Willie Smith

Moneyshot Lapse 

Abigail tosses her head, 
cornsilk hair pale and flowing as buttermilk 
poured from a pail. She, about to go down, 
flashes the camera one last smile, 
assuring the acetate she is, 
for this, up and more than up. 
She knows the look the suckers crave: 
Enthusiasm in the face of depravity, 
eager, with the angriest of pricks, 
to cram her buccal cavity. 
Throws half a heart into the work, 
through her mind her own movie playing 
of re-arranging in her flat the furniture: 
Slide the couch over to the window; 
haul from the hall closet the throw-rug; 
redo the kitchen orange…?
“Hey, Gail!” the director squawks. 
“You’re losing us – keep the eyes open!” 
And so Abigail sprays her heart with gilt, 
sheathing the dagger, suppressing a gag – 
baby-blues on the lens glued – to the hilt, 
performing single-mindedly the job. 

David J. Thompson

Graceland

Holy shit. Jesus came back.
Yeah, no kidding. He showed up
at Graceland in Memphis.
People started gathering around him
outside the gift shop as he waited
for his tour to begin. God gave me
some time off, Jesus told everyone,
so I came here as fast as I could.
I’ve been an Elvis fan forever –
skinny Elvis, fat Elvis, every kind
of Elvis. Nobody can sing like Elvis –
rock n’ roll, country, gospel . . .
Goddamnit, he was the real King.
That got a round of applause 
from the growing crowd,
but Jesus, always comfortable
talking in public, wasn’t done.
And his movies, he went on,
aren’t they great? I mean, seriously,
all that coded gay stuff in Jailhouse Rock,
the corny songs and dance routines,
and the sixties chicks like Ann-Margret 
and Shelley Fabares. That shit’s awesome.
We watch those all the time up in heaven,
even the crappy ones like Kissin’ Cousins
and Harum Scarum. Jesus stopped then 
for a second to exchange high fives 
with some of those pushing up close to him. 
And the clothes, he continued, if I had worn 
a cool jump suit like Elvis in Las Vegas,
those asshole Roman soldiers who nailed me 
to the cross would have really gambled 
for my clothes. Everybody cracked up at that, 
then Jesus excused himself, hurried over 
to get in line with a bunch of Korean tourists 
for the van ride across the street to the mansion.
The last thing people saw through the window
was Jesus waving goodbye and adjusting his headphones, 
for once now just another humble pilgrim headed for a holy site.

Otto Burnwell

The Camel’s Dick

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with her taking a casserole over to her ex-husband’s place. He’s laid up with a bad back, she said, and had to take time off from work.

Instead, you asked why he didn’t have his new wife do it.

His girlfriend, and he says she’s not very good. It’s just a casserole, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

We’ve got plenty.

Wouldn’t hurt him to miss a few meals.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with her running a load of laundry for her ex-husband. He’s finally back on his feet, she said, and needs something clean to wear for work.

Instead, you asked if his girlfriend is lousy at laundry, too.

She left him. It’s just a load of laundry, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

There’s always plenty of room in the washer.

Wouldn’t hurt him to spend an hour at the laundromat doing his own laundry.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You don’t remind her that she’s the one who told you her ex- was an asshole and a parasite. She’s not stupid. She dumped him for a reason. But she is kind-hearted. That seems to trump everything now that he turned himself into a charity case.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with letting her ex-husband use the home number for messages. They turned off his phone, she said, and he needs a number to give out while he’s looking for a job.

Instead, you ask what happened to the job he has.

They let him go and cancelled his insurance. It’s just for messages, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

We hardly ever use it anyway.

There’s a payphone at the Cash and Go that still takes incoming calls.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with letting her ex-husband sleep in the back room. He needs a place for a little while, she said, to keep his stuff and get cleaned up so he’s presentable if he gets an interview.

Instead, you asked why one of his neighbors at the trailer park can’t put him up.

They went in together and took out a restraining order on him. You’re gone all day, she said, so you’ll never see him.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

He’ll keep to himself so you won’t even know he’s there.

I’ll loan him a sleeping bag and he can sleep in his car.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You do care what people think. Even though you resent how it makes you the bad guy if you object to your wife’s empathy toward guys who trade on their self-inflicted wounds for sympathy.

That’s why you didn’t say no when your wife asked you to make up a cot for yourself in the garden shed over the next few days. It’s the way you treat him, she says, makes him so depressed he can’t get out of bed to go look for work.

Instead, you asked how that was possible since he never saw you.

It’s just for a couple of days, she said, while the weather’s still nice.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

A little kindness won’t kill you.

He can sleep in the garden shed.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You trust her good heart and keep to yourself when you’re not at work, and only run into the house to grab a beer.

