eilot tuerie

CUCK by Eîlot Tuerie

I have had sex in a church with a girl who lied that she was under the age of consent. I have tied someone up and left them on my bed while I had sex with someone else. I have had sex with three different people at different times on the same day. I have had sex with someone whose eyes watered as she remained perfectly still on the floor of my girlfriend’s living room. I had sex with someone who hadn’t had sex in such a long time that she bled all over the dining room rug. I have cut off someone’s hair and used it to whip them until they bruised. I was arrested for interfering in an arrest and during my stay in the holding cell was solicited by a Mexican transsexual prostitute to whom I gladly gave my number; two weeks later, the charges were dropped, but the prostitute never called. At thirteen, I had sex for the first time; I got her pregnant. I have been responsible for at least one abortion each decade I have been sexually active. I have had sex with a woman who let me put out my cigarettes on her tits. I had sex with someone who came so many times her limbs went numb and she passed out. I have never done heroin. I have had simulated sex with the carcass of opossum. I have had sex in a cave with a girl my best friend wanted. I have never had sex with a Scientologist. At times, I feel impulsive: I have had sex with numerous people I just met. I had sex with my sister; we enjoyed ourselves very much but decided not to have sex again. I discovered The Joy of Sex and a vibrator in a drawer beside my mother’s bed. As far as sex is possible, at eight, I got involved with the girl next door; we’d pretend we were in a rocket ship leaving earth at the precise moment the planet was ending, then, at that moment, we had sex; or, she’d pretend she was walking home and I would attack her; her mother caught on and told us we weren’t permitted to play in the house; when we tried to have sex behind the chimney on the side of her house, an older boy saw us, ran over, and accused us of having sex; we never got together again. When I encounter an old man or an old woman, I wonder what their sex life was like when they were young. I have had sex in a closet only once. I have had sexual fantasies about my stepfather but not about my stepmother. I often have fantasies about having sex with the people with whom I work. I cannot have sex if the bed is making noise. The first time I was invited to a bondage party, I pierced the host six times across his perineum while he was fastened to a leather harness suspended from the ceiling, during the last piercing I had sex with his friend, a lesbian, bending her over his suspended body; when I finished, he threatened me, screaming obscenities in several languages; the following week, he visited me at work and asked if I would attend his next party. The last time my mother asked me, “What’s new?” I told her I had fisted a man, she hung up and never spoke to me again. I have had two sexually transmitted diseases: the first, from a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl in summer of 1997; the second, from a 40-something-year-old Korean woman in summer of 2012. I have had sex in a movie theater only once. I have had sex in the daytime in a public garden in Bakersfield. I have had sex in the toilet of a diner in Luang Prabang. I have had sex in a staircase during a citywide blackout. One of sexiest photographs of me in high school shows me wearing Krista Johnson’s cheerleader uniform at the junior- senior girls’ flag football game. After sex, I don’t know how to feel when a woman tells me she is glad I didn’t murder her. I had sex under a catamaran on Maui with a girl with a shaved head who had cancer. I sometimes wonder if Charles, the man who invited me to my first sex party, is dead by now; he had a diamond embedded between his front two teeth and claimed to have had sex with his son. I remember when I was a kid and the local teen pervert, who was maybe five years older than me, would give Kristen and I instructions to get into various sex positions with our clothes on. The desire to have sex with a non-human animal is not strong. What is it about having sex during a riot? I know an artist who meditates on his girlfriend’s vagina to sell paintings. I have had sex with more than one hundred women, I wonder if that’s a few or a lot. I have had sexual fantasies about being fucked by a man with severe burns on his face and body. I have had sexual fantasies about fucking a woman with leprosy. I have used a condom twice. I have masturbated in front of a man. I relate more with the women in porn videos than with the men; I am so attracted to women that I wish I were one. I knew a woman who smoked with her feet. I’m turned on by the taste of alcohol on a woman’s mouth. I have made-out with two people who were HIV+: a woman and a man; I don’t remember their names. I worked for a middle-aged woman confined to a couch; I cleaned her apartment once a week; I used to dust, vacuum, and wash all the rooms: kitchen, bathroom, living room, both bedrooms. Every other week I did laundry, yard work, and occasionally brought her groceries upstairs. In the garage, I used to sniff her underwear. Once, I used her underwear to come before putting them in the wash. Another time, before bringing her clean clothes up, I used her underwear again. My favorite part of a man’s body is his cock, when it’s hard. In the parking lot of the funeral home, I glimpsed my dead mother’s big toe as the funeral director carefully wheeled her upon a gurney into the vestibule. From my bedroom window, I called down to a woman wearing a short skirt who was limping; she came inside, we talked, and, seconds later, we kissed. I have had sex with an amputee. When a woman yawns, I imagine coming in her mouth. For a year, I collected the hair that I found on the bed pillows and bathroom floor of an older, Japanese woman I was seeing. On Coronado Street, in the hospital supply store windows, the mannequins wear nurse outfits with nylons that only go up to the middle of their thighs. Once, to entertain me as I paddled a canoe in a marsh, the woman I was seeing kept opening her legs. I sometimes wonder what happened to Ron, the short, portly, dirty old man who kept me company at the thrift store where I worked and who told me stories about the revolution in Portugal and his threesomes with nurses at the hospital where he worked; he read my palm once and stared at me horrified. Noticing my long hair hanging below my baseball helmet, a man asked my mother if I was a girl. I have gone to many gay bars but I have never gone home with a stranger after meeting them there. I once went home with a man who bought me a donut. I am being courted by a gay man I met on Facebook; I have not yet fantasized about giving him satisfaction. I have a fetish for acne but equally strong is my fetish for women who wear lots of makeup. I knew a girl whose feet would perspire whenever she got turned on. My grandfather later lived with his mistress, who’d become his second wife, and in their recreation room there was a psychedelic poster showing twelve nude couples, each one in a different sexual position, in line with the signs of the zodiac.

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m.c. zendejas

MEANING OF NIGHT by M. C. Zendejas

Dean never came around too much to start with, but after his dog died he stopped coming altogether. Claudia had just moved out, and there wasn’t anything to do anymore. I sat in front of the TV, flipping through channel after channel until I eventually hit static. The quiet became too much and I decided to go over and surprise Dean, but he told me no, that he wasn’t in the mood to see anyone. He said it through the closed door and I had to press my ear against its worn wood to hear him clearly. As I walked to my car I glanced back and saw him waving from behind the window, like he was trapped in there.

One night I was at a bar by myself. It was supposed to be me and my coworker, but she never showed up. She didn’t even answer my texts. I reread them until I got a headache from hating myself so much.

The fifth rum-and-coke of that night had just been dumped down my throat when I looked over and saw Dean sitting in the corner. His hat was off and to the side, and he stared down into the dark liquid swirling in his glass like it was a part of him.

