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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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An Awake Child!

An Awake Child!

An Awake child is born to the world. And you know what that means? It means glory! Jubilation! Celebration!

For the world, that’s what it means.

But for the child, oh lordy. To the Awake Child, the child who can see injustice as plain as we might see the sunrise, who can feel another’s pain like it’s her own, who can understand the connection between all things in this amazing universe long before she even knows what anything be or where she ends and this old universe begins.

It be a miracle to the world because to her, lovin’ EVERYTHING is just like breathin’.

But that gift will be the Awake Child’s curse. There’s an army of enemies against truth. Ten Thousand Armies.

Ha! AN AWAKE CHILD, you hear me?

I was so worried that I wouldn’t live to see the day. I know now that I can rest. But that child, have mercy; that child’s life is goin’ to be hell.

Ron Heacock

Ron Heacock lives with his wife, Karen Walasek, and her loyal service dog, Finn. They split their time between the farm, HillHouse Writer’s Retreat, in the hills of southern Tennessee and their home in the city of Portland, Oregon. Ron spent many years as a performing songwriter and has shared the stage with such notable artists as Allen Ginsberg and Pete Seeger. His work has been published in Connotation, PaperTape, The LIMN Literary & Arts Journal, Cease Cows, The Elohi Gadugi Journal, Far Enough East, and The Pitkin Review. He has an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.

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Expendable Universes

I am here. I am his. I am me. A dream becomes real the moment you consciously realize you’re living it. When you can trace the corners of the room that you’re in, then you know it’s real.

We both felt it; a strange familiarity of a delicate nature. The silences are intimate, not awkward. He comments on the warmth of my body as I lie on top of him and kiss his back. He traces my leg, first with his fingers, then with his lips.

I photograph memories with my eyes. The tiny beauty mark under his left eye, the remnants of careless youth on his left earlobe, the exact size of the back of his neck visible in the opening of my fingers. I photograph so I don’t forget, even though I know I will.

‘Your eyes,’ he says, ‘they’re green!’

‘Sometimes,’ I say.

He turns on the light to get a better look. He realizes they are not.

‘Hazel,’ he says and I smile.

There are ways to let him know. I could tell him how much I love this universe we’re in. He wouldn’t understand. Every time I leave, sentences are formed perfectly inside my head, but his breath on my body blows them all away. I have been to every room in his house now; the blueprints to our universe complete.

I love our nakedness in the soft light of his bedroom. He asks me if I think he’s put on weight and tells me I look thinner now than when we first met. I lie, and then think of that first time. We were two different people back then, or were we simply hiding behind each other’s expectations? He hasn’t changed, he’s changed towards me, and I’m the same mess, minus a few walls and mirrors deflecting in inconspicuous directions.

He’s opened the windows today; a lonely breeze comes in, looks around and takes our moans with it when it leaves. A few beads of sweat glisten between my breasts and for a fraction of a second I feel like I’m in a movie. I love the hunger that’s in his eyes, as if he’s scared he won’t be tasting me again. ‘Almond and vanilla,’ I say, as he steals it all away.

Every time I’m with him another misconception is shattered, replaced by a truth I wouldn’t have imagined. As he slowly reveals who he is I wonder if he thinks it’s what I’d like to know or what he wants me to discover. For me, it’s not what I say but what he sees.

I trap myself into his arms again. I raise my head to look at him, and kiss him; first on the lips, then on the neck, then on his shoulder.

‘Five more minutes,’ I mumble in between silences.

‘There’s no hurry,’ he says.

It wouldn’t be what it is if I could stay. These could be the last five minutes and neither of us would know.

Eleni Chelioti

Eleni Chelioti was awarded her PhD in English Literature from the University of Birmingham in the UK and is currently living and working in Athens, Greece. She writes poetry in Greek, and prose in English. Her short story 'Stealing Time' was recently published in The Rusty Nail. She also has a blog: http://coffee-cupcakes.blogspot.com

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Funny Paper

We spent an hour looking at the “Polish Rider,” sometimes sitting quietly, sometimes flirting, and also commenting on the hot guys coming in and out of the gallery.  Daryl also pointed out some hot girls.  They were hot.  They got me a little stiff.  I was thinking I wasn’t 100% gay or else I wouldn’t get hard around some girls.  And I wanted to have sex with a girl, all the way.  I’d gotten naked with girls, making-out, licking breasts.  I was surprised they like to suck cock as much as gay boys.

But I’d never done oral on a girl.  Was kinda afraid of that.  And wanted to try fucking, but was afraid I wouldn’t stay hard.

There were always plenty of girls at UCLA that wanted to give me a try.  They’d even reassure me it was OK if I didn’t stay hard when I tried to fuck them.  But I was waiting.  Not for love.  Was maybe thinking Daryl and I could do it with one of his hook-ups.  So I could keep looking at him if I lost interest.

We decided to visit Frank’s apartments in the order LeSeuer wrote about them.  The first was 326 East Forty-ninth Street.

When we got there there was a man in a beard who looked Egyptian.  He was holding poems typed on paper and reading them to whoever walked by on the street.   I thought of Frank O’Hara walking out the front door of the 6-storey tenement apartment.