So, it surprises you how not surprised you are when you come in to find them both naked in the kitchen, him boning your wife as she’s folded across the dining table.

Her butt cheeks ripple with each blow of his pelvis against her tailbone, scooting the table across the linoleum. He stutter-steps to keep up with the drifting table. A boner ballet of step thrust-thruststep thrust-thruststep thrust-thrust, your wife’s arms spread wide, holding on, toe-walking as they drive the table across the kitchen floor, until it collides with the refrigerator.

She realizes you’re there and gives out with a yelp, but he’s got one hand planted in the small of her back, and the other hand pinning her head to the table. She’s twisting under his palm, looking back at you, her cheek mashed against the tabletop.

If he heard you come in, he gives no sign, the way he’s got his head thrown back, eyes closed. He’s feeling himself shoot all he’s got into her. There’s no way he’s going to let her up before he’s done.

He slows, taking longer between each thrust, then holds himself against her, making sure to leave it all inside her. He exhales and draws out.

When he does notice you, he gives a nod, says hey, and heads for the bathroom, doing a hop-step kind of dancing, like he’s doing you a favor not dripping on the floor as he edges by you. Your wife strains to reach a dish towel to cover herself before she straightens up off the table, as if you’ve never seen her this way before. Which, when you think about it, you haven’t.

You don’t know what to say when your wife asks if you’re okay with her giving her ex a turn. It’s kind of creepy for him, us having sex when he can hear every little thing.

Instead, you ask why he can’t jack off to porn like everyone else.

Do you want that showing up on our browser history?

You realize it’s lame to bring up the camel’s nose again.

I’ll let him go first because he’s a lot smaller than you, she says.

Why can’t he call a hooker?

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that. 

She puts the dish towel between her legs, scurrying off to join her ex-husband cleaning up in the bathroom.

You pull the dining table away from the refrigerator so you can get your beer.

You might as well take both six packs with you because you’re going to be in the garden shed a long time from the look of things.

The Lady, The Legend: Miss Brittney Freebird

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Giovanni Mangiante

Snob Dogg

I write with the sounds of barking dogs,
screaming babies, and angry, unfulfilled neighbors
fighting in the background.
Occasionally, there will be cats fighting
on the rooftop because life loves to be cliché
like cups of coffee in Paris held by snob hands
who wish they had read
as much as they advertise they have.

I reach half the poem and everything falls quiet,
still, ominous, silent, 
as if a dagger were about to shoot out of the dark
and lodge itself in the back of my head.

From behind me, I hear the sound of my dog
licking its ass, vigorously and unrelenting.

I stop writing and turn
“Goddamn it, will you stop it?!”
and the dog stops.
I turn towards the laptop once again
and the licking resumes even louder.
“GODDAMN IT!”

I bet my dog would love to spend the afternoon
at a Parisian coffee shop, licking its own ass 
for everyone to hear.

Charles Rammelkamp

Urban Legend

“I don’t know,” Del hesitated,
offered a hit of LSD.
Friday after classes,
the weekend looming.
“They say it causes genetic mutations.
Ten years from now, your wife
might give birth to a kid with gills,
an eye growing out of his forehead,
or webbed feet.” Who knew what?

We all counted on having a family
sometime in the future, but,
what about today?
We were in college! Carpe diem!
“It can’t stay in your body
all that time, can it?”

“You’ve heard of flashbacks?
Stuff stays in your spinal fluid, I’ve heard.
Causes chromosomal abnormalities.”

“‘Chromosomal abnormalities!’” Ricky scoffed.
“Sounds like something you read
in one of those news magazine scare stories.
You with us, Del, or not?”

“Sure,” Del agreed reluctantly, after a pause.
He didn’t have a girlfriend.
None of us did.
“Give me a hit.”

Hank Kirton

The Job Interview

I’m nervous at a job interview, desperate to make a good impression. I really need the gig. The office is spare, stark, and cold.  There’s nothing on the walls. His heavy mahogany desk stretches empty before him, a trick meant to intimidate the applicants. It works.  He stands up and shakes my hand with a vigorous double-pump and tells me to “Grab a seat.” He smiles at me with a feral-looking rictus and says, “Welcome to AdvanceTech Technologies.”

“Thank you,” I tell him.

To put me at ease, I think, he says, “Please don’t think of this desk as a chasm or an abyss between us. We’re just two humanoids coexisting on spaceship Earth. Try to keep that perspective in mind. It’s important.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

He is a squat, square man with a light beard. His hairline is receding but he still has more coverage than I do. At the rate of my hair loss, I’ll have an embarrassing comb-over in less than a year. Eventually I will resemble deceased comedian Zero Mostel.

