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A Moderate Discipline

“Too much of anything good in life does not fairly represent what the real world is like.”

          His entire existence was spent suffering the brutal wound caused by that comment.  Whenever any semblance of prolonged happiness crept its way into his heart, a reflexive trigger that had been conditioned into his thought process would lead him down a path of decisions based on turning the joy into sorrow.

He could not stand tall and experience anything pleasurable; he had to lie down, curl up on the ground like a beaten dog, and wallow in misery.

So it went for all the years of his life, seventy-six of them in all, that he would alternate between moods of extreme happiness and absolute despondency.

He had been married three times.  Each new nuptial began as a blissful union that put a twinkle in his eye, a dance in his step, and a pitter-patter in the beat of his heart.  That is why he had also been through three terrible divorces.

His affair with Alice was, by far, the best/worst relationship he’d ever experienced.  She didn’t respond well at all to the surprising news when he served her the annulment papers a few days after returning from their honeymoon.  Things are going so great, she cried. She just didn’t understand.

Alice killed herself exactly two months from the day which had been  the pinnacle moment of her life.

Things are as they should be once again, he reckoned.  He wept at the funeral, deeply saddened, but knew that there had been no choice other than forcing the breakup.  Too much happiness.  Too much love.  Now it was over.  Buried six feet below the dirt.  He drove through the rain back to the quaint home they had recently purchased together in preparation of spending the rest of their lives.

He contemplated suicide, but understood quite well that he still had much more suffering to bear in order to balance out the electrical flash of pure ecstatic happiness he had so briefly felt.

They had always given him plenty of advice when he was younger, and had taught him many positive maxims to help guide him through life’s trials and tribulations.  He sat alone in front of the fire with a good book and wondered why it had always been only the one harsh lesson that he could ever remember.

Then he suddenly realized that his book was giving him pleasure; too much pleasure, in fact, so he chucked the rare tome into the flame and watched as the pages shriveled up and turned to ash.

He had built a large collection of books many times throughout his life, but that miserable, masochistic idea rooted deeply inside his mind would always, at some point, drive him to destroy the whole library.

There is no knowledge other than that which suffering teaches us, he firmly believed.  So he would go about the process of systematically dissociating himself from any philosophy or spirituality that he had grown too fond of or found any inner peace from.

There was a time, when he had been much younger, that the man had known many decent friends.  They would spend time together, frequenting bars and chasing the ladies.  Sometimes they would stay up late into the night, smoking pipes, telling stories, and discussing all of life’s finer aspects.

But all his friends had left him, at one time or another, not wanting to be around when his self-destructive habits would manifest causing him to throw a raging fit just as the conversation reached a peak.  They grew tired of him causing a terrible disturbance out in public whenever one of his favorite songs would play over the speakers and he would inevitably wind up harming himself in the process of trying to destroy the radio.

The old man didn’t pity himself or feel that he had lived his life in vain.  He had no regrets.  He was only following the advice they had given him so long ago.  Now, as his mind began losing focus and his memories became foggy and blurred, he had forgotten who they even were.

It no longer mattered.  He knew that his time had come.  He tossed another book into the fire and laid down on the floor.  He closed his eyes.  The untreated cancer was ready to perform its final act.  He hurt real good, and as he took his final breath, he knew that this was how it was supposed to end.

Scott Thomas Outlar

Scott Thomas Outlar hails from the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga. He writes poetry, essays, rants, ravings, screeds, and experimental, existential, hallucinatory, psychedelic, prose-fusion meanderings through the psyche. Recent archives of his work can be viewed at Dissident Voice and Daily Anarchist.