He gave a small jolt and looked over when I touched his arm and slurred “Hey, Dean”. I forgot the name of what he was drinking, but it was strong and had no ice. I ordered myself two of them.

He asked what I was doing there alone. I made something up about my car being worked on down the road and asked him about his job. He was thinking of quitting. They weren’t paying him much of anything, and the hours were shit. I had to piece his answer together from the small bits I would catch as my unanswered text messages ran in a constant scroll at the back of my head.

I told him he should just quit if he was so tired of it. The music playing overhead swelled and the fuzzy tone of the guitars pulsated warmly around all of us. I saw a redhead smiling at me from across the room. Something about the way she looked at me made me forget about my coworker, and the texts, and Claudia. I told Dean I’d catch him later.

When the redhead and I finished we laid there silently, staring up at the ceiling. I couldn’t think of anything to say. It was a little after midnight, and her room was sunk in a deep navy blackness that wouldn’t let me see directly in front of me. I reached out somewhere into the dark, looking for her hand, but kept grasping the cold half of the sheets.

I made plans with Dean to have lunch the following Monday. Twenty minutes passed and I started thinking of earlier that day, when my coworker saw me wave at her and vanished into the filing room, and how I was left standing there. She’d been avoiding me ever since she stood me up. He rushed through the door, face red and hair undone, interrupting my thoughts.

“Sorry I’m late, I was walking my dog.” He saw the way I was looking at him and added “I got a new dog. Like a week ago.” He pulled his phone from his pocket and showed me pictures.

It was one of the ugliest dogs I’d ever seen. Not the so-ugly-it’s-cute kind, either. Patches of fur had fallen off of it, exposing bright red skin beneath that looked like raw hamburger meat. What fur was left was matted together and matched the dull yellow of its teeth. I smiled and said “it’s really somethin’.”

Our booth was next to the window. A piece of sunlight fell through the leaves of a tree. It settled across groups of smiling people walking around outside. Some held hands, some wrapped their arms around each other. From behind the window, I felt how far away I was from all of them. Wanting to see pictures of anything besides that dog, I asked him how work had been. He told me he quit his job at the office. He said he was waiting tables at a hotel restaurant until he could save enough money to move to the beach.

“There’s a celebrity staying there right now. A movie star. I’m not allowed to say who, though.” I nodded and leaned forward and swore I wouldn’t tell anyone if he told me who it was. His head shook.

“I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you something even better.” I leaned back when I saw the way he was grinning.

He took his phone out again. Fearing he was going to pull up more pictures of the dog, I pretended to be distracted by something beyond the window. He shoved the phone in front of my face.

“Someone sold Justin Timberlake’s left-over French toast for $1,025.” I grabbed the phone and read the article. The French toast was from a breakfast interview he did in 2000. Dean explained he could easily get a hold of the celebrity’s left-over steak. I asked why a steak. He told me steak is usually more expensive than French toast, so obviously he’d be able to make more money.

Leaning back in the booth, looking over at him, it hit me that something was different about Dean. I couldn’t point to what it was, though. His haircut was the same, and he was wearing one of the three outfits he’d had on a constant loop since I first met him. Before I could figure it out, our conversation was interrupted by the waitress bringing the food to the table. My soup was cold but I didn’t say anything.

When I got home, my dog was curled up on the couch with his back facing me. It was so quiet.

“Wanna go for a walk?” He didn’t respond. I decided to google the name of the hotel Dean was working at. There was nothing else to do. I scrolled through images of enormous double-doors and ballrooms filled with intricately gilded cutlery and laughing faces stuffed into black tuxedos. At the top of the webpage is the motto, “Where dreams are reality”.

After I heard the rumors, I called Dean and asked if it was true. He hung up and blocked my number. I tried going by his house, but it was completely empty. He’d even taken his mangy dog with him. Yellow teeth and all. So, all I can tell you is what the actor said in an interview:

I was in Houston shooting for my newest project when

this waiter snatched my plate off the table. I wasn’t do-

ne with it, so I said ‘excuse me!’ but he pretended he di-

dnt hear me & kept walking. There was still a pretty big

piece of steak on that plate, so I got up to try & follow

‘em, but that’s when he started running.  The creep was try-

ing to steal my steak! It was the weirdest thing. My se-

curity finally got ‘em on the ground, & he was rolling

around with the steak clutched real tight in his hands, &

 he was saying ‘I NEED THIS STEAK! PLEASE! IT’S


 took ‘em away & he was bawling, saying he was sorry

& that he missed his dog, whatever that means. Weird

 guy. If you’re asking me, probably just another stalker

or something. You’d be surprised how many weirdos you

 run into as an actor. It’s just part of what makes it such

a brave career choice, ya know? Like being a soldier.

The interview goes on for a few more pages, but I can’t stomach it. Once I get to that part, I always fling the magazine away from myself. Its glossy cover makes a slight fluttering sound as it hits the floor.

Every now and then, I walk my dog. He just got through a flea treatment, so patches of his fur are missing. Sometimes we pass by Dean’s old house. Sometimes I just stand in front of it and look. No one else has moved in yet, and its colors are becoming more and more dull from the weather beating up on it.

I think about texting Claudia or asking my coworker to get drinks again as my eyes trace the worn shape of the house. The roof sinks towards the ground, and no curtains hide its bare walls. Dead leaves sweep across the brown lawn, whirling around in the voiceless wind before zigzagging towards the ground like bodies from a crashing plane.

We walk around town, looking at the laughing couples. The window isn’t there anymore, but I can’t help but feel so far away from them. From everyone.

I end up moving into the house. Tabloids calling Dean a stalker drove property prices so low they practically gave me the place. It’s easy to feel alone in its echoes, in nights so dark they seem endless until every morning, when a pale-blue creeps through the curtains, past the still-bare walls, and I stare up at the ceiling, waiting, grasping the cold half of the sheets.


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Five pairs of hands let me go on Monday morning. Only one pair was needed.

My supervisor did a lot of the talking, though the other four men in the room would chime in at intervals to finish his sentences. There was no pattern to their interruptions.

Poor head for numbers. Ledgers carious with miscalculations. Antisocial personality, unfit for the camaraderie of professional life. These were their words, their nasal Ivy League voices shared like a common uniform, their faces scrubbed and shaved waxy under the lights, their ties and suspenders, their matching socks.

I sat in front of them feeling like wadded-up paper, my feet planted on the white floor. I didn't want to cross my legs because my trousers were too short and my socks didn't match.

Later I would pass a man whose dog was sniffing around in the bushes. All I could see of the dog was his tail, his lead wrapped twice around his owner's firm wrist. This man looked like his socks matched.

I don't know what it's like to be that kind of person. I am done putting on such airs.

