Jaya da Mata

Hi guys, I’m Jaya da Mata. What does my name mean? Jaya in the forest! As you can see, I really love being naked in nature. This is my favorite job! Besides that, I’m a tattoo artist and psychologist, but currently I’m working with adult content on Fansly. I’m here to invite you to my page on there:

https://fansly.com/jayadamata

I hope you enjoy! Kiss with much love.

More from the lovely Miss Jaya HERE

Joseph Farley

Theater of War

The first mistake was to believe
that things would stay the same.
The second was to think
that things would change.

In between scenes the players
try on new costumes
and practice new words.

Masks and makeup
can alter features,
but underneath 
the characters are the same,

archetypes of politics,
power and murder.
All wars, little and big,
are fought with the same armies.

And the dead? Well,
they’ve said their lines
and moved on to other plays
on other stages,

still waiting 
for the applause
and curtain calls
that never seem to come.

Timothy Arliss OBrien

Orbiting Bodies

Falling in love,
Isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Not as easy as falling into a stranger’s bed.
(The only place I want to be)

At first the head spins,
And then the heart pounds.

And the juices flow,
And the pulse moves south.

Love knows what it wants,
And so does my heart.

But sometime I can’t hear it
Because of how tight my pants get,
And how loud my need to breed.

I’ve been so desperate I’ve fucked a helpless twink
Against an overflowing urinal in a filthy Vegas club.
(strike that: help-full twink)

I’ve also been elbow deep in a stranger, while balls deep in his throat,
Looking at the proverbial fourth wall
Telling the audience:
Now you might be wondering how I got in this position.

And I made both cum faster than I could’ve ordered another drink at the bar.

I’ve also bloodied my knees several evenings gulping down over a dozen cocks in one sitting
Lust drunk and ready to swallow every flood as the levees and dams burst.

Bodies in lust trip over one another trying to get to the finish line together.

Cheering and basking in a puddle post-coital
is an addiction,
And trust me I don’t fucking need rehab.

What I need is you to get out of my face so I can go to the parking lot and enjoy this blunt.

Round two starts in half an hour. 

Sean M.F. Sullivan

Kill “Sean”

There were too many Seans. Searching the name on Google loaded 870,000,000 results. Page one celebrities included Big Sean, Sean Watkins, and Sean Connery—who, to add to the overpopulated insult, owned a memorial at the top of the page in the form of a featured snippet. On Wikipedia, there were 87 entries for “Sean,” each of which disambiguated into additional 87-stacked entries—none of which was himself.

His name was reduced to a membership of actors, writers, race car drivers, politicians, serial killers, and bakers. “Sean” was such a popular name he was basically anonymous. Was he supposed to resign himself like the Michaels of the world? No! But how was he ever going to take the name back for himself?

His goldfish leaned a fin on the rim of its bowl and said, Why not use your middle initial, pal?

He snapped, “Why doesn’t everyone else use their middle initial then?Why should I change my name, when it’s my name?” He picked up the can leaning against the stack of broken keyboards and swigged. His name.

At Bottle King, where the chubby cashier never remembered his name, the register monitor loaded an excel sheet of every membershipped Sean within a fourmile radius of the store. At least one hundred Seans—no, one thousand, he thought—filling out the alphabet fromA until his long awaited assonanced S. The cashier pressed enter. He leaned over the conveyor belt and studied the name above his own: “Sean Reicher, 987 Willow Place.” Then he paid $2.00 and brown bagged the tallboy.

The name’s origins were biblical: Iōánnēs in the Greek, Yohanan in the Hebrew, the mad seer John in the KJV, which all translated gaelically into “Sean” and was supposed to mean, “god is gracious.” A bit too gracious of God: Sean was the 336th most popular boys name (10,979th for girls), so that one out of every 1,916 baby boys in a nursery had a crib stapled “Sean”. Fingering an abacus he calculated that there were up to 182,000 Seans in the United States alone. Tucked under his blankie he traced the water stains above his bed and imagined a world in which he owned sean.com by birth right. A paradise on earth.

To be fair, he had never actually, physically, in person, met another Sean. He knew of their existence only at a distance like the moon, so he was quite nervous as he donned the ski mask and black turtleneck and lifted the rickety wooden frame and snuck into Sean Reicher’s living room at half past 11, and then stood above his doppleganger snoring loudly in the rocking chair. His goldfish had told him he wasn’t ready, and now that he was here, face-to-face with the possibility of vengeance, he hesitated between the scissors in his left hand and the butterknife in his right. But before making a decision, Sean Reicher awoke from his nightmare and yelled, “It’s you!” Then the imposter clutched his chest, and the name was no longer his own.

He nudged the husk with his flip flop. Then he kicked. He stole a bill for a Penthouse subscription bearing the fake’s name, and fled into the afternoon feeling giddy that God was on his side.

He thought his heroism would kick off the anti-Sean riots, Franz Ferdinand style. He watched and waited. But the newspaper was still headlining the missing white girl, and the anchors on Eyewitness News laughed at the sunshine—didn’t UPS deliver his manifesto? One murder wasn’t enough, friend, his goldfish said.

More effective methods were needed. From the Swords of the East™ website he purchased a bushido certified katana, Nippon steel folded one thousand times or your money back. The blade was dull. Naked in front of the TV he tried sharpening the edge with sandpaper and nicked his thumb, and became nauseous at the sight of blood. He threw up. Wiping his face with an oily cloth he held the blade and vowed to try again. Just like Henry Morgan had said, “If at first you don’t succeed…” Or was it W. C. Fields?

So he purchased another tallboy, and had another peak at the liquor store listicle. The cashier, this time a pregnant woman who had definitely rung him up in the past, said, “Your name is Sean? I love that name!” He grimaced and leaned. Just beneath his name was a Sean Tulathulumie who was, unfortunately, not in hospice care and an avid gun collector. And so, that afternoon, he was off running away from Sean Tulathulumie’s mansion at the first buckshot even with the katana knotted across his back.

Maybe murder wasn’t the solution.

To solve his problems he bought two more tallboys and stared at the gluesticked “Sean” obituaries on the walls of his apartment. Even if he eliminated one Sean every day for the next year that was only 365 Seans. Even at two Seans which was impossible—since his driver’s license had been lost (meaning there was some undergraduate out there masquerading as a Sean which was somehow more aggravating than being named “Sean”) that was only 730 Seans, and there were thousands, tens of thousands, in his state alone. They multiplied like flatworms: cut off the head of one Sean, and you got five more Seans, and the name’s popularity was ticking up on Google Trends. He was losing before he started and all he had done was remove one Sean whose name didn’t even make the obituary section of the Record.

There was no third attempt. He bought three tallboys, squeezing his eyes as he handed over the crinkled bills.

