Leah Mueller

To the Sword-Swallowing Woman in Uranus, Missouri

Let me start out by saying that I’ve never once tried to swallow a sword. I’ve performed fellatio on many occasions, so I know a bit about muscle relaxation. But I haven’t put anything remotely sharp down my throat. Your talent is far beyond what I could ever hope to pull off.

I’m sure you get tired of standing behind a counter all day. Rowdy families pile out of their minivans and mill around the gift shop. Tittering loudly, they scoop up coffee mugs that read, “Uranus Gas and Lube.” Teenagers pose for selfies, wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with the words, “Straight Outta Uranus.”

After they return home, the tourists will have no use for these items. Mom and Dad will pull into their driveways in Boise, Idaho, Portland, Maine, or Tupelo, Mississippi, glad to finally have a chance to relax on their recliners with a few stiff martinis. They’ll shove the mugs and clothing into the backs of cabinets and drawers. No one wants to enter Safeway while sporting a sweatshirt that proclaims, “The Best Fudge Comes From Uranus.”

Like everyone else, I stumbled upon your workplace as I was tooling down Route 66, searching for roadside adventure. Who can resist an establishment with a two-headed turtle? Not me. 

Ignoring the signs for funnel cakes and brewpub experiences, I headed straight for the sideshow museum. Once inside, I felt disoriented. I spent too much time staring at the exhibit about Robert Wadlow, the tallest man in the world. As a geeky kid, reading “The Guinness Book of World Records”, I developed a crush-like fascination with Wadlow. The poor man suffered from a condition that caused hyperplasia of his pituitary gland. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded rough.

Museum photos showed Wadlow, dressed in crisp, specially made suits, smiling as he stood beside people of normal height. He didn’t quit growing until he reached 8’11. One day, he just stopped stretching upward. It must have been a relief to not be any taller than he was the previous month.  

Wadlow managed to appear happy in the photographs. Like he’d achieved a state of zen bliss, even if he had to gaze at the tops of people’s heads all day long. After an unsatisfying stint in the circus, he became a shoe salesman. Free shoes for life. No matter what, he made the best of everything.

I confess that I was absorbed in the exhibits and didn’t see you at first. I strolled amongst the mummies, mermaids, and alligator men, trying to find meaning in the chaos. The place was weird, but it beat the hell out of the Cadillac Ranch. I wondered whether I should break down and buy some fudge. Or at least a couple of postcards. Decisions, decisions.

You gestured towards me from your place behind the counter. A plump, heavily tattooed woman in a tiger print sundress. Instantly, I fell in love. You fixed me with a petulant expression. “Leaving already? Would you like to stay longer and watch me swallow a sword?”

Who could say no to such a request? I followed you to a tiny platform in the back room. The audience area was devoid of chairs, so I stood on the linoleum floor while you prepared backstage for your act. Apparently, you’d planned a solo show, something just for me. My heart pounded with exhilaration.

A minute later, you charged onto the stage and began to gyrate. Your heavy hips and ample thighs jiggled with a rhythm that only you could hear. I gazed at you, enthralled. You stared at the space behind my head, but I didn’t mind. It wasn’t every day that I got to see a sword swallower in Uranus.

When the suspense became unbearable, you pulled a sword from behind the curtains. Your body was stock-still as you opened your lips wide. You held the sword aloft, then plunged its long blade deep inside your mouth. 

The whole process took only a couple of seconds. You extracted the sword and placed it on a table behind you. Then you shrugged. “Well, that’s it.” Your tone sounded brisk, matter-of fact. “Would you like me to do it again?”

“No, really, that’s okay. Once is enough. Thank you so much.” I’d paid six bucks admission, so I’d more than gotten my money’s worth. I didn’t want you swallowing swords all afternoon on my account. The pay scale in Uranus probably isn’t high, even for someone with such a rare skill.

Feeling dazed, I staggered towards the door. I felt certain I would never see you again. You’d probably already forgotten about my existence, but I couldn’t blame you. I was just another aimless tourist with too much money to spend on nothing.

The parking lot seemed unnaturally bright. One hour before closing, most of the cars had already left. They’d found the freeway and made a beeline towards MacDonald’s, Long John Silver’s, and Cracker Barrel. In the distance, I could see the silhouettes of Uranus’ outbuildings, with their comical signs: The Moonicorn Creamery and Funnel Cakery. The Uranus Axehole. Chicken Bones Party Bar and Grill.

None of these options appealed to me. If I left soon, perhaps I’d find Route 66 without too much trouble. The last thing I wanted was to go in circles and end up stuck in Uranus. I had gotten lost on the route more than once. 

You probably take 66 all the time. At the end of each day, you pack away your sword, punch the clock, and head home. I hope you live in a place that’s as exotic as you are, and not just some lonely trailer beside a field.

Unmarked highways are difficult to navigate, especially at night. No wonder most people take the interstate. Freeways are a hell of a lot faster. Normal folks plan their route and their destination, but they miss everything in the process. I guess that’s why I never cared much for normal folks. 

Mather Schneider

Ain’t No Use Complainin’, When You Got a Job to Do

I got drunk on Sunday instead of taking my wife to Mt. Lemmon to see the snow. I was ready to take her the previous Sunday but she didn’t feel well and she said, Next Sunday, Ok? And I said, Ok. Then I got drunk. I was relieved because really on Sundays I just want to get drunk. That’s what Sundays are for, I figure. I don’t want to go to Mt. Lemmon and see the snow. I know what snow looks like and I know what snow feels like. It’s cold and wet and we aren’t going to go sled riding, we’re not 12-years old. At most we’d take a picture of it and in the picture it would not seem cold and wet like it really is. A picture might say a thousand words but most of them are lies.    

