Pat & Mac – Flesheater

Pat & Mac consists of multi instrumentalist Pat Durkin and his Mac computer. Pat produces all of the music completely DIY, with an influence from horror movie and video game soundtracks as well as classic rock, synth pop, and heavy metal.

Pat just dropped a new video and single, Flesheater, from his upcoming album Impost3r Syndrom3. This is the second collaboration Pat has done with Sean Bayles of BaylesDSGN who directed the video and filmed all of the stop motion.

Flesheater is available on all streaming platforms as a single and will be available on Bandcamp in the spring when Impost3r Syndrom3 drops at www.patandmacmusic.bandcamp.com. Fans can also sign up for the mailing list at www.patandmacmusic.com.

Pat & Mac post daily on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, all @patandmacmusic.

Enjoy!

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. 

Donna Dallas

Field of Daisies

When the first stray “borrowed” 
my sterling silver belt buckle
along with my gold diamond pendant 
I knew I was making this sacrifice 
for his happiness and accepted this fate 
knowing full well these precious items
would never return to me

What returned?

Stone cold eyes 
seeking more valuables to pawn 
vicious fists to prove the road to sobriety 
was non-existent 

He was broken to the point of leakage
and I was in love 
with filling his cracks
I’d anoint the ooze 
to stop his bleed
my endless gauzing and soaking
the bleed disguised 
as an uncontrollable spigot 

The battered path to hell is glorious 
when hell is disguised as a sweet two room apartment 
with a petite backyard 
while stray number two lingered in the dark corridor 
waiting to be saved 
by yours truly 

We were homeless by the following spring 
I was prostituting to support our habits
I lovingly accepted this affliction 
because A. I was never taught how to say no 
and/or B. Not enough belief that I truly own
the right of refusal 

Fast forward to my arrest
central booking 
plead of insanity 
I was escorted to B-block at the institution 
and happily underwent rehab
I say happily as a complete lie 
it was death over and over 
I would have preferred to have been hit by an eighteen-wheeler 
over and over

And yet the lessons lay like a field of daisies I refused to enter into

Anytime I felt hurt I would fuck someone 

Later when wandering the streets
I ventured upon the next stray 
who became my loving pimp 
we engaged upon a merry-go-round of bandaging 
plugging 
shooting up and fixing 

Shit…I fixed no one  

I am so broken I’m a cracked piece 
of some bigger thing that is shattered 

So I’m trying to fix this last one 
when I ain’t even found my missing parts

no glue or magical cement gonna work

I’ve accepted this…..
I go to the bathroom 
pull the band-aids out 
of the wrecked and peeling medicine cabinet 
salve his ooze
tell him it’s going to be ok
we will kick this 
again

Brent Bosworth

The Rat King

Phil pulled himself up from the barroom floor after the drunken debacle. He’d caught a sucker punch from a mouth breather who’d claimed Lynyrd Skynyrd was the greatest band of all time. Phil called out from a few stools down, saying Lynyrd Skynyrd sucked dick because, well . . . because they did. The big bastard was on him in seconds. He expected it. Hell, he wanted it. He didn’t call out because of his distaste for the guy’s music, although it was dogshit. He called out to him because there was something about getting beaten close to death, and tasting your own blood, that no other kind of high could ever match.

The bartender slid him a pint of stale Pabst. “That’s the third time this month you’ve got your ass kicked in here,” he said, grinning. The bartender’s name was Rich, which Phil found hilarious. The man looking at him was hardly better off than he was; the only thing to his name was the rat’s nest of a dive they were sitting in, and he slept on a couch in the back. “Only the third?” Phil asked. “Huh. I could’ve sworn it was more than that. Thanks for the help by the way. You’d think the owner would break something like that up rather than record it on their cell phone,” he said. 

“Well if I did that, then I wouldn’t have this awesome video to upload to Bumfights, now would I?”  

Phil looked around at the hole he spent the better part of his life in. The stools and benches were held together with duct tape, and a family of rats nestled together in the corner. “Whatever, fuck off. I’m gonna take a piss and then I’m out of this shithole.”