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3:07 AM

Jon brought me into his room. Close the door, he said. He took out an orange pill and crushed it with his ID. It crushed so easily and evenly. There’s a hundred in my wallet, he said, roll it up. Jon, I said, I can’t put anything up my nose. You know I had a seizure when I did coke that time. Oh well this is fine, it’s not coke, he responded. Still, I told him, I’m gonna freak out I know, I just can’t. Ok, that’s fine, he said, and picked up half of it on a card and gave it to me. Just put it under your tongue. I did. It tasted bitter and awful, I swallowed and said I wanted to get water. Don’t swallow, he said. Oh, why, fuck I just did, I said. Oh it’s fine, you should just usually keep it in your mouth if possible. The next thing I remember was opening my eyes and being on the floor. I don’t even remember it getting dark. I thought I was sleeping, I had just been dreaming, everything was fine. Taylor? Taylor? His tone told me that I wasn’t fine. Are you ok? What happened? I don’t know, you tell me. Ok just, breathe, stay, I’ll get you some water. He took the cup out of my hands. I must have blacked out again, because I saw Anika. She was smiling and laughing. I reached for her. Taylor? I opened out of the darkness again. Here, drink this. Talk to me, tell me how you’re feeling, sick, dizzy? Both, I said. I’m so sorry, he said. What do you need? I need the bathroom. Can you stand, here lets try, he said. He pulled me up, I took a deep breath. I took several more. He breathed with me. I felt better. Wow, thank you, I said. Of course, I’m sorry, he said, hugging me. I used the bathroom, my lips were bloodless, I guess my whole face was pretty pale. I went upstairs, E was throwing up in the bathroom, L helping her. Jon and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. How are you feeling now? I feel totally fine I said (a lie.) Do you think you’re gonna be ok to drive? He had taken my keys.

At T’s party, I felt strange, but good. I realized that I had a lot of friends. I felt fucked up in a slightly off balance way that easily could have turned bad. I kept smoking cigarettes. And drinking water. Inside and outside were two entirely different parties. People were throwing up at both. T turned on the hose to wash it away. When O showed up, I was really thankful and happy to see him. People kept telling me that I was beautiful. I tried to go into T’s room to wish him a happy birthday, but Jon stopped me. They’re doing coke in there, come let’s go this way. K told me she loved me and looked up to me. I wanted to tell all of them that they were drunk and crazy.

Claire Gordon

Claire Gordon likes to spend her time consuming various beverages: primarily coffee, water, and gin+tonic. Her work is forthcoming in Fried American and New Bourgeois. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Unfiltered Moscato Kisses

My beer’s almost empty.

In a few sips, I’ll go back there; I’ll find her sprawled out on her bed, a modern-day Marilyn, with her nightgown delicately angled in all the right ways. In a few sips, I’ll see her rehearsed smile, half-hidden from the soft glow of moonlight. And I’ll smile, longingly, a half-smile, one nearly as empty as my beer. In a few sips, I’ll get up from my seat at her dinky kitchenette table and follow the SHOOSH-SHOOSH-SHOOSH sounds of her brushing her teeth.

She always scrubs those pearly whites after she attempts head. And I always fail to light the fireworks. Three times this has happened. I get stiff. Her neck gets sore. She trudges off to the bathroom, where I see her with a tube of toothpaste in hand before I can even manage to whisper the words, “I’m sorry.”

But we’ll still make love – fifteen minutes worth. She’s very particular in that way. Anything less than fifteen minutes is too quick; anything longer is taxing on her time. She needs her Z’s.

And the whole time, I’ll dwell on her taste – wine and cigarettes. She floods her stomach with a whole bottle every evening, and she burns through a pack a day at least. It shows under her eyes. What should look like 25 comes across as 37, even under the most complementing of lights. And for some reason, I come here. I hold her. I kiss her. My receptors paralyzed with that sweetly ashy taste. My mind captive at a mixture of sensations both painful and fascinating.

Is this what love tastes like? $8 Moscato and a pack of Slims bought from two towns over (where the tax is less)? 15 minutes of sex, and then we turn our separate ways?

If I’m lucky, she’ll regale me with tales of how I’m better than her past male suitors. If I’m lucky, she’ll let me touch her in the morning, let me run my fingers around the ass of a girl who has grown up in comfort, around the ass of a girl who was raised in Lake Forest, one of the wealthiest communities lining the wilds of Chicago.

She loves Disney; I don’t. She loves fairy tales; I don’t.

But I still kneel at her altar. I still come to her one-bedroom nestled atop an upscale strip mall down a quiet stretch of road. I unsheathe myself here, bare my bronzed skin.