What he needed was a final Sean solution. A way to stop the parents of would be Seans before they got their dark idea. A tool powerful enough to be heard around the world, like a Tunguskan bomb that targeted all the fake Seans. His goldfish suggested a blog.

The blog posts were vicious, visceral, violent, and unread. He had told himself a little white lie: that the name “Sean” wasn’t gracious at all but a terrible, evil name that evoked only the worst monsters of the 20th century. “Nobody shuld name there kid ‘Sean,'” he wrote. It was a name for sneaks, thieves, cannibals, and fiends who borrow your copy of Link to the Past and don’t return it. Seans weren’t people, more like husks for the Sean-DNA wormed inside.

Like the Buddha, if you met a Sean on the road, kill him.

His nom de plume was “John.”

What he learned putting his hate online was that there were other Sean haters, not in the general way he hated, but in particular-Sean hate ways: hate for Sean O’Malley, hate for Sean Combs, hate for Sean Thor Conroe, hate for particular Seans and their particular Seany b.s. He tapped their community kegs and filled his own cup and then brought more boozy hate to their hateful group parties. He learned he could kill Seans with rumor, stipulation, speculation.

“Did you know Sean emits eight tons of carbon—every week?”

“I heard that Sean worked as a caterer on Jeffery Epstein’s island.”

“Sean shares a name with serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis. What a jerk!”

“Yes, Sean is definitely a pedophile—just like Hitler.” The sooner he invoked Godwin’s law, the better.

He cultivated a voice—sonorous and prophetic—and a following, kept blogging all day every day thanks to his imagination and disability checks from Social Security, uniting all of the internet’s Sean-hate behind his Wile E. Coyote avatar. He had real power for the first time in his life to accumulate WordPress likes, but with all of that gathering potential energy, how was he to spark the bomb that would topple the Seans, send them in droves to the county courthouse to file for a change of name?

It was his goldfish once more who made the ingenious suggestion.

A conference was in order, and held at the Jacob Javits Center. An entire weekend of anti-Sean festivities and organizing, a chance for disparate Sean-haters to unite their common cause under one banner, a very large one draped over the glass entrance that read, “Stop Hate. Stop Sean.”

He was to deliver the inaugural address as president and CEO and dictator of the revolution. In attendance were reporters from the New York Times, the Post, Highlights, and a Stanford fellow desperate to build herself into an influencer. All names were double-checked at the door.

“Comrades,” he adjusted the mic down to his bow tie, “we’re gathered here today to stop the most pressing matter our civilization has ever faced, the never ending horde of Seans.” A few cheers. “The only way we can ever ensure the end of the Sean is by uniting ourselves. Together we can wipe the Seans from history.” A red ribbon hung taut across the stage with “Sean” tessellated across its cheapness. He raised his katana, “And with the cutting of this ribbon, we usher in a new era.” He swung the blade, severing the “Se” from the “an.” Applause, cheers, hand flute whistles, fireworks.

A Q&A followed.

A reporter fired her hand towards the balloons in the rafters and shouted her question. “I don’t know what to make of all this anti-Sean hate, but isn’t it true, sir, that your name is Sean?”

He fumbled at the mic. “Absolutely not. That’s slander. How dare you!” He tapped his name tag three times. “It says ‘John’ right here, doesn’t it? What’s your name? How did you get in here? Security!”

“And isn’t it true,” she ignored his question, “that the name John, is the english translation of the name Sean?”

“No, of course not. Lies!”

“I have the evidence right here.” She held up a color printout of the Wikipedia entry for “Sean.” “All of your anti-Sean hate is a scheme. You’re a big phoney,” she shouted.

Gasps. Whispers. Someone shrieked. Another screamed, “My life is a lie!” In their anger and confusion, the various anti-Sean groups began in-fighting. A chair was thrown. A pop-up table flipped. The bouncy castle was stabbed 87 times. Riot police marched in single file and tear-gassed the crowd.

He hastily retreated through the rear exit, setting off the fire alarms as he booked down the street and leaped into the Hudson with the katana gripped between his teeth, and climbed onto a passing barge hauling empty tallboys out to sea. The captain’s name was Sean Rodgers.

He was defeated, dejected, constipated, sitting squat on the single folding chair in his apartment, the news flipped to another missing white girl—the anti-Sean movement yesterday’s yesterday story.

The revolution—his revolution—had fallen apart. For weeks after the convention marauders of particular-rival-ganged-Sean haters roamed downtown Manhattan and clashed in modern dance numbers, with knives, until enough twisted ankles forced them to disband. And then there were the new anti-anti-Sean hater groups who were hunting him. The rest returned to their digital enclaves and he was back to the liquor store, looking for solutions in the dregs of a tallboy. What he found was that too many Seans wasn’t news. It just was.

The katana was on his lap and he polished the blade with a Lysol wipe, wondering where it all went so wrong. New neighbors hauled a mattress up the concrete stairs, rocking the TV on its milk crate.

His goldfish asked, Now, that you’ve learned your lesson, buddy, how about that middle initial?

He was about to concede when through the stucco he heard, “Where do you want this, Sean?” He skipped to the door and jammed his eye in the peephole. What he saw was a Sean wearing octagonal glasses and opportunity. He finished wiping off the blade, and picked at an olive rind between his teeth. It was already late afternoon. By nightfall there would be only 869,999,998 results for “Sean.” He finished his tallboy, winked at his goldfish, raised the katana, and charged towards his name.

On that month’s rent check the new neighbor’s signature was spelled, “S-H-A-U-N.”

Lamont A. Turner

Downloading The God Of Evil

Gualichu awoke full of rage and ready to sow discord throughout the land.  But what land was this?  Looking about, he saw a barren landscape, dotted with the wreckage of unfamiliar devices.  He bent down to examine a pile of gray metal, trying to put the pieces back together in his mind. It could have been a wagon, but where were the wheels and what was that long tube protruding from the front of it?  Full of furry, he brought his foot down upon it, grinding it into the sandy earth.  As he did so, a pink heart fluttered up out of the wreckage, floated up to hover before his face, and vanished.  Perplexed, he stomped on the wreckage again, hoping to squeeze another apparition from it, but no more hearts appeared.

Hearing a strange buzzing sound, he turned to see something flying toward him.  As it grew closer he saw its body was silver, and its eyes glowed red. What kind of bird was this, he wondered as it circled him.  How could it fly without flapping its wings?  He noted that its tail was made of fire. 

He clapped his hands together creating a mighty wind to knock the bird out of the sky, but it sped up and rose above it. Swooping down, it spit fire into his face, causing him to stumble back into a field of shining discs. As he stepped on the discs they exploded, throwing him up into the air. Landing on his back at the edge of the field, he realized he was growing weak. It took all of his effort to raise his arm. Fire shot from his fingertips, but the bird easily avoided the blast. Hovering over him, it unleashed a torrent of blasts directly into his chest.  He screamed as he broke apart, disintegrating into a puff of smoke.

