shirt or a towel against his mouth. A woman, who doesn’t look like she was involved in the accident, is talking to him. Teen girls are crying. One has squatted down, is plugging her ears, body heaving. Man removes the shirt or towel and talks to the woman. His mouth is a bloody void.

I pull up behind one of the parked cars and head toward the van. An older man, probably in his sixties, is pacing alongside it. He looks frenzied. Winter wind is blowing his thinning hair all over the place. His pupils are enlarged. A different woman is trying to keep pace with him, rubbing his back and trying to calm him.

“Oh, god! She’s dead! She’s dead! What—what am I gonna—” Guttural howls erupt from deep inside him.

A guy close to my age comes around from the other side of the van. He is on his cell phone. Moves the mouthpiece away, nods at me.

“Hey,” he says.

“You need any help, man,” I ask.

The guy shakes his head. “We got help coming.”

“What happened?”

“That car—” he points to the car with the man and teen girls, “came off Bowen Road way too fast and broadsided this dude.” He thumbs in the direction of the frazzled old man.

I see the old woman in the van.

I didn’t see her walking up. She was too quiet. Man with his girls and his blood. Older man hollering in terror. They got my attention. Old woman is sitting in the passenger seat. Window is gone. She is wearing her seatbelt. Head leans against the door, like she’s napping. The right side of her face is covered in blood. Never seen so much blood in person. My stomach drops. I’m lightheaded. Could pass out right now, vomit, shit myself.

“You can go on, man,” the guy on the phone says. “Thanks for stopping. A bunch of motherfuckers just kept driving by before these two women stopped.”

“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, I’ll get out of the, uh, way. Hope everything is okay.”

Everything isn’t okay, you fucking moron. Woman is dead. What a jackass thing to say, Jason.

Get to work. I’m in the projection booth today. Eight hours in a gray cinderblock hallway with no windows. Can’t stop thinking about the old woman. Call mom, tell her what happened. When I get off work, she tells me the local news had a brief story on the accident. The old woman did die or was dead on the scene. News doesn’t specify, nor do they give any names. Just that the woman was 67-years old. Guy with the teen girls did blow through a red light on Bowen Road, couldn’t stop because he was going too fast on the snow and ice.

I despise snow. I despise winter.

***

July 4th, 2011. I am twenty-nine. Driving home from shit-ass job. After midnight. Pull up to my friend’s place. As I walk, my phone rings. Mom.

“Grandma is gone,” she says.

Broken hip sent her to a nursing home. Miserable. Lonely. Unhappy. Still missed Jack. Quit eating. Nurses tried to get her to down some kind of food. Woman was stubborn. My belief is she willed herself to die. Was 84. Knew her body was almost done. Didn’t see any reason to stick around at a party she didn’t enjoy.

Leave my friend’s. Meet mom at the nursing home. We’re the first ones there. Grandma is under a blanket. Looks like she is just asleep. Nurse explains she checked on grandma at 11:30. Things were normal. Half-hour later, she’s dead.

Nurse leaves us alone with her. Grandma’s dentures aren’t in. Jaw hangs open. I try to push it shut, give her some dignity. Jaw drops back open. Uncle Pat shows up. Wife he had when grandpa died at Grant is no longer around. Divorced years ago. Cousins I haven’t seen in years show up, too. Aunt Cathy and uncle John come. All discuss what happens from here. Mom, Cathy and Pat talk with the funeral people who show up. They will transport her to the home in Pickerington.

July 7th. Service, then burial. I am a pallbearer. Tighten my grip to make sure I don’t lose grandma. Watch her casket lowered into the ground. She was the last grandparent I had. Dad’s mom died before I was born. This was the only grandmother I ever knew. She is in the ground next to Jack.

***

I am 35. June 2016. Mount Carmel East. Uncle John is hooked up to a breathing machine. Still wide-awake. Still struggling to breath. Arthritis has limited his mobility. Two strokes have limited everything else. Body winding down. Aunt Cathy sits next to him. Mom and I stand beside him. Keep crying quietly, keep wiping my eyes.

