Sunday, January 29, 2012


She’s always losing something,
never knows where she put it,
doesn’t even know what it is
most of the time.
Everything in the house
has been mislaid at some time or other.
Even when she comes across something
that’s been missing for years
she can’t remember losing it
so it’s not really found.
Her motto is,
“Everything in its place.
That way, nothing is.”

John Grey   


The world returns.
Oak partners with elm,
with willow,
to bring it to me,
leaf by leaf,
songbird by songbird.
The warm of my heart
is shared by the grass,
the wildflowers.
Yesterday’s melt
is today’s bloom.
The world would not
be back here otherwise.

John Grey   


I’m not the criminal liar,
the one who says this check is covered.
Nor am I the gossipy liar
with mouth awash in fabricated rumors.
There’s a little of the ad-man liar in me,
especially when I put pen to paper.
Poetic license, after all, is written in hyperbole.

I don’t think I’m the evil liar,
none of this, no problem,
the driving’s fine
when sheets of black ice
coat the roadways.
And I try not to be the guilty liar,
red-faced, who says,
“I did not break the vase.”
I do my best not to break vases
in the first place.

I admit I am the lover liar,
though not of the cheating kind.
Not having seen them all,
I can still proclaim you
the most beautiful of women.
With nothing to compare it to,
my love is clearly the deepest,
the strongest, the longest-lived.

You prefer that kind of lie.
Or, at least, you say you do.

John Grey   

John Grey has been published recently in the Echolocation, Santa Fe Poetry Review and Caveat Lector with work upcoming in Clark Street Review, Poem and the Evansville Review


busy busy butterfly
bathe brilliant beautify 

                                            just a sparkle of bling 
bass breaks beats
breezers boy bed

                                            moved my being
backbone blood bite     
breaths beyond bliss

but here’s the thing …             my body’s besotted
                                            i’m drawn to my
                                            bastard belovéd


iSpin – (or things i can’t do in iTunes)

flirt in amungst the r&b
have attitude and hip hop moves
look mad for it and in the groove
enigmatically dark and moody in indie
be a cool couldn’t give a toss rock chic
sweet as a pink pop princess
sad and lonesome country style (dog just died)
in a spin with twelve inch remixes
old skool looking so techno cute
get a phone number with my till receipt



you can’t say sorry
with wilted chrysanthemums
it’s not that i want roses
and a candlelit meal
at a posh restaurant
or champagne at a trendy
nightclub not breezers
in a high street disco
i just don’t want
to be an after thought
when you’re paying for your petrol
and rizlas


Writing under the name of iDrew to co-ordinate with her titles, Drew is the Tiddlywinks champion of the Clueless Collective

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I have a small confession to make:

your abstracted face
bathed in ennui
my insistence on ruin and havoc 
the unscheduled arrival of love
there was never a question—

letting it grow wilder

Laura LeHew


did it feel? 

There is no
His heart a fist 
swaddled in blood.

You are a trick question
a larvae browsing through time
watching glass images come
out of the womb how
could one woman be so 

The shorter story—
he would have loved you in perpetuity 
The lie was a window.
Even if you are guilty.

Laura LeHew


crow feathers

frigid days
all of my disappearances
hunger appeased—the deliberate duality

            what anyone would have done

            jay feathers 

as close as possible
to the only path back

            with a wall between us

parrot feathers

a hint of hemlock
you are the reason I come home
a rough draft

            asking too many questions  

Laura LeHew

I’m a Sagittarius with a Scorpio Rising and I quite liked William Doreski’s poem “The Night’s Criminal Intentions Made Clear.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Looking for Elvis

     Big Marv was  bent over looking for his other sock when he caught a glimpse of himself in the locker room mirror.  “My ass looks like Elvis,” he told his buddies.
     “Your ass is a big white blob with a hairy “V” on top.” Nagi synched his shoulder pads.
     “I didn’t say it was the young Elvis. It’s the old guy -- the Las Vegas Elvis.”
     Emilio stuck his butt against the locker, let one rip and added, “ My ass sings like Elvis.”
     “Definitely the old Elvis,” Big Marv choked into his jersey.”
     “The dead Elvis,” Nagi added.
     After practice the three boys hung out at Big Marv’s.  He had a Lazy-boy, a king sized bed and a wide screen TV in his bedroom. There was an old-school, Led Zeplin poster on one wall. College football pennants were tacked up; Marvin’s mom was constantly reminding him of the goal. Big Marv was six foot and close to three hundred pounds. He was morbidly obese. The Lazy-boy groaned.
     “Hey look at this.” Emilio interrupted the rerun of Beverly Hillbillies. Emilio was the bright one, the good looking one, the guy with all the luck. He was holding up Big Marv’s laptop so that his buddies could see it.
     “Wow! that’s Marv’s butt,” Nagi said, “Check it out man, the Las Vegas Elvis is on U-Tube.”  They gathered around the full-screen view.
     “Here comes the other Elvis.” Nagi said as Emilio entered the screen. Then the breath they had built up didn’t tumble out as laughter.
     Emilio blurted, “Bullshit,” The other’s watched.
     The camera looked over the top of Big Marv’s naked butt; it was a telephoto shot, close up with incredible detail. Black hair at the top of his ass and the white globular folds of skin rippling the crack. He was bent over and Emilio was wiggling against the locker in front of him. The camera caught it in a way that put the back of Marv’s head in front of Emilio’s crotch.
     Later that week, the routine was broken and Nagi didn’t hang out with his buddies at lunch; he hooked up with Silvia and the two of them talked and touched each other constantly. 
     Emilio pretended to read a book. There was a spot of grass next to the flagpole where he could sit by himself. Nobody ever came this way at lunch and it felt good to feel that low October sun heating his skin. Most of the year, he stayed out of the sun; he didn’t want a black neck like his father’s; he didn’t want the black mexican tan of outdoor labor. 
     He had been hoping football would be his way out; he was almost to a thousand yards rushing: one hundred and forty more yards, and he would have the school record.  One regular season game, then the conference championship. Who knows? It all seemed so possible a couple weeks ago, but now he felt like puking every time he forced himself into that locker room.
     He dressed out late, and when the locker door clanked the locker room echoed like a jail cell. His cleats clicked over concrete as he passed Big Marv’s locker. The door had been closed for over a week now. Emilio could smell the wet jersey and socks starting to rot as he passed. Jersey number 52 drooped limp from the hook, grass stained, mud; it reeked of nostalgia and loneliness.  Emilio gritted his teeth and tried to focus on the record.
     After practice he saw Nagi at the 7-11 store across the street from school. “How’s the new girl friend?” he asked him.
     Nagi said the girl was sweet which meant he was probably getting some.
Emilio dropped half a pack of peanut M&Ms into a twenty ounce Coke. Shook it up and watched the brown fizz spray past his thumb.
"A little chocolate geyser to celebrate our friendship.” he said. Then he guzzled the flat liquid.
     “Who shot that video? Who would do something like that? Man. That’s fucked up.”  Nagi said, and it was the first time they’d talked about it since the U-Tube went viral.
     Emilio shrugged. “You seen fat ass?” he asked him.
     “No. Big Marv hasn’t been in class all week. I heard he was going to change schools.” Nagi  moved close. “Guess he could do that,” he said, then sat next to Emilio on the curb. There weren’t any cars on this side of the store, just the Liquor Mart and a dumpster.
     “They all have cell phone cameras. It could have been anyone.” Emilio answered him, “  I’m just glad we don’t have a computer at our house.”  Emilio  let his head droop and worked up a spit.  “If my little brother’s and sister’s saw something like that,”  he didn’t finish.
     “My old man just watches Aljazerra.” Nagi said, “ I don’t think they’re looking for Elvis on that channel.” 
     “Same with the spanish stations man. It’s like before all this happened, I never wanted to go home; I could just hang with you guys at Marvin’s, and groove, and eat vienna sausages and  candy bars. Man I’ll be missin’ those little cans of sausage if Big Marv cuts out.”
     Then Nagi said, “I’m worried about him; we should check in on him, find out what that new school’s like”
     There was a short cut to Marvin’s: a green-space that civic groups maintained. The park threaded between the golf course and the little creek that meandered through this side of town. Emilio  used to wander through here when he was a kid, before the golf course, before the Oakmoor Subdivision was built.  Back then, the woods were thick with brush and garbage. Nobody came down here except a few of the bravest teenagers who had fuck-holes cleared out in the thickets. He would wander here hoping to catch a fish in the little creek, or hunt some deer, or tigers or big game, but all that was in his imagination, because the closest he ever got to a fishing rod was the sporting goods aisle at K-mart.
     Now, that the trail was clear Nagi and Emilio moved easily along the creek. Most of the leaves had fallen. Red and yellow hands rusted into the hard clay, and a low, clear light played through the empty branches. The little creek trickled brightly. Brisk cool air filled them and it felt good to be walking away from school, from home, from everything.
     “I wish we could just keep goin,” Emilio said, “ Just walk the fuck outa this shitty town.”
Nagi asked him if he remembered grade school and the golf course, and how they used to wait in here and watch them play golf.
     “That was great.” Emilio remembered it, “ We’d sneak out there and swipe the golf balls right off the green.” He grinned. “The look on their faces, Man, Like -- Where the fuck did my ball go?”
     Then there was somebody or something ahead of them in the darkening woods. A cold chill heightened Emilio’s awareness like the way he felt out here when he was a kid and he wandered into some strange open place. There had been a chain bolted to the tree,  dirty magazines with pictures of naked women, whisky bottles, beer cans, an old mattress dragged somehow deep into the woods. That place had spooked him, and now he felt like somebody was watching him, so he hushed his friend and motioned him to stop. They stooped low to see up through the silhouettes. 
     Something big, a broken tree, or a ghost, something dangled and they slowly approached until Emilio recognized those wide hips, the size triple X sweat pants sagging down from the white, sweet white face of Elvis.