I had trouble with Frank’s poems when I first tried to read them.  They were confusing.  Full of references I had no clue about.  It was only when my prof suggested I read LeSeuer’s book that I got my entry into his work.  And then I was voracious.  I read all the poems, then read them again and again.  I read every book written by O’Hara, every article.

I was born 27 years after O’Hara died when he was hit by a beach taxi on Fire Island.  I really wanted to meet him.  I thought he could give me some advice no one else could.  Stuff about gay life and poetry.  Frank seemed to be totally out in New York in the 1950s, years before Stonewall.  I wondered how he had the balls to do that, especially as he was almost as small as me, 5-7 too, skinny too, but he weighed 140.

I’m collecting all the items he mentions in his poem “THE DAY LADY DIED.”  Who knew there were cigarette collectors?  I’d managed to find a carton ofGauloises and a carton of Picayunes from 1959.  The Gauloises are in blue packs with Viking helmets on the front.  The Picayunes say “Pride of New Orleans” on each pack in a circle around a fleur-de-lis.  I had to buy a whole set to get the “New world writing” [reproduce exact font of journal here] he referenced—the title is in black but the first “w” in the title is in red.  The cover has a white background but then a beige and aqua overlay.   I get to consider what Frank thought was ugly in cover design—knew he loved Abstract Expressionist painting—the page edges of the journal are red.  I guess it was ugly but I liked the idea that I might be holding the copy Frank bought that day, which made it not ugly.  If he really bought those things.  But from what I knew of his life, I think he did.  And I was going to find a copy of the “New York Post” from that day on this trip—had a couple leads.

We listened to the man reading poetry.  It was great poetry, not O’Hara’s.  When he took a break, I asked him what he was reading.

“They’re poems a friend of mine wrote in LA,” he said.  “He loves O’Hara’s writing, so I told him I’d read his poems at each of Frank’s four New York apartments.”  His name is Bernie White, he’s an actor in Los Angeles.  He was in New York to play the part of an Egyptian in a film called “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.”  I got the poet’s name from him so I could look him up when I got back.

“Let’s eat, Your Twinkiness,” Daryl said.

“OK, I’m a follower, you pick.”

Last night we had dinner with one of my editors.  I had an arugula salad.  The menu called it a salad made with “rocket.”  Calling arugula “rocket” bothers me.  But not enough to not order the salad.  It had parmesan slices aged 25 years and was dressed with white truffle olive oil—though I couldn’t taste the truffle.  This was the place the owner paid $330,000 for the largest white truffle hogs found in France last fall.  He was all over the papers and internet.  I wondered why he was so stingy with the white truffle in my salad.

I had my usual orange for breakfast.  It was 3 p.m., I still wasn’t hungry.

Daryl wasn’t really into poetry, but he’d read several O’Hara poems.  He said, “How about a burger and a malted for Frank?”

“Muscle boy, I’m a follower—up to you.

Craig Cotter

Craig Cotter was born in 1960 in New York and has lived in California since 1986. New poems have appeared in Hawai’i Review, POEMS-FOR-ALL, Poetry New Zealand, Assaracus, Court Green, Eleven Eleven, Euphony, the Bicycle Review, Caliban Online & Otoliths. His poetry is featured in the anthology Between from Chelsea Station Editions, and he has a story in Foolish Hearts, a new anthology from Cleis Press. His fourth book of poems, After Lunch with Frank O’Hara, is currently available from Chelsea Station Editions (New York). www.craigcotter.com

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Security

Sam No Shirt talks on and on while cupping the telephone receiver to his ear and taking swigs off a brown quart bottle of beer. A black stripper comes in at ten; she bends over the desk to sign in.  I look down the front of her dress and she smiles. She looks a little like Haley Mills, the actress…Then a taxi cab driver; then a guy who works as a proof reader; then some punk rockers who use the hotel studio; then the drunk, walking as if pushed from behind, and crashing through the door to the elevator; then a dope dealer dressed all in black like Johnny Cash; who even looks like Johnny Cash–a Johnny Cash who has spent time in a concentration camp. Then the girl who brings guys up to her room comes down and demands I move the drunk, who passed out in the hall in front of her door.  I get up from the desk and walk to the elevator, big stack of keys jingling at my waist.  I get off at 4.  The drunk is face-down, his dress shirt and red face soaked from the bucket of water the girl who brings guys to her room at any time night or day doused him with.  The drunk’s keys are in his door.  I drag the drunk into his room and throw the keys in after. The girl who brings many guys up to her room not to play checkers, and whose face is painted like several kinds of flowers, slams shut her door.

Wayne Burke

Wayne Burke's short stories have appeared in HAPPY and the fucking Gihon River Review. His poems are in FORGE and miller's pond e-zine.

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Corporate Marrow

Monday morning at the water cooler. Another day in the rat race. Another arm of the universe speeding inexorably to the absence of usable entropy.

Plans after work: drive home, watch episode of Alaska State Troopers, masturbate to interracial midget porn, collapse into miserable catatonia.