When I closed myself in my computer room and opened my first beer at 8 a.m. she got up and made a bunch of racket in the kitchen to show me how she felt about the situation. I was smart enough to carry the whole 18-pack of Coor’s Light into my room so I didn’t have to keep running to the refrigerator. I don’t mind if the beer is room temperature. When I had to take a piss, I used the garbage can where I toss my crappy poems and cigarette butts. When it quieted down and I knew she was back in bed staring at her phone, I peeked out. She’d cleaned the kitchen and bathroom to gleaming and used a whole bottle of bleach. She even cleaned the refrigerator, which was empty except for an opened can of refried beans and some tortillas.

She cut sex off 2 years ago. She has bladder pain and says sex hurts. She blames me for it. She thinks I ruined her bladder from fucking her too hard and too often. For a long time, we had a great sex life, at least I thought we did. She seemed to enjoy it. Maybe she was faking it. She’s been to over 30 doctors and none of them can find anything wrong. Some say early stages of menopause. Some say she needs a shrink. Some say it’s just one of those things. One of those unpleasant things that happen to people when they get older and there’s not a damn thing to do about it. 

Later that night when I joined her in bed, I made the mistake of touching her leg. She went into hysterics.

“Don’t start with me!” she said.

“What? I didn’t…”


She got up and gathered her blankets and pillow and stormed into the other room. She’s done this a few times recently. She will sleep in the other room on the floor rather than sleep next to me. The first couple of times I followed her and pleaded with her to come back to bed. Now I just let her stay there. 

The next day, Monday, was my birthday. It’s been a long 53 years, 22 of them with her. It started out so good and then it all went to hell. Same old story. I had to go to work. We both did. We both start at 5 a.m. and so we get up around 4. She used the bathroom first and when she came out she wouldn’t look me in the eye.

“There’s nothing for your lunch,” she said.

“I know. I’ll buy a sandwich at the gas station.”

Then she left without saying goodbye. Off to McDonald’s where she eats as many free egg mcmuffins as she wants. She’s gained a lot of weight since she started working there a year ago, and has acne around her chin from standing over the greasy grill. Sometimes she brings home a hamburger for me. That’s how I know she’s not mad anymore.

I think about the past a lot. That’s what old people do. I had been reading the philosopher Seneca, who said you should “always be the same man,” but that’s not easy when time is chipping away at you. For 5 years we lived in Mexico. We sold our house in Tucson and bought a place in Puerto Penasco. My wife is Mexican and it had always been a dream of hers to go back and live near the ocean. That dream became my dream. We paid 22 grand for a piece of property that had 3 dilapidated apartments on it. We spent another 20 grand renovating them. We lived in one and rented out the other two to tourists. We were way down on the cheap end, but we made enough money to live on and for 5 years we did not have to wake up to an alarm clock. After cleaning and laundry and yardwork, I went to the beach almost every day. I could walk to the tiny grocery store up the sandy road. Cigarettes and beer were cheap. We planted a fig tree and a mango tree in our little walled-in yard and sat out there in the evenings. We hardly ever argued and had the hottest sex imaginable. We both lost weight and her brown ass never looked so good. I had the most vivid dreams and wrote poems about them and felt like the luckiest man in the world. I was ready to stay there forever.

Then the pain started. She quickly went through all the doctors in Puerto Penasco and we shut down the rentals and went to Hermosillo to stay with her mother. No doctor in Hermosillo could help her either. Nobody could understand this. I didn’t handle it well. I felt like it was all some kind of ruse to try to get rid of me because she didn’t love me anymore. The days became endless arguments and tears and long agonizing periods of silence like a eyeless salamander slowly meandering through your guts. 

She wanted to move back to Tucson and see the doctors there. We left our place and found a slumlord rental on the south side. The prices had tripled since we’d left and we were flat broke after the deposit and first month rent. She enrolled in the state health program and got a job at McDonald’s. I scoured Craiglist until I found a job picking up trash. They called it a “porter” but all I do is pick up trash. Everything has a new fancy name, but it’s still the same old bullshit. 

It’s the kind of job you can do hungover. On Monday morning, I got in the beat-up Nissan work truck and went to the shop to clock in. I pressed my thumb on the machine on the wall so it could read my thumbprint and then it said, “Thank you.” I hit my first site, Sprouts natural grocery. Mondays are always the worst after the weekend shoppers and I got to picking with my Nifty Nabber litter picker-upper and lifting the full plastic bags of garbage out of the cans and trying not to let too much juice drip on my pants and shoes. It usually took an hour or so for my carpal tunnel to ease. A wonderful aroma came out of Sprouts, some early baker in there making something delicious. The homeless people had thrown all the garbage out of the cans and dumpsters, as usual. It was cold in January and I was hoping it would dip below freezing and maybe turn some of the homeless people into icicles. You would think that the sight of homeless people would make me appreciate what I had and how fortunate I was and be thankful. But my mind didn’t work that way. I had been homeless before and I knew the truth: being homeless isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s pretty fucking great. You have zero responsibilities. Get up when you want, go to sleep when you want. Food is never a problem in America. All in all, it’s a relatively easy and healthy lifestyle. There are some inconveniences of course. Like where to take a shit. Now it was my job to clean up the homeless peoples’ turds. For this I was provided a snow shovel. I found the turds in all kinds of places but behind the dumpsters was the preferred spot. The turds of homeless people were almost always incredibly articulated and firm, which was yet another reason to be envious. 

I always felt better after I had finished my first 4 sites and the sun was coming up, about the time I got to Supertarget. Supertarget was the dirtiest site on my route, even worse than Walmart. I know that in general our society is guilty of creating tons of garbage but on a personal level I thought that people who casually threw garbage on the ground were detestable vermin. I hated the fact that after 53 years I was in this position. Seneca said there is no labor that is dishonorable and that happiness is in the mind. Sooner or later we’d all be dead anyway and rich people suffer their own kind of spiritual vacancy. Easy to say for Seneca, whose idea of exercise was being carried around on a litter by his slaves to “shake up his bowels.” I walk 12 miles a day at this job. I wore my wife’s Fitbit one day to prove it. Sometimes my feet were so sore from tendonitis I could hardly walk and had to call in sick. Pain will either pass or it will kill you. I liked Epictetus better than Seneca. At least he’d actually been a slave.