Bob Putnam

Run of Jacks

    It isn’t fair, Eddie thought. His associates milled nearby. Eddie said, "I don’t see why it has to be like this.”
     They huddled together nose to nose, shook and shimmered and seemed to agree.
     “I mean -- It doesn’t matter what I do, how hard I try, how many push ups, sit ups, laps -- Whatever --     How do you get rid of this god damn visceral fat?”
     They nodded.
     “This shit is killing me.” he told them. 
     They seemed sympathetic.  They moved and shined and it was like the water had a bad case of tourettes. One guy peeled off toward the rocks, then moved calmly back. Another one broke the surface. Then everyone formed a huddle and moseyed.
     “Hey guys,” he approached the group with casual locker room banter.
     "Were all about the same age -- right?” There seemed to be some disagreement.
     “Give or take a couple days.” he added and agreement deepened, the current seemed to let up a bit.
     “Have you taken a good look at yourselves lately?” he asked them, “That snout you used to be so proud of isn’t so streamline these days, is it? And your skin? What’s with that bright neon red? Has everybody gone punk on me. I mean -- what’s next. Tattoos?”
     That last bit must have gotten to them. It’s ironic that the possibility of something unique always appeals to group mentality, It’s like we’re hardwired for advertising. They gathered around him like an audience, so he had to step it up. He appealed to the their sense of nostalgia, their longing, their self image or at least the images they wanted to have of themselves. They were great hunters and the sea was deep and endless, food always there: shimmering curtains of herring, menhaden. Currents that would take them where ever they wanted to go. It was an effortless life.
     “Endless bliss, perpetual vacation.” These were the words Eddie used. They seemed to have the right effect for the group had relaxed and the current was now slowly moving them back toward the sea.
     “Think about it guys. We could turn around right now, head back out, forget about this thing called love.”
     You could see the oxygen build with each frenzied wash of gill, the strong flex of the side body, spring steel coil and flash. There must have been something in the water: some pheromone adrift on the current. A word tattooed to every molecule screamed  directly to muscle and they shot like arrows upstream. 
     Eddie now realized how lonely he had been out there. He could now feel a sun, late and dry searing into his flaking skin
     He looked at his buddies basking in that same autumn ray and said, “Damn, this gravel feels good.” 

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam writes fiction. He is happily married and lives in the woods.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Visit

     I coaxed Pat into driving at dawn from New York City to Baltimore. I just met her in a

bar. I told her about Doris, how she was strictly off limits sexually though rape crossed

my mind. When I moved to Baltimore she was the first person I met just when I needed a

place to get my bearings and put a roof over my head. I hated her big lipstick mouth, her

fat, slovenly legs, her depression, her droopy hair, her big old-fashioned skirts, her

lackadaisical southern drawl, her tripe about her ailing mother. I wanted her to meet a

real woman, one who put lead in my pencil.

    At Doris’s place, I told her we both were on uppers I found in Pat’s glove compart-

ment. I didn’t explain why we made the impromptu visit.  Dangling, not having things

clearly spelled out, I knew that upset Doris. I chatted fast, telling Doris I was pleased Pat

went home with me rather than the asshole with a nose-ring and wearing an ascot. I told

her Pat had ripped her pantyhose so she bought another in a Big Top near Doris’s place.

    Doris was a social worker and I an interior decorator. Doris never shaved her legs,

black hair looked like oddly shaped parasites under a scientist’s microscope. Doris’s tiny,

humid apartment’s atmosphere had always been thick with cat dander moving through

the air like death-dealing asbestos. I coughed, wheezed and sneezed, my nose running.

The allergy shielded me against a counter-intuitive, booze-induced pass at her. 

    Doris’s attraction towards me was strong though I was completely unavailable. Often I

saw lust sneak out from behind her sluggish eyes. Doris’s walls had haphazardly hung

paintings of red cats floating through rural streets. She made a collage, my photograph

ripped from a New York magazine, my face surrounded by cats, their red fur jabbing

my photogenic skin, thin streams of crayon-blood dripped from a kindergartener-like

drawing of a sprinkler: God awful.

    I could have taken Pat to others I’d known in Baltimore but chose Doris. The

upper was enough to arm my mind with a full-frontal verbal assault of trivia. Doris

squirmed in her chair, that wide fanny of hers trying to negotiate her way through the

spur of the moment visitation. Pat fondled me, suggesting a ménage a trois was in order.

Doris’s face reddened, frozen in fear.

    She asked me why I was in Baltimore. Just so Pat could buy new pantyhose, I said.