There was a pattern to their interruptions. I just couldn't see it.

They allowed me to collect my things before I was shown out. I knew the way, but I wasn't the one being shown. The rest of the accounting chamber stared down the hall after me, their shoulders bent, eyes narrow and dry under their green visors and behind their bifocals.

Five days earlier, I'd passed the rummage shop near my apartment and saw a chipped plaster replica of an Easter Island head staring out from the piles of rusted mechanical parts and wormy furniture and children's toys. I asked the proprietor how much the giant head cost. He told me. I asked who would pay so much for it. He told me he only sold what he was given. I walked away.

My supervisor did not say I was “fired.” He said, with help from the others, that I had been “let go,” which is worse. Being fired suggests a trajectory that will end somewhere. I will land somewhere. Being let go is just falling falling falling and slick stone walls on all sides and no light.

I left the office and turned left where I normally turn right. I passed rows of houses with stone porches and dark lamps in the windows. The grass and trees were green, burnt yellow in patches by the sun. The trees bent towards the sunlight and their branches drooped into the street. One house's small yard had been stamped raw, down to the dirt. Hopscotch squares had been drawn on the sidewalk.

My father used to say that a man's hardest fight was between himself and the mirror.

As I was being let go, my supervisor asked me if I had anything to say. I stared past him and the others at the stack of ledgers, their leather covers bruised by my fingerprints. I knew they'd been marked up by the senior accountants. Pens scratching in the margins and red ink welling up in loops of inscrutable cursive.

My mother used to say that what you will not do is what I will do. She drowned when I was nineteen. Nets dragged her out of the ocean, onto the boat where my father and I stood. She was smiling.

Two days earlier, I'd passed the rummage shop near my apartment and saw a dented suit of armor for sale. It was wedged between two brass outhouse fixtures, probably to keep it from toppling over. I asked the proprietor how much the armor cost. He told me. I asked who would pay so much for it. He told me he only sold what he was given. I walked away and wondered why the proprietor would sell it at all, why he wouldn't disassemble it and keep one of the arms for himself.

When my window is open and the weather is mild, I can hear the drone of crickets and birds, and the distant, funereal tones of church bells on the hour and half-hour.

My landlady hates me. She is a Christian.

Today, I passed by the rummage shop near my apartment. Twice. The first time, the proprietor wasn't sitting out front in his rocking chair. The chair was empty except for a note: Back in five minutes. There was an oversized cannon for sale. Someone had painted it like a barber's pole. I left.

I returned ten minutes later and the proprietor was there, rocking and smoking. I asked him how much the cannon cost. He told me. I asked who would pay so much for it. He told me he only sold what he was given.

When I was nine, I stepped on a fish-hook and the wound never healed properly. I think I have been slowly leaking over time, depleted by every step I take. Perhaps this is why I am a bachelor, a shelf waiting to be stocked.

I bought the cannon on credit and the proprietor offered to drive it back to my apartment for me. I rode beside it in the back of proprietor's steam-junker, trying to decide if it would fit in my building's freight elevator. I ended up leaving the cannon in the grassy lot behind my building.

Sometimes I dream of swimming towards a dim, vanishing shore, salty and sunblind, my mouth full of seaweed.

The cannon is a deceit. The fuse is a rope that, when pulled, deploys a springboard inside the barrel. Maybe there is no cannon. No window. No building. No street. No landlady. No me.

It rained overnight. The cannon's gullet stayed dry and cool.

Before the rain came, I sat on my windowsill with my legs and bare feet dangling down. I swung them back and forth, my heels knocking against the bricks. My back was turned to my degree in mathematics, crooked in the frame my father bought for it, and by proxy for me. I imagined water just below my toes, even though I live on the fifth floor of my building and everyone below me would have drowned.

I will crawl inside the barrel. I will pull the rope. I cannot pull the rope. Someone else will pull the rope. Being fired suggests a trajectory that will end somewhere. I will land somewhere. I live on the wind now.

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BURL by Drew Buxton

Tori put her hand over my mouth and pointed. I never could hide my excitement. She stood off the bed real slow and tiptoed to our bedroom door but stepped on this one creaky spot in the carpet, and you could hear Joselyn scurry back to her room.

She’d been eavesdropping on us since she could pick up what we were saying. Back when I was still working for the logging company, she overheard us talking about sending her to kindergarten for advanced kids. She got up from behind the kitchen cabinets and said no way. She had to be with everybody else, said it would be better for her socializing or something.

I got out the baggie of crank I’d picked up that afternoon and cut up some on the nightstand. We waited her out and did bumps and followed the storm on TV. We could just hear it coming in from the west, and it would stay on top of Six Rivers for another hour at least. Rain meant coverage. It meant the rangers wouldn’t be out.

Tori opened our door and crept down the hallway to the kids’ room. She came back and gave a thumbs-up. “She’s snoring, and I can hear the baby breathing too.”

I turned up the volume on the TV. “I found the biggest boulder,” I said. Boulder was code for burl even though Joselyn knew our code words. Curly swirling burl. “The gnarliest swirls you’ve ever seen. Worth 25, 30k easy,” I said, and Tori rubbed her hands together and giggled. Burl was the most beautiful fungus.

When the thunder got close we put on the sweats we kept in the bottom drawer of the dresser. We snuck to the front door and waited for a boom to turn the knob, and we waited for another to start the engine of the old-body Chevy pickup. The four-wheeler was already loaded in the bed.

I went 75 the whole way, and the heavy north Cali rain came down hard, and the wipers fought to keep up. The truck was maroon with beige trim, and the cops could spot us easy in the daytime and would pull us over just for driving west of Redding. I’d already been busted once.

For the most part Six Rivers National Forest wasn’t fenced in. It was just too big, and there were only a handful of rangers to look out for. They were smart though. Joselyn’d giggled in court when my lawyer blamed it on the drugs. She knew burl was the addiction and made me take the crank. You can’t go out there at night during a thunderstorm without a boost. They gave me probation and rehab, and on the way home Joselyn telling me how lucky I’d gotten, rubbing my baldhead and making fun of my cheap Goodwill suit.

It was still pouring when we got to the forest, and the road was empty. I had a spot I’d cleared just inside the woods where I could pull the Chevy in and be out of sight. Signs of bears were everywhere if you were dumb enough to look down or to the side—bear shit, claw marks on trees. Black bears and grizzlies.

We flew down the game trail on the four-wheeler, and Tori clung to me with the chainsaw bouncing across her back in its case. Burls, curls, swirls. The tires barely kept a grip on the mud, and the headlamps only let you see a few yards ahead in the soaked dark, but I knew the trail.