He tells me that the position I’m applying for is not unlike a “flock of birds” and that I don’t need an “ocean of experience.” But I will need rigorous training. “Before you start, you’ll need to dismantle your personality, obliterate your ego and randomize your thought patterns. You’ll be given peyote at orientation to help you along. Have you had experience with peyote?”

I lie and tell him, “Yes.” I don’t feel guilty about lying. It’s a job interview after all. I’ve already poured lies all over my application.

“And where was this?”

“Mexico. I met a Brujo there named Don Miguel. He was my mentor in all things peyote…” Lies, all lies. I maintain a bland face as I lie. It’s one of the few things I’m good at. Maintaining a bland face while I lie.

“Very good,” he says. He lifts my application and peruses it. “I like your poem,” he says. “Influenced by The Autopsy Tree?”

“Yes sir.” Another lie. I’ve never even heard of that poem.

“Please, call me Mike. Mike Trent. Try to relax, I’m not infectious. Would you care for an orange phosphate?”

“No thank you.”

He leans back in his chair, looking at me. Sizing me up.

“We consider ourselves a family here at AdvanceTech.”

“That’s good.”

“So, tell me. Why should our little family adopt you?”

Oh boy, here goes… “Well, I’m a hard worker for one thing. Look at my hands.” I luckily have rough, scarred, calloused hands. A result of my dangerous addiction to physical risk.

“M-hm. Impressive. How do you feel about working third shift? Does that present a problem?”

“No. Actually, I prefer working nights.”

“Not afraid of the dark I take it.”

“Not usually. Not anymore anyway.” Ouch, too much information.

“M-hm. Now, we work like a band of chimpanzees around here. Do you think you’ll be able to fit in?” 

“Absolutely. I like chimps.”

“That’s definitely in your favor.”

“Thank you.”

“At a place like this.”

“Yes.”

“Do you sometimes hear voices?”

I lied again, “Yes, I do. Sometimes.”

“Good. That’s a requirement. Listen to those voices.”

“Oh I do. I do. Absolutely.”

“Are you comfortable with your identity?”

I think for a moment and then confess, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.” I feel a suggestion of sweat down my back.

“I’m not sure I do either. But, you have no problem breaking through to new realms of consciousness? At minimum wage?”

“No, no problem.”

“And can you lift up to fifty pounds?”

“No problem.” I give him what I hope is a confident smile. I’m not sure what fifty pounds feels like.

“Please, just let the interview process sluice through you. Like a school of fish. No need to be tense.”

“Thank you. I’ll try…” Is my smile that nervous? I pull it back a little. My lips feel numb. I’m suddenly aware of my tongue.

“At this point in the interview, I like to show the applicants a short orientation film.” He stands up and I’m surprised by his height. He turns on a television I hadn’t noticed, pushes a button. The film he shows is Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971). He leaves me alone to watch it. I’ve seen it before but it’s no less unnerving. He returns as the film ends.

“That’s the kind of mood we strive for here at AdvanceTech Technologies.”

“I see.”

“So, do you think you’ll fit in here?”

“Absolutely.”

“Your personality seems false to me. Like mere protective camouflage. That may present a problem down the line. Hopefully you’re not concealing a malignant narcissist. Or, god forbid, a sociopath.” 

“Oh, no. Not at all.” I feel something leaden in my chest, pressing my heart. He sees through me, dear god he sees right through me.

“Well, we’ll have to see about administrating an empathy test.” He smiles at me like a thug. Small shark teeth. I swear I can smell masticated meat when he speaks. “I understand,” he says. “This is a job interview after all. I realize you’re just trying to put your best face forward.”

“Yes sir.”

“Trent. Mike Trent.”

“Yes Mike Trent.”

“We will change you.”

“Okay.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“I feel great about it.”

“Then congratulations. You’ve got the job.”

“Thank you.”

“You’ve got the job.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“The job.”

James Babbs

The Treadmill

In the dead of the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed thinking I heard a noise and the first thought that crossed my mind was—the treadmill’s in the basement.  Why the hell was that the first thought that crossed my mind?

I got out of bed and went down to the basement and, of course, there was the goddamn treadmill, sitting there, mocking me with its silence.  It had been several months since the last time I had used the damn thing.  I had been all gung-ho when I first bought the treadmill but my initial enthusiasm for exercising waned after those first few weeks had passed.

I looked at the treadmill.  Something made me reach out and touch it.  I put my hand on the treadmill.  It felt cold.  I gave the treadmill a gentle push as if to say, you can’t intimidate me, you fucker.  I turned off the lights and left the treadmill sitting there in the dark before going back upstairs.  I had trouble falling asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had peanut butter on toast and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and turned on the TV.  There wasn’t really anything good on but I left the TV on anyway.  I had a frozen pizza for supper and watched some more TV before, finally, going to bed.