“See you in the morning, Phil,” Rich called out as he stumbled to the bathroom. Once in the john, he fell onto the wall while dropping his drawers. He’d started going before it was fully out, wetting his pants a little before noticing he was pissing straight blood; side effects of the beating he’d taken, no doubt. The cracked brick walls started spinning, so he finished his business before making his way out of the backdoor. 

The alley behind Rich’s pub was secluded enough. It was just a small area behind the pub and the restaurant next door. The only way back there was a narrow walkway in between the two buildings. He was about to lie down in his usual spot, a twin mattress behind the dumpster, when he heard a scream from somewhere nearby.

Hurried footsteps came down the walkway, then he saw two figures emerge. A man appeared holding a struggling woman by the wrists with one hand, his other holding a knife. He shoved her to the ground as she stared back in shock, eyes wide and her mouth trembling, but she wouldn’t dare to make another sound. “Now as I said before, I just want the wallet, lady, don’t make me do anything worse.” 

Her voice quavered. “Please, that’s all I have. It’s for my daughter’s Christmas.” She was shaking, tears pouring from her eyes. Her blouse was torn and her hair was a wreck. Phil found himself thinking about how quickly this could go from bad to worse. 

“Lady, how would you like to be dead? Huh? Cause I could give a shit less about your little girl, or Christmas. So what’s it gonna be?” No sooner than he’d finished talking, Phil’s fist drilled into the man’s skull, knocking him off balance as the knife flew from his hand. Phil snatched it up before the mugger had a chance to understand the turn of events.

“Nice knife,” Phil said. “Now why don’t you get lost, or I’ll cut your throat.” 

The mugger flashed a sneer and turned tail down the alley. Phil reached his hand out to help the woman up. “Thank you so much, you saved my . . .” As he helped her up, he pulled her wallet from her purse with the other hand. “What are you doing?” she protested. He opened it and found two hundred bucks, took one hundred out, and tossed the wallet back at her.

“My hero’s fee,” he said. “Now get lost before I have a change of heart and take the rest.” The look in her eyes was that of sheer astonishment. 

“Wow, okay, you know what? You’re even worse than he was.” She stuffed the wallet back in her bag and stormed off down the walkway.

Phil turned back to his filthy mattress, a mattress fit for the Rat King he’d become. But before he could lie down, he was approached by a stranger in a fine tailored suit.

“That was rather cold, don’t you think?” The man stepped forward, straightening his jacket.

“Who the fuck are you?” Phil asked.

“Never mind who I am, Philip, but I know all about you,” he said. “You were discharged from the Army ten years ago, just a year short of the end of the Iraq war. The reason you were discharged was that you couldn’t keep your emotions in check after Serena and little Bobby were killed by a drunk driver. You blame yourself because you weren’t there, as if you could’ve changed anything. At that point, you thought the worst of yourself and came home to become the person you thought you were. How am I doing so far?”

Phil’s jaw clenched and tears welled in his eyes as he remembered the wife that had been so proud the last time she’d kissed him, seeing him off to war. He remembered just three days before that, teaching four-year-old Bobby how to ride the new bike they’d bought him with the first installment of his deployment bonus. At the memory of the happy boy riding down the sidewalk, he could hold the tears back no more.

“Get to your point, and get to it fast pal, ’cause I’m losing patience real quick.” He wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Spare me your drunken tough-guy routine,” the stranger said. “I come to you with a proposition. I want to allow you to have anything you want in this world. You do a task for me, and I will give you whatever it is that your heart desires.” 

“I want you to get the fuck away from me. That’s what I want. You can’t grant wishes. Magic, warlocks, genies, whatever the fuck, it’s all horseshit.”

“I see,” the stranger said. “Well, Phillip, enjoy your night.” He turned to leave as Phil collapsed upon his mattress and promptly asleep. 

Soon after, Phil was falling down the rabbit hole, a nightmare he’d been having ever since he’d seen Alice in Wonderland as a child. The imagery had changed somewhat over the years, mainly the things he saw while falling. Tonight, for his viewing pleasure, he saw all the things the stranger had somehow known about. He saw himself breaking down when the letter was delivered. He was lying in a medical tent when he received the news, having taken two bullets in the shoulder only hours before. Next, he saw an old pickup slam into his wife’s SUV. And then, he saw himself sitting on a park bench, tying off his arm and shooting himself full of poison. 

