James Burr

Porno Park

There are many motivating forces driving the advancement of science and the progression of human knowledge. Some, probably far fewer than I would like to admit, are driven by a genuine need to advance the species or, at the very least, to add to the collected learning of humankind. Others seek fame and glory from their work, a way to be lauded by their peers and recognised by all once they have shuffled off this mortal coil and left their works as a legacy to the world. Others, rather unspectacularly, just seek to make a living out of what they have always been good at, and they merely stumble across some discovery or invention that has a profound impact upon Man’s collective knowledge. And a few, thankfully very few, have their scientific experiments driven by a deep and undeniable curiosity, a need to say “What will happen if…”? This can sometimes be undeniably malevolent, as in the case of Mengele and his placing people in pressure chambers or sewing up their urethras just to see what would happen. And other times it can be rather more pointless in the grander scheme of things, such as calculating the centrifugal forces in operation when correctly stirring a cup of tea. The discovery of the SEX2 gene by Dr Emanuel Kokoschka, even though he was himself a noted degenerate and colossal pervert, was in fact almost entirely motivated by the latter impulse.

On discovering the gene sequence and noting it often was only partially expressed in humans, he utilized CRISPR technology to ensure that the gene, regardless of other epigenetic factors, would be fully expressed. Kokoschka took feverish notes as he observed his first batch of genetically altered lab rats, going into exquisite and, from a scientific perspective, almost entirely superfluous detail as they mounted each other and thrust away manically, spraying vermin semen like little angry red fire hoses as they pumped and shafted and shagged away in a manic sexual frenzy.

Even as jaded an old pervert as Kokoschka could see little actual practical purpose in his discovery, but motivated out of both scientific and salacious curiosity he persevered with his efforts. He next altered and fully activated the gene in some macaque monkeys, the primates almost immediately on waking jumping on each other in their cages to writhe and thrust and grind, fucking away until their organs bled, their pelvic muscles cramped and, eventually, they expired from fatigue or dehydration.

There seemed to be no genuine way of actually marketing his discovery despite the fact that Kokoschka’s tangential studies indicated that the gene seemed to be already activated in porn stars and in those that Kokoschka, with genuine debauched affection, regarded as whores and sluts. The development of some kind of “skank test” crossed his mind although the number of those who would actually feel the need to take such a test seemed to be vanishingly small.  The priapic properties of his discovery lead to him mulling over its possibilities as some form of treatment for erectile dysfunction, although the rapacious changes in behavior and overwhelmingly fatal nature of the unsatisfiable erections did seem to be somewhat of a drawback.

And so it seemed his discovery of the SEX2 gene and its purpose would have slipped into the footnotes of genetics textbooks never to be considered again had the military, perhaps even more perceptive and insightful than Kokoschka himself, not seen military value in the weaponisation of his discovery.  If the gene could be placed within a washed off viral sheath, it could then be dropped upon enemy divisions in aerosolized form and the opposing forces would then be rendered incapable of effective resistance as they would be too engaged in rutting – either each other, domestic pets, or rolling around by themselves, fists a blur – to mount any kind of effective resistance. Similarly, if dropped on an enemy’s civilian population, entire cities could be rapidly turned into Dionysian orgies of uncontrollable fucking – infrastructures useless, supply lines cut, hospitals and law enforcement rendered ineffective – all with zero material damage to property or physical assets.

So keen were the military to test their new toy, they created the opportunity to deploy the weapon within a period of time that even Kokoschka considered indecent. The city of Al Hasakah in northern Syria was selected, as it housed a large and effective resistance force as well as a strategically important oil supply line, the usefulness of which was forever uncertain due to their activities.

At 10 AM on 23 July, the SEX2 viral-gene weapon was deployed and, following a small detonation, a cloud of acrid smelling fuck-gas rolled slowly throughout the city blocks, billowing between high rises like a slow motion flood.

Within hours the city was naked, bloodied, stripped of clothes and flesh, as they screwed themselves raw, mountains of citizenry thrusting and pumping in two-storey flesh mountains with others leaping onto them, eagerly seeking any hole or gap or piece of meat that they could penetrate.

However, despite their secret use of the mutagenic weapon, top brass on seeing drone footage of the foul scenes of unbridled carnality in the streets below, got cold feet and so decided to backtrack as much as they could to hide the very existence of the weapon which they now viewed as horrific in its degenerate efficiency. So it was that large palettes of food, electrolyte drinks and amino acid nutritional packs were dropped on the city, soaked with pheromones so that the sex crazed natives, once they had stopped trying to fuck them, could eventually replace their rapidly dwindling energy and fluid stores. Kokoschka himself was deployed on the outskirts of the city in a makeshift military lab to study the samples collected from the citizenry so that he could possibly formulate a cure before news of this new Gomorrah and the military’s role in it, spread to the wider world.

Yet, however it happened, no-one is sure how, news somehow spread of the fuck-city despite the stringent quarantine and military imposed blackout and soon tourists started to arrive, one or two at a time at first, but soon by the coach load, drawn by stories from the most seedy parts of the Dark Web. Eventually the military were not just repelling a handful of sex tourists drawn from amongst the world’s most debauched perverts, but they were futilely trying to stop convoys of virgins, incels and even the more daring of stag dos, from reaching the city’s limits to join the untrammeled fucking within.

It soon became apparent that news of the fuck-city could no longer be hidden from the world’s mainstream media, so it was that an increasingly desperate military – based on a suggestion from Kokoschka himself – decided to no longer try secrecy but to instead utilise disinformation. Kokoschka was chosen to be the mouthpiece for a stunning new “scientific discovery”, a city where the local populace, due to a perfectly natural and spontaneously occurring genetic mutation, exhibited extreme disinhibition, insatiable carnal lusts and boundless sexual energy. Since the existence of the place could no longer be denied, they may as well utilize half-truths to hide their own part in its creation.  The place had already become a magnet for sex tourists despite the military checkpoints and orders to shoot trespassers on sight, so the public announcement concerning Al Hasakah lead to tens of thousands of horny, lonely, eager travelers arriving, ready to sample the sexual delights and excesses within the city limits. Enterprising developers started to build hotels on the outskirts of the city to cater to these visitors, attached health spas offering massages to overworked pelvic muscles and torn lower backs.