Bryan Adams was singing on the old-folks radio in my truck: “Ain’t no use in complainin’, when you got a job to do, spent my weekends down at the drive-in, and that’s when I met you….” 

I turned it off and got out of the truck and stepped on a plastic Starbuck’s cup. As I reached into the truck bed for my Nifty Nabber and trash bucket, here came Chad in his truck. Beep, beep! Chad was my co-worker. He’d recently been promoted from porter to graffiti cleaner, which came with a 20 cent per hour raise.

He parked next to me and got out.

“Got time for a smoke?” he said.

“Fuck yeah.”

Chad was 45 years old and had long dread locks even though he was a white guy. The old dog shit waterfall. I don’t know how he could stand that in the heat of the summer.

“How’s your morning been?” he said.

“Same old same old.”

We both lit up our smokes. Somebody had spray painted “FUCK SUPERTAGET” on the side of the store.

“Fucking idiots can’t even spell,” Chad said.

“They should have stayed in school.”

“I was just over at Total Wine,” he said. “Those old fucks were lined up at the door before they even opened. Some blue hair almost t-boned me in the parking lot.”

We both wore the same company sweatshirts which were bright orange like hazard cones.

“How’s the home life?” I said.

“Fuck, my old lady’s insane. I’ve been living with her since June, you know, and I’ve been paying the mortgage. I just found out yesterday that the house is still in her husband’s name. I’m a god-damned moron.”

A fentanyl junkie wandered out of the bushes and walked up to us.

“Hey man, can you give me a dollar?” he said.

“Fuck off,” Chad said.

“Well, you don’t have to be rude,” the junkie said. He was about 20 years old, fit as a fiddle. He walked away, then turned around and gave us the finger.

“These fucking pieces of shit,” I said. “I’d like to choke him out with my Nifty Nabber.”

“I’m thinking of getting some bear mace,” Chad said.

“Didn’t your lady just inherit a bunch of money?” I said.

“She got 120 grand when her dad died. Didn’t spend a penny of it on the mortgage. It all went to fucking Amazon. She told me she’s only got ten grand left.”

“Christ almighty.”

“Plus, I’m just about fed up with her kid. He’s nineteen and won’t get a job. Plays video games all day and cries when the milk’s gone. The fucker is like six feet four and weighs three twenty. He removed all his body hair with Nair and got a bad rash. He says he’s confused about his sexual identity.”

I looked at the lettering on his truck, which said “Professional Property Maintenance. Always hiring.” 

“You could get him a job picking up trash.”

“Lazy ass won’t even take the trash out of the house.”

I lit a new cigarette from the cherry of my first one. 

“What can you do?” I said.

“I’m thinking of moving to Nebraska. My brother’s a welder there, he says he can teach me the trade. But I don’t know. Fucking Nebraska.”


“How was your Christmas?” he said. “I got a fifty-dollar gift card to Texas Roadhouse. Went and spent the whole thing on one meal. I didn’t even take the old lady. Big ass porterhouse, the works. Cute waitress too.”

“Mine sucked. Got in a fight with the missus.”



“Fucking women.”

“They’re never happy.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess I better get pickin. This place ain’t gonna clean itself.”

“Ok. I gotta go back to Home Depot for some more paint. Fucking idiot gave me the wrong color.”

He got in his truck and backed out. Beep beep!

A conversation like that always made me feel better. It’s the little things. Like seeing the cute girl from Supertarget come out and eat a banana on her break around 8:30. She always stood there in the sun, so young, so beautiful. She reminded me of my wife when I first met her. She smiled at me once and said good morning. But only that one time. After that, she wouldn’t look at me. I was old but when I saw her I felt young again. She had sad lonely eyes. 

Supertarget was so big I had to do it in quadrants, moving the truck around. I started in the southwest corner, one step at a time. Around each corner was another mess. I always had that little hope in my mind that I would turn a corner and see it clean and pristine, but it never happened that way. I carried the garbage bags to the dumpster, leaking out like my soul on the pavement, like the blood from Seneca’s wrists when they made him kill himself. Mostly I looked down, that was the nature of the job. But sometimes I looked up and saw the snow on Mt. Lemmon. It was like a picture, a beautiful picture of a beautiful place. But I saw on the news that the recent influx of visitors up there was creating a garbage problem. People were throwing their trash all over the perfect snowy landscape: broken sleds, drink cups, plastic bags, Styrofoam food containers. People ruin everything. 

I told myself: there is a place in your mind where you can retreat and set things right, where you can be happy and nobody and nothing can touch you. This is the only thing that is yours alone, your true connection to the universe, to the infinite. What fortune does not give, fortune cannot take away. I told myself: maybe my wife will bring a hamburger home for me from McDonald’s. It was always nice to get home and see that brown sack sitting on the counter, with a little happy face on it. It almost made me feel like a kid again.

Then I walked around the corner to the next mess. A homeless person had crapped against the wall and someone had written “GOD HATES US ALL” on the sidewalk with cheese whiz. 