After he’d finished spiraling, he found himself standing in the pitch black. This part of the nightmare was new. He walked along until he could make out the faint line of his family’s old home on Chestnut Street. The tire swing in the font yard blew in the wind as it picked up all around him. A full moon rose behind the house, shining brighter than anything he’d ever seen. That’s when he noticed the moon had a face, its wide eyes radiating a blinding blue light.

Next thing he knew, an alarm clock was buzzing in his ears. He awoke beneath a soft down comforter, his head resting upon the fluffiest pillow he’d ever felt. For the first time in ten years, he didn’t have a hangover and was feeling well-rested. He thought back to the night before, remembering everything perfectly. Confused didn’t begin to describe how he felt, and then he rolled over and saw a woman with pale blonde hair and vibrant green eyes staring back at him. Her mouth then curled into a beautiful smile. “Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said. 

“Serena,” he began and stopped. He didn’t know where to begin. She shushed him. “Let’s go, we gotta wake Bobby up so he can open his presents. It’s not every day our little man turns five.” This didn’t make any sense, but his heart swelled with joy for the first time in years. He wrapped her in a tight hug and kissed her repeatedly. “Yes, let’s wake up Bobby,” he said, wiping a tear from his eye. 

They crept into his room with a big box wrapped in colorful stripes. The boy slept silently, tucked neatly beneath his racecar covers. Serena slammed the door and they both yelled, “Surprise!”

Bobby shot straight up in his bed. “Dad!” he yelled as he sprang to his feet and ran to him, wrapping his arms around him tight. He held the boy in his arms for a long while, silently weeping, and everything felt right. 

Bobby opened all of his presents before noon, and the family topped off the morning with ice cream and a trip to the park. Phil and Bobby tossed his new football around until Bobby was ready to hit the swingset. While Phil was off at war, the boy had learned how to swing all by himself. “It’s really impressive for a boy his age to be that good at this,” he said to Serena, but when he turned to face her, the sky went black. Where she had been just moments ago, stood the man from the night before. “Isn’t it?” he asked.

“Where’d they go?” Phil asked. “Bring them back! You asked what I wanted and this is it. Please, bring them back, I’ll do whatever you say.”

“Yes, I believe you will. That is good. Now that I’ve shown you what I’m capable of, you’re taking me quite seriously. It’s a huge improvement from last night. Desperation looks good on you, Rat King. That’s what you call yourself in your inner monologue, isn’t it? Most fitting.”

“Look, I know you’re enjoying this, but please just tell me what I have to do.” He was now on his hands and knees, begging at the man’s feet. “Certainly, Philip, it’s an easy enough task. I just want you to kill someone.” 

Phil looked at him, then back at the frozen image of his son on the swing set just a few yards away. “Are you crazy?” he asked. The man laughed uncontrollably, “I am the furthest thing from it,” he said. “You want their lives back, and I want you to take someone’s life for theirs.”

Phil stared down at his feet, and without looking at the man, he asked simply, “Who?” 

The mark was an old lady named Iris whom Phil had known from the local homeless shelter. She ran the place and would often bring him meals to his spot behind the bar when he didn’t show up. Since he got back from Iraq, she was single-handedly the nicest person he had met. She let him in whenever he wanted, even if it was 3 am and he was piss drunk banging on the door. She had a lovely daughter whom he had met on his first trip there. They both treated him so well, and now he had to murder her. And not just murder her, the stranger made that clear. She had to know it was him, and she had to suffer. 

After the stranger departed, Phil’s reunion with his family went on as it had before. Serena had agreed that Bobby’s swinging ability was incredible, and after a short while, the trio retired back to their home on Chestnut. They watched a string of kids’ movies until Bobby fell asleep and Phil had to carry him to bed; then Serena said she wanted to watch something scary. A new slasher flick, which made Phil uneasy because he knew that in just a few short hours, he would have to become the slasher or lose them both again. And losing them again was something he was not prepared to do. 