And so Kokoschka continued his secret work into a cure as the tourist industry around what came to be known as Porno Park expanded and grew, its frenzied, lusting citizenry the willing victims of salacious perverts from around the world.

But then one day, as is the way with nature, the stripped viral sheath Kokoschka used to insert new amino acids into the genome to deactivate the SEX2 gene did something unexpected. Whether this was just the fiendishly complicated nature of genetic manipulation fighting back against clumsy human interference, or if Kokoschka, fresh from one of his regular “fact finding surveys” within the city limits, and full of Courvoisier and amyl nitrate, had somehow made an error is uncertain, but in one particular bonobo chimp, the new genetic trigger not only failed to sedate the terminally horny ape but was also carried by the supposedly deactivated virus into the air. Within a day, all the creatures in Kokoschka’s sordid lab were frenziedly fucking each other, across species, across ages, mice with frogs, monkeys with rats, eyes rolling back in their heads, and dry tongues lolling from gawping mouths. Even Katie, Kokoschka’s new lab assistant was infected, proving the gene-virus could infect humans, something Kokoschka noted as he watched her cavort with the various beasts in his lab with his trousers wrapped around his ankles. For several hours.

Thankfully, due to excessive drug use and his monstrous sexual proclivities, Kokoschka’s libido had long since become jaded to the point of burning out, so he was able to maintain enough sensibility to try and clean up the mess with a claw hammer, a pick axe handle and some domestic bleach.

However despite his most meticulous and stringent methods of sterilization – splashing Domestos over all the bloodied and semen-drenched surfaces – the newly developed gene-virus somehow managed to escape into the wider world. 

It started slowly at first, Kokoschka noting one or two people being chased by others as he drove back to his digs, swollen members swinging from side to side as they ran, almost hitting one as, his fingers sticky with blood, he swerved to avoid them. He was awoken the next day by screams from outside and on looking out of the window he was greeted with the vision of large groups of people, well beyond the city limits and who had clearly never been exposed to the initial mutagenic detonation, rolling in a roiling sea of naked, thrusting, sweaty flesh as they groaned and moaned and screamed in ecstasy. Overhead he saw a drone filming the sexual chaos around him and he wondered how long it would be before its distant operators were themselves tearing their clothes from their bodies and grinding and thrusting away for a release from desire that would never come.

Kokoschka felt a swelling in his previously numbed nethers as he watched the debauchery gradually spread from beyond Porno Park to distant hamlets on hills many miles away. And as he watched escaping helicopters first wobble then tip then explode as they plunged into the ground as their pilots frenziedly attempted to reach climax before they died, even Kokoschka felt a tinge of shame that he was momentarily relieved that what was obviously soon to be a global fuck-demic meant he would at least escape the blame for it. 

But then he gathered his thoughts, undid his belt and dropping his trousers to his knees, proudly thrust forward to face the future.

Wolfgang Carstens

they had

this thing—
call it a bond,
a game,
their special secret 
moment.

he would only
phone her
when he was
blacked-out drunk.

they’d talk poetry,
philosophy,
art.

she 
was in love 
with his mind

and 
made him promise 
to never stop. 

this secret 
Jekyll and Hyde love affair 
went on for years.

when Jekyll
quit drinking,
however,

Hyde
stopped phoning—

breaking
a promise he
never made

to a woman
he couldn’t 
remember.

yet,
every time 
the phone rings
late at night

she never
forgets.

Jason Melvin

Art is Everywhere

I took a shit today
size of a toddler forearm
the kind that makes you exhale
proud of the work accomplished

It periscoped above the toilet water
surrounded by wet white paper
A flick of the silver handle
it started to pirouette
a ballet dancer   
white swans swirl
and dance around their spinning queen

As the undertow began to pull down
it dropped to the side
rubbed along the bowl
drew a perfectly straight
brown line
before disappearing into depths unknown
a crayon smudge
on perfect white porcelain
form held as showered from above
glistening as the water rose

Tell me I’m not beautiful

John Yohe

Kiss the Witch

I

The witch
is polishing her nails
on all twelve fingers

The witch is changing
the oil in her motorcycle

The witch is dancing
to Texas Blues
undulating her body in S’s
while rolling her hips in O’s

The witch is singing
in a minor key

The witch is being misunderstood by many people

The witch
surprisingly
does not wear black all the time

The witch
is wondering what to write

The witch is wearing sexy underwear
but only for herself
they make her feel good

The witch is swimming naked
in a cold mountain river

The witch is calling down thunder
and lightning
just because

The witch is conjuring demons:
Here little demons
come to Momma

The witch knows 
that you know 
that she knows
that you think she is crazy
but she’s ok with that

The witch is swinging her pulaski
next to the fire
and her face
is smeared with sweat
dirt and ash

The witch
is camping out in the desert
with the eyes
of ringtail cats
watching her

The witch is directing a movie that takes place
in the near future

The witch travels all the time
by bus or train
or she flies

The witch is drinking massive amounts of beer

The witch is vomiting and regretting

The witch is practicing her fiddle

The witch would like to see peace in her lifetime
but also wishes the loud annoying people
next to her
would shut up

The witch is tuning her guitar

The witch is not casting a love spell
on you
that is so passé
if you can’t love her for herself
then fuck you

The witch thinks you have a lot of growing up to do

Nevertheless the witch will make you a chai with soy milk if you want

The witch should be working on her next novel
but
she is forgetting to do something

Have pity on the witch
she works hard
and compared with most people in the world
she is doing less harm
than most

On second thought
the witch doesn’t need your pity

The witch
just wants your respect

The witch is seriously thinking about becoming a lesbian

The witch has fantasies

But the witch also likes the cock

There is something about men

Which is both good and bad

But the witch supposes that is true of women too

The witch thinks she could be a nun
and live in a cloister
and not talk much
and meditate

But the witch goes out for a walk
barefoot
and it’s a nice day
there are lots of people out
and then the witch thinks that she needs this too
and would wither in a cloister

The witch is confused

The witch goes into a café
to have a jasmine tea
and think about it all

II

And what does the witch think of you?