Our tree was wide as the Chevy was long and must’ve been over 1000-years-old. I showed Tori where I’d hacked at the burl with an ax to see the insides. It was beautiful with dark chocolate swirls in the pale wood, and we couldn’t wait to see the rest. I was a surgeon with the chainsaw, and soon I had all the burl growth off the base of the tree. This one could’ve made five or six gorgeous coffee tables or fancy doors, 25 Lexus steering wheels.

Redwood is like a dirty old treasure chest. It’s grey and ugly on the outside like firewood, but then you cut it open. Burl’s what got me fired from the logging company because I kept sneaking off looking for it. Joselyn had been hiding in the pantry when I told Tori. She came out and asked me how I could be so irresponsible.

“Goddamnit, the goddamn pantry? What’re you doing?” I said.

“Checking the nutrition facts of the food you’ve been giving the baby,” she said. “This obsession with burl is destroying this family.” She was tall for her age and could hold eye contact forever. She said she was worried about how it was affecting the baby’s development and future. “I do my best, but I’m only nine. He needs parents. I’m tired of changing his shitty diapers. Also the electric bill is super overdue.” She knew about the burl in the attic and under our bed and said if we didn’t stop she’d have to call CPS or tell the cops. I’d go straight to jail. That day we promised to never touch the stuff again, but how could she expect us to work for $15-an-hour when we could make thousands in one big find. Really it was for her future and the baby’s future.

We each did a bump and dragged the slabs onto the tarp. Try moving around burl without a little boost. We rambled about the swirls: 50k, 75k they had to be worth. It was three in the morning, and the storm had passed and we had to get out of there. The load was too much for the four-wheeler though. “Please, God!” Tori screamed into the sky, and I held her hands to calm her down. We’d stash some in the woods for later. We did a bump and moved two slabs behind a tree.

We got everything loaded in the truck bed and stripped off our muddy sweats and tossed them behind some bushes and drove back toward Redding in our underwear.

We had a storage unit just outside Redding, and the place was always totally empty at that time of night. There was almost no room left in our unit, and there was nothing in it but burl. Slabs stacked to the ceiling, a room full of gold. We spent 30 minutes wading through it and pushing everything to the back as tight as we could to make room. Tori cut up her knees but kept helping. We figured there was half-a-million dollars in that room easy, but the trouble was finding the right buyer, someone who would pay what it was really worth. Every burl is a unique abstract painting, and it seemed ridiculous to even try to put a price on it. I told Tori not to look at one for too long so she wouldn’t get attached. We would hold onto them until the right time.

We got back to the house at about 4:30, and it was still dark out. We pushed the truck doors halfway shut and took our time going inside. Once we got to the bedroom safe, we kept on about the swirls. “We gotta get back soon before someone finds those slabs,” Tori said, drying her hair with a towel.

“Yeah, hopefully it rains again tonight. There’s a good chance it will,” I said. “I’ll start looking for the right buyers. Just poke around and feel them out at first.”

“Exactly. Don’t show our cards too early. That’s been our problem!” Tori said. “You go in with a small sample and let them commit to a price-per-pound, and that’s when I’ll pull up with a truckload.”

“I almost think we should start our own wholesale business, sell direct to furniture manufacturers,” I said. “That way we keep all the profit.” We couldn’t stay sitting on the bed. We were spun still, off the find and the crank and the cold rain, and we forgot our code words.

There was a knock, but Joselyn didn’t wait to come in. She was totally awake, and her face demanded an explanation.

“We did a few bumps, okay? Is that a crime?” I said.

“Yes, it is actually.”

“What are you doing up?” Tori asked.

“I have a math test tomorrow, or today, I should say, and I need to review.” She came over to the bed, and Tori pulled the comforter up to her chin, but she yanked at it.

“I’m not wearing anything, honey,” Tori said.

“You’re wearing a bra. I can see the strap,” she said and felt the wet fabric.

“I just got out of the shower and didn’t dry off good.”

Joselyn put her hands on her hips, and a while went by where we couldn’t look back at her. “Big find today? Hmm? Think you’re being subtle when you pull up in the Chevy?”

We cocked our eyebrows. The truck was loud for sure. We should’ve parked a block away and pushed it. Joselyn rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders until Tori cracked and giggled, and it made me laugh too. Joselyn looked too mad to know what to say.

“Calm down, honey,” I said. “It’s only until I can find another job.”

“Shut up. You’re lucky I haven’t already called your probation officer.”

I thought she was bluffing, but she said, “4567320,” and I started crying. I didn’t have the number memorized, but that sounded right. “6578456,” she said. “You know what that is?”

I shook my head and Tori didn’t know either. She was crying now too, and she buried her face in my chest.

“It’s CPS, and don’t think I won’t call them.”

“What’s she trying to do to us?” Tori cried. “Our baby wants to destroy us!”

“Please,” Joselyn said and then broke it down. She told us she wasn’t going to school that morning to take her test. Tori would write her a letter saying she was home sick. We would take all the burl into town and take the first offer no matter what. She’d come with us. We would pay the bills with the money.

“I want a real breakfast this morning. Bacon, eggs, and toast...and I want to go to McDonald’s twice a week from now on…”

She kept on with the demands. She wanted to see San Francisco. We nodded our heads at each one, but I could only keep focused for so long, and we couldn’t make ourselves cry anymore. Joselyn didn’t know about the storage unit. I could tell Tori was fading too. I bet she was thinking about the chocolate swirls on the slabs we left at Six Rivers. Joselyn didn’t know about those either or all the rest of the burl still out there.

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gene morgan



Fortnite is a riot simulator for children. Characters lives are short like ours– the game is filled with moments to reflect upon hard choices, choices in the format of a fun cartoon-like murder game young boys love. Fortnite for Xbox is a perfect way to get killed over and over again and feel emotion as you grow old and work a job and come home to smoke weed from a battery, make vegan hot dogs, take kids to basketball practice, and fall asleep before making love. This game is an easy diversion in an otherwise asinine journey where you live and die just once. Five stars, I've never played it.

Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World is about harvesting flesh. The monsters you gut, you pull the meat from them, and you sell or trade that meat for a shield and maybe clothes. How many pelts are too many? You decide. Live with excess. Life is excellent. You have a cat and your cat brings you health. Cats fucking protect you. Cats live forever. You can give your cat a beautiful name, like Susan. Susan will fight for you. And when you're ass-deep in entrails, Susan's only worry is a monster planet filled with lush vegetation. In Susan's world species have not yet begun to die-out at the highest rate since the last great extinction. There is no end. For Susan, an excess of monsters seems like the only hell any player can thrive in– A hell where there's nothing left to do but hunt, so you dig deep inside yourself and flood the world with meat.


