Jacky T

The Gift

The worst thing about being a male eunuch is the rehearsals. Castrati must spend hours on pre-warm-ups, warm-ups, travel to and from various churches and halls. The adherence to a busy schedule and strict routine is maddening.

You are supposed to maintain the passion to be the best, a drive to succeed, push for excellence, all when you don’t have the balls for it.

To us, the gift of a wondrous pre-pubescent voice merely becomes a forgettable byproduct. Like most in the possession of a natural gift, we learn to unlearn its virtues. Most of us even forget how lovely we sound to others, as we spend our time bitching about the choirmaster’s demands. Tuneless and without gaiety, we complain to each other and bond on this alone. The one time we feel in harmony.

Ernesto Tomasini, long past his glory days of song, came to our local church once to deliver a motivational speech. From the pulpit in a now bland alto he confessed to us confused pre-teens, “I regret not having been castrated, I would have perfectly happily given up my masculinity for my art.” We didn’t know whether he was making a morbid joke or was just that deluded in his fanaticism for the castrati of old.

Your masculinity, dear Ernesto, is exactly what drives you to make such entitled statements.

Granted, as he left the stage we shot daggers at him, but no one went as far as to cut him down to size.

In contemporary times, we are a rare bunch. Some of us are still deliberately created. A fanatic father who fancied his historical predecessors (in name only) constructing the end of a lineage. Men bearing the famous eunuch names of Broschi, Moreschi or Majorano.
These contemporary men who wished to bring a classic artist into the world; a martyr class for the arts. More assured than dollars and time spent on a child at a piano who may just end up chasing girls, they proceeded with the sharpest tutelage.

No wonder most of us possessed such an acerbic wit.

The lack of proper endocrinological function in these castrated boys would lead to some physiological changes that assisted our renowned sound. The rib cage would bulge, unmarred by the hardening of bone that comes from correct androgen hormonal balance, allowing extended notes to be held. The vocal cords would remain stunted in their growth, halting the formation of an adult male. It was an imperfect science of crafting the perfect singer’s body.

Others, like myself, were erected by accident.

St. Paul, the most famous of Apostles, was initially a persecutor of Christians… before seeing the light of how fun organisational bureaucracy could be. In his direct angry letters to the Corinthians, he clearly outlines an edict for the ages, mulier taceat in ecclesia, “women should be silent in church.”

Under a roof as devoutly splendid as the Sistine Chapel’s, adhering to the big daddy Apostle Paul was a must. So up until 2017, only males were to sing in the church’s choirs to preserve piety in the performance. But who was going to nail those vocal ranges of a contralto or mezzo-soprano that women did so deftly?

By the 1600s, we were essential to the success of any opera in Italy. Without us, you wouldn’t even get a write up in the local paper. They needed a famous face, puffy and pious, glossed in makeup, staring back from the poster. An Italian opera without a boy’s bloated frame clad in women’s dress, gangly limbs flopping alongside was an omission of the finest treasure of all. Yes, we were known to possess an inhuman artistic wonder no other could compare to.

One of the other boy’s fathers, a proud Italian-Australian man said to me once. ‘You are the lucky ones! People are automatically moved when you sing!’
He, of course, was referring to ancient times when we were lauded in opera seria for our especial voice. ‘You deliver visions of heroic virtue!’ He continued, gesticulating with pinched fingers.

He didn’t mention how we were mocked openly for our odd appearance and uneducated stage presence. The latter felt the only thing I knew to be automatic.

Over time we became more of a myth to those not in the know, as the practice was becoming unfavourable in a more humane world. Like messa di voce, where a note begins very softly and subtle, rises to an orgasmic climax and then fades away into obscurity, thus was our path.

By the 1800s in Italy, though publicly we were paraded for our virtuous voices, the creation of our lucky caste was hidden from even the most erudite private eye.

The most respected musicologist of the times, Charles Burnley writes:

“I enquired throughout Italy at what place boys were chiefly qualified for singing by castration, but could get no certain intelligence.”

Everyone passed the buck it seemed. They wanted the beauty without the barbarism.

He goes on to lament the fact that the castration didn’t even lead to an angelic voice most the time, ‘at least without one sufficient to compensate such loss.’ The practice made worse to him by the fact he found many cases where the boys simply sounded awful, their voice a moot point.

Thanks Uncle Charlie, I’ll stay in tune for you.

So here I drive, in 2020, (a year that rings like a sci-fi future has arrived) to an audition, myself part science experiment, partly fiction.

Today I will audition for a role in Il pomo d’oro, ‘The Golden Apple’, to compensate for the lack of one in my throat. I will try for the part of l’Elemento Del Foco, ‘the Element of Fire’, to mock the tiny ember of my own desire.

As well as my own castrati brethren, I will compete against the Jarousskys of the world, sopranists and countertenors mimicking our sacrifice. Men with their vas deferens still intact who have perfected the art of imitation of what came so unnaturally to us.

My Father’s words ring truer than ever. I can picture him as he says it. A scrapbook clipping that appears every time I utilise my talent. I watch him as a 7-year-old, as he drags on a cigarette and tries to re-order a deck of bent cards by suit. As much interested in unique metaphors as praise, he scowls at me.

‘Play the cards you’re dealt, boy.’

A tired cliche, fit for all the tired tropes I live.

I hope I get the part. I’ll sing my heart out for my Father, his drunken wrist & cruel blade.

What else am I gonna do with this gift?

Ben Newell

soft nudes cover image

Southern Belle from Hell

Gary Lombard’s “Lust Vengeance of the Rebel Wanton”
From Soft Nudes for the Devil’s Butcher (Deicide Press 2014)

Take novelist Jennifer Hills from Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, transport her back in time to the American Civil War, and you’ve got an accurate portrait of Charlotte Randolph, the protagonist/femme fatale in Gary Lombard’s “Lust Vengeance of the Rebel Wanton.” Originally published in the May 1961 issue of Man’s Story, this piece of historical sleaze fiction pulls no punches. The Union may have won the war, but this Southern belle claims many a battle as she seeks revenge for the destruction of her beloved South. Using her nubile, twenty-two-year-old body as bait, Charlotte lures many Union soldiers to their deaths, severing countless Yankee cocks with impunity.