Does the witch think of you at all?

How can you talk to the witch?

Should you call the witch?

Should you send the witch an email?

Should you write the witch a poem?

Yes says the witch
you should always write the witch a poem!

But you don’t know if the witch really means it

You are never sure of the witch
and what the witch wants

You are not even sure the witch knows
what she wants
except for general things like happiness
and fat-free frozen yoghurt with M&Ms

But you?

That might depend
on the witch’s mood at the time
and how good your poetry is

She might not even approve
of referencing poetry
in a poem

But you think that if the witch got to know you
and invited you over for dinner
you might be able to finally kiss the witch

After some intellectual conversation first of course

And a bit of wine

Perhaps you could take a walk with the witch
in the semi-darkness
through a tunnel of fireflies

Mela Blust

everyone remembers the first time they realize how truly fucked up they are

i started unbuttoning my blouse
to show the police officer 
the tops of my breasts;

kept unbuttoning to indicate
that i would go all the way
to avoid this altercation

i was young and stupid 
doing fifty in a forty
with a tiny baggie of blow
tucked in my pocket

he placed his hand
delicately onto my own
and said “stop speeding honey,
i don’t need to see anything”

in my head, i knew
i’d won the game
gotten out of a ticket
or worse

in my loins, a pathetic, 
persistent tingling
in my heart, an empty sadness

that a man
had turned down
seeing my tits

Jonathan Woods

Nude Dancer Loses Her Head in Tapas Bar

Itztli loved life. He also feared the old gods. And the new.

His name in Aztec meant obsidian knife.

In the beginning, when he was three, his family crossed the Rio Grande by car over a bridge. The river flowed below them, brown and sluggish as an overfed python. On the American side they settled in Brownsville. Many aunts and uncles remained behind in Matamoros.

In his last year of high school, Itztli got his learner’s permit. Two months later his Tejas driver’s license. A week later he dropped out of school and began running blow up to Dallas. His cousin Alberto got him the job. Dallas was a credit card with no limit—all the blow you could sell and more. Itztli made a ton of money—designer shirts, a gold Rolex, a goosed-up Camaro V8 (black with deeply tinted windows), alligator boots. Oh, and a Glock 9mm tucked under the dash. In Brownsville between runs he spent his time trying to get Miranda, his high school sweetheart, to open her legs. Miranda had sworn to Jesus that she would be a virgin when she got married. What a pain in the fucking ass.

After a while he moved on from Miranda. There were lots of girls who wanted a badass boyfriend. But, alas, like Miranda they had all sworn to remain unviolated until their wedding night. Only the hookers offered cold solace; laughed at his inexperience. Held him afterward while he said his prayers and burned an offering.

On a Tuesday in February, a week after Itztli turned 21, Ryo called him into his office in the back of a certain garage (chop shop) on the Mex side of the Rio Grande.  Though it was a cool winter day, Itztli’s forehead and upper lip, caught in the overhead fluorescent lights, glistened with sweat.

Ryo: They tell me you’re doin’ good, kid.

Itztli: Yeah, sure, Mr. Ryo. Everything’s like copacetic.  

Ryo: I need you to do something special for me.

Itztli: You got it, Mr. Ryo.

Ryo: There’s two guys up in Dallas tryin’ to rip me off. 

Ryo drew the index finger of his right hand across his throat.  

Itztli: Permanent vacation, right Mr. Ryo?

Ryo: Don’t be a smart ass.

Itztli: Sorry, Mr. Ryo. I didn’t mean no disrespect.

Ryo waved his hand dismissively. Itztli turned to leave.

Ryo: Do it tomorrow. And take Rita with you.

Rita? A girl! Why did he have to take a girl along? But he didn’t say anything.

* * *

A white T-shirt tight across her distractingly verbose chest said in pink lettering: cute but unstable.  

That about sums it up, thought Itztli.

Garishly painted red lips, a mole (real or fake an open question) on her right cheek, jet hair cut in a short, jagged style with a white streak down one side, pock-marked skin, deep cenote eyes, a gold nose ring, a tiny green spider tat on her neck. And the weirdest thing, a black eyepatch with a red heart over her left eye. Itztli guessed 23, 24. Somewhere in there. The rest: black leather jeans, short French-looking boots (also black leather), a small backpack at her feet. She stared one-eyed at the drab winter scene flying by outside the Camaro an hour out of Brownsville, heading northeast along the coast before turning north toward San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. 

Itztli thought about asking her if she wanted to stop somewhere and fuck. But he was nervous and held off. What if she agreed? 

What if she pulled a gun out of her backpack?

Any way you looked at it, having Rita along for the ride was nerve-racking as shit. Maybe even scary.

Who was she? Why had Ryo sent her along?

With his teeth he pulled a cigarette from a crumpled pack of Kools, reached into his pocket for a lighter. He held the cigarette pack out to Rita.

She made a face and shook her head. When he lit up, she lowered the passenger side window. At 80 mph wind noise filled the Camaro like a heavy metal band.

Itztli: How do you know Ryo?

Rita: Family.

Itztli arched one eyebrow. The one Rita couldn’t see. Family!?

Itztli: Why’d he want you to come on this trip with me?

Rita: Fuck if I know.