Blessed that the devil exists, two cups look to settle a debt. My daughter let me know a fish smokes in the background of this game. I'm not sure if it's a fish. I can't remember, My head hurts. I've never had another life, so I don't understand, I don't understand all of the accomplishments I'll never see, all of the unfinished projects I left alone in my inbox, all of the shoes I never wear, the way I smoked while I was looking after my children, like my mother. Cuphead is a visual achievement, and it's impossible to play. My life is slowly losing any focus on the past, and I can only hope the devil opens a casino near my home, a place where I can gamble for something worthwhile or, really anything I lost in childhood.

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rebekah morgan

DENTIST TRIP by Rebekah Morgan

I drink three nescafe coffees before i leave Iași for the rest of the weekend, heading north on the 10:49 CFR line.

Sometimes on Saturday mornings i halfway tumble my ass all the way down to the railway station in Gară from my bloc near the top of the huge hill in Copou. The rail station is one of the oldest ones in Romania with huge ceilings and big windows and lots of bright white pigeon shit for the floor. At christmas time they put up decorations and some blue and white lights that blink so fast they make you wanna jump on the tracks after a while. It’s dreamy though somehow.

The ladies who sell tickets have big soft faces like cookie dough  and an urgency in their eyes that fades as soon you can glance it. The ladies who sell tickets wear pressed blue shirts and navy slacks. The ladies who sell train tickets are the kind of ladies who have gold jewelry to wave all around their faces. They look proud and annoyed at the same time, but they manage to not be looking pretentious. This demeanor is a feat of some sort since they hold a bit of power over most of us or at least they control our fate in regards to catching trains.

I stand in line behind all the college kids going home for the weekend. I tell the doughey faced woman where i’m heading and hand her twenty lei. On the platform i smoke two Sobranie negru slims and drink another small nescafe from a machine by the tracks. The train roars in screeching its brakes at me and I hop the train and head towards a town not to far from the ukrainian border. It’s the town where the farmer i’m sleeping with lives with his goats and his mama and his cat. The train stinks like ass but is also precious and i love it. The lady carrying a small pink and white oddly calm looking pig barges past me and plops down a few rows in front of me with the little porker on her lap and a scarf wrapped tight around her head.

I stare out the big glass window for almost three hours as the remaining bits of winter pass by me. The hill sides wash down onto the floodplains that are now filled with the melted snow. The people who use horse carts can be seen from the train along the base of the hills and out in fields. The train creeps by an orthodox church and quite many people start crossing themselves. I always cross myself too but with just my finger shoved in my pocket scratching along the pocket liner. I do this just for something to do i guess since i only believe in god when i’m about to piss myself in public. I like secretly crossing myself a lot though. I don’t know what i’ll do when it starts getting warmer in the springtime and I won’t have my jacket to hide my new habit.

The train rolls on an on and i stare out the window at the landscape and the people and i stare out the window at all sorts of animals. I see a goat standing next to a duck like they are friends or maybe lovers and i say ‘wow’ out loud by accident. I open a little bag of paprika peanuts. The paprika peanuts are good and i eat them while listening to monks sing on the radio of my Nokia phone.

The queen of the train with the pig stands up as the train crosses into the town of Pașcani and hobbles off the train. A woman with a dog takes the place she was sitting and the train rolls on to Suceavă.  An hour passes quickly as i watch stacks of hay covered with tarps weighted down with plastic bottles and herds of sheep pass by my window. I see the huge smoke tower by the Iulius Mall slowly approaching in the distance and take my black leather backpack off of the baggage rail. I smear on a layer of bright cherry red chapstick before i shove a cigarette between my sticky lips and take my lighter out of my hoodie pocket.  I kick the train door open with my booted foot when it gets stuck and the cold air blasts me in the face as we pull into the Suceavă station. Spring is creeping in and in my head i think

‘it’s not as cold as it once was, but it’s as cold as it ever was’ set to the tune of that Toby Keith song and hop off the train.

I light my cigarette and glance around the station looking for Lucian. I turn around and he’s standing right in front of me. We say ‘salute’ and kiss each other on both cheeks then march arm in arm towards the number two bus parked across the street. Lucian is wearing an alpaca sweater.

I sit across from a small child making cat noises at his mother and he kicks me hard in the leg. His mother puts on the same chapstick as me and then i put more on myself a few minutes later and the mother checks her pocket for her chapstick as she watches me apply mine. The bus is filled with people and almost everyone has a hat on except me. Lucian is sitting across the aisle in his grey beanie with his cheek pressed against the window and i wonder if he has ever seen a shark.  I wonder if he knows female sharks can impregnate themselves if they don’t find a suitable mate. The child kicks me in the leg again as Lucian signals the next stop is ours.

I tell Lucian i’m excited to drink at a dentist office because i want to tell people that i was drinking at a dentist office. We arrive a bit early to Dr. Sorin’s office so we each smoke a cigarette on the green bench outside a vegetable market. I watch two street dogs walk by and then a third. The dogs seem old and tired and i feel glad for them that spring is coming soon. I buy some green olives from the old woman at the market and eat them with Lucian in the courtyard and smoke another cigarette. Dr. Sorin calls Lucian and i think about the romance involved in drinking in a dental office bathroom in the old Eastern Bloc.

We go inside the dental office and posters cavities and root canals watch me as i pull two blue baggies over my shoes. Lucian pulls blue baggies over his shoes too and i tell him to take a picture of my baggied feet.

Dr. Sorin leads us back past two big dental chairs to a small bathroom attached to another smaller bathroom. We all cram into the bathrooms and light cigarettes while Dr.Sorin fixes three whiskey sodas. On the wall above the sink is a Jim Beam bar mat that says Nightology. Dr. Sorin puts the glasses with the whiskey on the shelf above the sink. We all take a glass and clinck them together while saying ‘Noroc’.

I watch myself drink the whiskey soda and smoke in the mirror. I look nice, i watch Lucian drink in the mirror and watch us be together and i hope i feel drunk soon. Lucian and Dr.Sorin make jokes and gossip. Dr. Sorin puts on Led Zeppelin real loud. We all agree Led Zeppelin is good and Dr.Sorin makes more drinks. I look in the other bathroom that is only for Dr.Sorin and there is a little wooden sign with a naked woman with her ass stuck up in the air. In romanian the sign says something like, ‘god made man and then he rested and on the next day god made woman and then no one ever rested’.

I stand between Dr.Sorin and Lucian. Dr. Sorin has lots of porn on his phone, i watch as he skims his messages for a meme to show us. I drink more whiskey and watch Lucian in the mirror. Dr. Sorin shows me a picture of a brunette with her legs spread with a piece of cake on a plate placed in front of her pussy. Dr. Sorin shows me a picture of a girl kissing a man's feet drawn in charcoal and he wheezes when he laughs. I switch places with Lucian and smoke another cigarette.  Dr. Sorin reaches across lucian with his phone and shows me a photo of a girl with two pussies. I say nice and Led Zeppelin says:

We come from the land of the ice and snow

From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow

The hammer of the gods

We'll drive our ships to new lands

To fight the horde, and sing and cry

Valhalla, I am coming!