After the movie, the two went back to the bedroom. Although the day was tiring, they saved enough energy for a special night together. She wanted him to be rough, and had he not been planning out a murder in his head, this would’ve been much easier on him. Phil was nothing if not a trooper, however, and eventually he got the job done. Moments after they finished, he heard Serena’s soft snoring coming from her side of the bed. That was when he made his way out of the bedroom, and down to the garage. 

The two-car garage was clean and organized, just as he’d left it before deployment. He found himself trying to slip back into the mindset of the man he’d been in those days. When he received an order to kill back then, there was no question about it, and even though this was different, he had to treat it just the same. The tool bench that took up the entire back wall was the first place to start. He grabbed an old duffle bag from underneath and examined his options, tossing in a hammer, a box of large nails, a handsaw, a roll of duct tape, and a long length of chain. He looked at himself in the mirror that hung on the wall by the bench, hating everything he saw. There was no going back though. In less than an hour, Iris would be dead. In less than two, he’d be back home, getting cleaned up, and sliding back in bed with his wife.

The Savior’s Rest shelter was located in a neighborhood not far from Phil’s house. He killed the lights as he pulled onto Maple Street and drove slowly down the alley leading to the back entrance of the building. Quite conveniently, this door led right into the living chambers of the soon-to-be late Iris Colson. He killed the ignition, grabbed his duffle, and exited the car, creeping silently towards the shelter. Hoping to enter unnoticed, he found his plans foiled when the lights came on inside. A pair of old familiar eyes peered out from behind the window blinds. “Who’s out there? Answer me or I’ll call the police.”

Phil froze. He had to think of something, and he didn’t like the first thing that came to mind, which was rushing to the door to break it in. “Iris, it’s me, Phil Summers. Can you let me in? I need someone to talk to, and I didn’t know where else to turn.” He hated himself more with every word, and part of him wondered if she’d even know who he was. Sure, the mysterious stranger had chosen her because of their bond, but he wasn’t exactly sure how this weird time loop thing had worked. He was on the verge of bolting when he heard the click of the lock, and the door swung open to let him in.

“Oh, Philip, you scared me half to death darling,” Iris said. “Come on in, sweetie, I’ll make us some tea.” His heart fluttered, but he did as he was asked, feeling just like a vampire whose prey had invited him in. 

Now that he was in the small room that looked to be a studio apartment, he began to calm down. He sat at the coffee table in a fold-out chair as Iris brought a tray in and sat down across from him. Her body was old and pruning in on itself, and she looked at him with kind, thoughtful eyes like she was the grandmother he’d always wished he’d had. “Now, Philip, spill it to old Iris. What seems to be weighing on your heart so heavily tonight? You’ve got pain in your eyes young man, I can see it.”

“Do you remember the family that I told you about, Iris? My wife and little boy?” She nodded, so he continued. “All this time, I thought I could never be happy again, but then, by a true miracle, seriously like the type of shit in the Bible . . .” 

“Language,” she chided, though she didn’t look sincerely offended. After years of running this place, she’d heard it all. “Right, sorry, it’s just, they’ve come back to me, Iris. I met a man last night, and he somehow brought them back to me.” Her eyes widened, but she didn’t interrupt. “Then today, he told me that if I wanted to keep them, I . . .” He paused, not knowing how to phrase it. “I, uh, have to do something really bad.”

“Philip, shoot straight with me, young man. Are you back on the junk?” She got up and started walking towards the phone. “I know a really good help center.” 

“No, Iris, please.” He went to grab her wrist and she jerked it away. “Let go of me!” she yelled, moving as fast as her decrepit legs could go. He took the hammer from the bag and said, “I’m so sorry, Iris,” bringing it down hard on the back of her head as she slumped the floor.

Although she was bleeding from the blow, Phil could see she was still breathing. That was unfortunate, as he would’ve preferred to end it right there, but he knew that wasn’t good enough to meet the stranger’s request. He pulled out the duct tape, stretched it over her mouth, and then bound her legs. He cleared the coffee table and slumped her limp body down onto it like it were a slab in the morgue. He took two more pieces of duct tape and taped her wrists to the coffee table. He was specifically told to inflict as much pain as humanly possible, so next he pulled out the box of nails, grimacing at the sight of them. Holding one to her wrist as he pushed it down against the table, he closed his eyes and started pounding. 