Brenton Booth

How to Get Published in The New York Quarterly

I sent my first submission to The New York Quarterly when I was 25. At the time I was living in a tiny studio apartment in the red-light district. The kitchen cupboards were missing doors, carpet old, smelled like failure and death, walls full of grease and ageing paint trying its best to stay vertical. The good thing was it was cheap. I didn’t have to work much to afford it. And better than that, there was a large bright red mailbox right in front of the building. I sent submissions to everyone from that mailbox, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Sun, Black Warrior Review, and The New York Quarterly. I dreamed of getting in all of them, but really wanted to get in The New York Quarterly. I’d seen a documentary where the original editor spoke about another writer I greatly admired’ work and was quite impressed. Back then everything was printed out and posted the old-fashioned way. Each submission cost me $5.30 once I paid for the paper, printing, envelopes, postage, and return international postage. At that time, I wasn’t earning much. It was really an assault on the budget. Though I think the best moments of my life then was the hope I had pushing each fresh envelope into the indifferent mouth of that mailbox. I always did it slowly. Imagining every submission would be successful no matter how many times I had already been rejected.  And the amazing feeling I would get when that acceptance letter finally arrived. I was single then. Hadn’t been with a woman for a long time. Living on boiled rice and tap water to keep the costs down. One day I went to a cage fighting gym. After the class the instructor took me aside. Asked if I was interested in having a fight. I told him I couldn’t. I was a writer. “You make money from writing?” he said. “No, I haven’t been published yet.” “I think you will make money from fighting,” he said. I told him I couldn’t. Writing meant too much to me. And I was sure I would get published sometime real soon. I was wrong about getting published soon. None of those magazines ever gave me anything but rejections. I almost quit writing completely 8 years later until a workmate the same age as me that was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness told me not to give up. I started writing and submitting again. Though this time I didn’t imagine getting published. I knew I wouldn’t. I’d made peace with that. The important thing, I realised, was to write what you believed, the rest didn’t matter so much. Years passed like this. I saw more and more fighters having great success. Struck by the reality I was too old to change my decision. More years passed. I had a 60 hour week at work. Was on the final day. Beaten, broken, wanting to call up sick. Barely slept the whole night. Got out of bed at 2AM–an hour and ten minutes earlier than I needed to. Checked the mail on my phone to pass some time. I noticed a response from The New York Quarterly. I was so experienced with them–eighteen years worth of schooling. I began reading the familiar form-response. After the first line I realised this was something else. This was the acceptance I had been waiting for all those years! I turned on every light. Got ready for work with the biggest smile. Ready for anything anyone could throw at me. 

Gene Goldfarb

A Guy’s Guide to Manhood 

Try a nice hot shower before you meet her. If you’re not a youngster any more, it will insure your balls rise to the penthouse and you don’t end up kneeing yourself in the jewels.

Don’t use too much perfumy stuff. She wants the thrill of being with an animal, not a flower, 

even though she wants the security of being in bed with a hedge fund trader.

Don’t use too much filthy language. Even a trumpet concerto tires the ear before long.

Wear neat and clean clothes. A woman wants to see that, it means he respects himself and her.

I remember a woman who was turned on by a man who’d wear shiny brown shoes. You figure it out.

Don’t talk too much (a sin I’m guilty of, but I could go on).

If your name is Lauren, Evelyn, or Ambrosia, try to change it to Ross or John (or Johnnie if you want to sound like a bad boy—I couldn’t tell you how many Johnnie’s were love’ em and leave’ em lady killer heroes there were in film noir).

If you have a beard, make sure she likes being tickled where she likes. She doesn’t want to be tickled by a Brillo pad when she’s kissing you.

Don’t cry at the movies. And don’t try to tell me you never do. I knew a steamfitter once who cried his eyes out at Old Yeller. The only way to hide it is work as a chef with lots of onions to slice.

Listen to her. And punctuate her blather with, “Really?” but as if you’re impressed and not just wondering about how she could sit through a football game.

When you’re out with her, spend money carefully, but don’t look like a miser. Women hate misers. On the other hand you’ve got to limit the financial damage. It’s a tough tightrope to walk.

Try a restaurant that flies a variety of flags. This way you can both eat cuisine that you enjoy, or at least tolerate. And order food that fits in your mouth, don’t slobber.

Keep a dog or nothing. If you keep some other animal, even a cat, she’s likely to think you’re weird or hung up on your mother, even if your date’s a cat lover. In sum weirdness is the kiss of death with women.

Keep your place neat and clean. But not too much so. You don’t want her to feel you might be some kind of an ax murderer.

Try to appear decisive and confident. Of course you may be a total idiot, but women love lions.

If you find a very smart gal she may keep you safe, but at the cost of your freedom. So, figure out who you are (you may never figure out who she is) and understand it’s a big, complicated trade-off, one that you may look back many years later and realize what the cost and what the benefits were.

And a final piece of advice: Realize a man is an animal and a woman is something else, zoologically speaking. A woman seeks to control a man and will try to arrange or throw out 

things he’s become fond of and attached to, no matter how old and disgusting the she may regard them. You can defend your territory with a short stern demand: “Leave my stuff alone!” A man would never dream of doing anything with a woman’s property, except maybe toying with her light frilly things. Like I said, a man’s an animal. Anyway, no harm done. A woman’s reaction would likely be: “What is he doing? What a perv!”

In the end, all this stuff is guesswork. If these points were guaranteed, I would not have to tell you that the reason you’re a lonely shmo is that you didn’t have the big antlers that attract the female of the species. 

Timothy Arliss OBrien

Kink Demons

Kink: An unconventional sexual taste or behavior



Anything alternative? Is that how we are defining this now?

I guess my most first unconventional taste is my love for polyamory. Who doesn’t love a messy threesome? A ménage à trois, or “household of three” if you can’t translate French.

It’s just so boring with two, and who wants company when you can have a crowd! Although I do enjoy my space when sleeping, best if you let the special guest sleep on the couch or a spare bedroom after desserts.

But why stop at three? Why not five, or seven?

At what point is it considered an orgy? And why are evens not as much fun as odds? Maybe I just enjoy betting against the house.

The most I’ve entertained was a seven-some. A sexual heptagon?

It was a thrilling drunken night when my husband and I ran into another composer friend of ours, and trust me, trouble is to be had anytime you get multiple composers together. When we had grown weary of taking turns gloating of all the recent music premieres the three of us had been busy with, we wanted to see others swinging their dicks around, so off to the strip club we went.

Since our acquaintance was only in town for a few nights our little crowd kept growing with more friends wanting to catch up with him. By last call when the strippers were packing up their jockstraps, throwing on sweats, and counting their dollar bills in taxis on their way home we were hardly done. So we embarked on the continuation of our adventure in our own taxi into the night, and off to a bathhouse.