I think about being an immigrant and how i’m lucky to even be here with some jackoff showing me his porn stash. Dr. Sorin pours more whiskey and soda and then looks at me and says “you could put a nice brand on Lucian’s arm with those hott tits” and i  say ‘yeah’ as i press my hott tits against Lucian’s arm. After that i shove both of them out of the bathroom into Dr.Sorins main office shouting at them in romanian that i have to take a piss. Then i piss and its great somehow.

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claire hopple

THIS IS GONNA BE GOOD by Claire Hopple

“Do you know where Bernie is?” a stranger asked the man as he was headed in to change.

“Not sure. I think I saw him in the parking lot a minute ago,” said the man, trying to be helpful to the stranger even though he was technically a stranger.

“Who’s Bernie?” the stranger then asked.

“I thought you were looking for Bernie. How can you be looking for him if you don’t know who he is?”

“Why can’t I be looking for someone I don’t know?”

The man had had enough. He went inside to change for his shift so he wouldn’t be late. Coming back out to the main room in full garb, he saw Bernie picking a bandaid off the plaque in the corner. It read: PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH, was engraved and everything, but was screwed into the wall high enough so that it was unclear what one wasn’t supposed to touch. The bandaid was covering the word “NOT” rather defiantly.

“I think that was someone from the Association,” said Bernie.

The bandaid was flapping at the edge of his middle finger, successfully dislodged from the plaque. Bernie peeked at the gauze portion to see if it was used before tossing it into the trash.

“The Association?”

“Yes, The Association for Living History Farm and Agricultural Museums. Those guys.”

The man didn’t know such an association existed, had just started this job a few months ago, but didn’t want to rankle Bernie even more by asking followup questions.

“This place is not in shape for visits from the Association. This could be bad. I don’t want to end up like the settlement. You know what happened to Todd at Jamestown.”

The man tried not to remember what happened to Todd at Jamestown. It was Bernie’s standard cautionary tale for when anything went wrong.

He knew what this was really about. Tourists would rather drive eight miles out of the way to visit the wildlife refuge than come here. There, exotic animals appeared unencumbered by civilization. Their labyrinthine pathways seemed especially natural and created a pleasant plume of dirt when you scuffed your feet along them.

The man visited once but didn’t want to go back. The animals looked mutinous and the humans hypnotic. He had found a cage marked “Horned Viper” that appeared empty and struggled not to apply any meaning to it. Push pop carapaces littered the paths. Maybe we should be handing out push pops, the man thought.


Power lines buzzed above him on his way to the coffee shop. The buzzing forced him to imagine what impulses were being carried across right then, directly over his head. He entered, ordered, found a nice table near the wall of windows at the front. Outside, a woman was telling a rather animated story to her friend on the bench up against the window. She was gesturing high enough to look like she was reaching to give the man a high five.

He unceremoniously gulped his to-go cup and waited. The sleeve on the cup kept slipping and he thought about the frustrating nature of gravity, but also wondered why the barista had given him a portable cup rather than a mug. Did she expect him to leave?

He was not leaving. He was meeting a manager or director of some sort from an in-home aide service.

The man’s father was not doing well. In fact, the man was pretty sure his father was gradually becoming a recluse. His father had mentioned something about conch shells, how he could hear the sound of muffled waves just as clearly from pressing a mug to his ear as he could from a shell found near the wave’s end. At the time, he figured his father was just lonely or perhaps becoming a poet. He thought about getting him a no-nonsense pet, something that didn’t require a lot of maintenance, like a turtle. But the pets that require the least amount of maintenance also seem to provide the least amount of comfort.

Plus, the turtle was sure to outlive his father. And what was the man ultimately going to do with a turtle once his father passed, especially one that he indirectly inherited from himself?

The man wasn’t sure about the in-home care thing since his father was in very good physical condition. He didn’t know if reclusive tendencies was a box you could check on a form. But mental health is just as important, he thought.

And people talk about nervous breakdowns but maybe it doesn’t have to be like that. If you lean into it, accept the madness creeping over you, maybe it can be a peaceful adjustment. Like slipping into warm bath water. Like the gradual murk clouding the waters in a turtle tank.

She was late.

Being a historical interpreter mostly meant advising visitors to hold on to the railing along the stairs. Telling kids as well as adults, “Everyone has to hold on. No one is above hanging on.”

It also meant trying to fuse history with the present to a horde of students on field trips and retirees finally able to travel. And they came to this vaguely colonial site to hear about farming practices and blacksmithing techniques while the jake brakes of semis shuddered on the overpass. A submissive, sonorous percussion giving into the slope.

The man had applied, desperate for a way out of a misleading corporate position. He had been told travel would take up around 25% of his time but it was actually closer to 40%. The man’s ears kept popping and clogging from elevation changes to the point where he could no longer hear what went on in the meetings, the ones the company thought were worth flying the man hundreds of miles to attend, 40% of the time.

He suspected he landed this job with absolutely no interpreting experience merely because he was a man. With no battle scenes to reenact and no weapons to wield, the staff was mostly made up of women. Guys thought the big show was in Williamsburg. But these women wielded plowshares and ironwork and could maintain the fields far better than he could.

Some of the reenactors used to be street performers and some thought they deserved to slough off the first few letters entirely, transforming purely into actors.

The only other male on staff was Ames, an aspiring magician, who practiced tricks when things were slow. The man wasn’t impressed with his tricks. They were sloppy and unrehearsed. And also because what doesn’t disappear? What doesn’t eventually dissolve on its own?

Ames fumbled through stunts. He muttered things like, “I’ll get the hang of it. It’s just muscle memory. Like learning guitar.” But he wasn’t improving. Ames would say things like “This is gonna be good,” and “Wait, we’re getting to the good part,” which totally diffused any possibility for goodness in the impending act.

Muscle memory isn’t always ideal, the man kept to himself. Isn’t it just practicing an action over and over until it’s automatic? So that if every action were purely muscle memory, your whole life would be forgotten before it’s even gotten? The man thought about all of this while he nodded to Ames, polished the spinning wheel display.


The man had come to expect two things from his father. First, he wasn’t going to let an aide swing by his home a few days a week. This was less of a suspicion and more of a reality, since his father had already kicked out the aide within the first hour. Second, his father wasn't going to go out into the world anymore, but he could let some of the more entertaining parts of the world in.

So he drove Ames out to the house, switching out his straw farmer hat for a tall black one. They parked next to his father’s overly reinforced mailbox. His father understood the importance of mail but also understood the power of baseball bats and midnight teenage angst.