Iris screamed with the first hammer blow, her shrieks muffled by the tape across her face. Blood sprayed out in all directions with each blow until he’d finished. Then he did the next wrist, although she passed out after the first blow on that one. He could only imagine the unbearable pain as he hammered away. With the final blow, blood shot up in his face, getting in his mouth and causing him to gag. He stared down at the body of the woman he’d come to love over the years, if he’d been capable of loving anyone during that time. Frankly, he wasn’t sure anymore. 

Phil took a glass of cold water and sat next to her. He eyed her, thoughtfully, and then splashed it in her face. She awoke instantly, crying out through her gag once more. He patted her on the shoulder as if attempting to calm her. “Iris, I just needed you to know once more. I’m sorry.” Next, he picked the hammer back up and started flailing it aimlessly, shattering her ribs, busting her knees, and then finally bashing her face completely in. Her head exploded like a water balloon filled with blood. Bits of brain and bone drooped down the edge of the table as he collapsed back onto his chair, breathing heavily. 

After a long moment, he got up to leave but froze in his tracks. Through the window, he saw flashing red and blue lights, hearing sirens approaching in the distance. Peeking through the blinds, he saw that it was not just the police, but Serena and Bobby standing there with them. He slunk down against the wall and began to hyperventilate. “No, this isn’t supposed to happen! This wasn’t part of the fucking deal! Fuck . . .” 

“Actually,” came a voice from the chair he’d occupied just moments ago, “It was never specified what was going to happen to you.” The man in the tailored suit stood up and straightened his jacket before stepping towards him. “I said I would give you anything you wanted. You wanted to bring your family back from the dead, which I’ve done. You wanted them back so badly that you beat a helpless old lady, who had been nothing but kind to you, to death with a hammer.” He looked down at Phil and sneered at him, kneeling in front of him so they were face to face. “Men are evil, fueled by self-desire, but you are worse my friend. I offered you a chance at redemption. An all-powerful being tells you to commit a heinous act. If you would’ve turned it down, you could’ve died honorably. Instead, you preyed on the weak, just like the rat you always knew you were.” 

The door swung open then, and the man disappeared before Phil’s eyes. The police were pulling him to his feet and slapping handcuffs on his wrists and hauling him out. Serena couldn’t even look at him and was trying to hold Bobby back as well, but the boy broke free and ran up to him. “Dad!” he cried, his eyes streaming with tears. “What did you do, daddy?” 

“I’m sorry, son. I know it won’t make sense, but I did it for you. I love you. Never forget that.” The boy wept in his mother’s arms as she tore him away from his father. They watched as he was carted away, covered in blood. The sound of Bobby’s sobbing would stay with Phil for the rest of his life, and this scene would later be incorporated into the rabbit hole he fell into each night. 

His first night in prison, he sat weighing the pros and cons of his actions. His wife and son would live full lives, and although they might hate him, he thought he could live with that. However, when he tried to close his eyes there was Iris, her kind face staring holes right through him.

He heard a skittering of echoes from somewhere nearby. Opening his eyes, he peered over the edge of his bunk.

At least a dozen rats sat upon the concrete floor, staring back up at him expectantly.

PJ Grollet

basic cable

I walked the clothes dryer repair 
guy through the living room and 
we both stood transfixed before 
the TV show my dad watched on 
basic cable. alternating scenes 

flashed across the screen: three 
gorgeous women, classy women, 
in different bedrooms, laying on 
beds in various stages of undress—
lacy negligees and panties. the same 

nude man walked into each room.
his huge uncircumcised dick engorged, 
he approached the women and the 
sexual encounters cycled through 
until climax—the women’s faces and 

breasts covered in cum. the camera 
then panned to a priest with curly 
black hair who stood inside one of the 
rooms. dressed in cassock and clerical 
collar, he smiled into the camera with 

sinister intent before the show cut to 
commercial. “damn, what are you 
watching, pop?” I asked. “just a dumb 
soap opera that takes place at the Vatican,” 
he said. I showed the repair guy to the dryer 

and hurried back to watch some more. the 
program resumed. in the next scene a woman 
snuck up behind a man and bashed him over 
the head with a handle of vodka. she wailed 
on the guy until his head came undone. 