While Zarchi’s leading lady is brutally raped by a crew of rednecks, Charlotte narrowly escapes the same fate, bayoneting her attacker before slashing a second soldier in the process of torching the family mansion. This graphic scene opens the story, dropping us in the middle of the frenzied action as our highly capable heroine flees a fallen Atlanta: “Drunken Union soldiers emerged from the surrounding houses, their arms laden with silver, clothing, liquor and every other bit of finery they could carry.” A brief flashback follows, providing an economical character sketch of Charlotte which blasts the stereotype of the helpless, brain-dead Southern Belle. Charlotte may be young and beautiful and privileged, but she is also “something of a spitfire, delighting in breaking a full-blooded stallion or a hot-blooded man to her will.” Full of spunk (pun intended) even before the Civil War, the horrors of the conflict have made her even more fiery and determined.

Charlotte’s third kill is rendered in a fully developed scene, an effective set piece in which we witness her modus operandi. Standing on the side of a dirt road, brazen and none too subtle (the rural equivalent of a 42nd St. hooker), she works her magic on a “half-drunk scout of the Third Illinois Brigade” who just happens to cross her path. Like a charismatic Ted Bundy convincing a coed to hop in his car, Charlotte dupes the horny solider with ease, bringing him back to her room at a nearby wayside house where the clothes come off. On the cusp of getting some prime Southern snatch, the Yankee soldier can hardly believe his good fortune; until his seducer’s mask comes off and she reveals her true nature. The bayonet comes out of hiding and Charlotte proceeds to butcher her beau with unchecked savagery: “Not satisfied with feeling the sharp blade sink into his unsuspecting back, Charlotte did other things to him before death closed in on the soldier. She howled with glee as she removed the last vestiges of his manhood.”

As if slicing the poor guy’s salami weren’t enough, Charlotte claims his Joanne rifle and heads east, leaving “butchered cadavers” in her wake. Baffled by the growing body count, the Union forms special task forces to hunt down the mysterious offender, a genuine serial killer in their midst. The final showdown occurs in an Augusta farmhouse where Charlotte has lured her final victim, a deserter being pursued by “Sherman’s marauding forces.” After spotting the fugitive entering the farmhouse, a lieutenant fires a warning shot into the air, triggering a blazing exchange of gunfire between Charlotte and the soldiers. She puts up one hell of a fight, repelling her adversaries as long as she can before eventually succumbing to their military might. Of course the soldiers are shocked when they enter the farmhouse and behold the grisly tableaux: “The deserter’s corpse lay on the bed, its arms wide flung, blood covering its obscene wound.” Compounding their confusion is the rifle-clutching young lady by the window, beautiful but decidedly dead. It’s unclear whether Charlotte shot herself, or was killed by her foes, a dash of ambiguity to conclude an otherwise straightforward revenge story.

Read it, get tanked on Southern Comfort, and crank up Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

***

Can’t track down this issue of Man’s Story?

Hell, I couldn’t either.

At least not an affordable one.

Luckily Lombard’s tale is included in Soft Nudes for the Devil’s Butcher (Deicide Press 2014), a fantastic collection of features, fiction, and illustrations culled from men’s adventure magazines. Highly recommended.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Women Always Leave Me

 She was putting on her jacket getting ready to head out.

“Where did I put my goddamn keys?” she hollers from the other room.

I was sure her question was rhetorical so I didn’t answer, fearing I might receive a response marinated in anger. I just sat on the couch and continued watching TV. Next I could hear her throwing shit around the kitchen, shouting profanities, pounding on the countertop, all of this accompanied by intermittent groans of frustration.

“Have you seen my keys?” she whines, her voice resonating throughout our small apartment. “I could’ve sworn I just had them…”

Suddenly she’s standing right before me, and blocking my view of the set.

“Are you gonna answer me?” she demands. “What’s your fucking problem?”

Now it’s obvious the question was intended for me to respond.

“No love, I haven’t seen them,” I reply, adopting a sympathetic tone. “Would you like for me to help you look?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much of a chore.”

As I get up to assist in her search, she goes to turn off the TV, to ensure I won’t be distracted. As slaps the power button, we both the familiar jingle of keys as they drop from her hand onto the floor.

“I believe I’ve solved the mystery of where your keys are,” I say while laughing. “They’ve been in your hand this whole entire time. I’ve done the same thing more than once myself. It’s your mind playing tricks on you, letting you know that you’re only one step away from insanity.”

“It’s not funny,” she snaps. “So you’re saying I suffer from some type of mental deficiency?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. All I was trying to do…”

“I’m sorry,” she says. “Just having one of those days when everything feels off-kilter. And no, don’t you dare ask if I’m on my period!”

“When have I ever acted in such an insensitive manner?” I ask. “You talk to me as though I’m some college frat boy. A dim-witted  shit for brains with the manners of an inbred hillbilly. What have I done, or most likely not have done, to cause you to treat me with such contempt?”

“Santi, I need to know what we’re doing!” she says. “Where we’re going? There’s no plans for our future. It’s the same routine over and over. It’s no fun anymore. Are you going to be a drug-crazed addict your entire life? Are we going to stay together? Do you love me?”

“Jesus Christ Jess, which question do you want me to not have an answer for first? Come here, sit down. Let’s talk about this and see if we can possibly come up with some answers to your questions.”

“Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to pull that shit on me! I know exactly what you’re doing, you silver tongued con-man. I’m savvy to your used car salesman pitch. I’ve witnessed you convince someone you owed money into not only feeling guilty for asking for payment, but they end up lending  you more on top.”

She had me pegged. I’d planned to sweet talk her into a state of tranquility, knowing that eventually she’d drop the subject.