He made Ames tuck his long hair into a skinny ponytail. Ames had that mangled look caused by hair that’d been dyed for decades, like split and dried firewood stacked indoors. Just like the man’s mother used to have.

A song played on the radio in the car but it didn’t sound right. After listening for a few seconds, the man realized what was off about it. This song had become such a popular choice for karaoke that the original now sounded like a remake. No squeals or squawks or jumbled lyrics. It stuck out precisely because it was performed so cleanly.

The man gave Ames an encouraging pat on the shoulder before shutting off the engine and opening the door.

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nathaniel duggan

IMITATION CRABMEAT by Nathaniel Duggan

Dad spends Christmas Eve on the beach killing green crabs, before he returns home to turn on all the holiday lights. The house flashes and dazzles like a landing strip. The sky, meanwhile, looks foreclosed.

“You should’ve seen the fuckers,” he tells me, pinching his fingers to imitate claws. “Some of them big as your face.”

He has no heat, furniture, or future, so we sit in lawn chairs in the living room, our breath glowing like neon. His expression is sour-smug: he is a man who knows his own expiration date. When he dies shortly thereafter—without complication—I bury him in the garden and discover the action figures he stole from me during my youth to prove important points. There they all are tucked an inch below the soil, dirt-clotted and tangled in rhododendron roots.

I crack a beer, plotting my next move.

I spend maybe a few too many years sitting alone in dark living rooms at 3AM.

People claim I approach them with slanted intentions. I am between jobs and lovers. I live as an alleyway, defined mostly by the clutter and the things I keep apart.

For the sake of staying busy, I steal my last friend’s wife. The friend himself cannot be reached for comment; he has long since scuttled off to some forgotten corner of Alaska. As for the wife, she drinks.

This works out pretty well until it doesn’t. We drink too much too early, spend most of our days passing out. Our lives live outside and without us, and we are perpetually slumped against the kitchen cabinets or else spread-eagled on the bathroom floor, piecing together where we last left off: usually the entangling business of her bra.

Sleep scrubs her skin as pale and thin as a bedsheet. Her eyes close into her face. She fades, recedes into the background of herself, until all that’s left is a mapped suggestion of a person, pure theory and postulation.

On the other hand I grow puffy, weighted with my somnolence. I develop certain unsociable tendencies, namely clamming and a technique of eating Chinese food by the fistful. By the time I notice her absence, she’s already gone.

What do you do with so much nothing? Me, I leave the clams to die in the basement. Whole pounds of them, just slowly dying. They make little screaming noises throughout the night, but it’s one of those things like lobsters: you’re not sure if they’re really screaming or if it’s just the water compressing inside their shells or whatever.

Lately the rum I drink has taken on the plastic tang of action figures.

Lately my heart is the size of a face.

Midsummer I set up Christmas lights. I drape the bannisters, hedges, drainpipes. The bulbs throb sickly, pulsate underfoot like crabs on the march. This accomplished, I stumble into the front yard, chug the last of my cocktail. The house swims in my vision, so lucid I can’t look at it straight on. For a while I feel that I am expecting the arrival of something, until I realize I am expecting to have finally arrived somewhere else.

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THE PASSENGER by Ted Prokash

Raymond pulled into a Love’s Travel Center somewhere in southern Indiana, shortly before dawn. Their routine for stops had been well established by now. Walter went inside to piss and buy snacks, while Raymond paid for and pumped the gas.

Raymond was STRESSED. He was rather high-anxiety to begin with… and the mission he and Walter were undertaking would have anybody nervous. But Raymond had been prepared for all that. The problem was the mission had gotten off on the wrong foot logistically. He had planned to have his car – a 2004 Subaru Outback with low millage – all freshly serviced for the trip. But he’d run into certain logistical stumbling blocks, circumstances beyond his control, etc. Now, here they were, somewhere in southern Indiana, overdue for an oil change and with 3,000 miles left to drive.

Raymond checked the oil, fretting. He decided to add a quart to be on the safe side.

“Fuck you doin’, man?” Walter inquired quite amicably, a bag of spicy pork rinds in one hand and a 20-oz Red Bull in the other.

Raymond bristled underneath the hood, concentrating on pouring the oil through the little paper funnel. He was already getting tired of Walter’s lack of seriousness. “I’m trying to make sure we don’t break down somewhere in the fucking Appalachian Mountains, that’s what,” he said.

“Shit, man, I thought you had this whip all tightened up. Don’t freeze our here now,” Walter advised as he ducked inside the car.

It was damn cold, even 500 miles south of home.


Somewhere south of Louisville, Kentucky. Dawn breaking in the eastern sky. Walter had his phone plugged into the Subaru’s cigarette lighter, playing rap music at a moderate volume. The airwaves around these parts were dominated by country music, bible thumpers and right-wing firebrands. The Subaru was equipped with a CD player, but of course, the CDs themselves were all in landfills. Since Raymond mistrusted cell phone technology, Walter was in charge of the music – largely by default. Raymond would have preferred to drive in silence, not because he didn’t like the music, but because the demands of the mission made a constant clamor in his mind, requiring his constant diligent attention. “What are we listening to?” he asked.

“Lil B,” Walter said. Then, in response to Raymond’s honky silence, “Lil B the BasedGod. We can turn something else on if you want. I think I got some… Metallica on here… some Alice In Chains and shit.”

Raymond waved it off. “No, this is good. I just didn’t recognize it.” Walter offered him the bag of pork rinds. “No thanks.”

Walter picked out a choice piece of pig skin and halved it with a crunch that rang out over the down-low stylings of the BasedGod. Crunch, crunch. “There was some fucked up graffiti in that bathroom back there, man.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. There was the usual shit, you know, pictures of dicks, gay shit, so and so is a ho at this phone number. But there was some raw racist shit too, fucking swastikas. ‘Only good nigger’s a dead nigger’, ‘Hitler was right’, ‘Kill the Jews’…”

“Fucking Christ!” Raymond spat. “Fucking ignorant hicks. Like, I get that the Nazi imagery was a thing with the early punk bands and shit. The Stooges did it, a lot of those bands did, but the time for that shit is past.” Raymond shook his head. “That kind of shock value’s just not relevant anymore, man.”

The two drove on in a thoughtful silence.


Miami, Florida. Seventy five degrees in the dead of winter, the sunshine infusing everything like an extremely clean form of speed.

Raymond and Walter were ragged, strung out from the road. After 24 hours of hard driving, they’d finally pulled over under a tall palm tree on a quiet side street about a hundred and fifty feet from Iggy Pop’s door. Here they waited out the small hours of morning, watching for any sign of their mark. As the sun climbed in the sky, Walter started getting restless. “Man, I gotta get a coffee or something,” he said, stretching and rubbing his eyes.

“We can’t give up our position now,” Raymond said.