Rick pulled off his goggles, tossed the controller on the coffee table and glared at the lean young man standing next to him.

“That’s it?” he asked. “All of that money we spent on those old books, and I beat him on the first try?”

“Maybe we need a more powerful god of evil,” suggested the other man with a shrug.

“You think we have a surplus of demonic entities, Andre?” Rick shouted, jumping up out of his chair and giving it a kick. “We are supposed to go live next week! How are we supposed to find another demon to tie to the game by then?” 

“I told you substituting a dog for a baby wouldn’t work,” Andre replied, stepping back out of range of Rick’s fists.

“I wasn’t going to sacrifice a baby!” Rick yelled. “Where the hell would we even get one?”

Andre looked down at his shoes, knowing anything he said would just make things worse.

“Maybe he is just out of practice,” said Rick.  “After all, nobody has believed in him for a long time.  If we play for a while, putting him through the paces, maybe he’ll get more powerful.”

Ten hours later, Rick was starting to feel challenged. Gualichu seemed to be learning. He was now taking out the drones without too much difficulty, and had even started to inflict some damage on the battle bots. As the sunlight started to seep in between the curtains, Rick nodded off.

Hearing the crackle of flames, Rick awoke with an ache in his lower back, and a neck that didn’t want to turn without creaking. Noticing the TV was still on, he pounded at the controller with numb fingers, but the image on the screen would not be dismissed. What the hell am I watching, he wondered, looking at the hellish landscape before him.  Then he noticed he was still in the game. How long had it been? He checked his phone. It was 5PM. The game had been on for at least ten hours. 

He put on the googles and logged on to the game. What level was this? Nothing on the screen looked familiar. Had Andre slipped in a hidden level when he was writing the program?  Selecting the battle bot from the menu, he watched as it appeared on the screen, dropping down into what appeared to be a pit of flames.  He moved the battle bot forward, his life bar growing shorter with each step.

From out of nowhere a huge hand appeared and wrapped around the robot’s head, flinging it into a wall of the rocky cavern.  Lights flashed before Rick’s eyes, followed by bars of static. A gigantic shadow loomed up as Rick franticly pushed the buttons that should have made the battle bot rise. Suddenly, the leering face of Gualichu filled the lenses before his eyes.  A metallic clang reverberated in Rick’s ears as he pawed at the sides of his head, trying desperately to yank off the goggles. There were no goggles! Rick was inside the robot!

“This one smells different,” proclaimed Gualichu, peeling off the metal shell.  Seeing the squirming mass of flesh within, he stabbed his finger into it and licked the hot red liquid off.  This was the best treat Gualichu had discovered since establishing his new kingdom. Perhaps, there would be more.

Picking up the goggles off the floor of Rick’s apartment, Andre shook his head. Rick had bailed on him again, leaving him to do all of the work. Oh well, he thought, he would just announce it as his creation. The game was supposed to go online in a few hours, and he planned to make the deadline, bugs or no bugs.

Tony Dawson

The Nature of Gothic

I once met a Goth girl in a bar 
who said she was a comic,
yet her deadpan demeanour 
revealed no trace of humour.
She was fun but not really funny.
After a number of drinks—
and a few knowing winks,
she invited me back to her place—
well, I had run out of money. 
Once there, one thing led to another, 
or rather, one thing led to THE other… 

As I was undressing her, 
it gradually dawned on me 
why she referred to herself as a comic.
She didn’t do stand-up or even tell jokes,
she was literally an anatomic, 
graphic novel. Her body, covered 
in a variety of tattoos, told a story 
as she lay, spread out on the bed; 
in fact, several stories,
if you varied the order 
in which her vignettes were read. 

Her left breast portrayed Scylla.
One of the writhing heads was the nipple.
The right one was Charybdis
and that nipple mimicked the ripple 
in the eye of the whirlpool. 
My Goth! A girl with a classics degree!
I was deeply impressed 
when she was undressed
as reading her stories in various ways, 
say, jumping about like the knight’s forays,
in chess, you could follow Aeneas’s route
through her very own silicone valley, 
between Scylla and Charybdis
an experience I had no wish to miss. 
Choosing the bishop’s moves would
produce Jason and the Argonauts’ tale 
and finally, the rook’s moves could
reproduce the story of Odysseus. 
I kid you not. I am being serious.

Below her navel, it got more OT, 
as in ‘over the top’ and Old Testament: 
The figure of Moses held up a sign
that said: “Roll up! Roll up! This way 
to the burning bush!” Here was the shrine
in my Goth’s promised land. 
“I’m on fire,” she said. “Please put it out!”
“Of course,” I replied, “no need to shout.
I’m holding the hose in my hand!”

Turning her over onto her front 
produced an eye-popping scene: 
the whole of her back 
represented a classic foxhunt
with the hounds heading south
toward her …. nether regions.
“D’you ken John Peel with his coat so gay,
“D’you ken John Peel at the break of day,”
I hummed to myself.

Several other red-coated men
mounted on stallions were
galloping down to her crack 
with a pack of hounds in full cry. 
The weary young fox, naturally sly,
had entered the crevice
of her plump rump, 
leaving only its brush 
sticking out like a rush.
(Even Aesop wasn’t able
to write a fable about an ass
swallowing a fox!)

The Goth lifted up her rounded cheeks, 
for the hunt to run uphill.
Now apart from the extra thrill,
it gave me the chance to look inside
to see where the fox had managed to hide…
As I say, she was a comic. 
Not really funny, but polychromic.

HSTQ: Fall 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: Fall 2021, the curated collection from Horror, Sleaze and Trash!

Featuring poetry by Judson Michael Agla, John D Robinson, J.J. Campbell, Kristin Garth, Dan Flore, Brian Rosenberger, Andy Seven, James Diaz, Stephen Bamberough, A. Lynn Blumer, Leah Mueller, David Arroyo, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Ruth Niemiec, Danny D. Ford, Dan Cuddy, David J. Thompson, and Wes Janson.

Get your FREE ebook here!

Sara Corris

Not Normal

“Mom! Brian’s sitting on the penis end of my seatbelt, and he won’t move!”

“Brian, please give your sister her seatbelt. Kelly, stop saying ‘penis.’”

“‘Penis’ isn’t cursing, mom–”

“No one likes to hear it, all the same.”

Kelly turned back to her brother. “Give. Me. My. Penis. End, jerkface!” she grunted, shoving him all the while.

Brian giggled and kept his bottom planted over the seatbelt. “What’s your problem? Just tie the two vagina ends together, like in Jurassic Park. Why do you hate vaginas so much, Kells?”