C. Renee Kiser

Beholden

Joke is
on him…

Added me to his collection
crooked cabinet, another shot glass
I vowed to forget his erection
and his clown shoe up my tiny ass
Sold me a smile and a fantasy
Every laugh so calculated
But I went hunting for a story
Served my heart, so he ate it

Now I don’t blame a dog
for being a dog,  lessons tethered
But a dog can’t beat a wolf
He’ll be sorry he ever endeavored
Took the bait and seemed convinced
that he raped me of my sanity
Joke is — a poet’s born unhinged
to report the punchline of society

(walk the dog or wear the collar…)

zig zag reality, how long can we
drown in self-deception, open
the doors of perception… and we
(wolves) accept and howl, beholden

Cheers to the hungry, lost dogs
I hope you find a home, you know
I hope you get a good bath —
Get shined up one day and glow
I used to be a lost dog in gloom
but I’ve been a wolf for a while,
returning my hunger to the moon
I don’t beg and I hunt with style

Leo X Crowley 

All the Melted Horses 

Jacob didn’t expect the fire to spread so quickly, but within seconds the flames had crawled across the floor and spiraled up the poles, illuminating the night sky. There was an audible “whoosh” when they reached the canvas of the tent-like top. He stood, transfixed by the ghost-like faces that formed in the fire, their malevolent grins flickering as they consumed everything except the metal pieces of machinery that powered the damned thing—spinning it around and around, moving the horses up and down, forcing them to gallop along an infinite track, devoid of destination. 

He had turned the power on after dousing the carousel in gasoline and now the plastic horses were melting as they spun, their faces dripping onto the platform below. Their expressions had always been grotesque—mouths open, lips pulled back by their bits, exposing large, rectangular teeth; they looked as if they were being driven hard, made to travel long distances at a painful pace—but the flames transformed them into demons. As they burned, their ornate manes were replaced by living flames, which Jacob found far more beautiful. Gradually, the carnival music slowed and distorted, its eerie melody punctuated by offbeat crashes as chunks of the carousel began raining down. The pole that bisected a jet black mare, connecting it to the structure, snapped free and the steed crashed to the ground. He stood watching the whole thing burn for much longer than was wise, entranced, exhausted, not caring what happened. With the flames still dancing, he walked over to the fallen black horse, fell to his knees and looked into its lifeless eye that was staring vacantly into space. He could see himself, framed by the flames, reflected in the dark paint of its pupil. 

The night closed in around him as he got to his feet and began walking home. He was vaguely aware he was dragging the horse, holding it by the length of pole that protruded from its withers. 

The next day he woke to the smell of gasoline mixed with smoke and whiskey. Both his right hand and his head were throbbing—the hand was badly burned, the headache was the result of the whiskey. Scattered snapshots of the night before flashed through his mind. With his eyes still closed, he patted the bed searching for his phone. He had kicked the blankets off during the night and the sheets were twisted around his body. Eventually, he located his phone and brought it to his face. Without lifting his head, he opened one eye. Six text messages, all from Julia, and three missed calls—two from Julia and one from a number he didn’t recognize. 

7:15 PM: Where are you?

8:23 PM: Hello? You were supposed to be here more than an hour ago.

8:45 PM: WTF, Jacob. This really isn’t cool.

9:03 PM: Whatever, I’m leaving.

7:32 AM: Where were you last night?

10:04 AM: “I’m done worrying about you, but we have some shit we need to figure out. Don’t make me show up at your door.” 

That was for the best. He was done worrying about him too. In an effort to stop from thinking, he shoved his face into the pillow and scrunched his eyes closed hard enough that he could see the orange capillaries of his eyelids snaking across his vision like streaks of lightning. “Do eyelids have capillaries?” his hungover brain wondered vaguely. Rolling over, a strange shape in the corner of the room caught his eye. When he brought it into focus, he saw it was the carousel horse from the night before. He must have dragged it all the way home. “I’ll deal with that later,” he thought, letting out a groan. Just then his phone, still in his hand, buzzed to let him know that he had a voicemail. It was from the number that he hadn’t recognized. 