And she tells me to drink. And why not? She picked up my favorite beer and put it in the fridge. I’m supposed to get ready, ready like she already is, those glassy eyes locking away the Disney princess she tells me is inside her somewhere. I just have to fuck the princess out of her. I just have to hold her down, squeeze her wrists, and make her writhe savagely – all while the clock ticks down from 15.

And if I’m too good, she’ll stop me. She’ll push me away and clasp her hand over her vagina. “I don’t want to get messy,” she’ll say matter-of-factly. “I like to be clean.”

Like a princess.

And her breath will carry that sweetly-sick scent seared into the back of my brain. It’s the smell of Hellfire. It’s the smell of Death.

Scott Waldyn

Scott Waldyn is a Writer, Social Miscreant, Gamer, Beer lover, Author, Managing Editor at Literary Orphans, and occasionally Mr. Comedian to all the wrong people. Scott leads a quiet existence until his brain flares up and paints colors over a black and white reality.

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Masturbation

The biggest issue with moving back home is masturbation. No matter when you try to do it you are never really alone. Your mother talks to you through the bathroom door, while you are in your bedroom, even when you think you have a moment to yourself in the garage. It doesn’t matter where you are, your mother will find you. And it’s kind of difficult to keep an erection while hearing about Aunt Gladys and her cataracts or how Baby the cat just peed in her favorite ficus. Hell, it doesn’t really matter what she is talking about. The sound of her voice alone will cause it to deflate and once that happens, you can kiss any chance of momentary release goodbye.

When Lydia left, you felt your very foundation crumble. And when she took you for everything you had, your literal foundation was ripped out from under you and you found yourself with nothing other than a few suitcases filled with clothes, that old high school trophy she repeatedly threatened to toss and regret so potent you swear at times others can smell it on you.

And now you stare at the walls of your childhood bedroom and you wonder how despite everything you have accomplished, you are still enclosed within the same damn walls you escaped from years before. You scratch your head, which used to be so thick with hair you could barely find your scalp, and ponder your next move. You’ve been working closely with your financial advisor and studying the look of hopelessness in his eyes and wondering if he is dramatizing for effect or if things really are that bleak. And even though you know the answer, you pray you are wrong and reach for a cigarette and hope that tomorrow your mother will go shopping at some point in the afternoon so you can have a moment alone with yourself . . . to think.

Jennifer Lachenauer

Jennifer Lachenauer received a bachelor’s degree in English from Kean University where she earned an academic award for excellence in essay writing for her capstone course. While actively involved in various forms of writing, her particular passion is short fiction because of how it combines the snap-shot like quality of a photograph with the written word.

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Janice

In high school, Janice is head cheerleader.

Believe it or not, as part of their routine, the cheerleaders raise a baby elephant over their heads. They are deceptively strong from years of gymnastics, weightlifting and cheering. Their cheering is so powerful the other teams default in fear. The school’s basketball team is the champion without ever dribbling a ball. So’s the football team, without ever giving or receiving a concussion on the gridiron.

If opponents dare show up, Janice directs the cheerleaders to throw the baby elephant at them and mow them down like bowling pins. The elephant hates this, hates his life, but he tolerates it. He knows it’s better than growing up to be killed for ivory.

 

Now Janice wears a crown of spark plugs. She crashes a wedding party. She knows that she exceeds the bride in beauty. She thinks: I glow. I stretch myself to the amazement of all. My bald head shines like fresh chrome on the grill of a classic Buick. The bride will have to work harder tonite to prove to her beau that he made the right choice.

And I will uplift my tits as the governor of California mounts his white horse and comes to woo me.

M. Krockmalnik Grabois

M. Krockmalnik Grabois’ poems and fictions have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “Purple Heart” published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem. “Birds,” published in The Blue Hour, 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

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Euphoria

He’s not a perfect guy, my boyfriend. Used to date this stripper. But he’s pretty good to me now. Pretty talented. Sometimes, even successful. He’s addicted to a bunch of things. The obvious: alcohol, amphetamines, nicotine, Euphoria.

The club was all cleavage and shades of blue. Drinks and cheap heels.