“Jessica, why the hell are you still here with me if you’re so displeased by our current arrangement? You act as though it’s a deplorable lifestyle and I’m the cause for your every touch of sadness. There aren’t any bars or chains preventing you from leaving. You’re not a hostage or prisoner being kept against your will. You can’t just bushwhack me with all these questions, expecting me to have answers for the future. I’m not a fucking psychic. If you’re unhappy with me and the way things are, put your ass on the tracks, leave, take the Midnight Train back to Georgia and your ex-husband. There won’t be any hard feelings or harsh remarks whatsoever.”

“But Santi, I love you… Why can’t we live a normal life and be happy, grow old together? We could travel through Mexico, Central and South America like you promised. Your addiction is out of control and getting harder for us to afford. I’m not peddling my ass on the street anymore and I want you to get clean. Is that too much to  hope for?”

Honestly, I didn’t know how Jessica had tolerated this lifestyle for as long as she had. I would’ve laid odds she’d have been a memory long time ago already.

Women always leave me. I’ve had dogs that stayed with me longer than any woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. If I wasn’t so sure they’d been to blame in most instances, perhaps I’d start to consider that I might be the reason for their departure.

“The only normal I’m aware of is in Illinois,” I tell her, “and no way I’m going back there. I’m not saying our lifestyle is typical behavior, but you knew the circumstances before getting involved. I’m correct, right?”

For some unknown reason, women make it their priority to change a man after becoming romantically involved. They don’t fall in love with the man you are but with the man they want you to be. She knew what the box contained before she opened it. I’m aware that I may not be a dream gift, although I’m certainly not a consolation prize either. My baggage has always been perfectly transparent. I’ve made no excuses for my indiscretions or for relationships that have gone awry in the past. True, I may be far from perfect, and possibly a bit crazier than most would care to realize, but I am what and who I am.

“I know, Santi,” she says. “I just never thought I’d ever feel the way I do for you now. You’re so smart, you’re funny and make me laugh. You have so much potential and it hurts me to see you wasting it. Plus, you’re easy on the eyes, even good looking I’d say most of the time.”

“Saying ‘you have potential’ is just another way of saying ‘you’re not as dumb as you look.’ I don’t know what you want from me. What do you want me to do? I’m not going into another rehab program. Rehab is for quitters, and I’m no quitter!”

“How can you joke at a time like this?”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got a question for you. Why do you have all those keys? Did you buy a car? Get a job as a maintenance woman or a real estate agent or something? And where are you heading off to this early in the morning?”

“Early in the morning? It’s five in the afternoon, dumbass, and I’ve been working at Jeff’s Pub for the last five days. I told you I quit being a prostitute. I have the keys because I open and close the bar sometimes. Oh yeah, and Jeff doesn’t want you to come in when I’m working. You forgot I was working there, didn’t you? Perfect example of your apathy concerning our relationship.”

“I didn’t forget, I’m just unable to recall.”

“Ya, I’m sure. I’ve gotta go, babe. Don’t go pawning the TV for dope! I bought it so we could watch movies together. Well, so do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you love me?”

“Did you misplace your keys again? This all started because you couldn’t find your keys. Let’s not go through this again. Yes, I love you.”

She gives me a long sweet kiss goodbye and sashays out the door.

I entered a rehabilitation program two days later. Jessica came to visit on Wednesdays and Sundays, but after about a month she never returned. I stayed for ninety days and got clean. Entered a halfway house, but that’s the worst place to attempt to quit using. The main goal for most residents is to go on getting high while hiding it from the administration, so I left after a week because I wanted to stay clean.

I never heard from or saw Jessica again. Later Jeff told me she ran off with the apartment manager, Harry, Larry, Terry or whatever the fuck was his name.

Women always leave me.

Zane Castillo

Canis Interruptus

When John’s beloved dog died from old age, he decided to make some changes in his life. He was a natural loner who always had a hard time making friends, but when he got Lancelot five years ago from a dog pound, the beagle had brought so much happiness to his life. Now that Lancelot was gone, he did not know how he could go back to a life of absolute loneliness.

After a few days of grieving, he scanned Craigslist’s personal ads hoping to find someone. There were a lot of senior citizens seeking friends or a romantic partner as well as dominatrices looking to fuck. He decided to write his own personal ad and formulated a quick description of himself: Single Male, Late-twenties, 6’0, average build. Enjoys movies, music, and books. Also, a dog-lover. Seeking new friend for possible romantic relationship.

He posted the ad and went to bed feeling hopeful for the first time in days. When he checked his email the next day, he saw that he received many messages from a variety of women. He weeded through the list until he came to one that sparked his interest. Her name was Melanie and she was a makeup artist who was looking to meet a nice guy. She stated that she loved dogs and had recently witnessed the death of her own dog a few months before. This completely drew John in, and he gave her his number. She quickly called him after he hit the send button. He was surprised and nervous but found himself talking to her for more than two hours about a variety of common interests especially her love for dogs. She had lost a collie a few months ago to cancer and it had completely devastated her. John told her about Lancelot, and they decided to set up a meeting in the middle of the week. John got off the phone feeling completely elated.

The meeting was at a Starbucks, so John arrived there early, and grabbed a Frappuccino to await Melanie’s arrival. He looked at every woman who entered the Starbucks and tried to figure out which one was Melanie. A short thin dark-haired woman walked in and looked around the shop. She had eyeglasses on and was wearing a light blue summer dress with white flower prints on it. She spotted John and walked to him with a smile on her face.

“John?” she asked as she got to his table. “Yes. Melanie?” he stated as he rose out of his seat and extended his hand to hers.

“Yes, it’s nice to meet you.” She shook his hand and sat down across from him. John’s nerves went away as they talked. Melanie was both easygoing and had a great sense of humor. They sat and talked in Starbucks for a few hours and made plans for dinner at Melanie’s place on Saturday.

Melanie was constantly on his mind as he dredged through the rest of the week. He was amazed at how easy it was to talk to her and that they had so many things in common. On Saturday, he showed up to Melanie’s apartment with a bottle of wine in hand. Melanie kissed him on his cheek when she opened her door and John instantly blushed.