Great, he thought. Here he was, sent to take out a pair of psycho scumbags up in Dallas. Ordered by the boss to bring some goth punk princess along to ride shotgun. A girl somehow related to the boss. Was this some kind of test?

Itztli: Do you know what Ryo wants us to do?”

No reaction. Itztli mashed out his half-smoked cigarette. 

Itztli: Snuff two assholes who’re fucking with Ryo’s business.”

Rita looked over at him. A smile snaked across her apple-red lips.

Rita: Well, it’s about time somebody told me what’s up. You ever kill anyone before, Itztli?”

***

Around Austin, after they stopped for Popeye’s fried chicken sandwiches and Cokes, Rita fell asleep. Her torpid body slumped sideways until her head rested against Itztli’s shoulder. She smelled herbal. It was dark when they rolled into Dallas’s southern suburbs and Rita awoke. Yawned.

Rita: Where are we?

Itztli: Just comin’ into Big D.

He realized her hand rested on his blue jean-ensconced cock. She gave it a friendly and unsolicited squeeze.

Rita: Let’s stop someplace. I’m in the mood for love. 

They took a room at a Hilton Garden Inn along the highway. It was the most incredible blowjob he’d ever had. The blowjob of a lifetime! Don’t stop. No, no, wait. I’m almost there. Ahhhhhhhh. Itztli wanted more. 

Rita: I can’t. I’m saving myself for my husband.

Itztli kept his cool. Went down on her instead of raping her. She fell asleep in his arms.

* * *

In the backroom office of the Vampire Tapas Bar & Strip Club, Itztli hung like a smoked Peking duck in the window of a Chinatown butcher shop. Arms tied together and stretched to the rafter above him; toes of his bare feet barely able to touch the tabletop. Blood bubbled from his mouth and down his chin. His flesh screamed from the kicks and blows.

OK, he’d fucked up. But where was Rita when he really needed her?

Through the blurred vision of one swollen eye, he could see the three of them sprawled around the table, passing a bottle of silver tequila back and forth, their 9mm pistols and bottles of Dos Equis displayed randomly on the tabletop.

Bandido #1: Amigos, I’ve got to get some shuteye, so let’s off this cabron.

Bandino #2: Sheeet, amigo. We got time for one more beer.

Bandido #1: Nah. Let’s just do him. Then it’s sweet dreams for me.

Fed up with all the back and forth and generally pissed off, Bandido #3 leaped to his feet and grabbed for his pistol. But before he could shoot Itztli, a bullet hole appeared in the back of his head. The bullet tore around the inside of his skull, wreaking life-ending havoc. He slumped to the floor. Two seconds later a pink-handled stiletto, pitched end-over-end, penetrated one of Bandido #1’s eyes and deep into his brain—turning life to mush. It really didn’t matter which eye—left or right. Dead was dead. Bandido #2, barely on his feet, took two bullets in the heart. As Rita cut Itztli down, Joan Jett’s ‘Do You Want to Touch Me’ pounded through the walls from the main club room. The nude dancer on the stage, writhing to the music and the flashing red, blue and white lights, appeared in Itztli’s head.

She looked exactly like Rita.

Meanwhile, on her way to the dressing room, another (less imaginary) nude dancer—Mayan features, heavy pagan breasts, shaved snatch—heard the gunshots. Stupidly she opened the door and stared dumbly at the three dead bodies. You don’t have to be very bright to be a nude dancer. 

Before she could scream, a machete sliced through her neck, sending her head sailing like a volleyball into the corner. Blood spritzed everywhere.

Itztli fell to his knees, mumbling nonsense to the gods. 

Rita wiped the machete blade clean and sank it back into its leather scabbard, retrieved the stiletto from Bandido #1’s eye and tapped Itstli on the shoulder. 

Rita: Come on blowjob buddy, let’s get out of here. Oh, and you owe me.

* * *

Next up, Rita’s story.

I was sent to convent school in Leon when I was 8 years old and left after high school. The nuns hated me. My father, Ryo, being an up-and-coming gangster. 

My mother (an 18-year-old prostitute) ran away shortly after I was born. She’s probably dead now. Fleshless bones in a hole in the ground, so you can’t see the needle marks on her arms. Ryo acknowledged his paternity and handed me to a wet nurse.

In convent school I was a regular fucking little rebel without a cause. A succubus. Over time I came to enjoy having my ass beaten black and blue by the nuns—absolutely amazing orgasms. I think the nun’s got off too. By age ten I had my own girl gang. So after that some low-level gang-member wannabe always took the fall for whatever shit we got up to. Unless, of course, I was in the mood for a hot bottom. 

I saw my father twice a year. The day school began and the day school ended. I never went home for holidays. Me and a couple of other girls stayed on at the deserted school. We smoked weed, read poetry aloud and watched horror movies. In the summer Ryo sent me to an estancia in the Yucatan. Life on the ranch fell into a routine, horseback riding, target practice with handguns and AK-47s, masturbating and fending off the horny vaqueros. I longed to be ass-whipped but none of them had the nerve. I was the daughter of a drug kingpin.

When I turned 18, my father wanted me to join the family business, which was now big business, having been merged into the Gulf Cartel.

I told him to go fuck himself and walked out.  

But I stayed in Matamoros and started taking classes at the community college in Brownsville. To pay for my little apartment I got a job as a nude dancer at a club on the coast highway south of town—cement blocks painted slime green and a flashing neon sign: GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS. 

It was a fun job. Great exercise. Good money. You had to be quick on your feet to avoid all the calloused hands grabbing at your tits and ass. And, OK, the management shook me down for 15% of my tips. But what’s a poor girl to do? I learned how to use a switchblade to fend off the psychos lurking outside when I left work, dreaming of kidnapping me back to their adobe-brick hovels for weird sex and torture. I stuck two or three, one bled out. After that, just the glint of the blade in moonlight sent them packing. The knife had a pink plastic handle. I kept it in my designer clutch along with my lipstick, eye shadow, car keys, tissues and the antique silver snuff box for my coke.