The ex-girlfriend stripper spots us. Demands why we’re in her strip club. “And you bring her?!” My boyfriend shrugs. She turns to me: “I fucked him in your bed.”

My boyfriend says I’m addicted to Euphoria, too.

A blonde takes us into the back room. She dances for us in a neon thong. She pushes her naked breasts in his face. She kisses me. Then he kisses her. We pay her $100 for a few songs. That’s how they measure payment: songs. We exchange numbers to meet later.

My boyfriend and I get a hotel room downtown. We bring beer.

I’ll meet you after drinks with Management, she says when I call at 2 a.m.

I see the statehouse from our window.

I text her an hour later. Sounds shady, she says.

I fold myself into bed beside my boyfriend, asleep and clothed.

Hotels are barren spaces, tidy and sad.

Rebeka Singer

Rebeka Singer is a writer, teacher, banking ingénue, and aspiring rapper living in her native Providence, RI. She received her MFA in creative fiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, Red Savina Review, Dogzplot, The Quotable, Corium Magazine, and elsewhere.

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Sings and Swings

Aunt Gwen hates her kitchen.  It is her turn to do Thanksgiving.  The four sisters rotate that day of burps so she’s off the hook three quarters of the time.

How to endure the eighteen people who will show up?  Family is a common space for decades of gripes to claim a chair.  There’s Gretchen who can’t stand Will since Will married Donna who “thinks she’s a queen since she grew up in a big house—and don’t think she’ll let you forget it either.”  And there’s Paul who found God six years ago, and now he feels sorry for most of the family who have “hardened their hearts.” No one talks about the presumed affair that Ben had with Lori.  I mean, it probably didn’t happen.  The cars were seen at that fleabag motel outside of town, but surely there was a reasonable explanation.

To get through the turkey-making and potato peeling (“It isn’t Thanksgiving without smashed potatoes,” so says Uncle Rick.) Gwen plays albums.  Last year she put on a few by Dave Brubeck.  This year it’s Steve Alaimo Sings And Swings.  In high school, she had a big crush on Steve, routinely watched Where The Action Is.

Her husband Tree watches TV shows about cars, the older the model the better.  “Isn’t she a beaut, Gwen?”  She?  Steel, gears, and rubber tires.  She agrees to keep him quiet.  Agreeing has gotten her through much of her marriage.  That’s not so bad—they do agree on many things.

As Gwen puts the veggie tray together, Steve sings “Lady of the House.”  Sigh.  That could’ve been her, Steve coming home after a hot recording session.  Steve tells Gwen to cast her fate to the wind.  Easy for him to say.  If the rolls are overdone, she’ll hear about it.  Thin gravy?  She’ll hear about it.  She feels that her fate is an oven timer counting down the minutes.

“Can you turn that off, Gwen?  It’s giving me a headache,” says Aggie, who has  never heard of Steve What’shisname.

“Sure.  I’m not listening anyway.”

Maybe Steve will drive up in one of those cars that Tree wishes he owned.  He‘ll carry her away even though the boy with the perfectly combed dark hair and extremely large eyebrows has no doubt changed.  Where the action is.  It’s in the living room where Paul and Peggy argue about if Kansas has a mountain.  Rhine wine enflames the chatter.

Steve won’t drive up.  The table is set.  The kitchen looks like that I Love Lucy episode when Fred and Ricky do the house chores while Lucy and Ethel get jobs.

“This is marvelous,” says Donna.  She might mean it.  Will keeps smiling at her.

The next three years it’s someone else’s turn.  Now that’s really marvelous.

Kenneth Pobo

Kenneth Pobo had a collection of his micro-fiction published by Deadly Chaps in 2011 called Tiny Torn Maps. Recent stories are in Wilde Oats, Jonathan, and Revolver.

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Not fucking is dangerous to your health

Fucking is Dangerous to Your Health

Richard Kostelanetz

Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of Readers Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster's Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in American Art, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked.