The apartment had many framed photos of a collie scattered throughout. There were many shots of Melanie and her dog in various settings. John gazed at the pictures with a small smile on his face. She cared as much about her dog as he did.

When they finished eating, they sat close on the couch drinking wine. John desperately wanted to kiss her but felt afraid that he would be rushing things. Melanie gazed at him and set her glass down. She leaned into him and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. John kissed her back timidly. Then Melanie pulled his head down to hers and kissed him hungrily. She pressed herself against him to which John found himself getting hard. He cupped her breasts and ran his hands down her sides. She got up and took him by the hand to her bedroom. It had been a while since John had had sex and he prayed that he would be able to do a good job or at best a satisfactory performance.

There was a stream of light coming in through the blinds that displayed the bedroom. He kissed her and roamed her body with his hands. They quickly got undressed and kissed hungrily, devouring each other’s mouths and bodies.

As he moved to get on top of her, John bumped something furry near the bed. He looked up and saw a stuffed collie looking at him.

“Whoa!” he shouted in surprise. Melanie turned her head quickly to look back at what frightened him.

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just Delilah. I’m sorry she scared you, I should have told you.” Melanie explained. John looked into the blank eyes of the stuffed dog and felt unnerved.

“Ah, it’s ok. She should have barked to let me know she was there,” He said to ease the moment. Melanie laughed beneath him and pulled his head back down to hers and kissed him.

As they had sex, John noticed that Melanie would stroke Delilah’s fur. Her hand would reach out and brush Delilah, no matter what position she was in. John didn’t know what to make of this and tried to ignore it. When Melanie came, her hand was on the top of Delilah’s head.

They spent the night together and had breakfast in the morning. John went home afterward feeling incredibly happy. He went to Melanie’s apartment the following Friday to pick her up to take her to see a movie. As he walked in, he noticed that Delilah was in the living room looking at him as he entered. John felt uneasy with the dog’s dead eyes staring at him.

“Looks like Delilah came out from her hiding spot,” John said with a nervous laugh.

“Yeah she wanted to meet you with your clothes on,” Melanie said with a laugh. John laughed uncomfortably. He was not sure if she was joking.

They went to the movie theater and watched a romantic comedy that they both enjoyed. They went back to Melanie’s place where she brought out a bottle of wine. John sat on the love seat facing away from Delilah’s vacant stare. They chatted for a while as they drank their wine with John trying to ignore Delilah’s presence. John had to piss badly from the wine so went to the bathroom. She told him to meet her in the bedroom.

John felt quite happy as he peed. Melanie was amazing and he could not seem to get enough of her. He exited the bathroom and went into the bedroom in anticipation. Melanie was already under the covers. He walked to the bed and saw something to the right of the bed. Delilah was back in her usual spot staring at him. John hesitated for a moment then quickly got undressed. They fucked while Melanie’s hand darted out to Delilah’s fur constantly. John felt himself getting annoyed but tried not to show it. Before he fell asleep, John noticed Melanie’s hand rested on Delilah’s head.

They made plans to go to a Farmer’s Market the following weekend so that they can make dinner together at John’s place. John cleaned his apartment entirely on Friday night in preparation. Melanie arrived at his place in the afternoon to pick him up. He walked out of his apartment in excitement. He saw her sitting behind the wheel with sunglasses on and a huge smile on her face. John thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He walked towards the car and saw a figure in the backseat of the car. He squinted to see more clearly in the sunlight.

Delilah stared back at him from the rear seat. John faltered in his step but quickly regained himself and headed to the car. He got in the passenger seat and Melanie gave him a deep kiss. She pulled the car out and started driving. John peered in the side mirror and could see Delilah perched in the seat behind him.

“So, Delilah wanted to come along for the ride?” he said with a trace of annoyance.

“Yeah she needed some fresh air,” She said as she turned back to the road.

John gave a small chuckle. He looked at Melanie a few times as she drove. He was trying to figure out if he was dating a crazy person. Other than the stuffed dog, there wasn’t anything wrong with her. No signs or red flags were calling his attention. Just the goddamn dog.

They arrived at the Farmers Market and stepped out of the car. John glanced at Delilah in the back who stared out the left passenger window. Melanie came up to him and gave him a long kiss then grabbed his hand and led him towards the vendors. He put Delilah out of his mind and focused on having a good time with Melanie. They picked up some produce and sampled many foods while they browsed the various vendors.

When they headed back to the car, Melanie leaned against John’s arm as they walked. John had completely forgotten about Delilah until he saw her in the rear passenger window. He instantly tensed up and tried to ignore Delilah as he piled the groceries in the backseat.

He hopped in the front seat and closed the door. Melanie drove to his place and they began taking the groceries upstairs. After all the groceries were out, John started to head upstairs when Melanie opened the rear passenger door. He turned his head and watched as she reached in the car for Delilah.

“Oh, you’re bringing her up, too?” He asked warily.

“Yeah, she can’t spend the night in the car. She will suffocate in there,” She stated in a cheerful voice.

John watched as she headed up the stairs with Delilah in her arms and into his apartment. He stood on the stairs for a few seconds feeling bewildered. He knew he had to say something. It was now or never. He went inside and saw Melanie putting the food on the kitchen counter. Delilah sat on the couch staring at him when he walked in.

“Hey, where is your skillet?” She asked him as she worked her way around the kitchen. John grabbed it from a cabinet and gave it to her. He leaned against the counter and watched her with an anxious look on his face. She turned to him as she grabbed a cutting board.

“What’s the matter? Is something wrong?” she asked him as she stopped to look at him.

“I have to ask, what is with the dog?”

“What? Delilah?” she said with a curious look on her face.

“Yeah, why did you bring it here?”

“Well, I couldn’t just leave her alone at home,” she stated.

“You do know that she’s not alive, right?” John asked cautiously.

“Now, where are those plates?” Melanie said as she began looking around the kitchen.