A few years went by like snapping your fingers. Then one day Ryo found out how I paid the rent. He dragged me out of the club and beat me to a pulp. That’s how I lost my eye. The club owner went into a shallow grave.

At age 22 I joined the family business. It was either that or another beating, which I didn’t think I would survive.

A couple of months later I met Itztli.

* * *

  In their room at the Hilton Garden Inn (not the one they’d stayed in coming up to Dallas, but another outside San Marcos, just south of Austin), Itztli sat on the bed and stared at Rita standing there, stark naked except for a pair of stiletto heels. A black bush (like a tarantula) level with his chest. Belly hard and flat. High breasts pointed and dangerous—one of them could have easily poked your eye out. Her underarms hairy and obfuscating in equal measure with her crotch. In the background floral wallpaper, an ordinary bedside lamp with a glass base. Everything just like in that famous ‘art’ photo by Helmet Newton except Itztli wasn’t wearing a suit. 

Rita stared back. Finally Itztli blinked and she got down on her knees and unzipped his fly.

But she again refused to let him to fuck her. Refused to engage in mutual coitus. 

Itztli: I love you.

Rita: You love what my mouth does to you.

Silence. The rumble of the ice machine down the hall.

Rita: I need your help.

Itztli: What’s up?

Rita: I want… I need to kill my father.

Itztli: And who might that be?

Rita: Ryo.

Ryo!

Itztli: You’re joking. Ha, ha. 

Rita: That he’s my father? Or that I want to kill him?

Itztli looked thoughtful. 

Itztli: If you’ll cohabitate with me, I’ll help you.

Rita: Cohabitate? You mean like get married?

Itztli: Yeah. And kids.

Rita: Wow! That sounds like a major, major, major commitment.

She gnawed on her lower lip as her brain blitzed and sizzled. Finally: 

Rita: Well, what the hey, you only live once. Right, blowjob buddy? It’s a deal.

They slapped hands.

* * *

Ryo sat alone in his chop shop office doing paperwork. Always the goddamn endless paperwork. He took another sip of small still mescal. His personal label.

His two bodyguards, Facundo and Angel, lounged out front, drinking Mexican 

Coca Colas and catching a few February rays. Their eyelids drooped. From behind a pot of red geraniums, a green lizard darted forth. Then retreated.

Rita stepped out of a shadow, touched the gun barrels of twin .38 Colt Cobra revolvers to the foreheads of Facundo and Angel.

Rita: Rise and shine, boys. And don’t make any quick moves.

Their eyes fluttered open, grew round with fear.

Itztli rolled them onto their stomachs and bound hands and feet with zip ties. Pressed duct tape over their mouths. Dragged them into the back of one of the garage bays.

Rita: Ready, baby?

Itztli nodded. They burst into Ryo’s office.

Ryo looked up, bemused, bewildered, nonplussed and bamboozled. Quickly he regained his suave coolness and, standing up, walked around his desk with a smile.

Rita: I hate you. You beat the shit out of me and put my eye out.

She shot him in both legs and both arms. Ryo lay on the floor, screaming bloody murder. Together Rita and Itztli heaved him faceup on the desktop.

Rita: Your turn.

Itztli drew an obsidian blade from his back pocket. He looked into Ryo’s eyes awash with fear and pain, then spat in his face. He tore open Ryo’s shirt, buttons flying, and with the obsidian knife cut out Ryo’s pulsing heart and held it aloft. Blood dripped down Itztli’s arms, stained his T-shirt scarlet.

* * *

Rita swiveled back and forth in Ryo’s ergonomic Italian leather office chair. Nice. Very nice.

Itztli appeared, pushing the two bodyguards before him, their hands still bound by  zip ties, mouths still taped shut. Their eyes bugged out as they took in the pertinent details:  Ryo’s corpse dumped in a corner like a piss-stained remnant of cheap wall-to-wall carpet, his now unbeating heart displayed on a Talavera pottery plate on the desk. Itztli ripped off the duct tape covering their mouths. (Ouch! Ouch!)

Rita (leaning back, feet on desk): OK babosos, your choices are: join Ryo in Hell or henceforth work for me. What’s it to be?

Facundo: You’re the boss, Rita.

Angel: That goes double for me.

Rita: Bueno. 

She nodded at Itztli.

Rita: You’ve met my fiancé, Itztli. He’ll be numero dos around here. I want you boys to spread the word to the rest of the gang. Rita and Itztli are the new badass jefes. 

Then she raised one of the .38s and shot Facundo in the forehead. 

Rita: Está claro, Angel?

Angel (between chattering teeth): Si, si, si!

* * *

Ryo’s and Facundo’s bodies were dragged out and tossed in a dumpster. The day was ending. Blood-red clouds streaked the western horizon. Neon lights blinked on outside the cantinas and taquerias.

In Rita’s (formerly Ryo’s) office behind the chop shop, Itztli watched Rita take off her clothes and lie languidly across the $8,000 Roche Bobois sofa residing against the back wall. She motioned to him with one finger.

Rita: You can fuck me now.

As Itztli began his assigned task, he mumbled a quick and dirty prayer to Xochiquetza, goddess of fertility. Rita stared impassively at an amoeboid stain on the ceiling. Should she have a full-blown Catholic wedding with 500 guests? Or should they just fly to Lake Tahoe for the weekend?