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Drunk On You

I waited in my car for Renee to come out of the market.  Across the street, in front of the public parking structure, a guy sat on his haunches, rolling a cigarette.  His back pressed against the building wall.  He unfolded and refolded his blue pack of Bugler tobacco and stowed it in his jacket pocket. His face was grizzled with a gray and black mustache; tufts of chin hair revealed that he hadn’t shaved in a week or two. A backpack and plastic sack sat under a street tree near the curb.  He was dragging on his smoke and staring vacantly.  A public restroom door to his left opened and a tall woman in jeans and a knee-length coat shuffled out.
“Gimme drag.”  I couldn’t hear her but that’s what she said.  Her face puffed with ruddiness.  She was his drinking buddy, And just now she wanted a pull from his cig. He pushed against the wall of the public garage and rose up to her height.
“How bad do you want this drag, baby?” His face weaved like a cobra’s.
“Bad enough,” she said, head cocked.
“Then gimme kiss.”
She drew away, a  coquette. Not much. He moved in, she moved in, and the payment was exacted.  A kiss for a puff.  The kiss was glancing, a slurred brush of lips, and then her wavering hand took the half burned cigarette and drew in the smoke, rocking ever so slightly on long legs buoyed by alcohol.   They were simpatico. One grunted and the other nodded. They walked to the curb and she helped him hoist the backpack. By the heft, it was a heavy.  I imagined four quarts of gin.  Perhaps it held two six packs.  Crazily, I hoped it was gin. They began tacking up the street toward the levee path near the bridge.  They had it all mapped out between them.  They were on their way to find a place to share their love.
They were smiling, I wondered why. I thought I had been watching tragedy.

Ed Weingold

Ed Weingold has been published by the Bookshop Santa Cruz short story contest (2013). He is a produced playwright with 12 plays produced in 20 productions from off-off Broadway to San Francisco and Berkeley. Over a 30-year career in the theatre he directed 120 stage productions in the United States and England. Following his years in the theatre, he spent 20 years as a technical writer in Silicon Valley. For 10 years he has written and recorded a monthly piece for an NPR affiliate feature, First Person Singular. He has taught college English and Theatre courses at the City University of New York and several colleges in California.

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Guaranteed Not to Split

Printed on a large cotton label in the back of the blue lab coats were the words “Guaranteed Not To Split” and Dr. Oscar Whirling took it as a challenge.

He held Jocelyn Meyers, the supplies rep, against the lab table and fucked her, holding the plastic of her sleeves down.  No matter how she struggled it wouldn’t rip, her arms pinned against the Bunsen burners, but she was free to spread her legs wide, one up on table edge and she did so gladly.

Their trysts had started accidentally after the last class and had lasted later and later through the semester.  Dr. Whirling soon realized he was addicted to Jocelyn’s pussy, but he wouldn’t agree to leave his wife.

She kept fucking him anyway – she had no one to go home to.  Addiction was slippery.  It wasn’t something you cut out and kept separate on the table.  It fed you, coexisting peacefully inside you depending upon what you did to it.  Some people drank their addiction, some people ate it, some people shot their addiction into their veins and some people fucked it.

When she threatened to leave he came back harder.  She fucking loved getting reamed by Dr. Whirling in the empty hallways in the evening, and in the backroom at Mitch’s. Mondays, Thursdays and Sunday after church.

Then one day he changed the math.  Oscar got rid of his wife, his endowment (no not that one) and the times of day she grew to depend upon.

When an atom is split there’s always detritus that falls aside – neutrons shooting away into space no longer needed and orphaned with bad feelings and wobbly orbits.

If they’re lucky they attach themselves to new unstable molecules nearby and make those straight and whole, a new element combined from the remainder.

The next Thursday at Mitch’s, Jocelyn turned over the lab coat she’d been using whenever she visited the lab.  There was a split in the Tyvek along the shoulder, which introduced the possibility of hazardous byproducts getting in.

“You were finally too rough,” she joked.

“I don’t think I can get another one,” the former doctor said.  “I’m living in a studio now, you wanna come over?”

“Not tonight.”

Jocelyn Meyers transferred to the Northern district route the next Monday.

Fucking lab coat.

Roger Leatherwood

Roger Leatherwood worked on the lower rungs of Hollywood for 20 years before returning to print fiction. His work has appeared in Thirteen Myna Birds, Cleaver, Nefarious Ballerina, Oysters & Chocolate, and other publications named after desirable objects.

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