This was bound to happen. All knew John’s time was limited. Last few years have been hard on the man. Maintained his cheerfulness, though. Never felt sorry for self or lashed out at anyone. John is smart. John knows the deal.

He was the main father figure I had growing up. Don’t know if he knows this. He can’t talk because of the machine. I can’t talk because I will fall to pieces. Peter Jackson’s King Kong is on TV. Watch the scene with Kong and Naomi Watts playing on the frozen pond. Scene made me cry when I saw it at the theater years ago. Stomping on my heart now.

Nurses and doctors come in. Time to clean and change John. Cathy, mom and I got to leave. John takes ahold of my hand, squeezes tightly. We lock eyes for a moment and I kiss him on top of his bald head. His other arm wraps around me as tightly as possible. Does the same thing to mom.

Cathy gets the call in the middle of the night. He passed quietly in his sleep. He is cremated. The box is heavier than expected. John was a smaller man.

***

Mom is 70. Older than her father when he died. In good health. In good spirits. I worry about her passing. But maybe I get to have her around for a long time. Cathy is nearing 71. Had a mastectomy years ago. Still smokes, especially because she misses John. Talks about being lonely. Tries to remain happy.

Dad might be dead. Don’t know. Google his obit from time to time. Nothing comes up. Don’t know what I’d do with this information. Satisfaction? Sense of closure? Dunno. Need to stop doing it. Best to continue life as though he’s already gone.

Doesn’t feel like I’m a few weeks from turning 37. Presumed life would be a bore at this point. Thought I’d be nothing more than a husk of a man, with a dead-end job, a loveless marriage and kids that annoy me. Don’t feel old, despite most of my classmates being born when I was in high school. I’ve remained unshackled. Free to bend myself anyway I wanted.

I think of Mike, though. And grandpa Jack. And Jeremy. And grandpa Ralph. And the old woman. And grandma. And uncle John. Their lives stretched before them once, just as mine does. Just as yours does. I saw them in their twilight, sometimes after the light had completely left them. Someday, someone will see me in my twilight. Hope it’s not soon. Hope there aren’t many regrets. Hope I look like I’m only sleeping.

John Patrick Robbins

This Wasn’t Paris

She screamed, as always, fed up with my vices, and that I simply didn’t indulge her rage once only fueled her more.

“You son of a bitch! Do you not feel anything?” she asked.

She was full of shit and mock concern she usually added for good measure.

“Yes, I feel all sorts of things,” I replied as I lit my cigarette from the candle that had been placed upon the table (I’m guessing) to set the mood, but honestly, I didn’t think they had a scented candle called ‘tantrum throwing bitch’ on the market.

“Yeah? What do you feel besides the need for another drink?”

“Sweetheart, there is so little you truly seem to know about me. Now have a drink with me and relax.”

“All you ever want to do is drink or fuck, you lazy bastard!”

“Well… what better thing to do is there than drink or fuck? You have something against orgasms, I take it?”

“You don’t really want me, it’s strictly for the sex, you jerk.”

“Well, I enjoy having sex with you. By the way, your ass looks marvelous in that dress, my dear, any chance I can see you out of it?” I said as I kicked back the last of my whiskey.

“You’re a pig. You don’t need a real woman, you just need a whore.”

“Are they not real women too, sweetheart?” I asked, laughing as I reached for the decanter to pour myself another drink.

She looked at me in disgust. “You’re a drunk!”

“Yes,” I replied. “And your point?”

“It’s all one big joke with you. Nothing is serious, you’ll never want to clean your act up. Settle down, give me a kid!”

“Well, I would have a while back, sugar, but they all run so fast I just can’t seem to catch one for you.”

“Fuck you ! You ignorant son of a bitch!” she said, as I let her go into yet another hissy fit.

I flicked my ashes into a wine glass on the table.

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Most, I believe most, call it smoking my dear.”

“That’s a good wine glass. What if I had wanted a drink of wine?”

“My dear, do you not know me that well? Wine is for painters and women or old gay men pretending to be straight. I drink whiskey. That is it.”

“Yeah, and whatever else happens to be around.”

“Yes indeed, I do.”