That satisfied her, she numbly drinking eggnog. Pat said that was a fat person’s drink, get

real, Doris. Doris’s eye twitched and began pulling at her skirt as Pat and I stared at her

legs. Pat chatted about how smooth her own legs looked beneath the beige pantyhose.

    I asked Doris to make us a meal. She plodded to the kitchen, breaking eggs, making

pancakes. I adored your feast, Doris, make some more, I said. She did, this time coming

back with many pieces of toast, plus jam. I requested peanut butter, so she thumped back

and put down a jar of Skippy’s. Pat told her only eat one pancake, save the rest for us.

Doris said she’d be fired because her supervisor said she was too slow with evaluation

write-ups. Pat told her she was a conceptual artist and couldn’t understand why Doris

painted. So de trop, Pat said.

    Doris turned on the TV, immobilized, eating salty pretzels from a bowl. Pat and I made

love in Doris’s bedroom, we going at it on her stinky sheets. Afterwards, we slept. It was

dark when we woke. I turned some lights on and we walked naked past the TV to the

kitchen, eating Doris’s chicken, pasta, veggies and ice cream. She watched a TV

newscast, paying little attention to us, though she did cast a quick glance at us through

her large black-framed glasses.

    I looked in Doris’s pocketbook and liberated four Jackson’s. Pat said, Look, Doris,

then pulled down her pantyhose and mooned her. Doris stared, and stared some more

when I gave her the fascist salute and said, Sieg heil. We laughed, then walked out her

door before I slammed it shut.

George Sparling 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

He Died With a Thumb Drive in His Hand

     He died with a thumb drive in his hand.   In the dull light of the streetlamp the bright green of the device contrasted sharply with the pink and red of his frostbitten fingers and the white of the still undefiled snow on the sidewalk.   I quickly pried the drive from his stiff fingers, hid it in a mitten, and trudged away from that deserted predawn side street.

     I cut my hand on my keys as I hurriedly unlocked the door to my building.  I relocked the door, stomped my jogging shoes on the dirty linoleum of the foyer, and gazed out at the snow which was still falling on the street, a street only slightly less seedy than the one in which he died.  No one saw me.

     As soon as I closed the door to my apartment, I placed my mittens and keys on a bookcase near the door and, flash drive in hand, hurried to my computer.  The machine did not respond; I had to reboot it.  As the computer started, I wiped the blood from my fingers and slowly took my shoes off.  I saw the mess I’d made a mess of my apartment’s carpet.  Cleaning it later would calm me, clear my head before I began to reflect on the contents of the device. 

     We called him John but I don’t believe anyone knew his real name.  It seemed that he had been an integral part of our loose knit group from its inception but he only moved to our city less than three years ago.  No one knows where he came from.  He spoke his baroque English with an unplaceable accent.  With his tall thin frame, pallid complexion, long wispy beard, matted brown hair, and receding hairline he looked like a Russian saint or prophet or a nobody.

     The most distinctive thing about him, however, was his thumb drive.  He never went anywhere, and having no fixed abode was always somewhere, without it.  He kept it in a plastic bag the way a drug addict keeps his stash.  His most characteristic nervous gesture was to feel for it, in his pants or jacket pocket, in the computer he happened to be working on, wherever it might be.  Who could blame him?  Though he never spoke of it, we had determined that the thumb drive contained his complete works.

     He never revealed the contents of the drive to anyone.  He wrote on the drive in libraries, so-called Internet cafes, at friend’s houses, wherever he could find an available computer with a port for it.  It was said that he slept with it, even when he was with a woman, clenched tightly in his good right hand.

     He seduced most of the women in our group, even some of the married ones, easily.  Though the women seemed to regard them fondly the affairs rarely lasted more than a night or two.  Once at a party I, an inveterate eavesdropper, overheard a small group of women talking about him.  I approached them, brown alcohol in hand, wanting to find out what he had that someone like me, an ineffective womanizer, did not.  I wasn’t coming on to them.  They knew that.  Still they would not tell me anything.  The telling word I overheard, the consensus of their coterie, was pungent.  They may have said piquant:  it was hard to hear in that apartment.

     None of those sirens ever saw what was on John’s thumb drive.  Rumors about its contents ran rampant through our group.  Some maintained that the drive contained a novel in progress, others that it contained stories, poems, fairy tales.  A few in our group claimed that they could see traces of what he wrote in the computer’s memory.  They claimed that he wrote in English in a simple evocative style that in no way resembled his rococo speech patterns.  None of these cyber-sleuths could quote a single phrase.

     A few months ago some members of our group started a webzine.  John was asked to contribute a piece or, if he felt it was premature, to write a short introduction. I believe he was even offered space on the site to maintain a blog.  He refused all these offers. As far as I know he never saw the webzine.

     My contributions were rejected.  I understood; I’ve always been a peripheral member of our artistic circle.  I don’t have any benefactors. I have my ill-paying white-collar job to maintain. I can’t spend much time schmoozing, flaneur-ing, thinking deep artistic or revolutionary thoughts. Some of my work has been published, perhaps in forums as good and lasting as our webzine, but most of it lay dormant on my hard drive which was just coming to life.

     I put the thumb drive in the port.  While I waited for the computer to recognize it, I wondered what I would do with the work. I could become John’s editor, his Max Brod, or, if I felt daring and the style was similar enough to mine, I could pass the work off as my own.  
     I looked at the contents of the drive through the computer’s explorer, my personal Darien.  Unlike John, the drive appeared to be neatly organized.  There was a document called Introduction.txt and numbered folders that appeared to correspond to chapters.  I opened the Introduction and began reading what our prophet wrote:

     He died with a thumb drive in his hand.  The slow-acting poison entered his bloodstream through a small cut in his finger…

Joseph Carfagno

Joseph Carfagno was born in Brooklyn but lives in Connecticut.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sakura’s Violin

     One can feel the river as a ghost on the very winds that sweep through the streets carrying with them the pungent perfumes of people, jasmine, horses, burning oil, spilt beer and seafood. It was musk greatly to her liking. As always the dusky deep streets thronged with thousands of tourists around Bourbon but tended to thin out as she moved further away into the back streets of the Vieux Carre. Winter was passing into spring and with it a curtain of sensuality and new growth spread over the early evenings and she made a point of walking them at this time. 

     Pollen like honey dust, clung to her skin with her sweat and the early evening dew. It was romantic and thrilled her. It gave her images to write her music to. In her mind the notes would smell as sweet as the thoughts of deep green vine and new spring flowers. The secret at the center of the magnolia bloom envenomed with ancient wine. 

     She turned off of Toulouse and onto Decatur crossing in front of Jackson Square. Here the artists and street musicians would already be imbibing on the night’s blood, drinking from the vein of profits to be taken.

     She thought of them as modern pirates or gypsies in their colorful ratty clothes and glittering amulets and beads. The smell of the river grew thicker as she approached. She thought to enter the Cathedral to light candles and smell the incense but the night was too sweet. The river smell mingled with coffee as she passed busy Café DuMonde and up to the river walk. She turned left and half walked, half danced through the poorly lit walkway. Towards the French Market, the more interesting occupants of this beautiful and villainous city thrived. It was here that she was going. 

     The Market was closing and the many vendors were shutting down, closing carts, and packing away the many wondrous foods and exotic foreign spices that could be found here beneath the veneer of cheap hot sauces and cheaper paper umbrellas. 