“Brian, stop saying ‘vagina.’”

“Oh my god! MOM! ‘Vagina’ isn’t a dirty word! Seriously, what do all the women in this family have against vaginas–OW!”

“Get off my penis end, Bri!”

“Mom, Kelly’s pushing me!”

“MOVE!”

“Jeez, why are you so obsessed with penises, Kells?”

I’m obsessed?! You’re the one hoarding all the penis ends, because you like to feel them on your butt–”

“MOM, Kelly’s being homophobic in public!”

“Enough, both of you. Buckle your seatbelts before we get kicked off this plane, and SHUT. UP. No more talk about penises and vaginas–”

“But you just said ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’, so why can’t we?”

“That’s so dumb, mom. They’re not even bad words.” Brian began to sing: 

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

Kelly joined in:  

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

Five rows up, their father watched whilst simultaneously attempting to cram their things into an overhead compartment.

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

He succeeded in closing the compartment door, and turned to abandon his family.

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

A flight attendant blocked his way. “Sir, everyone must get to their seats now.”

“It’s okay, I don’t want to go anymore. I want to get off the plane.”

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

Through the din of her childrens’ singing, the mother suddenly heard her husband’s voice raised in anger:

“MOVE! I’m starting a new life–”

Her prescription sedative kicking in at last, she didn’t hear the rest.

When she awoke seven hours later, the plane hadn’t left New York, her husband was gone, and the children were still singing:

penispenisPEE-NISS, 

vaginavaginava-JIII-na …” 

Neither she nor the children ever saw him again.

***

“YES!”

“Fuck!”

“Language,” their mother called out from upstairs. Brian and Kelly ignored her.

“You suck ass at this game, Bri. I’m crushing you–”

“Yeah right! The first time in your whole life you ever won at Goldeneye was this week. Big deal. It’s just a lucky streak–”

“Yeah right! I’ve finally figured out the game, is what happened. And now I’m better than you, and I’m gonna beat you–”

I’m gonna curbstomp you, like in that movie, until all your teeth come out and your neck snaps and your head comes off–”

“Big deal. I’m gonna gouge out your eyes with my thumbs, like in that movie, and then I’m gonna get a strap-on, and I’m going to Fuck. Your. Empty. Eye. Sockets–” 

Ew, what’s wrong with you, Kells?! Who says that to their brother?! Pervert.”

***

My brother is one of those people who gets insanely sweaty when on drugs. We’re talking Bikram levels. 

This one time, post-uni, we were out clubbing together. Brian is on some mix of MDMA, coke, ket, booze, and who knows what else. Sweat is pouring off him, soaking his clothes and hair, forming a puddle at his feet. I’m on the same mix of shit, so I’m disgusted, but in a detached sort of way. 

Suddenly Brian leans in, his pupils crazy dilated.

“They keep checking me out.” 

“Who?” 

“Those two. At the bar.” 

I look. Two of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen IRL are whispering together and looking over at my brother. 

Idiot

I turn back to Brian. “They want drugs.” 

“Gimme some space, Kells. You’re the reason they aren’t coming over here.” 

“You are obviously, visibly on a fuckton of drugs, you idiot. They know it. Every person here knows it. That’s what they want: your drugs. Not your penis.” 

“One of them is coming over!” 

“That girl wouldn’t touch your dick to set fire to it.” 

“Fuck off, Kells. You’re cockblocking me.” 

I turned and made for the bar. Before I’d gone three steps, I heard her behind me, asking Brian if he knew where they could score some drugs.

***

He’s not really a dickhead, my brother. 

I remember this one time, I was 25 or 26. I’d gone out drinking with friends and then, I don’t know what happened. To this day I don’t. I wake up on a bench in some bar. I look around, but I’ve got no idea where I am, and I don’t see any of my supposed friends. I start freaking out. I call Brian blubbering, not making any sense, begging him to come get me:

“But where the fuck are you, Kells?”

“I don’t know, some bar, it’s really gross … wait. Hold on a sec.” 

I stop crying long enough to listen in on a nearby table:

“Gimme this sick fuck’s address, a cylinder of lighter fluid, and twenty minutes. I’ll take care of it.” 

I turn back to the phone. “I’m somewhere in Jersey,” I whimper. “Oh, fuck. Oh, Christ.”

And Brian came to get me. At 2 a.m., out in deepest Jersey.

***

Kelly answered on the second ring.

“Whassup?”

Brian leaned back against the headboard. “Hey. Do you remember when I caught you fapping to the Raphael-Leonardo bathtub scene in the Ninja Turtles movie?” 

“Girls don’t fap.” 

“Some do. It depends on the labial situation.” 

“Yeah, fair enough. If there’s like, abundant billowy labia, I guess it could make a fapping sound.” 

“Depending too on the vigor of the self-pleasuring, I suppose. But with the right labia and the right vigor? It could conceivably create a reverberating labial clap, not unlike the classic fapping sound.” 

“I happen to have very demure labia though. You’ve seen me in bikinis. Zero labial bulge. Nada.” 

“No disrespect to ladies with more of a fleshy cabbage sitch goin’ on.” 

“Of course. It’s just not me. Honestly? It’s friggin’ gorgeous down there, Bri. I spread my legs and it’s like opening Marsellus’s briefcase–” 

“Ahem.” 

Brian looked up at his wife. 

She frowned back at him. “Will you be much longer? I’m turning in and I want to get to sleep.”

Later, when Lindsay had settled in beside him, she brought it up again.

“It was your sister on the phone, wasn’t it.”

“Yeah.”

“Normal siblings don’t talk like that.” 

“You don’t like ANY talk like that.” Lindsay blushed and flinched at anything remotely gynecological. 

“Still. Siblings don’t talk about things like that. It’s not normal.”

***

And this other time, when we were both still in high school. 

I was fighting with our mom. I said something about dad, deliberately, to hurt her. And then she retorts that he’s got a whole new family, has for years. A wife and three kids, way out in California. So I can stop waiting for him to walk back into our lives at any moment, because it’s never going to happen.

This was the first news I’d had about dad since he’d left us. And she was right. I had been waiting to hear from him, to see him again, eventually. 

I was gutted. Mom was pleased. 

“Bitch,” I choked out. I ran to my room, collapsed onto my bed, and sobbed.

I was still crying hours later when Brian came in and sat down beside me. It was dark; I could barely see him. But he kept whispering “ssh, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok,” over and over as he stroked my hair and patted my shoulder.

I rolled over and looked up at him.

***

He called me once in the middle of the night, all upset. This was when the first kid was due. He wanted to talk about the dumb dream he’d just had.

“You know how my ultimate fantasy has always been the anonymous train handjob? Some hot chick–either real or a ghost–sits down next to me on the train, and without saying anything, just undoes my pants and jerks me off? Then wordlessly walks away?” 