She sat at the table, looking to me more as some sort of bad child than her equal.

“Why the hell do I stay with you”?

“Good question, sweetheart,” I said as I began to stand. “You know I have many feelings; in fact, right now I’m going to have to run because of one.”

“Yeah? What feeling is that?” she said in mock interest.

“Well, I’m feeling like I have to piss. Excuse me.”

She said nothing as I left the room.
When I returned she was gone.

So I guess, to my question of seeing her out of that dress?
Well, it was a no.

She was gone, and I simply drank till the night bled into the day.

Some people truly need to find a sense of humor.

She yearned for the love of romance novels, not the reality of its existence.

And she yearned for the romance of Paris.

As the candle slowly died I watched the sun creep through the small kitchen window.

Outside the whores yelled at passing cars, and the city breathed life once again.

One thing for sure.

This truly wasn’t Paris.

L Murphy

You Can Go Now

His fingers are inside me. I can feel him moving around and trying his best to get a reaction out of me but I don’t move. I lay perfectly still, I don’t feel anything, none of the normal throes of euphoria rush out of me and I am genuinely bored. I stare at the ceiling and wait for him to give up, wait for him to climb on top of me and fuck me until he cums so he can leave my room and I can fall back asleep. The appeal to fake the entire evening does not overcome me, the appeal to make this fun, easy for him, or really at all enjoyable doesn’t appeal to me either, the only thing that really does is watching him get frustrated over trying to please me. I am dissociated, numb, the small glimmering lights above my bed are giving me a headache, the slow hum of Junior Kimbrough from my stereo is keeping my heartbeat steady.

I breath in slowly and grab his hand.

“Just fuck me.”

I said slow as I coldly pulled his hand away from me.

He looked at me confused.

“Oh? Ok.”

He nervously pulled out a condom and I pulled my dress off over my shoulders, sitting naked in front of him.

He gawked at me for a moment and slid the condom on.

I turned around.

“Fuck me from behind.”

I said sternly.

I think he thought I was trying to be kinky by being demanding.

I wasn’t. I didn’t give a fuck about being kinky.

I just didn’t want to look at his face and historically, men finish quicker when they fuck me from behind.

I bent over and felt him push deep into me. He started out slowly and I could feel every inch of his moderately sized dick. I tried to not yawn, the dizzy feeling I had gained from the wine was wearing off and I was tired, again. My entire body ached, again. I wanted to sleep for an entire day, again. I had to be up early for work, he needed to hurry.

“Harder.”

I said coldly.

He pushed into me deeper and faster, grabbing onto my hips and doing his best not to dig his nails into me. I reach my hand around and grabbed his hands.

“Pull my hair”

I snapped.

He grabbed a fist of my hair, lightly.

“Harder.”

He yanked on my hair and I let out a small giggle.

The searing pain of my hair being yanked made my nipples perk up, the warmth rushed around in my chest.

He pushed in deeper and pulled harder.

“HARDER.”

I shouted.

“Fucking hit me.”

He lifted his hand up and slapped my ass lightly.

“HARDER.”

He slapped harder and I could feel a sting.

An eruption of giggles lifted out of my chest, my body released and my headache ceased. I could feel him pulsing inside me.

I could feel myself tighten around his cock.

I could feel.

I shouted.

“Don’t fucking stop.”

And he turned me around onto my back and pushed into me.

I grabbed his hand and guided it to my throat.

“Choke me.”

I said looking straight into his eyes.

He smiled and gripped his fingers around my throat and pushed deeper inside me.

And my eyes rolled back

The world moved slowly

I could feel the small beads of

Anxiety and anger

Erupt from my skin and

I screamed,

Giggled,

Wrapped my legs around his waist and forced his cock to stay inside me

While he filled me. While I let the screams loose, digging my nails into his back.

He collapsed on top of me inhaling deep heavy breaths and I felt myself come down, the sensation came back to the tips of my lips and my body returned to it’s reserved cold state.

I moved my body out from under him and pulled my dress back over my body and looked at him.

“Okay. You can go now.”

I pulled his pants up from off the floor and threw them towards him while I checked my phone absentmindedly.