     Onto Barracks and into the darkness she went until she came to the tiny quiet shop she was looking for. Musique Pour les âmes érotiques Pécheuses was written in scrawling gold flourish across an old driftwood plank that served as the shops title. She entered and was immediately assaulted by the essence of very old books and stacks upon stacks of vinyl records. Numerous saint candles and one very old looking chandelier lighted the store.
     “Bonjour mon cher doux peu Sakura,” said a voice she knew very well from behind a glass case of fossils and animal skulls. It was Donnez and from his thick gruff tone, it sounded as though he had added an extra pack of Lucky Strikes to his usual three-pack day.

     “Bonjour Donnez! Dites-svp moi qu'avez obtenu vous ce que j'avais tellement désespérément demandé ?”
     “I have it, I have it Ma Cher as though I could refuse you anything.”
Donnez rose and his ancient chair creaked audibly. He turned and set the needle down on his record player. The shop filled with the sound of scratching record needle. And then the sounds of Vera Lynn singing that they would meet again. 

“Don’t know where… don’t know when,” Sakura mouthed.

Donnez coughed harshly, turning away from her direction. Sakura walked over to him and set her hand on top of his. He patted it and shook his head. 

     “Aucun non aucun mon bonbon, just uh the heavy breathing of a man regarder en bas d'un pistolet de tabagisme.” He turned to face her. “And you Cher do you really desire it?” She saw candles within the low light, reflect in his eyes. “There were a number of people swore…”
     “I know I know, but I fear that my curiosity is…” she looked up at him, nearly kissing for a brief moment, “irrevocable.”

     Donnez nodded and lit another Lucky Strike with an old sailor’s brass lighter. He sat back down, briefly drank from a wine glass upon his small desk and swiveled his chair around to the lock box. It was an old thing. More like a pirate chest then a safe, but Donnez had proclaimed it stronger than any bank. 

     Protected by a blessing from Marie Laveau herself, he once told her. From under his shirt he pulled the key and Sakura heard the heavy latch slide. And something else; chimes perhaps?
     Donnez opened the chest and hesitated. He reached in and lifted the treasure from it. He turned and held it before her. Sakura felt herself respond as if the Prince Charming of the darkest fairytale had just kissed her hand. A thing of intense beauty, shaped like the unclothed back of an exotic goddess. Its finely grained wood was deep red like pooled blood and glowed in the shops dim light. Somehow it seemed to blur and capture any light that touched it. She reached... tentatively.

     “Svp l'amour, comprennent que le paiement est cher.” Donnez spoke deeply. He seemed himself enthralled with pleasure and grief though she knew he had never drawn a bow across a stringed instrument in his life. She stopped, hand poised just over its surface. They regarded each other as lovers, guilty in their many acts of sin. Then she closed her hand over the Violin. Immediately she felt warmth and carefully cradling the instrument in her arm, she looked at her palm. There was no cut there, but her palm was moist with fresh blood. She looked at the violin. Clean it was and no trace of her life upon it. 

     “Now, please…play it for me. I have sought long to hear it,” he said. Sakura hesitated briefly. Looking at the old shopkeeper.

      “Your skill with music is unquestionable,” Donnez spoke, with the sadness of a funeral march and the joy of newfound love quavering in his voice. Sakura felt it in her hand. So light and somehow terribly heavy. Yet she had no trouble positioning it and delicately placing the bow. 
She began to play.

     Sakura had expected beauty from such a treasure, but nothing like what she heard. The music produced by the violin and her well-trained fingers seemed to fill the very room. The candles dimmed slightly and a feeling of something very old and timeless entombed her. Yet as she played, an overwhelming sensation of passion and ecstasy filled her body and her mind. 

     It was like true love and heroin woven from the air by music. Donnez was weeping openly and gesturing as though the Madonna had appeared before him. Her hands dripped her life’s blood onto his floor and she was unaware that tears of that same blood were coursing down her cheeks. 

Sakura played as though adrift in a sea of warmth. The notes almost played themselves. She did not think of what to play, nor did she know the music. It seemed to be in no key she had ever heard. 

It just came... otherworldly and ethereal. And as she listened, the feelings that grew were rapture… bliss greater than any imaginable. Behind her closed lids, a universe of lights danced and played to the song. She felt herself separated from the world she knew, lost and adrift in a warmth and powerful eroticism. 
When she finally stopped, Sakura nearly fell. She lowered the violin and looked at Donnez. His passing had been one of utter happiness for he was still smiling. His tears had become small rivers of blood staining his collar. The record was skipping and the candles had burnt to stubs. Her breath heaved and she felt her own cheeks were wet, but now they were only tears. Yet, seeing him did not make her sad. 

She leaned over him and kissed his tobacco tasting lips. Before leaving she dialed 911 and left the phone off of the hook. She took the violin with her, feeling no act of thievery in doing so. She knew very well that it had claimed her. The night awaited and there was music to be made in the river-scented air of the quarter.


4 am Heartbreak

     “Sometimes ghosts walk in on the voices of the frogs…” Sakura said wistfully…

     She sat on a mountain of pillows pulled from all the couches in the big living room. She had lit the fire and the saint candles and was listening to one of her favorite bands. The tape was white and ancient. One of the first albums she had ever owned. 

     The singers voice was haunting and deep and full of pain and beauty. Sakura was one of those souls that reached out to sad music when she felt sad. It was like weaving a tapestry with her emotions and music to create a larger piece of art. A fantastic landscape of pain, fear, and beauty.

     Sakura was awake because the night felt like heartbreak. In a house full of roommates she still felt alone… and 4am was always the tearful hour. She was not sure why, but her heart hurt at that time. And her soul felt like a crackling old tearful song on a vinyl record or a broken tea cup. 

     Uncomforted by arms that would hold her, she came out here alone… wrapped in one of her favorite blankets. Not that she needed it, or the fire for warmth. The spring nights had begun and the air only held the cold with desperation. It was more to feel hugged by something. And warmed by the light. 

     Something in the night made her fearful. The dark was a physical presence. She chased it away with candlelight, music, and warm thoughts about people that touched her and loved her. 
“A warm thought about loves both lost and found can scare away the deepest chilling wraith from ones heart,” said a soft voice. 

    Sakura was not startled by this voice however. She knew it. After all, she wasn’t even sure if she hadn’t created it altogether. 

     “My heart is heavy this night. And there is soul hurt in the air like incense without a smell. I don’t know why I am hurting this much Coyote…” she turned on her mountain of pillows. “But I know that my soul feels as though it swims in a vortex. I feel like a little girl deprived of stuffed animals and locked into coldness.” 

     Coyote was sitting up and eyeing her intently. He was a canine but his every expression was human and he spoke perfectly. Certainly he was not real. Yet, she did not care. He nodded in response to her.
“Little girls must sometimes face the darkness unguarded to emerge as women… yet a woman you already are my dear. And one of strength as of yet undiscovered. I am here now though… and always will be.” 

     He walked over and laid his muzzle on her leg, looking up at her with canine eyes that held every human emotion. The music continued to play low in the background. The singer sung of pornography and sleep. 

     “I’m here my Little Ronin. And these ghosts coming into your chambers are no more dangerous to you than nightmares or smoke. And I will chase them from your mind if you need me to.”