It was a sleepy Tuesday night and there were only two other patrons lurking in the shadows that night, and those elder gays had no clue what they were in store for.

We swapped, and topped, and sweated in the hot tub.

We fucked and sucked and moaned in the sauna.

And by the end of the night we left with great memories, new friends, and the least regrettable case of gonorrhea I’ve ever had.  

But group sex really isn’t the only kink I’ve entertained.

I guess I could be a cuck cuz I love watching my husband get fucked, but it’s mostly because I dream of those sloppy seconds.

And for some reason I’m always thirsty for a golden shower, and even better if I have a friend who wants to take turns under the faucet and not just be the shower head.

One time I was getting frisky with a gentleman and he asked if I had any experience with sounding, and he proceeded to show me how he could fit a whole steel rod in his urethra and even my whole pinky finger. Which ended up with my hand deep in his back side, half way up to my elbow, and realizing I am super into making someone get off that way.

There was one guy for a while offering to pay me to take a huge fresh hot shit on his chest and proceed to watch him eat it and lick me clean, but $250 seemed too little and I couldn’t talk him up to $500 so nothing materialized there.

But I would have done it for the right price.

The only hard limits I’ve found myself shy away from were the time a guy begged for me to puke in his mouth, a different time when someone wanted me to inject saline into his balls and give him a reverse Prince Albert piercing, and the time a guy from Redding offered to drive up to Portland so I could lock him in a cage in my house and after torturing him for a week castrate him.

I’m too squeamish to be around blood, and I’ve never found any pain pleasurable and am too much of an empath to inflict pain on someone else.

I guess kinks are just like appetites, sometimes we want to try a new dish at a Thai restaurant we have never been to before, and other times we want something fast and reliable like a quick drive to a fast food place down the road.

But whether your appetite for kink enjoys it extra spicy, mild or savory, or you want a three course meal with extra desserts, or just some easy home cooked goodness for a simple night in, there’s someone out there into it too who won’t judge you but say: “hell yes, I’m on my way over.”

Just make sure to communicate your kinks, and always use consent, especially if your kink is consensual non-consent.

Who knows, opening up a little kink conversation with a partner might introduce you to something you never knew you wanted to try.

There’s no shame in a little kink, and at the end of the day we all wanna just get off. 

Tristan Cook

If You’re Not Going to Suck My Dick, at Least Come Cuddle Me

I had the strangest sexual experience of my life on January 3rd, 2021. Almost two months after my boyfriend broke up with me and I began living in the basement of a house with a thirty-five-year-old man named Brandon.

The basement is cold. I often spend my nights huddled up to my shivering dog. His short, brown coat stabs into my chapped lips. Brandon is warm, warm, warm. Our energies combine on the living room couch over wine and 90’s anime. “Hey, Tristan, have you ever seen Akira?” he’s asked with a goofy grin. 

I spent the late evening eating a Country Chicken Hungry Man and drinking Blue Moons on our ripped-up couch. A single beer in and I was already perusing the gay sex app Grindr, just as I had done every night prior. My phone’s battery sat at a steady five percent. A flea bit at my elbow. A minute or so after opening the app, I got a message from an account with the username ‘2 DTF.’

This wasn’t their first time messaging me; we meant to meet up a week prior, but the plans never came to fruition. 

2 DTF: Yo

2 DTF: How u b

Me: I’m chillin B^)

2 DTF: Wanna fuck ? 3 sum

2 DTF: Smoke a fatty

Me: ha sounds fun

Me: rn?

2 DTF: Yes

Me: Okkie

Me: whats the addy?

He gave me the address for a suburban style house about fifteen minutes away. I pawned my dog off on Brandon and hopped in my car. Sweat dampened my shirt and my jaw clenched tight. I loved the thrill of Grindr. The mystery, the danger, the gay underbelly! The repressed homoerotic-feeling ‘straight’ boys, the hit-it-and-quit-it gay boys, the married men, the older men, the tranny chasers. The men who tell me I’m cute, the men who ask if I have a penis or vagina. The boy who came in less than a minute, the boy who couldn’t get it up, the boy who told me I was perfect cause he’s never been with a dude and I’m a great place to start. The boy that wants to date me, the man that wants to pay me six hundred dollars to let him fuck me. The boy that broke my heart.

I followed the twists and turns of the road, occasionally catching glimpses of the waning moon. Was she shielding me from her disapproving eye? Was she too disgusted to tell me I’m a no-good dirty whore who is desperately trying to fill the void of lost love? Is that true?

I pulled into their driveway with a sense of unease. What if this wasn’t their house? 

Me: Hey, I think I’m here!

Me: it’s a white house, right?

Minutes passed and I didn’t get a reply. I played out the possibility that I was at the wrong house. I would go up, knock on the unassuming stranger’s door at midnight, and say something along the lines of “gay sex?” at their bewildered expression. I decided that it was worth the risk. 

I approached the house with my hands in my jacket pockets. There was a white picket fence that enclosed the front yard to the left of the paved driveway. The entirety of the front porch was screened in. There were cushioned patio chairs, a small, round table, and potted plants. I thought it was odd how adult the house looked. I assumed that the couple who messaged me were both around my age.

My cold, bruised knuckles wrapped on the front door. A blonde boy with a stubbly face answered. He was an inch or two shorter than me and wearing a black hoodie and black jeans. His name was Brendon. We said hello and he invited me in as a small brown dog shaved like a lion waddled into the living room. 

“Holy shit! I love your dog,” I said. 

“Oh yeah, he’s great.” 

We cooed over him for a moment when a husky man who appeared to be in his early forties entered the room. He had reddish hair, a clean face, and broad shoulders over a soft, round body. Maybe I should’ve asked why they didn’t tell me one of them was significantly older. Maybe I should’ve walked out the door. I didn’t consider it.