“Yup.” 

“Ok, so I was dreaming about that. The girl comes over, she’s super hot–” 

I doubted it. Brian’s got shit taste in women. Dream chick was probably some big fat bitch. 

“–and it’s super hot, but then I notice … there’s a baby in a stroller. Directly opposite. And he’s watching at eye level with my crotch. I try to get the girl to stop but she won’t stop, and I can’t stop … I come all over the place. It’s a huge, massive load. And the baby … this little, innocent baby imitates my face. My O face, you know? And it’s like the kid’s face is broken or something, because he’s still making that face a bunch of stops later when his mom gets up and exits the train are you laughing?!”

“Yes.”

Brian sighed. “It’s all those fucking baby books Linds is forcing on me. I’d been reading how babies mirror facial expressions. But still. I’m gonna be a terrible father, Kells.” 

“You really are.” 

“I’ve got no business having a kid.” 

“Agreed. 100%.”

Brian thought I was joking, I knew. People always think I’m joking when I’m not.

***

Mom never got over dad leaving. She never really tried to build something new after, even as years and years passed. She’d never been a beauty. And she was too tall and big-boned to pass for “cute,” even when she was young. And by the time dad left she wasn’t young. And she was busy raising the two kids he’d stuck her with. I get that it wouldn’t have been easy, but still. She didn’t even try. She just gave up. 

I’m not suggesting that’s why she got cancer, but she could have tried to fight it harder than she did. I don’t think it bothered her much, the diagnosis. She wasn’t even sixty yet. I don’t know if she actively welcomed dying; more like she didn’t care, one way or the other. 

Brian took it personally, like we hadn’t been worth living for. To me that had been obvious for a long time. Mom went through all the motions of parenting. She fed us and went to our graduations and stuff. I don’t mean to sound too ungrateful. But that was all. It had been very clear, without her ever saying it, that we weren’t enough. It wasn’t a good life.

***

“Nice, you finally had one with hair! HUGE improvement. Bald white babies are the worst. But you’re a cutie, aren’t you? Yaaas–” I halted as I saw Brian across the room with what was obviously his latest issue, bald and ugly as ever. I looked back up at my sister-in-law.

Lindsay glared back. “This is my cousin’s baby.” 

“Oh, how nice,” was all I could think to say. “I’m gonna … bathroom …” I wandered off in Brian’s direction.

There were too many people in my way. I hated them all. This was the worst fucking party ever. Not that I like any parties, but still. Who has a party for baby #3?! Who even has a baby #3 anymore, unless you’re Amish or Hasidic.

Brian and Lindsay had rented out a corner of floor space by the bar, and the restaurant staff barked at anyone who accidentally spilled over into the regular dining space. I checked to make sure the sweat wasn’t causing my tube top to slip, then elbowed my way to the bar.

A couple of moms joined me.

“Kelly, hi! You look great! So toned!” said one of them–apparently, someone I’d met before?

“Jeez, your abs. I’d kill for those,” said the other as she eyed my midriff.

“Thanks. When you do as much navel-gazing as I do, you want your navel to at least be hot.”

No one laughed. 

I cleared my throat. “But, please! I’d kill to have your boobs.” 

A lie. It’s my go-to fake compliment for women I consider fat. My tits are perky perfection. 

Mom #1 introduced me to Mom #2. “This is Kelly. Lindsay’s husband’s sister.”

She fake-smiled at me. “Oh, Kelly. I’ve heard so much about you. You and Brian are super close, right?”

“I guess.”

“That’s nice. Are you two twins?”

“Irish twins.” She stared back blankly. I explained:

“It’s when two siblings are born less than a year apart. Basically the man jacks off into the gaping wreckage of his beloved’s lady parts.”

Brian joined us, baby in tow. The moms commenced cooing.

“He’s the spitting image of you, Bri! Kelly, isn’t he the spitting image of your brother?”

“No. He doesn’t look like anyone real yet. He looks exactly like every other bald white baby: like an oversized maggot, with eyes.”

The moms quickly glanced Brian’s way but I knew he wouldn’t give a shit. He’d told me many times with the first two, that he did not get the babyhood phase At. All.

Of course, he’d also told me that it had been a huge mistake, having the second kid. And that he and Linds weren’t having sex at all anymore. And yet, here we were celebrating the arrival of kid #3. So who knows.

“You wanna hold him, Kells?” Brian asked.

“Hell, no. Not if he’s anything like his predecessors. The other two were tits-obsessed perverts,” I told the moms. “Always groping and yanking down tops like they were on spring break.”

They stared back at me in silence. Kid #3 spit up all over my brother’s shirt.

***

“Your sister is drunk,” Lindsay hissed.

Brian shrugged. “So? It’s a party, Linds. She isn’t driving.”

Lindsay started to reply, but the baby spit up on her dress, then began howling. She hurried away.

Kelly lurched over. She was exceedingly drunk.

She held up a finger in front of her face and stared uncomprehendingly. “It’s blood,” she determined at last. “But where … is it … am I …?”

She began inspecting all over her body, up and down. Then she hinged at her hips, letting her legs bow out until she was staring between her own legs. Brian cringed and looked around to make sure Lindsay wasn’t seeing this.

Kelly straightened back up, staggering a little as she did so. “It isn’t that,” she concluded. She leaned in. “Hey. You see that guy at the bar?”

“Which guy, Kells?”

“C’mon, which guy. The hot one, with the shoulders! You think he’s straight?”

Brian squinted. “I mean, he doesn’t scream not-straight.”

Kelly nodded emphatically. “Right?! And he’s tall too, I think maybe he’s crazy tall! Like, 6’4”, or something.” She stared. “Gonna make it happen.”

Lindsay returned with the baby. “Kelly, hi–”

“Gimme that,” Kelly said as she lifted the baby from Lindsay’s arms. She gave Brian a grotesque wink, turned, and made for the bar.

She hadn’t gone five paces before the baby yanked her top down.

***

Six hours into the pandemic, I started calling every guy I’d ever gone out with.

“Can I ask you something? What made you come up to me, that night at the party?”

“Honestly? I wanted to know what you were thinking. You were hanging back a bit from everyone; I guessed you were only pretending to follow the conversation. You had this mysterious, inscrutable quality. A little serious, a little melancholy, but … I wanted to know what was going on in that pretty, sad head of yours.”

“Ah.” I remembered the night well. I’d been trying really, really hard to hold in a fart. That’s what was on my mind, when he approached me. That’s what had my brow oh-so-bewitchingly furrowed.

I rang another ex, asked him the same question about a different night.

“You were seated off by yourself, lost in your own world. You had this faraway look in your eyes; they were roving around the room, but not taking anything in. Where were you, really? What could possibly be troubling a girl like that? I had to know. To find out where you went, in those moments.”