“Melanie, you can’t ignore what I just said. You treat Delilah as if she is still alive.”

Melanie laughed. “Well, she likes you and wanted to see your place.”

“Come on, Melanie. Enough of this, she is not alive.”

“She is alive!” Melanie shouted as she slammed the skillet on the stove. John stepped back in fright.

“Don’t you see? Yeah, she may be dead physically but in spirit, she is still alive. Why can’t you see that?” Melanie yelled as tears streamed down her face. She leaned against the counter crying.

“I thought you of all people would understand!” She yelled between sobs.

John felt guilty and ashamed. He reached out to comfort her.

“No, don’t touch me! Don’t you dare try and pity me like I’m crazy!” She screamed at him. “I thought you would understand. You lost your own dog, but no I was wrong. You’re just like everyone else!”

She pushed past him and ran out of the apartment. “Wait!” he called out after her, as she slammed her car door and started up.

“Melanie, wait!” he cried out again. But she was already peeling out of the lot.

John stood there for a few moments, just trying to catch his breath, watching as she sped out of his life.

When he finally turned to walk back inside, Delilah sat waiting on his couch.

Jedediah Smith

UNA VIDA PER LUCIO FULCI

I suspect Fulci knew that zombies are metaphors,
that we are always running from death
and the fear that we might live forever

like Tropicália bitches who marionette
down the beach, weeping maggots from their brows.
He could see that hunger is hate in its strongest

form and that we have come to worship it.
This we know: we eat of the flesh, raise the dead,
idolize agony, and open the gates of hell every time.

A priest murders a child or hangs himself
or blesses a Duke who rapes his own daughter and
the next thing you know the dead are walking the earth.

And always watching, little Lucio at his camera, feet
swollen with diabetes, fingers twisting the zoom
to black beads of rosary blood, to eyes when they’re

screaming, making a dialectic of consumption.
As blood soaks a scaffold, he watches, as a woman turns
inside out, he watches, vowing never to look away

or flinch. He watches as a raped little girl
is betrayed by men in power and he shows us
images to release the savage under the skin

with blood, blood, so much blood the lens drips
scarlet Lucio, crimson Lucio, red Lucio.
Like a troubadour all he could do was tell stories

of women, his Beatrice, trapped by corrupt hands
and devoured by creatures with unspeakable hungers,
women he could never touch or save but only bear

witness, only make symbols of resistance.
He sacrificed an eye to his vision
a splinter piercing the last taboo, that last

less than sacred piece of flesh, no cutaway
from the image, because the dead always take our eyes
which I suspect he knew is a metaphor.

Joseph Farley

Break In

They came in through the kitchen window, in the back of the house. Smashed the glass with a chunk of concrete and crawled in over the kitchen sink. The chunk was from a neighbor’s sidewalk, torn up for emergency plumbing repairs. These were not professional burglars. Opportunists. But experienced opportunists.

Must have been two of them. The window was too far off the ground for one person to pull himself in unless he was a gymnast. The guy that got in had to be skinny. The window wasn’t big. And he wasn’t wearing gloves. There was blood everywhere. In the kitchen sink. On the rug in the living room. On the hardwood floors upstairs. There were bloody fingerprints on all the light switches. And on the bathroom wall, sink and cabinet. The wounded thief had looked for bandages. A torn wrapper was in the trash can. Probably searched for drugs too, but there was nothing with street value among the meds in the cabinet.

It happened two weeks before Christmas, on one of the darkest nights of the year. Sunset was around 4 PM. I got home from work around 6:30 PM. It took me a while to realize there had been a break in. First thing I noticed was how cold the house was. Then I saw the broken glass on the kitchen floor and in the sink. Then the broken window. And the blood.

The back door was locked, both locks, top and bottom. I thought the crook was still the house. I grabbed an iron stick I used for training and searched the house top to bottom. I didn’t find anyone. Just saw the blood and open bandage wrappers in the bathroom.

I had bought the house almost two years before the break in. It came with a burglar alarm. The alarm hadn’t gone off. Checking the kitchen window I learned it had no sensor for the alarm. I figured one guy came in. Another guy had to have stayed outside, helped lift the skinny one to the window and kept an eye out for cops. The inside man must have left through the same window.

There was a small Christmas tree in the living room. Decorated. A few wrapped gifts underneath it. Examination showed bloody fingers had pokes holes in the wrapping paper to see what was inside. No gifts were stolen. Gloves. Socks. Books. Who wants that stuff?

The robber was quick, and in some ways polite. There was no huge mess except in the kitchen. Nothing else had been damaged. No drawers were emptied on the floor in any rooms. But the drawers had been gone through. The robber knew where to look.

Cash my girlfriend had been saving for our wedding was taken. My father’s high school ring was missing. So was my high school ring. And both my wedding rings from my first marriage, the cheap one I bought in grad school, and the expensive one of pure gold my ex-wife’s grandmother had made for me when we visited China. Made from gold jewelry she had hidden from the Japanese, bandits, communist revolutionaries. Gone now. It would have been safer for that gold to have stayed hidden in its former home in a farming village than to have made the journey to Philadelphia.

My laptop was open and turned on in the study. It had been played with, but left behind when the robber couldn’t get past the security code. No books or manuscripts were taken. No tax records. No thumb drives. I could survive.

I called the police. They came out a few times. Different cops. The first one out told me, “The police don’t do DNA tests for burglaries so just clean up the blood.“

I asked about the bloody fingerprints on light switches. I was told they couldn’t use that. The officer advised me to search all the pawn shops and jewelry stores that advertised that they “buy gold” in the area on my own, and do it immediately, because stolen goods move quickly. He said that if I didn’t find my property on my own it would probably never be found.

I was told not to say I was looking for stolen goods, just browse and report to the police if I found any of the missing items. There was a procedure. Forms to fill out. I might have to pay the pawn brokers the price they paid for the item. Pawn brokers were supposed to keep a record of who sold them things. That didn’t always occur. Even with bad paperwork, it was very hard to prove that a pawn broker or jewelry store knowingly bought stolen goods.