“Hello, this message is for Jacob Digory. Mr. Digory, this is Detective Chung of the Boston Police Department. Please call me back as soon as possible. I have some questions I’d like to ask you.”

Jacob dropped his phone and sat up in bed, looking over at the carousel horse. “That can’t be good,” he muttered and flopped back down on the bed. His eyes were hot and the pounding in his head was unrelenting. He closed his eyes against a temporary dizzy spell and his mind thought back to his most recent session with Dr. Atawan, when he had told her about phantom limb syndrome. 

“The term was coined by a physician in the 1870s. Back then they thought it was caused by an irritation in the nervous system, at the place where the limb had been amputated, but in the late 1980’s some other doctor realized that couldn’t be true because people who had been born without limbs experienced it as well,” he had been loosely aware of the fact that he was talking very fast.

“You’d think they would have realized that a whole lot earlier, but they didn’t. Or maybe some people did, but they never told the right people, or it never got published or whatever, so the medical literature never got updated. Anyway, this guy in the 80s, Dr. Melzack, came up with this theory that the experience of the body is created by a wide network of interconnecting neural structures, which he called the ‘neuromatrix’. Then in the 90s a team of scientists conducted some experiments on monkeys that showed that the area of the brain responsible for processing sensory information undergoes a substantial reorganization after the loss of sensory input. I suppose that means they hooked the monkeys’ brains up to an imaging device and then cut off their limbs, which is really sick, but those experiments led to the theory that these changes in the brain may account for some but not all of the phantom limb pain that people report. They said that it might be the result of what they called ‘junk inputs’ from the neural system. But despite all of the years of research, to this day no one can really say for sure what causes phantom limb syndrome.”

“Why are you telling me about this, Jacob? How is it relevant to your life?” Dr. Atawan had asked.

“What I’m saying is that maybe what I’ve been experiencing is a sort of emotional version of phantom limb syndrome. That the hallucinations are the result of my brain reorganizing itself because of the loss. I’m saying it’s the same fucking thing and that if all these goddamn doctors couldn’t figure out how it works in the body, with all their monkeys and experiments and actual fucking physical evidence and quantifiable results then what hope do we have of figuring out the shit that I’ve been dealing with, nevermind treating it? I’m saying it’s a lost fucking cause.” 

By this point he had begun yelling and could hear the blood coursing through his veins. He had taken a minute to catch his breath and to look at the slight woman on the other side of his laptop screen. He could tell she was glad it was a teletherapy session—that she wasn’t in the same room as him. 

“Ok, Jacob. I understand,” Dr. Atawan had replied, her voice syrupy, slow and subdued. “I’d suggest that the parallels you’re attempting to draw between the two conditions are far from exact and that you’ve been expressing skepticism about this process since the very beginning, but before we get to that—I want to ask, how are you doing with your substance use? Are you still self-medicating? Are you under the influence of anything right now?”

That was the last time he saw Dr. Antawan. From that point on he had been alone and had been falling fast. He had spent the last month locked in the shitbox apartment that he had rented when Julia asked him to leave the house, after living with him had become “untenable”. He had stopped answering his phone and email and going to work. He ordered bottles of booze off the internet and instructed the delivery drivers to leave the packages at the door so he wouldn’t have to see them. When he moved, he had purchased a threadbare, second hand recliner and dragged it into the middle of the otherwise barren “family room”. He sat in it for hours, the shades pulled down and the lights off, feeling as though he were in a tiny boat that was lost at sea. 

“What are you doing, Dad?”

“No. You’re not here. You’re not real.”

“Maybe not, but what would I think of you if I were?”

“You’re not here, Eli. Please. Please stop it. I can’t take this.” 

“You have to. You have no choice now. Why did you do it, Dad? Why did you set it on fire? It was my favorite. I used to beg you to let me ride it every time we passed by on our walk home from the library.” 