Ugh, no. I can’t even, with this garbage.

“And did you?” I whispered breathlessly.

“No.”

“Would you like to know, now? Do you want me to let you in?” 

“Sure.” But he didn’t sound at all sure. 

“It was July, as you may recall. I was wondering if my shorts felt wet because my butt was swampy, or because I’d perioded through the fabric. Of course, I had to be wearing WHITE shorts that day. So you can imagine my distress.”

I paused; nothing. Carried on: “Turned out I just had serious swamp ass.”

I tried another one, asked him the same question:

“You approached me, actually. Asked me to help detach an infant from your nipple.” 

“Oh, right.” 

“And once you explained that the kid wasn’t yours, I was definitely interested. You’ve got adorable boobs.” 

“Yeah. I know.”

***

“I’ll be right down,” Brian shouts into the intercom.

“Why? Just buzz me in, dude. It’s freezing out here.” But he must be on his way already. I shiver impatiently on the steps outside.

“Hey.” Brian opens the front door.

Finally. Is the buzzer broken? So, it turns out every guy I ever dated was a cliche-chasing douche who thinks–what are we doing?” I ask, because Brian has stepped out onto the stoop with me, letting the door close behind him. “Do you want to go somewhere? Nothing’s open.”

“Yeah. About that, Kells.” Brian stuffs his hands into the pockets of his old man cardigan and looks down at his feet; my stomach starts twisting. “Lindsay thinks we should follow the rules. Not let anyone over.”

I swallow and play dumb. “What?! Why? Is this because I didn’t go to her stupid Super Bowl party? I’ve tried explaining to you both, hearing sports noises on TV is physically painful for me–”

“It isn’t that.”

“So it’s the laptop thing, still.” 

A few weeks ago they were all over at mine, and the oldest kid asked to play on my laptop. Asked his mom, not me. And of course Lindsay–without consulting me–says ok baby, sure. And so the kid opens my laptop, and my last search results are up on the screen. For “female squirt bukkake dudes faces.” 

The kid didn’t even understand what he was seeing. Christ, Lindsay didn’t even understand what she was seeing. I tried explaining it to her later, but she didn’t want to hear.

“I shouldn’t have to apologize for what I do with my private–”

“Kells. You know it’s not about that. Linds isn’t mad at you over that.”

That’s definitely a lie, but I don’t push it. I’m looking down now too, trying not to cry.

“So, what? I’m just fucked, completely on my own, for however long this bullshit lasts?” I glance up, but Brian won’t look at me. I start crying for real. “Can you at least come over to my place?”

“I don’t think so Kells. At least not for now. Let’s give it a week or two, let Lindsay chill out a bit–”

“You pathetic fucking pussy,” I spit out. “You just do whatever your bitch wife tells you. God, she sucks. What the actual fuck do you see in that boring–”

“C’mon Kells, cut it out. We can still meet up for walks–”

“Go fuck yourself, Bri.” I storm off slowly, because of the icy steps.

***

With me effectively banned from seeing Brian, there was no point staying in the city anymore. I rented a place up in Maine, lying to myself that I can afford it now. I’ve had some unexpected success with my film scripts in the last few years; I’m kinda-sorta a low-budget horror indie darling in a post-Me Too world. 

It’s bullshit. Critics think my last two films were “stinging, subversive criticisms of contemporary society,” or something. The Spatchcock Killer was lauded as “an incendiary attack on industrial farming,” because the titular homicidal maniac is revealed to be a Purdue employee. PETA even gave me an award. I was just trying to write a decent slasher with inventive kills. Then there was A Haunted House. I wanted to do a straightforward haunted house flick with zero subtext. That one got praised as a “searing domestic violence parable.” 

With this next project I want to break into the maple-horror scene. Up to now the subgenre’s been a Canadian sausagefest. I’d received a grant to work out of Canada, but then the borders shut down. Hence, Maine. It’s basically Canada, except better.

My working title is Murder Moose. Pitch: He’s a moose. And he fucking hates cyclists. 

The titular character is a legendary moose of the forest, whose lands are invaded to make mountain biking trails. The developers assure everyone that cyclists will stay on the designated paths. You can guess how well that goes. The cyclists being cyclists, they fundamentally reject the concept of rules applying to them. It’s an outrage–the entire planet should be thanking them, the cyclists, for all the cycling they’re doing. Within one week of the trails opening, a mountain biker goes off-course and runs over our hero moose’s pregnant moose-wife, who was preparing to give birth to his moose-baby. They die slow, agonizing deaths; our main moose can only watch helplessly, making moose sounds and swearing vengeance upon all cyclists. 

[Jimmy concludes his tale and gazes around the campfire at the frightened faces of his mountain cyclist friends. No one makes a sound.]

[Suddenly there’s a rustling from the nearby forest.]

STACKED BABE #1:W-what was that noise?

JIMMY: Relax, it’s probably Billy fooling around. Haha Billy, very a-moose-ing, man.

[Jimmy rises to his feet, takes a few steps towards the forest, and pretends to be concerned.]

JIMMY: Hold on a minute– 

STACKED BABE #1:Jimmy, what is it? 

JIMMY: I think you might be right; I see something out there. An enormous rack– 

[Stacked Babe #2 emerges from the trees. Jimmy giggles as his equally-stacked girlfriend, Stacked Babe #1, fake-slaps him.] 

JIMMY: Ow, cut–

[Moose sounds]

STACKED BABE #2:What IS that?!

JIMMY: Oh c’mon ladies, it’s just Billy goofing around.

[Further moose sounds] 

STACKED BABE #1:That is clearly, obviously, not human. 

[Jimmy snorts, leers, and cops a feel.]

[Malevolent moose sounds. Louder. Angrier. Closer.]

STACKED BABE #2:That is plainly the sound of a large animal, not at all a human voice sound. 

[Jimmy snorts, leers, and cops a feel.] 

JIMMY: Chill out; Billy’s just sore cuz I didn’t compliment his rack too. Hey Billy, nice raaaaack–AAAAAHHHHH!!!!

[Murder Moose emerges from the shadows, bellowing lustily. He’s easily fifteen feet tall. The remains of a dozen cyclists are impaled on his rack, bicycles and all. The oldest corpses are just skeletons with bicycle helmets; the newer ones are in various stages of rot and decay. The most recent one doesn’t look like he’s been dead long at all … the cyclists shriek with horror as he lifts his head: it’s Billy. And he’s alive.]

BILLY: Kill … meeee. Kill [groan] meeee. Pleaaaase–

[Murder Moose sets about goring Jimmy.]