I spent two days visiting every jewelry store and pawn shop I could find. The proprietors all seemed strange. The places were all strange. One had two display cases and a back room with piles and piles of stuff in clear trash bags. I didn’t find the stolen rings.

My high school ring meant nothing to me, but it might have meant something to my children if they had inherited after I died. My father’s school ring meant a lot to me. It was one of the few keepsakes I had from him. There had been just two or three things I could hold in my hands and think of my father, remember him alive. At least I still had his diary from when he was twelve. It was hard to decipher the handwriting. It had been hard to understand the man. He was there, then gone. Now his ring was gone.

The wedding ring from China also meant a lot to me. Pure gold. Gold that had been passed down for generations. A taste of history. My first wife had kept almost all the photos from the marriage. And most of the property. Many of the memories from that marriage I wanted to forget, but there had also been good memories. A gold ring forged during a trip to Jiangxi in 1989 was one of them. Still there in the mind, but less tangible now. Beyond my grasp.

A cop with a fingerprint kit eventually came out and said he would see if he could lift a print off the broken glass or the remains of the window. He said he found something and that a detective would be in touch with me. No detective ever contacted me.

The uniformed officers had a curious way of approaching the crime. All at some point tried to get me to say that I made up the robbery, staged it, or that a friend or family member did it. Brilliant minds at work.

An officer pressed me to name any relatives I had with drug problems. “Addicts in the family need money for drugs and know where to find valuables.”

I mentioned my brother to see how the officer would react. His face brightened, “How can we find him for questioning?”

“You’ll have to dig him up. He died four years ago. Two years before I bought the house.”

The cop was not happy with the answer.

“Do any of your kids smoke pot?”

Pot is decriminalized in Philadelphia. Everyone appears to smoke pot. Everywhere. On every corner. On every bus. In very yard, park or parking lot. It’s as if it’s our civic duty now to get high. Still, I chose to stay mum on the topic.

A friend on the force tried to explain to me it was just wishful thinking. A lot of burglaries are done by friends of the family or relatives. Those are also often the easiest to solve, even if in the end no charges are filed, because, after all, it’s family.

I didn’t agree then. I don’t agree now.

As for the investigation, my friend said, “Detectives don’t have time to really investigate a burglary. There are too many murders and shootings. That takes precedence. A burglary only moves up the line if someone got hurt, ya know, a home invasion or beating.”

Good to know.

Home owners insurance paid for a new window. I paid my girlfriend back. The cost of the jewelry was never made up. The cost of burglar bars, a security door in the back, and motion sensor lights outside came out of pocket as well.

It was the first successful break in. There has been failed attempts before. A broken door in the front that I replaced. Cracked basement windows replaced with glass block. A man’s home is his castle, and, more and more, mine is starting to look like one. A high fence is next on the list. Though I’d prefer a wall. Maybe a moat. Stocked with fish. My new wife wants koi. I’m thinking trout.

***

It has been three years since I was burglarized. The neighborhood and the world aren’t getting any better. But my wife and I now have a big garden, inaccessible, thanks to the tall fence, except to the most agile climbers. And a ditch. An irrigation project really. A trench my wife dug to channel water to her ever growing garden. It just needs a good rain before it can become my new fishing hole. I’m still holding off on buying a gun, afraid I made shoot my foot off while loading it, but I do have a catalog from Smith and Wesson with a few items circled. Just in case.

Bogdan Dragos

few posessions and no doubts

he owned one pair of shoes
four pairs of socks
one pair of pants
a tank top
two t-shirts and
a sweatshirt

he’d lost the cap
in his last dice game.

“well, hell, doesn’t matter,
broke the spell,” he chanted,
“therefore
somehow, someway
luck is gonna come my way
and why not here, now, today?”

the dreams haven’t left
the dreams were still in him,
in his soul
ready to explode

47 manuscripts:
14 novels, 7 novellas,
and 26 short stories
he carried in his pack
along with his socks
his other t-shirt
a knife
six pens he stole
from the library
where he wrote
a candy bar
and an old dull razor

he wasn’t so young anymore
the beard and gray hairs
made him look much older
surely the hunger had
affected that as well

but it didn’t matter
he was going to make it
one day, some day
soon

somehow, someway

he really had no
doubt about it

Anthony Dirk Ray

Part of History

I have always known the word ‘cock’
as a term referring to the penis…or
member, pecker, schlong,
prick, phallus, peter, dick,
shaft, tool, johnson, willy,
stick, wood, dong, meat,
weiner, boner, rod, wang,
peen, ween, tallywacker, jimmy,
skin flute, organ, and private part
etcetera
I have never known the word ‘cock’
to be a reference for vagina
until today
listening to an old school hip hop song
I heard 2 Live Crew sing the following
“What you like fellas?
head, booty, and cock”
COCK?
did I hear that correct?
then I heard it again
there was no mistaking
they in fact did say cock
this sent me on a several hour
google research mission
I found evidence of numerous artists
from the 80’s and 90’s
using the word cock to refer to
female genitalia
I was absolutely shocked
some of these songs
I have heard more than a few times
obviously I just glossed over
the mention of cock or didn’t pick up on it
I dug in deeper with my research
pulling up forum after forum
where this exact issue was discussed
a little history lesson was learned
it seems that since the 17th century
the word cock referred to the male genitalia
then sometime between 1920 and 1940
cock became an African-American slang word for vagina
possibly derived from cockles
a cock opener was a penis
the dictionary of American Regional English states
‘at a point roughly the same as the
Mason-Dixon Line, there is a division in meaning
to the North cock refers to male genitals,
but in the South its use is restricted to
the female genitals
Missouri is a border state in which
both meanings are used’
I guess that explains why Missouri
is the ‘show me’ state
you know…just to be sure

Victor Cass

Big Killa

There was once a rapper so crazy that he would shoot a member of his crew on stage at every show. Big Killa was his name and he would literally pull out a gun at some point during his performance and actually shoot one of his homies right there, live, in front of everyone. And the people ate this shit up! They’d come from all around to watch Big Killa on the mic, rapping about bitches, hoes, fuck the police, and all that poetry of the streets stuff, then whip out his strap and BAM!—shoot some fool who was dancing and flailing his arms with him. Big Killa offered $5,000 to any young gee who would agree to perform with him. Kids from the streets, aspiring rappers, artists, students, even actual gang members jumped at the chance to score five Gs and be up there with Big Killa, even though they all knew they might get shot. I mean, this was nuts! I couldn’t believe it. Who would do that? Who would allow this? Where were the police?