“Hi,” I said with a little wave. We formally introduced ourselves; the older man’s name was Steve. I was curious what sex would be like with him, though I wasn’t attracted to him. He was weird, but in a way that intrigued me. He was like a friend’s dad who wasn’t entirely sure how to talk to his son’s friends. I thought he would ask me if I played sports at any moment.

They led me down a long hallway until we entered their bedroom. I never asked, but I assumed they lived together. There was a king-sized bed, dresser, three bongs, and a massive T.V. mounted to the wall. The T.V. was playing gay porn, which startled me into saying oop out loud. Steve offered me one of the bongs. 

“You smoke, right?” He seemed gentle, and I felt a bit ashamed of judging his physical appearance. 

“Every day of my life,” I said while grabbing the bong. The clear glass was tainted with resin. I didn’t look him in the eyes, instead I kept my focus on the floor. I was too sober for the bizarreness of my situation, so I  ripped the bong three times.

They both clambered into bed, leaving a space for me to climb in the middle. I did. Steve rested his hand on my right thigh while Brendon rubbed my left one. Brendon kissed me gently. He began to alternate between sweetness and passion. He would take a moment to look me in the eyes and brush his thumb across my cheek, then kiss me so fiercely I could barely keep up. I eased into it. Steve tightened his grip on my thigh and uttered “fuck yeah’s” between each breath. 

Brendon switched back to gentle kisses, and I took an opportunity to kiss him on the nose. “Do you like poppers?” he asked.

“I’ve never tried them. What’re they like?”

“Bro, they’re incredible.” He reached over to the bedside table and pulled an small bottle out of the drawer. “They’re strong, so just take small sniffs.” He placed the bottle under his right nostril and sniffed three times. When he was done, I took a deep, steady sniff through both of my nostrils. 

“How do you feel?”

“Oh, is it immediate?” As soon as I said that, I felt each beat of my racing heart. 


Babum, babum!

Babum, babum, 


My head fell limp against the headboard behind me. My arms became cement. Steve and Brendon started to undress. A man was getting pounded in the ass while sucking another dude’s dick on the T.V.

“You should take your clothes off.” Brendon said. I tumbled to the other side of the bed to face them while I took off my sweater. “Shit, cool tattoo,” he nodded at the twelve-faced monk on my stomach. “What does it mean?”

“It came to me in an acid trip. I was sitting on the living room floor of the first apartment I lived in when I moved to Asheville. It was spring. The sky was freckled with small, white clouds. I was the only one home. The balcony door was open, allowing a swift breeze to occasionally pass through. The neighbors that lived up and to the left of my unit were sitting on their balcony playing a cello, saxophone, and drum. Squirrels skittered about and birds chirped to the music. It came to me gradually. Inspired by angels and the guides of the afterlife. We are all different faces of the same universe.”

“That’s cool.” Brendon finished getting undressed next to a naked Steve. I took off my pants, catching a glimpse of Steve’s small, half-flaccid penis. It felt like a taboo to look.

Sweat, smoke, silky, lavender, lube. 

White walls and wooden furniture. 

Watering eyes, twitching dicks, and 

heart palpitations.

It ended with my legs trembling and head lying on Brendon’s chest while Steve blew him. I kept my eyes closed or focused on the T.V. There was a moment when my curiosity got the best of me and I looked. Steve locked his eyes onto mine and I darted them away. I felt as if he had held me by the ankles and shook an avalanche of stolen candy bars out of my pockets. In this split-second moment he had truly witnessed me. And I had witnessed him! His slow bobbing motions. His bold stare. There was nowhere to hide. Several minutes passed before Steve stopped to rest his head on Brendon’s thigh. 

“Alright Steve, if you’re not going to suck my dick, at least come cuddle me.”

Bruce Mundhenke


Gail had stopped by in the evening, as he sometimes did. We sat in my back yard, drinking a beer and sharing a joint. Gail and I were both Vietnam veterans. Gail was a medic in a combat unit. We never talked about Vietnam. The whole thing was his idea. He was telling me about a three day rock festival that was to take place in Sedalia, Missouri at the state fairgrounds there. They were billing it as the Ozark Music Festival. There were supposed to be a lot of good bands there, including the Eagles, Bachman Turner Overdrive, America, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, and many more.

We agreed that we should check it out. Each of us talked to a few other people who wanted to go. Gail rented a Winnebego. We set out for Sedalia on Friday, planning to come home Sunday afternoon. On board the Winnebago were Gail, my wife and I, my friend Dave and his wife, my brother Randy and his wife, his friend Mike and his wife, and Kim and Terri, single girls a little younger than the rest of us.

We had tickets, but when we got to Sedalia, we had to wait in a very long line of vehicles, before we could get into the fairgrounds. When we got in,  we drove through “neighborhoods” of campers until we chose a spot among many types of camping and recreational vehicles.

After we parked, some of us climbed up onto the top of the Winnebego to smoke some pot and drink some beer. From the top of the Winnebego, we looked out on a sea of people, tents, and camping vehicles of all kinds for as far as we could see. Some guy with a bullhorn was hollering, “I need about 15 dozen whores over here and I need them right now.”  We were cracking up, because there were girls heading toward him from all directions. Looking out across the distance, you could see green sticks everywhere in the night. These were glow sticks. I had never seen them before and I called them green phosphorescent dildos.

Then we watched as a small car approached, weaving through the neighborhood. People were cursing at the driver loudly. When he drove by our Winnebego, we heard a kind of crunching, or snapping sound. We lost it because Mike and his wife Dawn had laid down to sleep for the night under the Winnebego.

Thank God, the asshole, who drove by and then disappeared into the crowded campground,  had run over Mike’s leg, not his head. The security carts had not all been taken over by the crowd yet that evening. We flagged one of them down and they arranged to get Mike to the hospital, where they set his broken leg.

The rest of us made our way to the area where the stage was to listen to Wolfman Jack trying to talk a guy who had climbed one of the towers into coming down. He finally did. Then the Eagles took the stage to play Take it Easy. There were a lot of fireworks.