Jason Melvin

Books

I refuse to leave you behind
I have to feel you in my hands
spread you open
rub my nose in your fold
breath in your musk 
thinking of all those
who’ve touched you
before me
My Half-Price whores
spines worn slightly
rough little edges
If you’re really good
I’ll toss you to a friend
discuss you
once they’re done with you
and when I’m done with you
I place you on a shelf
display you alongside
my other conquests
dreaming of the day I may
if ever
take you in
again

Otto Burnwell

Little Mer-man

Your girlfriend convinced you to go in with three other couples for a vacation at a Mexican beach resort.  The kind of place that’s so upscale it gives you a nosebleed.  The kind of place that has three tropical poolside bars.  The kind of place that provides mermaids to swim around, getting you your drinks.

The butler—because this is the kind of place that provides each suite with its own personal butler—this butler, was still unpacking and putting away your stuff when your girlfriend disappeared to meet up with her crew to “drink up the sights.”

Which was cool. She hadn’t seen her friends since they all graduated.  You could let her have her fun while you got to know the other guys, none of whom ever met each other before coming down here.  So—you ate, tried the tequila, and swam.

Then, that evening when you were all supposed to meet up for dinner, you went looking for your girlfriend.  You found the other girls in the lounge, drinking and cackling, but no girlfriend.

They waved you in closer.  They’re taking bets, they said, on whether your girlfriend walks in naked through the back of the resort, or—or—the girl telling the story nearly gagged on her drink, laughing so hard—or through the main lobby, because that’s the crazy kind of bitch she is, I’m sorry to tell you, she finished, looking at you like you were the proud owner of a rabid dog.

Naked?  From where?

What they told you, in that syncopated, disjointed, half-choking-on-laughter kind of storytelling way, is that she got so drunk so fast the rest of them connived with one of the mermaids to borrow her tail and top, stuffed your girlfriend in it, and left her rolling in the surf, way out by the quay, to sober up.  There’s no way she can walk back here in that thing, and they didn’t leave her anything else to wear.

Before you could run out looking for her, she turned up, dressed in a pair of ill-fitting shorts and baggy club tee-shirt.  The overnight beach patrol spotted her walking bare-assed back to the resort and loaned her the shorts and tee-shirt.

She lost the tail and the bra somewhere in the surf, which meant the mermaid who loaned it to them would be super pissed, so they hit you up for the two hundred eighty bucks American needed to replace it, because she is, after all, your girlfriend.

Paying the money wasn’t so bad, if that’s all it had been, but she started going off about the guy she met on the beach, or more like in the surf, who fucked her through a rip in the suit she made while trying to get out of it.

Drunk as she was, she didn’t realize it had a zipper, and she thought the guy was going to help her out of it, but he didn’t, instead he dragged her deeper into the water, wrapped his arms around her legs and somehow folded her in half, and fucked her.

You were ready to go looking for this shit weasel, but, she added, it was the most fantastic sexual experience she ever had, like doing it in space, or floating on a cloud.  The girlfriends, their jaws dangling open, looked up at you.  Which left you with no idea what you were supposed to do.

But, she went on, she was still angry, because it was the principle of the thing.  Because she couldn’t see who it was with the fluke of that fucking mermaid suit blocking his face.  Because a guy should have the decency to let her see his face.  Then, like that, she said, snapping her fingers, he was done and gone.  The surf pushed her back up on the beach, and she had to fight her way out of the suit, because she couldn’t find how it opened.

So she’s walking back, she said, naked, when the beach patrol picked her up and loaned her the shorts and tee-shirt.  They weren’t surprised.  It seems this kind of thing happens all the time.  Not losing a mermaid suit, but people turning up naked on the beach after dark.

Instead of calling the police and reporting it, which is what the other girls were saying, she wanted you to go find the fucker, probably one of those beach bums, and pound his ass.

As angry as you are, you’re now thinking you may not be qualified to do that.  You’ve seen some of those guys down at the beach.  Most of them are twice your size from working out and shit.  Probably other guys with him, who also work out, especially if he’s from around here.  Not a good situation to be walking into.  You floated the police idea again.

This is when she reminds you of all the times you’ve said she’s the one true love of your life and how you’d do anything for her, not just after sex, but every other time, too.  She says this is one of those times, and goes off to change, leaving you to make good on all those sweaty, breathless promises.

You order a couple of straight tequila doubles and consider what you’ve gotten yourself into.

The second double does the trick.  You slip off the stool, taking the bottle with you—they’ll put it on your room tab—and head out to find the quay where she said it happened.  You don’t bother changing out of the suit and tie you had to put on for the dinner because it makes you look more mature, and hides your lack of muscle mass.

You trudge through the sand, and when you reach the quay, the moon is large and unclouded, so it’s easy to see the beach, the water, and what looks like some guy bobbing up out there in the waves.

There’s no way of knowing if that’s the guy or not, since she couldn’t tell you what he looked like, not ever seeing his face.  But, there’s no one else out here, so it’s probably him, and from where you’re standing, he doesn’t seem all that big, so you shout at him something like, “Hey, fucker—you the fucker who fucks helpless women on the beach?” which you realize sounds lame, and you should have practiced something with a lot more meat to it on the walk down here, because as it plays back in your head, it makes you sound like a stupid wiener standing on a beach dressed in a suit and tie.

The guy doesn’t respond, so it may be that English isn’t his first language, because you are in a foreign country, but you can’t figure out any other language to curse at him, so you bark out “Hey!  Fucker!” going with brevity this time, and he starts swimming in closer, and your ass tightens because you’re now on the hook to make good on what sounds like a challenge, whatever language he speaks.

When he gets in closer, you can tell by the moonlight how he’s swimming normal-like with his arms, but, shit, he’s wearing a tail like the mermaids at the club.

This makes you wonder if the guy, wearing a tail, maybe thought he was scoring with one of those waitresses, and that it’s all been an honest mistake, and maybe you won’t have to try pounding his ass.  This brings up another problem—how to ask a guy if he accidentally fucked the wrong girl.

You step closer to the water’s edge, the surf surging over your shoes, the sand sucking away from under the soles of your feet, making you shift to keep your balance, and all that tequila does not improve your balance.  You shout again, “are you the guy fucked that mermaid,” adding, “by accident?”