     Coyote licked her hand and she smiled down at him. “Why are you so kind to me Coyote? What made you come to me? Why am I so special? I do not think I am.”

     “I think you are. And I came to you because I Love You… I need no other reason.”
     “Did I create you?”
     “You are asking me if I am real Sakura?”

     Coyote sat up and was not eye-to-eye with her. “I am as real as you want or need me to be my dear… whether you created me in your mind or not is not important. Reality is perception, and if you believe me to be real, then I am. Nothing is impossible until you decide it is, or stop believing. And I know your heart. You believe.”

     Sakura leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him. He certainly felt solid enough. His fur was soft and warm. He smelled of fields and forests and living in the open winds.

     The embrace was long and although he did not hug back with human arms, he rested his head on her shoulder. She could feel his breathing. His strong heartbeat. He had to be real. 

     “Stop worrying whether I am real or not,” he said and pulled back from her. 

     Then both turned in the direction of the window. They knew something had joined them. She glanced at Coyote who only kept staring intently outside. The thing had no voice. It had no substance. It was only a feeling. Yet it was as real as stone. Coyote spoke to Sakura without moving. “Sometimes ghosts walk in on the voices of the frogs.” 

     Sakura felt her heart twinge at its approach. The closer it came the more fearful and lonely and sad she felt. Coyote came between them and it stopped. His growl was barely audible. Then it was gone and she thanked him. 

     When he turned to her, there were tears on his face. All too human. 

     She went to wipe them but he only licked her face. “No. I endure so that your heart is less troubled. It is the price of such things.” She looked sadly at him and he smiled. “No more fear. It will not return. Not on this night.”

     He leaned into her again and let her hug him. The night now felt less oppressive to her. The music, which had seemed to fade was playing again, low and steady. Coyote licked her hand again and then stood and turned.

     “No…” she said. He turned back and looked at her. “Don’t go.”
     “I have no choice.”
     “Will you let me hold you? I want to…”
     “I want you to. And you always can in your heart.”
     “I don’t want you to leave me.” 

     Coyote walked back to her and nuzzled her with his face. 

     “I will never be far. And I will always be with you.”

     Coyote licked her face gently once more and when she opened her eyes again, he was gone. She looked around and wondered if it was all just her daydreaming again as she was prone to. Then she saw it. A single hair. The music played. The firelight danced on the ceiling and walls. She held it up. A single long white hair. His fur. She held it to her chest and whispered into the night which now felt warm and comforting…

        “Sometimes ghosts walk in on the voices of the frogs…”


XXX ZOMBIEBOY XXX is a freelance writer, artist, photographer and model from Tallahassee, FL and a citizen of the world. He attended a college at which he received a piece of paper that said he was a Masters though the plurality of the statement made him question his duality. XXX ZOMBIEBOY XXX has written numerous articles for Carpe Nocturne magazine and has self published a collection known as OCTOPUS. He is currently working on his second collection TENTACLES and sometimes taking off his clothes and smearing blood on himself as a model. He has a thing for Zombies and horror.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Police State

Villains, the original meaning of the word was treacherous, abusive, evil. An

electronic sign in huge red light emitting diodes flashed in my neocortex: Villains At

Work High Risk Zone. A reign of terror beneath my roof was undeniable. I never lied.

    Stepping into the tub, I took my usual pre-dawn shower. I saw headlights from the

window in the bathroom, villains driving vehicles, one after another, out of the parking

lot across the street, sweeping their yellow headlights, turning my white skin tawny. I

heard other vehicles parading down the blacktop as well, showing their contempt for me. 

    Another curious incident, happening often when pissing into the toilet before bed: a

neighbor’s bright front door light would go dark, light, dark. Showering and peeing,

alpha and omega, I had been locked into their vice grips every night.

    I have a peculiar way of washing my hands, more scrupulous than a surgeon before

an operation. I lathered a bar of soap, fiercely rubbing my hands together, then twisting

the bar around my palms, and very muscularly cleansing them, pressing harder and faster

against one another, the procedure exceeding two minutes. I had alerted the villains, so-

called biological entities, aliens is actuality. They assumed I was idiotic, these sentries at

my private gates, stowing the information undoubtedly in subterranean caves, preserving

them until the Sun went supernova.

    When I used a battery-driven Oral B toothbrush in the morning and before nighttime                                                                                         

sleep, I imitated the noise of the instrument as I lightly pushed against teeth and gums,

sliding quickly, a process taking more time than the hand washing. My dental hygienist

recommended that I devote at least two minutes to my teeth. Villains always listened,

wrongly concluding that I signaled outside help, hoping to throw off my bondage. The

thorough gargling, then mouth-rinsing sounding like hydropower turbines, villains

downloaded, capturing the noise so it would be analysed, decoded, attempting to find out

whether I had been decrypting rebellious defamations during my daily ablutions.

    Often, I read print newspapers the way in which genius John Nash ( “A Beautiful

Mind” ), in both movie and book, had read his paranoiac, splintering, bizarrely digitalized

newsprint, searching for an enshrouded conspiracy as I did mine. He had an immense

breakdown, villains desiring my own crackup, going fetal upon the linoleum bathroom


    Standing before the toilet, I unzipped my penis, releasing urine, staring at a large

poster of the artist Francis Bacon who said, “all that death, I find it very beautiful.” I

pissed many times, drinking teas accounting for that. Staring at Piss-Bacon, hearing

liquid against porcelain, probably made by American Standard, its name rang true, I the

basic AS, nothing out of the ordinary though disengaged, searching interiors of my

carnivore-brain for meaning and consciousness and privacy. I wanted to read on my bed.

Read in peace, that was, without outside villain-static.

    Villains watched me piss, in the daytime making sure I heard their parked vehicles

outside my apartment, engines running, doors slamming, power brakes pumping staccato

beats, wanting me to be acutely aware I was incessantly under an almighty and
mysterious process of observation: Jeremiah 33:3: “…great and mighty things, which you

not know.” Periodically stumped, I shuttered at the omnipotence of the villains’ inten-


   I stood in the closet, momentum gathering, villains extending their clutches over my

mind, suspending me over the abyss. I took Bacon’s words to heart, pulling out a

Browning shotgun and box of shells given to me by my father for my 16th birthday. If

I unzipped it from the soft case, classic filmdom’s retribution ( impossible taking the

villains to court---they were so diffuse and dispersed ), I would blast anonymous

persons, all the city’s citizens complicit in villainy. Their toxic venom spurting from

my 16-gauge carcasses, blood cascading, think Kubrick’s movie, “The Shining,” blood

flooding the hall. 

    At night, peeing became a light show, vehicles streaming down the street, headlights

flashing on and off, red lights twirling and flashing from law enforcement vehicles,

firecrackers exploding, their rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air, their amassed

throw-weight measured by the increase of sickness, physical, mental and emotional, they

attempting to overload me with the ultimate affliction: death.