[Stacked Babe #1 turns and runs for the bicycles. She jumps on and starts pedaling with all her might, but she’s going nowhere. She looks down: the wheels are stuck in maple sap–]

And that’s when Brian showed up.

***

Idiot

“What the hell were you thinking?! Why would you ever tell that to anyone, Lindsay of all people–”

“She’s my wife, Kells. What the hell do you know about marriage?”

“What, so married people have zero secrets from each other?! You’ve been with Lindsay for over a decade. Why tell her now?”

“She’s been nagging me about it for years. You have no idea what it’s been like. She’s always suspected something. At first I thought she was joking, then I thought eventually she’d stop. But she didn’t. It got worse. I guess I thought the truth would be better than whatever crazy shit she was imagining. It was just the one time in high school, we were basically kids–”

Idiot Idiot Idiot

***

That one time, in high school. It was night, it was dark, I was crying. Brian came in and sat down on the bed; I could barely see him. 

“Ssh, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok.” 

He stroked my hair, patted my shoulder. I rolled over and looked up at him. I pulled him down onto me. We kissed, then we fucked. It was all over in maybe five minutes and there was no foreplay, we didn’t fully undress and it was dark anyway so we never saw each other. We didn’t say anything during, then Brian went back to his room and we never said anything about it after, ever, until now. We were just comforting each other, or something.

***

“Lindsay will never forgive you. Never. How can you not see that?! You know she’s got a freakishly good memory.” 

“So?” 

Idiot

I did my best not to sound angry. “So a person with a good memory, is a person who is good at holding grudges.”

Brian wasn’t listening, not really. He sat hunched on the couch, head in his hands, shaking.

I handed him my whisky. “Drink this, and I’m gonna get some Nyquil from the bathroom. You need sleep. You must be exhausted, driving eight hours straight …” I hesitated. “Uh, does Lindsay know you came here? Maybe that wasn’t the best idea–”

“I had nowhere else to go, Kells.” His voice cracked. “She threw me out, wouldn’t even let me grab some things. And she was screaming the whole time. I didn’t want the kids seeing that; I wasn’t going to stay and argue with her. But I … I didn’t know what else to do, I don’t even know if any hotels are open right now, with everything …” He started crying. 

“My marriage is over, Kells.”

“Oh c’mon, you don’t know that–”

“YOU said the same thing, a minute ago!”

I said she won’t ever forgive you; that’s different.”

“She said she never wanted to see me again, and that she’d never let me near my kids again. That she’d go to court, if she had to. Have me declared an unfit parent.”

“That’s a load of horseshit. Even if she tried, there’s no way it’s grounds for having your parental rights terminated.” I hoped this was true; I had no idea.

“You have no idea if that’s true,” Brian mumbled.

“It’s got to be! One time of … consensual incest, when we were both minors, long before you had kids–”

“Linds doesn’t believe it was just the one time,” he muttered.

“Well, that’s crazy.” But I knew Lindsay would think that, and there’d be no convincing her otherwise. Not now. I began realizing just how fucked my brother was. 

I panicked, and resorted to humor. “We’re not even each other’s type! I only fuck guys over six feet. If Lindsay had ever tried to get to know me, she would know that. And you, you’ve always gone for saggy banana tits with freaky huge areolas, over exquisitely shaped, perky little boobs with nips that jut heavenwards–”

“Just shut the fuck up, Kells! I’m going to lose my kids. Do you even care?”

“C’mon, you didn’t really like those kids. No one likes those kids. Only your wife and pedos with low self-esteem like those kids–”

“Fuck you, Kelly.” Brian was on his feet, shouting at me. “This is all your fault. I should have dropped you years ago–”

“Don’t say that.” Suddenly my chest felt like it was exploding. I couldn’t swallow.

“–but I felt sorry for you. Because you’re all alone. You’ve always been a freak, a born loser. You can’t keep anyone in your life. Not guys, not friends … no one likes you, ever. I’m the only one dumb enough … you don’t have anyone, besides me. You’re going on 40, and you’ve got zero people. Don’t you think at some point, the reason has got to be you?”

I punched him in the face. It was the first time I’d ever punched someone. It felt like I’d shattered every bone in my hand.

“Why did you say that? Why’d you have to do that? I would never have said that to you. Never.” I continued staring at him, tears and snot streaming down my face.

Brian stared back at me, crying, not saying anything. 

***

Later, the crying had stopped and we’d settled back into our respective seats and had a few more drinks, but we still hadn’t really said anything. 

Finally I can’t take it anymore.

“I had to get an abortion after, you know.” 

Brian lowers the ice pack and stares out of his one good eye. “Jesus, Kells–”

I gaze down into my glass. “Yup. Had to get our unholy incest-monster vacuumed out of me.”

“Are you joking around?!”

“Yeah.”

“Fuck you, Kells.” But he says it the way he normally does, and I know he’s not really mad at me anymore. 

“Hey, Bri. You know what I’ve got up here? A fully functioning Nintendo 64.” I pause for dramatic effect. “And Goldeneye. Wanna play?”

“Heck yeah. Lemme just top up my drink–”

“I’ll get it.” As I’m filling his glass, Brian looks up at me. “Hey. Kells.”

“Yeah?”

He hesitates, looks away. “That night. It, uh … it was my first time.” 

My jaw drops; I slosh booze on the ground. “Wow. Bri, I–” 

Brian grins. “Doesn’t feel so good, does it?” 

It takes me a moment, but then: “That’s what you said.” 

“Ouch.” 

“That’s what I said.” 

We play Goldeneye and drink in silence. A long time later, I say to him: 

“You can stay here as long as you want, Bri. We’ll wait out the apocalypse, and we’ll figure something out. The kids are yours, they’re not going anywhere. I’ll never let that happen. We’ll sort it out together. Don’t worry.”

And the whole time I’m talking, I’m still playing, I’m still kicking his ass.

Noel Negele

Nausea

I open my eyes to witness a roach wandering on the ceiling. Its antennae vivid and alive, just bobbling along, and I wonder if these things ever sleep. I have a headache that would put down a gladiator in the era of degenerate madness, but since I have grown accustomed to the lousiness of hangovers, I consume the last stocks of my remaining energy and drag my carcass out of bed.

I take a nice ol’ cold shower to open the eyes wide and I step out of the tub with a towel around my waist, feeling paradoxically enough, even more woozy and lame than before. I glance at the crapper and wonder if it’d be wise to put my finger into my throat to puke my guts out, like a hook into redemption, but I decide against it since A) it’s pathetic and wretched and B) I don’t like easy solutions.

In the kitchen I open the fridge to witness a miracle of sorts. Four bottles of beer batched together, like a decimated Roman phalanx that doesn’t quit — an indication that we were too fucked up to drink them all last night, a very rare event indeed. I take them all and moor myself on the couch between empty cans and bottles of beer. A Stolninchaya bottle lies broken beneath the table. 