Steffan walks up to the water tank and grabs a cup. “Morning, Ed,” he says.

“Morning, Steffan.”

After my third sip is when I notice Steffan’s hand, a wicked witch’s claw of gauze around his little finger – where his little finger was. The materiality of absence. Sartre’s anatomy.

“What happened to your hand?”

“Just a project I was working on over the weekend.”

“Some kind of power-tool accident? Did you go to the doctor?”

Steffan takes a drink, palpably indifferent.

“Nope,” he says.

Seconds pass: one, two three.

“Nope to which one?”

Sip.

“Both.”

“Oh.”

S-I-P.

“So how’d it happen?”

“Hatchet.” He crumples his cup and throws it towards the trash-can, placed at the fury-inducing range of just more than a strong overhand toss, taunting the entire office with its unobtainable malevolence. Somehow, the cup goes in.

“Miss a swing?” There’s just a drizzle of blood on the gauze; a dusting of human oil.

“No,” he says, grabbing another cup. “I got it on the first try.”

“What do you mean?”

“I did it on purpose, Ed. Is that what you want me to say?”

“Are you kidding me? Why would you do that?”

“To demonstrate agency over my own life. We only truly possess that which we are capable of destroying.”

My existentialist side doubts the veracity of my ears and their ability to translate airborne particle vibration into logological significance.

“What,” I say.

“The willful absence of anything is more palpable than the thing itself. As components of an inscrutable and seemingly inescapable series of necessities, compulsions, and processes, the only mastery we are able to obtain is over our material consciousness.”

Flashbacks, college Philosophy flashbacks. I finish my cup of water. My mouth remains biblically dry.

Like that, the conversation is over. Steffan crumples his cup up and tosses it again as he walks towards his office. The cup lands in the trash-can with a barely audible plf – like the sound God might make in your ear to stoke the flame of a dogmatic schizophrenia. You didn’t forget your pills, there are no radios in your teeth, your skin is flesh; not insects.

A missing finger as free will.

I lob my cup, uncrumpled, towards the garbage can. Halfway there, it flutters uselessly to the floor, like a paper bird bereft of hope.

“Hm,” I say audibly, to no one, for no reason.

 

Two weeks later, Steffan and I are fucking each other bareback in a thatch hut in Indonesia. The night is a hot cloak of tribal stars, and tomorrow is the blinding flash of absolute morning; hands locked, rough, raw digits stripped to the bone, with just enough blood to remember we are capable of bleeding.

Philip Gordon

philip gordon is a creative writing student from vancouver island, recipient of the 2014 kevin roberts poetry award, an editor of the literary magazines Ash Tree Journal and Text (launching in September, 2014), and reader for PANK. his work has been published in The Puritan, The YOLO Pages, theNewerYork, (parenthetical), and in numerous other places. philip is a sex-positive pansexual feminist, lover of shades, and proponent of the Oxford Comma. he can be stalked at twitter.com/greymusic_ and grey-music.tumblr.com.

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The Bells

The town was quiet on most nights. All the shops closed at 8:00 and most of the streets were clear by 9:30 because of the curfew enforced by the local law. Like I said quiet. Fuckin Mayberry quiet is what it was. Drove most of us abnormal folks into the underground.
The underground! Yeah that is what most of us teens called it. It was a crypt is what it was. So we would all sneak out and meet behind the old church in the old cemetery. In the middle was a giant crypt with one of those massive gargles on top of it. One day we were fucking around with it and Johnny kicked it in the right spot and it opened. After that it became our after curfew spot.
The crypt itself was nothing special. A few drawers with bodies and what not. What we found underneath was why it became or go to places. You see inside the crypt were stairs leading down into catacombs which my sister  discovered one day by leaning up against one of the walls. The door opened and at first it was a game. I dare you to go down there. After a while it became our new hangout.
We were all brave souls with well very little fear. In the catacombs were more graves hundreds maybe even thousands. I don’t know how far they went. One night Johnny and I were walking around there so long we didn’t come back out into the sun was up. We almost got caught. From then on we only hung out in the main gravesite just under the crypt.
 It was cool we partied hard with those dead people. We shared our liquor with the bodies. Dance with them. Until one day Johnny thought it would be a good idea to share a cigar with one of them. It was all fun and games. We all laughed, danced, and chanted.
Yeah it was a good time up to that point the body was engulfed in flames and none of us could stop it. Soon the catacombs were all a blaze and we all ran like rats from a sinking ship. Some of us made it. Most of us didn’t. Those that did watched as their friends burned alive.
They say the smoke came out of every grave in the yard. The fire department came and pelted the place with water but all it did was wash the bodies out. It was like a Romero movie come to life.
The last thing I remember was the ringing of the church bells. The bells which still haunt me today as  I sit in my room made from rubber walls. Oh the bells, the bells, the bells, forever with the bells.

Samuel Southwell

Samuel Southwell holds a BA degree in English for the University of South Florida. He has published two books entitled “Dread” and “Twisted American Fairy Tales”. He currently lives in Saint Pete. Fl.

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