    Reading at night or day, the ceiling light beaming down ( Picasso’s “Guernica,”

history’s light bulb shone down on atrocities ), mufflers covered my ears. I bought them

at a sporting goods store, mufflers used at indoor shooting ranges, men and women of

violence wanting to eliminate or conceal hidden icons of earsplitting noise. I liked great,

sprawling novels and social histories, their fortissimo overcoming the villains lurking

where I least expected it, in books. Where had the people come from, those traipsing past
my windows as I read, many on cell phones mentioning my name, telling friends about a

“lout,” a “freak of nature,” a “dummy,” a “poor excuse for a human being.” Often, they

would stand against my first floor apartment’s wall, their iPods loud with hip-hop or

death metal. I momentarily stopped concentrating, regaining it after inuring their

undesirable antics. But the villains’ war against me knew no boundaries however I


    The villains’ goal: discombobulating me until I raised the white flag of surrender.

Remember the Masada fortress, Zealots holding out against the Romans, finally

deciding death and suicide by their own hands preferable to Romans slaughtering

them. I, the new Jew, under siege by villains, yelled to a person playing guitar outdoors

a foot away from me on the bed, “Never again, punk!”   

   Twice daily, I flossed my teeth, rooting out particles, tiny shards caught vice-like in

between teeth, breaking them loose and free, unlike the villains’ strategy of threading my

mind with corruption and rot. I looked in the mirror, seeing myself in the mirror,

awkwardly angling the floss, transmogrifying my face into the image the villains prefer:

ugly, haggard, wretched.

    Of course, we all loved sleep, even nightmares holding darkness and doom. But we

continued sleeping for the sake of waking up alive the next morning, another day we

were not dead. Impossible to sleep off hangovers of the dictatorship of villains, creating

another insomniac their plan. Billions had gone before me without much sleep, making

them weak and tractable, turning them into moronic insomniacs.

    “They shall not pass,” spoke Delores Ibarruri Gomez, directed at General Franco’s                                                                                               

fascist military machine. Always heroic, I snuggled under sheet and blankets, taunting

them, daring villains to break through my sotto voce or normal verbiage, unafraid,

though through the wall I often heard loud thuds, meaning stop my closed-mouth, tongue

unmoving in throat-speak. I sounded like a Tuvan throat singer, my own overtone

harmonic sounds until sleep. Outside, vehicles ceased, the normally busy street hushed,

silent-nighting me, only without attendant glories accompanying the holiday season.

“That’s terrorism,” I rasped loudly, but below the decibel threshold that would get me

evicted or having to confront the police after my wall neighbor had had enough of my

bedtime harangues.

    Villains feasted on the quiet, dead-air street in which I might burn my wings and

crash, interrupting the hush, babbling confessions I neither had nor would ever have. I

placated them though, running through childhood memories, increasing their hostility

towards me. “I love drama, so let the pressure mount. You’ll have to assassinate me, I’ll

never be taken alive,” I barked. “Your hysterical terrorism rages and your opposition

simmers, murmuring me into inner quietude.” Bed-speaking words and phrases I would

not have uttered without villains stalking through my private rooms, erupting in my

dreams, I the Conqueror, you lousy with gutter-born syphilis of the noggin.

    For exercise, I rode a stationary bicycle in a long, deep bedroom closet. I pedaled fast

twice daily, 30-minute reps in high gear. Mufflers covered my ears, otherwise the din

bouncing off the walls would deafen me. I pumped robotically fast, villains hoping I

would dizzy myself in the claustrophobic closet, getting disoriented and confused, my

urge for immortality obviating practicality, gaining not deathlessness but cardiac arrest. I
wanted to outlive the pukes, dreaming of a die-off for those who sought an early death for

good old me.

    Pedaling, I counted silently, starting with one, two, one, two, then counted to twenty,

then counting one to nine to thirty, one to nine to forty, and so on, repeating that until I

reached one hundred. In between, I might repeat a number say eight, rhyming it with

debilitate, masturbate, exonerate, eliminate, frustrate, defecate, exterminate ( my

favorite ), counting silently, my mouth sealed shut: “Nine, nine, nine, feeling

fine.” Endorphins soon kicked in, an opiate-like substance, cosmic dark matter I

intuited, the analgesia making me euphoric. Nothing could harm me. Villains had no way

to hurt, torture, or slay my being: I was Emma Goldman, Buddha, Simon Bolivar,

Seigfried, Frodo, Don Quixote, plus mythological heroes from around the world.

Paranoia melted away, my true version of myself reaching its zenith. Who could deny

history and fantasy? Only the villains, of course.

    After the workout, I drank cups of Morning Thunder, listened to dark ambient on my

iPod, and raised my middle finger at my foes.

    The dressers holding hundreds of family photographs, old VHS porn tapes, hundreds

of clipped articles, a drawer full of literary magazines containing my published poetry,

passports renewed in a small drawer, letters from former friends chronologically

arranged, unfinished manuscripts hiding beneath underwear, collectible poetry chap-

books, ‘60s radical pamphlets, my nephew’s pencil drawings: whenever I opened a

drawer trying to find lost memories, villains shared my eyes, I the camera, seeing

what I saw. What was this, a horror movie, who the monster, who the idol? 
    The sliding windows near my bed, how villains made them quiver, trying uncountable

ways to assail me, straining to shake my fundament. Those windows often had large-watt

lights outside blazing through closed blinds. What was going on, a Nuremberg rally, ala

USA, klieg lights seeking out misfits and undesirables?

    The maroon blanket, a gold M stitched in it: villains thought my dad had not earned

his university varsity letter in swimming. And for that matter, the villains dismissed my

own graduation from high school and college, I hauling out the diplomas, villains

cheerleading with iPod drum and bass loops from the curb. They determined the

diplomas counterfeit, forged, bought from a dealer of false papers.

    Being unable to reconcile my life and behavior to my dad’s was their fixed idée, their

obsession. The pressure cooker took its toil, though I perfectly addressed my

dichotomous life when I thought about it in a swivel chair near the front windows.

    They whispered through my store-bought earplugs used for sleep. “Shut your mouth,

we’re tired of your senseless backtalk, ripostes won’t stop our investigations.” They

rebuked me, three a.m. horns waking me. Had they entered my sleep-filled

unconsciousness? I turned on the light, examining the earplugs closely. In tiny red letters

I read with a large magnifying glass, “Creech.” It was the Nevada Air Force Base. From

there, a Predator or Reaper drone firing a Hellfire missile could obliterate me in my sleep,

annihilating dreams.

    If not, I had plenty of dreams in my pockets ready to use. But the villains shelling

me with mortar rounds was not inconceivable. I began energizing my force field,

protecting me from incoming ammo.                                                                                     

    I heard cars’ or trucks’ back-up beepers outside. Perpetual war persisted.

    I’d take my chances in Tripoli.

George Sparling

Bloody Soil

I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the cock fights.
I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the bleeding moons.
I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the dripping eyes.
I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the slashed penises.
I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the spilt watercolor.
I just can’t forget
to remember the red soil
before and after
the violent rape.
I just can’t forget
to remember.
Isn’t it just fucking unfair?

Amit Parmessur


I know, you don’t have to tell me
the dead aren’t dead until we have forgotten them.
Under a most priceless morsel of sky my love
dwells, solemnly, in that howling graveyard.
But this graveyard is not a graveyard.
These tombs are not lifeless, sad repositories.
They are the fashion shop windows
where the mannequins have grimaced for eternity,
showing how to die is an awesome adventure.
There lies my love – so young, so calm.
I now sit there with a spider tattoo, cigarette in mouth,
a cluster of souvenirs round the wrist, guarding it.
And these mannequins do not frighten
me as I do not aspire to be one of them.
People say I’m mad. I can’t care when I deceived
the one who loved me and she killed herself.
As soon as she died I started living for her.
I’ll now see her in the faithful moon.
I’ll now count tears that tell stories of silence.