The next day, my longtime friend Dave and I decided to go and find out what the place was all about. Dave was also a Vietnam veteran. We walked down to the grandstands. On the way we saw various vendors selling many different kinds of drugs. Some were on foot. Others were set up like concession stands, selling their wares out of camping vehicles. Many of these had lines of people waiting to purchase their drug of choice. We bought some LSD from a vendor on foot. There were many vendors like this, male and female, moving among the crowd, hawking their wares.

It was very hot. Each day we were there, the temperature was above 100 degrees. We sat in the grandstand bleachers, people watching for a while. Guys were standing on their motorcycles and riding them on the track the length of the bleachers. Finally, a guy crashed his bike. We never knew how bad he was hurt. An ambulance took him away.

We didn’t think we were getting off on the acid, so we bought a couple more tabs and did them. Both of us started laughing . A few minutes after we swallowed the second tabs, we started getting off on the first ones. We went down to the area near the stage. There was a lot of good music. Everywhere there were nice looking girls, some topless, some in bikinis, some in their underwear, most of them high. We never saw any fighting or violence that day, or during the whole festival.

On our way back to the Winnebego, we were walking along and I stopped at a lemonade stand and ordered a lemonade. I was pretty high. A shirtless guy at the stand said to his buddy, “Another stupid fucker.” Then he sprayed me in the face with a garden hose. All the food and drink stands had been taken over by the crowd the first day…

When we got back to the Winnebago, there was drama. It seems like Don, a pioneer of psychedelic drug use in our town, along with a couple of girls, had visited our group. Then he stopped back by later and said,  “I’m getting vibes that someone here is tripping.” And my wife was… Gail told me he thought Don had “tabbed” her. He never did come back again. She was not having a good experience. She didn’t much care for smoking pot. She wasn’t liking acid at all…  I comforted her and reassured her much as I could until she finally came down.

The next day, I started to use bathroom in the Winnebego, but it was occupied. I walked over to a restroom nearby to sit on the throne. I didn’t have any reading material, but there was a movie. While I sat there taking a dump, I watched girls showering. It was supposed to be the men’s room. On the way back to our group, I saw naked people wallowing on the ground near a fire hydrant they had opened. Water was gushing everywhere. I also talked with a guy who told me that on the edge of the “city,” people were having a hog roast with some pigs they had stolen from a farmer.

When we were ready to go home, there was no sign of Kim or Terri. They hadn’t been around since the day we got there. We spent a lot of time looking all over the fairgrounds for them. Most people had left by that time, but a lot of people were still milling around. As I was walking along on the track, a naked man, wearing only sandals and stoned out of his mind, walked past me mumbling, “Old Testament, man,” over and over, as National Guard helicopters flew low overhead.

Several days after we got home from the festival, we learned that Kim and Terri had been stabbed and cut many times and left for dead up near Chicago, Illinois. No one was ever prosecuted for that vicious attack.

Sometimes these days, when I think about the Ozark Music Festival, I have many wild and crazy memories. One thing I learned there is that anarchy is not a good choice for a way to live. By some estimates there were 160,000 people there. By others, 350,000. I didn’t count them. I’m glad I experienced it, but like a few other things on this journey, I wouldn’t want to do it again.

Mather Schneider

Hermosillo Fire

Saturday, Saturday, pretty Saturday. The melon-man drives by in his little truck selling cantaloupe and watermelon. Yesterday was Black Friday. People trampled themselves bloody in hideous stampedes for discounted luxury items like mile-wide TVs, video games, flavored underwear, microwaves, who knows what else. I barely got out of bed all day. 

Before Natalie got deported, we used to get up at 3:30 a.m. Natalia worked the breakfast shift at McDonald’s and I drove a cab. For 15 years we did that. We hated it, and dreamed of escaping it. Then the decision was made for us. Now we live in this tiny house in Hermosillo with Natalia’s parents. We make do. We try to look at the bright side. 

On Thursday night a vagabond lit a fire in the dump behind the house here on Avenida Economia. The houses stretch for a few blocks in a straight line, all flat-topped with cement roofs, separated by a 3-foot gap, so that an agile child can run the length, leaping like a steeplechase over the empty spaces. 

I was good and snozzled when we all saw and smelled the smoke. It was no joke, really barreling up like a locomotive. I climbed up the old home-made ladder to the roof of the house to do some surveillance. A cement block wall separates the houses from the dump. The blaze was rising like crazy in the dark night. Holy shit! A million mercurochrome tentacles. The unspeakable crackling, like glass hibiscus flowers crunched between the yellow teeth of Godzilla. Too much dry grass and garbage back there. 

“Hand me the hose!” 

I stood up there on the roof and used my thumb to arch the hose water, what little pressure came out of it, over the cement block wall into the flames. It helped, I warded it off our little area at least. Soon others were up on their roofs doing the same, or just using buckets. The children were having a hoot, running, screaming, laughing. Everyone else was flooding the street, watching the show. Hell approaching, let’s party! The heat and red light on our faces up there on the roof: booga booga! Good thing Natalia paid the water bill.

I stood with that hose water arching out and it was like pissing in a dream and you just piss and piss and piss. Existence, yes? It took me back to the fires of my youth. All the weenies roasted, all the ants killed with magnifying glasses on summer Illinois days in the ditch-weed. My grandfather’s bonfires in the back 40, throwing an old tire on there to really get it going, that furious black tunnel of smoke crawling up into the sky, so thick it seemed you could climb it like Jack and the Beanstalk. Fires on the banks of the Illinois river among the dead fish and the oily water and the train tracks where the trains came with their howling wind and madness. 

The fire seemed to come under some control there behind that cement wall in the Hermosillo dump. Whew! Hey, somebody toss me a beer! I stood up there and drank a beer and a neighbor kid launched himself over the gap from the next house and stood next to me, his brown face glowing.

“And you? What do you want, chamaco?” I said.

“Are you from the other side?”