“I did it because it was your favorite. I did it because it was still in the world and you’re not. Because I…because I couldn’t,” he trailed off, no longer capable of forming words. He was crying now—big ugly sobs that wracked his entire body. “Please,” he whimpered. “Please come back. I brought you home a horse.” 

Jacob no longer knew if it was day or night; what did it matter? He came to, shirtless and in sweatpants, slumped over on the arm of the recliner. He had been fading in and out of consciousness for what seemed like an eternity. He opened his eyes and saw a bottle of pills turned on its side, its contents spilled out across the floor, and an overturned half-empty bottle of vodka. Before he could make his hand reach for it, he registered, for the first time, the violent knocking at the front door. How long had that been going on? Was it what woke him? He grabbed the vodka bottle, unscrewed the cap, and took three large pulls, pausing for breath in between each. When the knocking came again, it did so incessantly, without pause for several minutes. Slowly, he got to his feet, dropping the bottle and listening to it roll across the room as he stumbled towards the door. 

“I’m coming,” he mumbled, too quietly for anyone to hear, his bare feet shuffling along the uneven floorboards.

“Don’t answer it,” Eli’s voice came from the far side of the room where he stood holding the black horse by the reins, its long muzzle looming over his shoulder. “You won’t like what’s on the other side, Dad.”

“I have to,” he replied, but he was no longer moving towards the door. 

“It’s over, Dad. If you open that door, it’s all over.” 

Jacob wrapped his arms around his head and squeezed, trying to block out the world. The knocking at the door was so loud it felt as if the person’s fist was rapping against the inside of his skull. The room began to spin, faster and faster, spots of light and shadow forming intricate patterns as they spiraled around him.

“Like a carousel,” he thought, collapsing to the floor. 

Ken Kakareka

William Taylor Jr. 

There’s a poet 
I admire, 
William Taylor Jr. 
He’s kind of like 
the underground voice 
of San Francisco. 
He’s not aware 
that he’s on 
my radar 
but maybe after 
this poem. 
If I get a chance 
to talk to him 
I’ll say 
listen, 
enough with 
the references 
to the old writers – 
Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, 
and Bukowski. 
I’m guilty of it, 
too – 
I know 
you miss them. 
But all this 
name-dropping 
isn’t going to 
bring them back. 
It’s up to 
you and me 
now 
to carry the torch. 
We both live and write 
in California. 
You cover the North 
and I’ll cover the South. 
We’ll be correspondents 
for the written word. 
And if you get 
a collection published 
with City Lights, 
would you mind 
name-dropping 
for me?

***

Originally published at The Beatnik Cowboy

Herman B. Triplegood

Glory Hole

I looked through the glory hole.
I saw a pearly bone eruption.

With Portnoy’s Complaint in my pocket,
I Ejaculated into the breeze
Under a bridge
In the full light of day,
Until all of the pearl drops
Were gone with the wind.

I visited the Red Rooster
To watch the couples fuck,
And gratified myself
With piss porn in the orgy room,
When nobody else would gratify me.

I went to the gay bath house,
And standing naked in the steam
It felt on my exquisite body
Just how far the sperm can fly.

I played bukake bingo with myself
While driving a company car
Near the surge tank
On the other side
Of Sunrise Mountain.

I planted my seeds into a graveyard
With bicycle tucked away
Hidden within the blackberry bushes.

Yes, I went to the park near the river
Next to Skinner’s Butte,
And in that tiny men’s bathroom in the park
I discovered a glory hole,
And when I looked through the glory hole
I saw a pearly bone eruption.

So, walking away now from the glory hole
I keep thinking…
All of this really happened, and others do it too,
And so shall I, as I always have,
Sometimes walking toward the glory hole,
Sometimes walking away.

But, always walking…
Without shame.

Joseph Farley

Pissing on a Wall

The words seem to come out right,
but dry up too soon
when the sun hits the bricks in the alley.

All that’s left is the odor
of something you can no longer see
and may not want to.

The stream as it came out
felt so much more than it was.
That’s okay. You left your scent.

Dogs will remember your passing
longer than people will.
They will follow you along the street,

tails wagging and tongues hanging out,
begging for more of what’s inside you
to be spilled out for their noses to enjoy,

much more appreciative than the critics
who never salivated
while reading your work.