As he swims in closer, you step sideways to meet him, and go on, “because if you are, you made a huge mistake, guy.  She’s threatening to call the police, so you should probably get the fuck out of here, you know what’s good for you.”  Now, you’re on record as standing up for your girlfriend.

But he doesn’t say shit back to you.  Instead, he gives a bit of a whistle-click, which, the way it sounds rising at the end, it’s like a question.

You get a little closer as he swims up further onto the sand, and you tell him again he needs to get lost.  He whistle-clicks at you again, something longer, and a little more belligerent, with a head weave that makes you think he’s inviting you into the water.  You’re not a bad swimmer, but you’re not about to get in the water to fight.  With a guy that can swim in the ocean wearing a mermaid suit?  No fucking way.

You don’t remember there being any guys playing mermaids at the club. Maybe he’s wearing the tail for a training thing, like he’s some kind of ironman triathlete.

You repeat the bit about him fucking one of the guests instead of the club mermaids, like it may have been an honest mistake.  You take out your phone and pull up a snap of your girlfriend, holding it out for him to see.

He works himself out of the surf, perching on one hip and plucks the fucking phone right from your hand.

Hey, you shout, but he isn’t listening to you, he’s staring at the picture.

That look is so obvious.  He knows exactly who he was fucking.  His face falls and he stares up at you with the saddest eyes you’ve ever seen on a guy. Which makes you realize—this asshole is in love with her.  In love with your girlfriend.  Fucks her one time, at night, on a beach in the middle of nowhere—okay, not nowhere—but it’s so—so random, and he’s acting like he’s in love.

Hey, you say again, give me my phone back.

He whistle-clicks at the phone, then looks up at you.  You can’t tell if he’s angry or disappointed or what, but he seems to be taking your measure and you begin to think you may have to fight him anyway.

Instead, he hands back the phone and rolls over to sit on his ass, his knees drawn up—you guess it’s his knees if he wasn’t in the tail—and his arms hugging them.  Brooding.  At least it looks like brooding.

Fuck.

Guy’s obviously in love with your girlfriend.  It’s not like he’s making any move to fight you for her, which would be Neanderthal of you both, but you’d have to put in like you meant it, which makes you wonder if you really would.  That makes you wonder what it means for your relationship with her.

Now you’re wondering if he thought she was a new girl working at the club, getting his hopes up, and he’s finding out she’s not just your girlfriend, but a guest at the resort, which puts her—what—out of his league?

Boy, the shit you could tell him, which is not something you’d want to hear. Still, it makes you feel kind of bad for the guy, despite the fact that he did fuck your girlfriend under false pretenses, or maybe not false pretenses, but there’s a big misunderstanding in there somewhere.

You sit down beside him, both of you just out of reach of the surf.  You pass him the bottle.  Not much in it, but it beats the two of you having to fight each other to prove something to your girlfriend.

At first he looks at the bottle like he doesn’t know what it is, then looks at you, then reaches for the stopper to uncork it.  You can see that he has scaly webbed hands, like he might have a skin condition, which may explain why he wears the tail.  To hide his legs, maybe.  Which makes you wonder how he got his pecker out to use on your girlfriend.  He can’t seem to pinch the top off the bottle, like he doesn’t have the dexterity.  You’re about to reach over and help him, but he breaks the top off—breaks the fucking top of the bottle off, neck and all.  He hands the broken top to you with a kind of a shrugged apology and tips the bottle up.  There wasn’t much left.  He drains it, looks at the bottle again, nods a kind of thank-you in your direction.

Sorry it wasn’t more, you say, which he obviously doesn’t understand.  You tip the bottle upside down and make a sad face, and gesture that you’d give him more if you had it.

His mouth twists up in a half-smile, like he has a brainstorm.  He spins himself and undulates back into the surf, like a seal. And is gone.

You scan the surface looking for him to bob up any minute.  But he doesn’t show.  You search again.  When he still doesn’t show, you start thinking the guy’s drowned himself.  Shit.  You’re the one who put him over the edge with the tequila.

You stand up, trying to see which way the surf is rolling in, like, would it push his body up or down from where he went into the water.

Then, way out, way way way the fuck out, way further out than you could possible swim holding your breath, you see his head—you assume it’s his head.  He waves, holding something in his hand, and then does this dive, like a fucking porpoise, up out of the water, and diving in, and so fucking quick he’s bellying up onto the sand next to you.

He spins and sits, holding up a bottle to you.  A full bottle of something.   You pull out your phone to flash a light on the label.  It’s in, like, some old-timey writing. “Rhum Anglais” it reads, and “1830.”

He nods his head at you to do the honors.  You peel the wax off the top, and twist out the cork, giving it a sniff.  Smells like rum, but with a hint of something tropical, like coconut maybe.  You tip it up and take a small sip, in case it’s battery acid or something.  But the feel in your mouth is like any other strong alcohol.  You swallow.  It takes your breath for a moment, and you feel as much as taste the coconut and limes, or maybe, pomegranates.

The kick isn’t bad. It’s alcohol all right, and you pass it to him.  He drinks, a long pull, like he knows all about this shit.  Then he passes it back to you.  So you take a longer pull, and cough as the fumes attack your airway.

You’re still coughing when your girlfriend shows up.  She’s changed into the slinky red dress she brought for the dinner.  She’s carrying her shoes, and already yelling as she comes up on the both of you.

Why didn’t you pound his ass, she’s cawing.  What kind of pussy are you?  You’re drinking with him?  You’re fucking drinking with him?  Telling stories about me?  What a couple of fucks, she said.  I’m not worth anything to either of you shits?  I’m not worth at least one of you having the balls to beat the shit out of the other?

You look over at the guy and he’s like stunned, but he’s not looking up at her yelling at the two of you.  No, he’s looking at her legs.  He isn’t paying any attention to what she’s saying.