Turns out, the police were after Big Killa. Right? The dude was shooting people, after all, with like, hundreds of witnesses all around. Forget Fight Club! This was Murder Incorporated, live at the Shoot-em-up Rap Festival! Big Killa’s sick fans would pay $1,000 a ticket to go see someone get shot on stage. And no one snitched on him. No one told the cops where Big Killa was, or where he’d play next. Everything was deep, deep, deep underground! Like a gore-mongering Roman citizen of old, jockeying for the best view in the stands at the Coliseum, I had to know more! I had to see this for myself to believe it. I had to score a ticket to Big Killa’s next show.

I had the money. I had the stomach for it (so I thought). I was pretty pro-police, so who knew if I would turn Big Killa in to the cops or not, once I found out where he would play next, but, man, I just had to know! Was this guy for real? More importantly for me, at the moment was, where would I get a ticket? How would a Wall Street, financial dude like myself, white, privileged, driving a Mercedes, gain entry into one of Big Killa’s kill fests? Did they even let rich white dudes into his shows?

Well, surprise, surprise, come to find out that most of the people going to Big Killa’s shows were rich white people. How do you like that? The Man was paying big money to see Black people killing other Black people, up on stage no less! How do I know? One of my financial colleagues, clearly “in the scene” asked me to go with her to see Big Killa. You should have heard this lady, Hannah Zipp, with her short, auburn bob and bright red lips: “You like rap?” I played coy: “It’s okay.” Hannah’s blue eyes slid around under her eyelashes like a hockey puck. You would have thought the CIA was coming up behind her the way she was looking around. “Ever heard of Big Killa?” Playing dumb, I went along: “Nah, who’s he?” Her eyes widened as she said: “He’s the big black guy that shoots people on stage.” I thought Hannah was going to wet her shorts. “Sounds pretty sick,” I replied, “I’m in.”

“Meet me at Union Square at 8:00 tonight? Outside Coffee Shop Bar,” she practically whispered.

“He’s playing at Union Square?”

“No!” she snapped. “They give you the location later, along with the code word.”

“Speakeasy style.” I got it.

I couldn’t wait until work was over. What was I getting myself into? I was going to a concert where the bullets would be flying! Wait a minute? Did Big Killa ever miss?

Did I need a bulletproof vest? Should I tell my mom where I was going? Make out my will? Ours was a sick culture, but I couldn’t resist it.

Finally, the time had come. It was raining and I was without an umbrella, but I sacked up and made my way on the train to Union Square. I found Hannah arguing with some homeless guy. Was he the Big Killa connection?

“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked. I thought she was gonna take off one of her Jimmy Choo’s and throw it at him.

“Bastard wouldn’t take the food I was offering,” Hannah huffed, throwing a McDonald’s bag into the trash. “He just wanted money! He’s just gonna drink it all up, or get high.”

“You’re going to go see someone get shot and you’re complaining about some hobo’s morals? I wouldn’t have taken that McDonald’s crap, either. Maybe he wanted money for Whole Foods?”

“Maybe you’d like to find Big Killa’s show all by yourself!” Hannah retorted.

I put my hands up.

“Awright, awright! My bad!”

Hannah got the code word, and soon we were in a cab headed to a dark, off-the beaten-path part of the Lower East Side, where there was this large, brick warehouse, with big, burly, Russian-looking security guards outside. Hannah told me I would have to turn in my cell phone at the door. No cell phones allowed. No one was permitted to make calls, text, take photos, video, etc., for obvious reasons. I played along, turning in my cell phone, which they checked to make sure it was a real, working cell phone that was mine—I had to like show them my photos, Facebook, and stuff. I totally did…But what I didn’t tell Hannah or anyone, was that I had smuggled in another, smaller smartphone—that belonged to my niece, a junior at NYU—in my shoe (we were patted down and had a metal detector wand waved over our junk). I had to give her $100 bucks to borrow it for a night.

It was dark as we walked through several doors. I hadn’t seen this many white people in one place since a family reunion in Ocala, Florida. You would have thought we were all about to see Hamilton the way everyone was dressed. I was aghast at all the privilege I was surrounded by. I was white and I felt oppressed, micro-aggressed. I never knew there were this many people like me, seemingly good people, with college degrees and families, that were this cruel, bloodthirsty. We were going to potentially see some poor, underprivileged soul get shot for chrissakes! Well, I wasn’t gonna just stand by and watch this idly. I had a college buddy who was a Detective with the NYPD. Yeah, that’s right! I had secretly stiffed in a tip with the cops. I was turning Big Killa in! I was gonna do the right thing and save a life tonight! My “tricky” cell phone’s GPS was up and running, and I knew that the cops would be raiding the joint at any minute.

I hoped Hannah wouldn’t notice how nervous I was, looking toward the doors and exits, while also sneaking glances at her cleavage. Damn, I didn’t know her boobs were that big.

Anyway…

The lights turned down low. Then a bunch of other, colored lights started flashing, and a chest-thumping beat silenced the room as the stage was illuminated, revealing a bunch of homies filling the stage from behind a dark curtain like they were coming out of a clown car. My heart nearly skipped a beat as I breathlessly looked for Big Killa. What would he look like? Would he be decked out in baggy, gangsta clothing, a Kangol hat at a jaunty tilt on his head? Did I even know what gangsta clothes looked like? Would there be bicycle chain-like gold jewelry swinging from his neck? Would his teeth be gripped with bedazzled jewels and gold letters spelling KILLA, as he whipped out a MAC-10 and started blasting on fools?