In the middle of the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed.  Had there been some kind of a noise?  I wasn’t sure what it was but I got out of bed and went down to the basement.  The treadmill was, still, down there but something was different.  The treadmill had moved.  It was only a few inches but the treadmill was definitely not in the same place it had been the night before.

I touched the treadmill.  It didn’t feel as cold as it had felt the night before.  I looked at the treadmill and laughed.  Fuck you, I said and I waved my hand at it before turning off the lights and heading back upstairs.  I went back to bed and lay there for the longest time just listening to the radio before, finally, falling asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had a sausage and egg biscuit and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and read a book for a while.  I had some canned soup for supper and did some more reading before going to bed.

Sometime during the night, suddenly I awakened and sat up in my bed thinking the treadmill’s trying to kill me.  What the fuck?  What kind of crazy thought was that?  I figured I must have been having some kind of weird dream.  I looked at the clock that was next to the bed.  The red numbers on the clock read 3:33 so I stayed in bed and fell back asleep.

In the morning I got up and got ready for work.  I had some powdered doughnuts and coffee for my breakfast.  I went to work and put in my hours and got gas in the car on the way home.  I came home and went down to the basement.  Right away I saw the treadmill had turned a hundred and eighty degrees and was, now, facing in the opposite direction from where it had been before. This was crazy, I thought.  What the hell was going on?

I grabbed the treadmill and struggled with it.  I lifted and pushed and, finally, managed to get it back in its original position.  I was sweating and trying to catch my breath.  I looked at the treadmill just sitting there all innocent.  You piece of shit, I said.  I got on the treadmill and started it up.  The belt moved at a sluggish pace and I walked without any trouble at all.

I began to relax.  I started swinging my arms settling into a good rhythm.  I chuckled and then I laughed.  See, I said.  No big deal. 

There was a strange noise and the treadmill lurched and started going faster.  I had to quicken my pace to keep up.  Shit, I said.  The speed of the treadmill increased even more.  What the hell?  My legs were beginning to hurt.  I had to stop the damn thing.  I had to get off.  I hit the power button but nothing happened.  The treadmill was making loud screeching noises.  Suddenly I lost my footing and went down.

I was thrown off of the treadmill.  My left foot hit the wall with a sickening smack.  I felt a jolt rushing through my entire body.  I was lying on the floor.  I didn’t think I was capable of moving.  The treadmill made some loud cracks and pops and then the motor gave out a low moan before going completely dead.  I thought I smelled smoke but I wasn’t sure.

I managed to roll myself over.  I was on my back looking up at the ceiling.  I saw the bright lights above me.  I smiled and closed my eyes.

David Centorbi

Sure It’s Ok When I Buy The Cascadian Farm Organic Raisin Bran, But When I Bought The Nature’s Path Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, That’s When:

“You’re 54, that cereal is for kids.” 

“But I mix it. So I’m half and half, sweet and bran.”

“It’s just gross.”

“But maybe it’s a metaphor: sometimes you’re peanut butter, creamy and smooth. Sometimes you’re bran, crunchy, and takes time to chew.”

“And sometimes you’re an ass and say stupid things.” 

“You see, that’s what I mean, and…”

“AND I hate the way you smash down your cereal in the bowl, clinking your spoon against the side.”

“I’m introducing the cereal to the oat milk, spreading it around so each piece starts to soften equally.”

And you look at me and shake your head.
Maybe you have words or maybe, really, there is just

surrender. You decide it’s better to leave
the room and turn on the television

and watch The Real Housewives Of Wherever 
bicker. At least none of their husbands

mix cereal, or clink spoons
on the sides of bowls.

HSTQ: Winter 2021

horror, adj. inspiring or creating loathing, aversion, etc.

sleaze, adj. contemptibly low, mean, or disreputable

trash, n. literary or artistic material of poor or inferior quality

Welcome to HSTQ: Winter 2021, the curated collection from Horror, Sleaze and Trash!

Featuring poetry by Robert Beveridge, C.L. Liedekev, Niklas Stephenson, Paul Tanner, Clarice Hare, Brian Rihlmann, Dave Cullern, Tia Mitsinikos, Judge Santiago Burdon, Brian Rosenberger, William Taylor Jr., James Diaz, Jon Bennett, Daniel S. Irwin, Mendes Biondo, John Maurer, Donna Dallas, Alexandre Alphonse, Dan Cuddy, David J. Thompson, and David Estringel.

Kindly PayPal 5 USD to arthur.graham.pub@gmail.com, or get your FREE ebook here!

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