He does that whistle-click thing, sounding like a question, and you say yes, that’s her, and you nod, in case he doesn’t understand what you’re actually saying.

What the fuck, she says, you have your own secret boys’ club language?  Keep out the fucking girls?  Well, both you fucks can drown out here.  She turns and stomps off back into the night, which is hard to do in sand, and she heads for the resort.

Still looking at him, you can tell, whether he understood the words or not, he knows she was ripping him a new one, and it broke him up, looking like he’s lost the family dog or something.

You hand him the bottle again, and he takes another slug off it.

He continues to stare out over the water, like he can’t believe something so wonderful could happen to him and then blow up like that.  Every guy must get that look, no matter where they’re from.

He hands the bottle back, and you take another hit, but only a sip this time, because he looks like he’s really going to need it more than you.

Thinking of what she said, you realize you are not the guy she’s looking for.  Maybe she was looking for him, because he’s small, better muscled than you are, and gave her fantastic sex.

Should you have pounded this guy?  Maybe, but it doesn’t seem like he was trying to score on her.  He was really slammed hard, the way it seemed he felt about her.  You have to admit, you’re not sure you feel like that about her.  Not just because she called you a pussy, but maybe other things.  Which, you’re not going to think about right now.

You hand the bottle back to him. But he shakes his head and whistle-clicks something which you take for she’s not worth it and you have to agree.  You would not want to be drinking and swimming in this surf, tail or no tail.   The wavelets are reaching you both under the ass, but the guy still sits in the water, distracted.

Not sure what to do, there being nothing to say, you take your girlfriend’s picture out of your wallet—certainly won’t need that anymore—and reach over to hand it to the guy.  You tell him it’s laminated, but you can’t think of any charade move that would explain what that means. 

He holds it up to the moonlight to see it better, and realizes who it is.  He gives out with a long, low chirp.  It’s the saddest fucking chirp you’ve ever heard.  He holds the picture to his forehead, like he’s imprinting it on his brain.  Then he spins and dives back into the water, heading out to sea.  In less than a few seconds you see the fluke break the surface way the hell out, and you wish you could swim like that, but you’d rather not wear the tail to do it.

Then you don’t see anything, and you figure he’s gone.  But he left his rum.  You’re pretty sure he’s not likely to drown out there.

A light beam plays along the quay.  The overnight beach patrol.  They call out to you, reminding you the quay isn’t safe after dark.  They ask if you need a ride back to the resort.  You thank them and tell them you’ll walk.  They motor off and you take large strides, against the suck of the sand, keen to get back.

You figure you’ve got another two days to kill before your airline tickets are good for the trip home.  You don’t know what you’ll say to your girlfriend.  You don’t know what she’ll tell the other couples. It’s shitty, but you don’t feel all that bad.  It’s not just the rum.  Fucking rum that’s over two hundred years old.

Then about halfway back to the resort, you hear that whistle-clicking sound, like a seaman hailing from the sea.  You see the guy, and he does that porpoise thing.  He’s back in close, but only as far as waist deep, he won’t come up onto the sand.  He holds out something to you, so you wade in.

It’s a conch shell.  A big one.  He hands it to you.  You thank him.  Something in exchange for the picture, maybe?  You lost a girlfriend but you go home with a honking big conch shell and a bottle of antique rum.

You back out of the water and he twists into a dive back out to sea, giving a quick flap of his fluke, and then he’s gone. 

You watch for a long while, and then, way way out, where the moonlight brightens the horizon, you see the fluke again.  You guess it’s him, and you wave goodbye.  In case he can see.  You don’t see anything else.  You hope there’s a boat or something waiting for him.

You continue on back to the resort.

Sitting in the lounge, alone, drinking straight coffee, you study the conch shell, thinking how cool it will look on your desk.

You hold the conch up to your ear, listening for the sea.

Mermaid’s telephone, said the bartender.  A thought strikes you.  You ask him if he believes in mermaids.

I’d better, he laughed, pointing out at the poolside bar, lit but empty.  Right, right, and you laugh, too.

You thought about telling what you saw, but people would think you’re a moron.  A jealous and vindictive moron.  Besides, why betray another guy’s heartbreak, even if he might be a whole other species.  More especially, why give your girlfriend—your ex-girlfriend—one more thing to talk shit about you?

There’s a dribble of water against your cheek so you turn it sideways to let it pour out.  There’s a ting of coins landing on the bar.  Gold coins. You stare at them for a good long moment, then sweep them up and count them.  Seven.  Seven gold coins.  You hold one up in the pinpoint of microlight piercing the bar’s atmospheric dark.  Spanish gold coins.  Beautiful.  Glittering.

You stack them up and clink them in a pile.

Your ex-girlfriend was wrong.  Her picture alone was worth at least seven Spanish gold doubloons to somebody out there. 

Damian Rucci

SUMMERLAND

We said we would leave Jersey 
by any means necessary; see the world
break out from the constructs 
that made everyone boring

at first we started bands
played bad music hoping 
to escape and when that didn’t happen
we figured after high school we’d just bounce

but it never happened
the world moved onward, you cleaned up
while I found new faults in my character
life is slippery if you try and hold on

now you are a father
a little girl on your hip 
you found manhood in an instant
you found a way to save your soul

while you are breaking your ass
for your own, I am writing poems
I have seven cents in my pocket
I have no idea what I’ll do next

I found summerland 
in a quiet town in nowhere land
I have no idea how I’ll get home
I don’t care what I’ll do next.  

Jonathan Hayes

Chicken Poem

Waiting on the street bus
she told me,

Last week I boarded the bus
and a couple blocks up
an old Chinese lady
came on with a chicken
pecking and heckling
while the bus driver told her,

‘No animals on the bus’

So she snapped the chicken’s neck
and walked to the back of the bus