I hope I don’t step on any glass and add more torture into my life.

I drink the beers leisurely, still drunk from the night before. Sitting there semi-conscious, I subsist in a fog of numbness and almost total amnesia. In a wonderful state where no ambition intrudes, no pain claws from within.

After a while, I get up and head back into my bedroom. There I observe the sleep-swollen face of the female boozer I’d bought home the night before. She snores at a moderate level, saggy tits exposed from beneath the covers. I slap one of them to wake her up. It’s time to exist again.

She sighs, yawns, and I notice all cavities in her teeth. I wonder if it hurts when she eats. I suppose my own denture is in no better condition, so I’m not the one to judge. She starts rubbing away the mess of her eye gums with her knuckles, and that’s when I notice her hairy armpits. I am more than certain that if I pull the sheets aside, I’ll uncover so much cellulite that I’ll become nauseous. 

“You have to leave. I have to go to work,” I tell her, even though I’ve never had a job in my life.

“And what?” she mumbles, barely able to pronounce the words. “You afraid I’m gonna steal something?”

“ I don’t even know your name.”

I suddenly feel very tired. Even the briefest exchange of words costs me dearly.

I retreat to the bathroom again and splash water on my face. Yes, I’m shit. On the outside and on the inside. I hope I’m not as shit on the inside as I look on the outside. I take a step back and observe. My tattoos look more ludicrous to me with every year that passes. A pin-up woman with her legs up and open on my chest. A childlike skull on my bicep. A boxer on my ribs, old-school style. The ripper with his scythe on my other ribs. Bukowski smoking next to the pin-up girl on my chest. Two drunk baby angels on my left arm. A noose on my back, going around my neck. A snake on my thigh devouring an apple that says TRUTH. They say you can erase them with laser, but since I’m never going to have enough money to even fix my own teeth, let alone erase my tattoos, these fuckers operate as a source of wisdom for me.

Oh yes, a wise and defeated acceptance of the irreversible in life. The college you dropped out of. The girl you loved but never had the balls to do anything about it. The same girl living two blocks away, married, with two kids. All the love you came short for your dead mother. Cancer. Disability. Fatherhood. Lifetime sentences to maximum security prisons. Lousy tattoos and death. In essence, all the great lessons in life are about death. It’s acceptance. Old age is a wild indecency. The inevitability of death a shame. You can’t get into the ring with life, it will put you to the fucking ground.

It’s all a big pile of horseshit. This world like a huge manmade tumor in space. The things that are exciting are gradually decreasing. Nothing is enough but the pain, the loneliness, the boredom.

“Where the hell are my panties?” screams the boozer from the other room. Her voice is hoarse, aged. I hear bottles tumbling all around.

“And my car keys? Where are my car keys?”

I don’t have enough sense of humor to see her right now. So I sit on the crapper and take a dump. 

“I don’t know where your car keys are!” I yell back, “and as for your panties, I don’t think you had any.”

She continues braying questions about her missing keys and panties. I don’t listen.

My phone starts to ring from the living room where I’d left it. I can hear the sound coming closer. Shit. Did I lock the door? 

The door opens wide and there she is, her hair a wild mess as she hands me the phone.

“My name is Mary by the way.”

“Nice to meet you,” I say with my best attempt at a smile.

And just when I think the situation can’t get any more uncomfortable, she enters the bathroom and climbs into the tub, squatting to piss down the drain. I feign indifference, as if something like this happens often in my life.

“Who is it?” I answer my still-ringing phone.

“Is this Jack Pearce?”

The voice from the other end is feminine, young but discouragingly professional.

“Yes, this is me.”

“I’m calling you from Saint Teresa hospital. Your father has fully recovered and we think it’s time for you to take him home…”

“Shit!”

“… Excuse me?”

“Yes, I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. Good day sir.”

I hang up the phone. Mary is still pissing in the tub.

“I feel like shit,” she says. “Who was it?”

“My father had both his legs broken in an accident. Had surgery. They want me to go and pick him up from the hospital.”

“What about your job?”

“What job?”

“What do you mean what job?” she asks, staring at me.

I swallow.

“I’ll go to work late,” I reply.

“I can take you to the hospital, since I’m leaving anyway,” she says. “You’re too much of a dog to be employed,” she continues. “And besides, it’s Sunday.”

I just look at her for a few seconds, until I realize this is one of those times where telling the truth is more advantageous than lying.

“Alright Mary,” I include her name because I’d read somewhere it indicates honest gratitude, “Thanks.”

Of course, it takes us a while to find where her car is parked. And when we finally do find it, I’m in for another surprise — Mary has a red Mercedes CLK Cabriolet. 

“You didn’t steal this, did you?”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she laughs, getting in.

I smile. I resist the urge to jump into the convertible because I don’t want to vomit, and so I just enter the old fashioned way — through the door.

We take off into the deserted streets. She wears these large black, sunglasses that make her look like a tired old fly. It is after we’ve passed the second red light that she says:

“Get me that bottle from the glove compartment.”

What bottle, I ask myself as I open the glove compartment to find a small bottle of Smirnoff looking back at me with its catty smile. This is the third surprise of the day, I might add.

I hand it over. She puts it between her thighs and with one hand twists off the cap, draining 1/5 of the bottle down her throat. She extends it to me and needless to say I receive it graciously, and needless to say that now 2/5 of the bottle’s contents are forever lost.

By the time we get to the hospital, the bottle lies shattered somewhere at an intersection. 

Not many words were exchanged along the way. So I just say thank you Mary, including her name again, looking at her, already caught in the web of my alcoholic sentimentality. She looks back at me and says it’s alright.

“Goodbye, one night stand!” she says as I exit the vehicle.

“ I hope we didn’t gift each other any aphrodisiac diseases,” I tell her with a smile.

She throws her head back in an explosion of hysterical laughter that I find slightly worrisome.

“Hope your dick doesn’t fall off,” she says, “it’d be a shame.”

She then steps on the gas and takes off like a mad woman, almost running me over in the process.

Judson Michael Agla

DRIVE

I love the way you drive

It’s like the way you love, full throttle with the most reckless of intentions

The streetlights seem to bow and dim upon your approach, like sentries guarding the darkness ahead, signaling safe passage

Your kisses become comfort in the low lights of the dashboard, but I’ve never encountered someone with such passionate monsters

You chase your engine like an armed pilgrim, on the way to lay siege to the promised land, shrieking back into the disappearing landscape 

What is it of rot and ruin, that pursues you with such wretched conviction?

As the icy road passes underneath with quiet caress, we barrel into a new dawn of deliverance, carrying the spark that will ignite the fires of reckoning

Where we will stand witness to the decline of the benevolence of slaughter