I started to get queasy and had a bad feeling that this wouldn’t end well.

Then…he emerged in all his criminal glory: Big Killa!

He was big…and menacing! But there was no gold jewelry, no Kangol hats, bling in his grill, powder blue sweat suits, baggy clothes, thousand-dollar Jordans he had jacked from some kid on the streets, no…Big Killa came out in an all-black, three-piece suit: black shirt, black tie, coat and pants, with a NY Yankees cap on. He was a darker-skinned brother, with an intense gaze and an etched scowl. There was no flash, no cussing or bitches and hoes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Who was this Big Killa?

I was gripped.

“NEW YORK CITY!” he shouted into his mic, throwing up in his arms. “WHITE New York City! Welcome to my show! Big Killa is in the house, SUCKAS! And I’m here to get you WOKE! I got rappers on my stage! Artists and performers tryin’ to come up in the Man’s world. I’m gonna have fine ass African Queens shaking their big, black booties on stage! But that’s not why you’re here, is it?”

“NOOOOOO!” everyone shouted, jumping and screaming in joy and ecstasy.

“You all want to see another BLACK MAN pull out a STRAP and SHOOT a BLACK BODY!”

“YESSSSSS!” People were jumping up and down, cheering and screaming like the Yankees had just won the pennant.

Then…the music started bumping, and the beats started thumpin,’ and the lights

started blaring, and the women started staring, at the black women pouring out from behind the curtains. The rappers started singing, their jewelry started blinging, and my phone started pinging!

But wait…

This wasn’t what I expected. I wanted to hear what Big Killa had to say. He was a force bigger than life. He took to the edge of the stage like a man about to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge onto the gentrified concrete of DUMBO down below.

“We wasn’t invited—we was forced!” Big Killa started. “Brought us here to instill FEAR! Break our bodies, break our souls, or so you thought! Didn’t know we secretly FOUGHT! Spoke our language, sung our songs, formed families you never thought, grew our leaders in the fields, and wrought, the future you left us for naught! We rose above, learned your lingo and grew our minds, raised our children in a new America, newly free, we got Booker T., W-E-B, Malcolm, who didn’t live to say, neither MLK! We fought your wars and hoped for more, told no, got Jim Crow, pushed through Selma, Little Rock, Detroit, Chicago, LA, and Crack, you think we just about RAP, guns, and killin’ fools, some of us do, the world is cruel, but for white America, the only rule is know your place and suffer through, the schools we left for you, never leave your hood, buy your weave, and struggle for food, well I’ve got news for YOU…”

That’s when Big Killa did what I realized I had forgotten he’d do. He pulled out a GUN! He started shooting at his fellow band mates!

POP-POP-POP!

NO! I thought. But wait! I suddenly realized that the gun was firing blanks! The band members were all in on it! What? Big Killa had given us a clue earlier…

Performers!

NO! This was a performance art piece! All along, it was a statement! The gun, the legend of Big Killa shooting people…it was all a show! How could I not have known?

“Someday this barrel might be pointed at YOU! Not the barrel of a GUN, but the barrel of accountability, responsibility, for the loss of aspirations, the dream of reparations…”

That’s when, to my utter shock and horror, the black helmet-clad SWAT team members of the NYPD burst in through the doors of the underground club, cutting through the stunned onlookers with their AR-15s as they advanced on the stage, shouting for everyone to get down get down.

Big Killa, staying true to himself and to his message, stood defiantly on the edge of the stage. With his outstretched arm, he pointed that gun at the cops, at us all, as if an accusatory finger…

…and we all looked on in horror, as the American tragedy repeated once again.

Shot By Baker: May Pow Pow

Mina wall boob grab

Ahegao: The Overwhelming Urge to Cum
Photographer: @shotbybaker
Model: @maypowpow

The female orgasm is the holy grail of sexual experience. Women’s partners have sought it out for as long as we know, worshiped it and tried every combination of rubbing, touching, licking, and sucking to behold its magic that some describe as a momentous earthquake of tension release that sends waves of ecstasy from the solar plexus to every part of the body and lasts several moments, leaving the woman to resemble a starfish having a heart attack, depleted of all energy and yet… satisfied. All a woman can do in that state simply just experience it.

Mina chair_3

Have you ever observed your partners facial expression when she starts to reach that moment when the sudden but slow warming sensation starts in the centre of her body, spreading like waves caused by a casual yet romantic wind as it extends throughout her body increasing in intensity? Did you notice her protruding tongue, flushed cheeks, and crossed eyes that roll so far back into her head that all you can see is the crescent of an iris? This expression, or better put, loss of musculoskeletal control of facial organs, in the erotic world is referred to as ahegao… the overwhelming urge to cum.

Mina ahegao on chair

Ahegao, a term created by men but embraced by women.

Mina chair_10

According to experts in the Manga and Asian Studies, the original purpose of ahegao was to exaggerate the orgasmic facial expression to show that the character is receiving an orgasm beyond normative notions of pleasure.

Mina bedside ahegao 6 copy

There are three things that make for a memorable ahegao face:

  1. Her mouth must be wide open and her tongue should dangle out.
  2. Various bodily liquids are to emerge from her face, ranging from tears, drool, sweat and even snot
  3. Her eyes must be rolled back so far that the pupils are barely visible.

Mina_Ahegao 1

There are those who find this act to be sexist and degrading, but there is a growing female community who have taken deliberate strides to achieve the ahegao expression in modern adult films stars and cam girls. In so doing, they merely accentuate the natural loss of facial control inherent in the orgasm, emphasizing how these women experience the overwhelming pleasure.

Mina ahegao 2

For the HST community, in this shoot featuring the captivating Japanese model, May Pow Pow, we aimed to mimic and pay homage to the historical ahegao expression that has emerged in the Western world in recent times. Enjoy!

https://onlyfans.com/maypowpow