“What gave it away?”

“Is it true what they say?”

“What do they say?”

“That life is better on the other side?”

“No, that’s not true.”

“But people have money there.”

“Some do, yes.”

“Do you have a computer?”

“No. I have a notebook.”

“I don’t have a computer either. Do you have a cell phone?

“Yes I have a cell phone.”

“I don’t. You wouldn’t have an old one you don’t want anymore?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t. Who you gonna call, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Somebody.”

“Does your father know where you’re at?”


“What’s your father do?”

“He’s a bricklayer.”

“That’s a noble profession. He sounds like a good man.”


I gave him a 20 peso note and he shot off like a spark over the rooftops. Other children watched me from the dark, little raccoon eyes. The crowd on the street was giddy and we were all almost sad to see that the fire had given up. It never did leap the cement block wall. I climbed down from the roof and finished my beer at my little table with the spiders. Natalia and everyone filtered back into the houses. 

An hour later the fire truck came. The firemen stood around the truck looking at the remnants of the coals for a while, then they left. I sat in the dark. I wondered how we were going to make it, living in Hermosillo with our money running out. I reached my hand into the beer cooler but there was nothing but dirty melted ice.

Nicole Morning

A Catalog of Dudes I Boned

I wrote a zine about online dating and I like to share it with people I’m trying to date, even though it gives me intense anxiety to do so. It’s an accurate (though fictionalized) portrait of my troubled relationship with sex and men and life, and it’s full of things I want potential partners to know about me. Such as: I’m a great fucking writer; I write about extremely intimate topics; I prefer ethical non-monogamy; I’m a slut; I don’t think slut is a bad word.

The problem is, sometimes I ​feel​ like slut is a bad word. My defiant reclamation of the title is still in process. When I got called a slut in high school, it was most definitely a bad word, used both to hurt and classify me. When other people hear me use the word to describe myself, some of them are shocked and appalled. Using the word as a shameless celebration of myself, applying the term on my own terms, is an ongoing fight.

Last summer I met this dude on social media, (we’ll call him Brad) and we started interacting a lot, and we both felt a pretty magical spark of connection. This was during early lockdown, when everyone was reeling from sudden intense isolation. We were chatting and video chatting a bunch. He’d never had such an experience with someone he met online, and he felt weird about it. I decided to make it more weird by sending him the zine. I warned him in advance of the salient & sordid features, and I said I would understand if he didn’t want to read it.

About seven minutes later, Brad texted back the following:

Oh God, this is just a catalog of dudes you boned.

Now. The zine is like 40-some pages long, so I knew he didn’t have time to read the whole thing. There’s definitely sex in it. The protagonist definitely bones a lot of dudes in it. The zine opens with a cast list of characters, many of whom get boned in the course of the zine. Do you like the way I’m repeating the verb? The stupid ridiculous high school verb? Brad is forty years old, and now I know I’ll never bone him.

The thing is, above all else, my zine is about the search for beauty and tenderness and connection. I’m generally not into fucking people for the sake of fucking. I’m sexually adventurous and I’m an inherently, unequivocally sexual being. I love sex. I love humans. I love connection. Sex in its best form, in my opinion, is beautiful human connection, even when it’s casual, often, or kinky. This is, I think, the obvious and overarching thrust of my zine.

So I texted Brad back, ​no, it’s not.​

And he replied, ​how many?

And I said, I​ don’t know​ and

What difference does it make?

And he replied, ​how many​ and

Just estimate.​

He kept pressing for a number, and the more he did, the more I squirmed internally. Shame, shame, shame.

I have no idea how many. I don’t keep count. I don’t, in fact, own a catalog of all the dudes I’ve boned.

All my favorite people like the zine, and my number one favorite lover ​loves​ the zine. His pet name for me is a (secret) phrase that includes the word ​slut,​ and he uses it with infinite affection and admiration and I love it. There’s nothing insulting about the way he uses it.

There’s also nothing wrong with people who don’t fancy sluts. Everyone has the right to choose how and with whom they engage. Everyone has the right to determine their own relationship with and opinion about their own sexual behavior. Their own.

The truly fucked up thing about Brad insisting on a number is that I could tell there was a number that would’ve been acceptable to him. In the course of the conversation, that became increasingly clear. If I had fucked under a certain number of people, I would’ve been in a morally acceptable range for him. He didn’t know the actual number, the cutoff point, but he had a general idea of how many was too many. A vague idea in his self about what was a lot and what was a slut.

Well, Brad. I don’t need to know the number to know I’m a slut. I don’t need your morals to tell me whether or not I’m acceptable to myself.

I boned a dozen dudes. A hundred. A thousand. I boned a billion dudes and I loved every minute of it.

There’s no catalog but the one kept in all the corners of my heart, all the contours of my life. Anyone who cares to know me may read it any time, just by looking in my eyes.

Wayne F. Burke


Sam No Shirt talks on and on while cupping the telephone receiver to his ear and taking swigs off a brown quart bottle of beer. A black stripper comes in at ten; she bends over the desk to sign in. I look down the front of her dress and she smiles at me. She looks a little like Haley Mills, the actress…Then a taxi cab driver; then a guy who works as a proofreader; then some punk rockers who use the hotel studio; then the drunk, walking as if pushed from behind, and crashing through the door to the elevator; then a dope dealer dressed all in black like Johnny Cash; who even looks like Johnny Cash–a Johnny Cash who has spent time in a concentration camp. Then the girl who brings guys up to her room comes down and demands I move the drunk, who has, she says, passed out in the hall by her door. I get up from the desk and walk to the elevator,a big stack of keys jingling at my waist. I get off at the 4th floor. The drunk is face-down, his dress shirt and red face soaked from the bucket of water the girl who brings guys to her room at any time day or night doused him with. The drunk’s key is in his door. I drag the drunk into his room and throw the key in after. The girl who brings many guys up to her room not to play checkers, and whose face is painted like several kinds of flowers, slams shut her door.