Amit Parmessur

While craving for her

I find her in the gossips of holy statues;
I find her in timeless, teeny rivers running
over unknown lands with grazing goats.
I find her on blistered tongues which are
never tired to spell and sing love. I find
her while drawing the curtain over fiery
love rumors. I find her at the edge of my
romantic brain, on every inch of tearful
darkness. I find her in each breath I feign.
I find her on white walls, in the fragrant
frangipanis of my garden. If this vast sky
can see itself in a street puddle’s mirror,
why can’t I find my darling in the moon?
If disloyal souls find good love why can’t
I find her the way I wish? I find her in wine.
I find her in solitude. In pure, red solitude.

Amit Parmessur

Born in 1983, Amit Parmessur is one of the editors of The Rainbow Rose. His poems have appeared in around 100 literary magazines such as: Ann Arbor Review, Calliope Nerve, Black-Listed Magazine, Red Fez, Damazine, Zouch Magazine and many others. His book on blog Lord Shiva & other poems has been recently published by The Camel Saloon. He is nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Award and lives in Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


“Out there it is bloody, fucking chaos, mate.” he spun on his left leg toward the younger, twirling the spatula in his left hand. The apron settled in front of him and he began again shaking the spatula at the younger gently and then turning back toward the stove. “In here, you think about it, and the whole fucking thing seems simple enough. Yeah?” He pressed down into the skillet and something seemed to shriek, as he resumed too quickly to allow a response, “Simple enough and straight about too. That's how things are too. If you can find that in here you know that is how they are. It is so elegant that you'll know- when you find it, that all it takes is to express it and like the lights mate, you've got it.” He moved his arms around a bit in a restrained motion in front of him and then turned toward the table that the younger male was sitting at. He walked to the table and placed two plates on it. “It's so simple; yet out there, it's bloody, fucking chaos.” He sat down and then looked directly at the younger. “Now, eat up, mate.”

It was especially when the younger male sat on the hard floor of the living room, staring at blocks with sunlight streaks cutting through smokey, dusty air to strike whatever was in its path, that the younger went, in his mind, to something nice and simple. Mostly he sat there quietly with his legs crossed and his hands palms up, one holding the other, and both resting in the center of his legs. The sounds of his neighbors were a varying ambience that was internalized as well as unrecognized.

The younger could smell the older male and hear the older's body any time he was there. The older spoke loudly sometimes, and he liked when the younger looked at him while he talked. According to everything the older imparted, all the things that the older said would be of benefit, but it didn't make sense because the younger had already found the simplest and easiest way. He was polite, and some people gave him what he wanted.

“Get up. We've got to get the trash out of here, now.” The older man was wearing a plain white t-shirt that had a number of holes widening around the neck line. In his pocket rested the soft package of cigarettes that had the visual appearance of a decoration. The younger rose, walked to the kitchen and opened the cabinet beneath the sink. The large green plastic trash can had been with the older man longer than the younger had. The rim was worn, revealing a number of holes that were beginning to widen. The result was that small pieces of the lip would crack off when lifting the can by the lip. The older man would lament and attempt to reinforce in the younger the importance of not breaking off any more of the lip. The younger would listen. “I realize that that can is getting old, but every day that we make it last from now on, is another day that we save the cost of replacing it. It's like overtime. These points are important. Do you understand that?”

The younger would nod his head in the positive. The younger would inform the older when another piece of the lip would break off, because it was important. What was actually real in his mind was the can could be used long after it had no lip and that a broken lip was no reason to stop being polite & getting what he wanted.

A wrapper spun at the base of the hallway's wall. A piece of string swung at the top of the stairwell. He drug the toe of his shoe pointing it at the spinning wrapper, then across a seam with a thump. Another thump against the angled concrete above the stairs. Another fainter down the hall. The light grew brighter and brighter. He reached the bottom step. The last on the left. The door was the end. Light streamed and spread around the darkened concrete wall. Light from above and up the steps on either side of the wall ahead at the end of building. The light came up into the hall and just past the last door on the left where he now stood.

He touched the handle and then knocked. The tiny dent at the upper left was always a comfortable resting spot for the ring finger of his left hand. The knob turned with his hand still on it and the man pulled the door open. The boy stepped inside and rubbed his left eye with the meat of his hand.

“Got the trash out quick didn'tcha?” The man pushed the door closed behind the boy and then walked into the living area and sat on the couch. “You know. When you don't take out the trash, I have to walk out to the left, Down the short steps and all way 'round. The banging stairs you bound up, I can't take anymore.” The man sat there with the television for a moment while the boy sat down on the hard floor. “Chinga. Never get like me. Ya hear. And would'cha look at that on the screen.?” The boy lifted his head in the direction of the screen. The two watched as a news story was read and text scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

“They're screaming overthrow him. I'm wondering where's the bloody dictator supposed to dictate the people that want to be dictated when we give the country to the people that want to be free.” The younger watched as some diminishing flames and embers lit part of the otherwise darkening room in a brief image. “But out there, it'll be a lot of bloody fucking chaos before its over, mate.”

Edward Wells

Edward Wells II is a writer, recently returned to schooling. His work The Rider is appearing in serial publication at The Bicycle Review, while other pieces are available to readers at The Writing Disorder and Bending Spoons. His collection Mexico 2009, originally released electronically by Full of Crow ( HYPERLINK "", is soon to be available through major e-book distributors in the form of small e-books containing adaptations of the manuscripts original sections. His author page can be found on facebook.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I, Tad

Dead, I had become transparent eyeball, not Emerson’s, but godlike. Dead, I

knew and perceived more than alive. My father Gustav was dead, mother Hildy too, but

sister Herpy’s alive. My entire life, its repellant bloom had yielded nothing of

importance. A man without biological necessities, lacking essential neurons had no

reason to sit down at dinner to discuss his day, the news, vocations they regretted not

pursuing. Mother wrote for the town’s newspaper, Gustav ran a pharmacy, Herpy taught.

I, dead, and not loquacious, sat and endured.
    Some said I died from untreated syphilis, others said the white trash hooch I drank,

glycol from antifreeze giving me cirrhosis of the liver killed me, others saying it

was cancer, too many soft drinks, ignorance dominated the town. I never had sex, seldom

manually released, never drank alcohol, thinking folks would never again doubt my

ignorance, and I drank only herb teas. Soft drinks I associated with white southerners

drinking Coca-Cola, gibbering about how superior they were, unlike dummy blacks.
    While putting up storm widows, bracing for the Midwestern cold, Gustav was in the

garage attic where we stored the windows, me up a ladder on the concrete floor, and

instead of carefully handing me the heavy wood-framed window, my weak arms could
not balance on the ladder. I had been born with multiple sclerosis, an undeveloped

twenty-one year old, due to oxygen deprivation at birth, the umbilical cord twisted

around my neck. Gustav bullied me into work, all the time knowing the obstetrician’s

absence, nurses fondling each other, not attending my primal needs. Gustav flung

one wildly at me, thinking I would hold on to it but it smashed my forehead,

knocking me off the ladder. I thudded on my back upon the cold, hard floor,

gazed at the ceiling for two seconds, then oblivion, blood haloing my head.

    A Blue Jay cawed. A diesel truck throbbed down a far off highway. A dog barked. A

spider’s legs noisily crawled over my face. Dust hummed through the air. The door,

squeaking, from the house opened, then slowly, creakily shut. I lay dead.

    Herpy grabbed my body, wrapped it in a heavy tarp, and then rolled me to the

backyard, hiding me in thick, gray dogwood. It kept me comfortably out of the world,

concealing me from the backsides of neighbors. Herpy told mother I had met a friend from

my high school years, reliving memories at a tavern or restaurant, possibly sharing a

downtown theater’s movie. Mom looked surprised, then her expression changed---

for the first time her eyebrows bent low over her eyes, finding me intolerable.

Who would date me?

    Think of nostalgic western films, on sheriff’s walls, Wanted, Dead or Alive posters.

Mom and Herpy liked those old TV westerns, seeing dead outlaws heaped in a 

big pile in front of the hoosegow. She still watched them on rerun channels. I pulled

at my suspenders, puffed out my chest, momentarily pride and glory engorged me,

then I snapped the bands, too loud for Hildy. “Don’t interrupt me, please,” she said,

her mean eyes staring hard. Watching “Rawhide” reruns better than speaking to the dead.

     Herpy slid me from the shrubs, barely able to lug my pear-shaped corpse into the

trunk, driving to deep woods, pulling off the tarp and found maples, locust, hickory,

hemlock, a thicketed undergrowth, used the shovel she snagged from the garage,

digging four feet in a patch of soft mire, mostly mud, near a small pond, rolled me into

the hole, tamped down loose earth making my cadaver impossible to locate. I sunk to the

bottom of a manure pit. That lasted until she left the scene, then I rose from the wretched

earth, seeing the dead more plentiful than before.

    Later, Herpy committed mother to a mental hospital. She wanted to protect Hildy from

the fact of my death. Nothing would conceal my deadness, not even motherly affection,

though that was nil in her case. Mother always hated my insufficiencies, and would have

gloated at the news of my death. There, psychiatrists put her on serious medications, the

kind that never let you know that you were better off dead.

    My albino sister Herpy taught at the community college in town. Damn Gustav had

driven me out of my gourd, always directing my eyes toward mirrors. Gustav made

sure of that because there seemed to be a hundred scattered about the house, in the attic

and basement as well, but he never mentally hogtied and tortured albino sister. My face

and body were covered with wens, warts, bleeding moles, body smelling like fiery crap,

hag-breath so foul father wore a gas mask bought at an army navy surplus store, hell, was

he a cruddy, mean dad. And what a cruel simpleton donning a gas mask. Photos of me in

earlier days, a handsome Gene Autry, good looking in a cowboy outfit. Our family ate in

a cramped dining room, full-length mirrors on two walls. Dad never flouted traditional

kindness except when it came for me. At heart, my kind of visage people despised

because it reminded them of suffering, sorrow, pain, decline, ruin, and decomposition.

Dead now, Autry looked and sang better that ever. Mother had no appreciation of Gene.

    Gustav gabbed about his day at the pharmacy, telling there were rumors of customers’

hospitalized because he scrimped on medications, like watering down penicillin, and

buying them cheap online, he using big Latin words, ticking drugs off as if proud of

what he had done. And he lost membership in a downtown business club. The members

thought him grand at first but funds went missing, so they banned him from their midst,

preferring not to press charges. Ostracized, but shallowly, unlike the grateful density of

my own exile. Deaths brought about by him also. He died in prison, an inmate slashing

his throat with a razorblade, settling the score, avenging his wife’s murder.
    Herpy was sensitive about being albino, pigment leached out of her. When we were

in nursery school, could it be that when we played kissy-kissy, touchy-touchy, you know,

stuff going on everywhere on earth, made her whiter and whiter as years progressed?

    Herpy collected paintings from the art store, prints the owner said, but I still called

them paintings. I was stuck in my ways, hating change. Herpy, the artist, drew my

portrait, my hair uncut, more balding than I assumed, my Dumbo ears making me goofy

looking, my fat cheeks as if big chaws of Mail Pouch bulged out, my chin long and teeth

crooked, me thinking I was as good looking as Adonis. She drew my tongue protruding

out the side of my mouth, my bug-eyed-monster eyes, one iris greener than the other,

my nose aquiline, my mustache, how skimpy it looked by her steady hand. Herpy

said it was a fine Roman nose, one looking like Emperor Commodus’s. Herpy told me

the assassinated emperor begot the word, commode. Whether that was true had not

mattered, but merely associating with toilets, its receptacle of excrement and urine,

even blood, lent my deadness greater potency. I beamed at the thought of toxic, liquid,

chemical turmoil. My mustache, how skimpy it looked by her steady hand.    

    Herpy and I inherited the house we lived in since birth, both having a trust fund from

which would last our lifetimes. Mother out of touch with us, her mind overloaded with

pills and tablets, too may westerns, perhaps. Herpy paid her visits, mother’s expression

offering Herpy recognition as her daughter. I visited once with Herpy, mother staring

at me blankly, lifting up her flabby arm, pointing wobbly at me, stammering, “You two,

stay together,” that barren, empty look still there. Herpy gave her an easy going hug. I

tried copying Herpy’s embrace, but Hildy withdrew, staring at the ceiling, a nurse ready

to change the sheets.  

    One day, during visiting hours, I saw mother alone, she sitting in an upright chair,

watching Fox News. She looked better than last time. What were her days like? She said,

“I watch Fox all day, eat, pray in that cute little chapel, take meds and sleep. Nightmares

of our house and garage, the yard.”  
    I decided to leave, moving toward her, clasp her floppy body, seizing it in my arms,
squeezing it, showing my exuberant love. No, not love, I only wanted to be Herpy’s

equal. I kissed her and she recoiled, saying, “Cold lips you have. Are you my son?” I

moved away, telling her Gustav killed me. I witnessed her hair turning from gray to

white. Dark outside, a single fluorescent light bulb lit the room, like moonlight. I said

goodbye, “Goodbye” a clichéd response, then recalled a song about a woman lover 

not knowing whether she had said "Goodbye" when she and her lover split. 

    Home, Herpy said the hospital called: Hildy just died. I crushed her dead, though I

never told her that. Unless Herpy had gotten pregnant, there would be no offspring. The

family line stopped. We began quarreling, trivial stuff, like who would rake the leaves,

weed the small garden, vacuum, cook, go shopping, maintain the car, wash the dishes,

sweep the porch. She at her computer, creating digital art, I knowing nothing about

technology except for archetypal toilets.

    I sat on a soft chair in the enclosed porch, staring at cars, watching families walk by,

listening to leaves cry in the wind, hearing end-time, funereal noises of birds, snakes,

ladybugs, dogs, hearing historically unrecorded sounds emitted from mouths of folks just

prior to their deaths in our neighborhood---it grew maddening, the events known only by

the transparent eyeball, how its majesty, its grotesque lowliness exalted me.

George Sparling