Walter was less than impressed. “Man, if anybody’s worried about us, they know we’re here already. I saw a little place a block back that way and a block back down the street we came in on. I’m going to take a walk. You want anything?”

Raymond grumbled under his breath. “Coffee,” he said.

Fine time for him to make a scene, Raymond thought. He screwed up his eyes and studied the house for any kind of movement. He hadn’t slept more than an hour in the last twenty four and he’d hardly eaten a thing, but Raymond was wired. They were so close now. If they pulled this off…

Raymond took a warm swig of water from a bottle he found under his seat.

This whole crazy plan was only a couple weeks old, but the impetus behind it had been brewing for longer than Raymond had been alive. The zeitgeist of popular despair, the American cultural train wreck, speeding toward a suicide soma solution… Iggy was one of the original reactionaries to this very thing, one of the first to test the merits of kamikaze art. Then, the suicide trip was rushed to crescendo by the digital revolution, you know, ‘watch out now ‘cause I’m using technology’… Raymond knew intrinsically that Iggy was someone who might be able to give him, if not answers, at least some perspective, some idea.

Then, the chance encounter with the record collector from Miami. Raymond was soliciting a first pressing of the first Stooges album. This cat happened to mention that – slap my ass and I’ll be damned – Iggy Pop lived a block from his home. He sees him quite regularly. That’s when Raymond had his thunderbolt revelation. It was like he was visited by an angel that said, “Go and seek Iggy out. In him you will find the truth.” He brought Walter along because – well, for one thing, Walter was easy company – but most of all, Walter was a gun person. He was always strapped. Touched by an angel or not, Raymond was still practical. The great Iggy Pop might need a little convincing as to the righteousness of his mission.

Walter returned from his coffee run. He climbed into the car, whistling to himself, making no attempt at all to be inconspicuous. The Subaru filled with the smell of deep fried something.

“What are those?” Raymond asked with a testy edge. The smell was doing a number on his voracious senses and his knotted gut.

“Oh, these? These croquettes. They’re delicious, man, have some.”

Raymond popped a croquette into his mouth. “That is good.” He noticed Walter had come back with just one small cup of coffee. “They run out of coffee?”

“Hmm? Oh, no man. This Cuban coffee. This enough for both of us.” Walter put the coffee on the dash and set out two plastic cups the size of thimbles. “See, how they make it is they pack the sugar in the bottom, then they put the coffee on top – and it’s strong coffee…” Walter paused mid-sentence. “Is that your boy right there?” he said, pointing casually.

Raymond looked up and, sure enough, there he was: the weird and wiry street-walking cheetah, in the flesh and a dark pair of sunglasses. Whether or not his heart was still full of napalm, was exactly what Raymond intended to find out.

Iggy crossed the street and walked right at the Subaru, coming up on the passenger side.

“He’s coming to your side, man, stop him!” Raymond panicked.

Walter leaned out of the window, still casual. “Hey, excuse me sir. Can we talk to you for a minute?”

Iggy peered inside the car, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. “What’s up, brother?” That unmistakable snarl.

Raymond’s excitement bubbled over. He practically climbed on top of Walter. “Hey Iggy. We’d just like a few moments of your time. Just a few questions. Is there someplace we can go to talk?”

Iggy recoiled. “I’m sorry guys, I’m just trying to go down the street and get a cup of coffee, alright?”

“Well, we could come with you. I’ll buy you a cup…”

“Listen, you’re going to have to get a hold of my agent if you want an interview.” Iggy began to retreat.

That’s when Walter, in a motion that was lightning-quick yet somehow unhurried, pulled his 9-millimeter and pointed it square at the godfather of punk. “Tell you what man, why don’t you just get in the car. We’ll go for a ride and have a little talk. No problems.” Walter motioned toward the back seat. “Just get in the car.”

Iggy took a step toward the Subaru, his palms turned up. He reached tentatively for the handle of the car door. But instead of opening the door he brought his hand down in a fast karate chop, knocking the 9-mm into Walter’s lap. He took off like a shot.

“Shit man!” Walter fumbled for the gun. Iggy was already sprinting down an alley.

Raymond opened his door. Then he shut it again. “What the fuck are you doing, man!? You pull your fucking piece?!”

“That old boy’s quicker than shit! You see that?”

Raymond fired up the Subaru and peeled off. He whipped a U-turn and took a left. They spotted Iggy running down a busy street. “Fuck!” Iggy ducked into a little shopping center, out of sight. “Fuck! What do we do?”

“Just keep driving, man,” Walter advised. Raymond tried to pull over and park, but they were caught in a heavy wave of traffic. “Ray, I aint gonna jump out this car and chase that motherfucker down, I don’t know about you. Just keep driving.”

Iggy was fucking gone.


Somewhere south of Atlanta, Georgia. Beating a mad retreat from Miami, from their failed mission. Panic and shame running 80 miles per hour. Walter was at the wheel. Raymond was next to him, not asleep, but practically catatonic with despair.

The flow of traffic started getting heavy. They were nearing the city. Walter flipped on the right turn signal and eased the Subaru into the far right lane. He veered onto an exit ramp.

“What are you doing? This is a weird place to pull off. Why don’t you get us past the city at least?”

“We gotta make a stop here.”

“This is a bad place, man. We need to put some miles between us and that… that fucking mess back there.” Raymond shook his head. “I still can’t believe you pulled your fucking gun.”

Walter wore that half-smile that never seemed to leave his face. He maintained the calm demeanor that seemed his permanent state. “You remember where I’m from, Raymond?”

Raymond squeezed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, shutting his eyes tightly. “Yeah… um, you’re from Georgia. Somewhere in Georgia.”

Walter smiled. “That’s right. Little hood outside of Atlanta called Park Heights. You know how I’m always so chill at work? How I just laugh when people be freakin’ out about their kid’s got a cold, or their transmission goes out or some shit? I’m just thinking how back in Park Heights you got to worry about gettin’ shot just walkin’ down the fucking street.”

“That’s fucked up,” Raymond admitted.

“Yup. Now Raymond, why do you think I agreed to drive all this way with you, looking for some old grandpa motherfucker used to sing in some rock band? I know you wanted me along for muscle, Ray, ‘cause I got a gun. I know that shit.” He put his hand on Raymond’s shoulder, chuckling.

“Dude, my whole family is here. All my old friends, my moms…”

Raymond was quiet for a while. He had never considered that they’d be driving right by Walter’s old stomping grounds. He watched the city filling in around them. “Can we get some food, at least?”

Walter put on a hurt expression. “Man we’re visiting my mom. She will cook for your ass. That’s called southern hospitality. You motherfuckers up in Wisconsin might not know about that shit.”

Walter guided the Subaru through a typical urban tableaux. Check cashing places, liquor stores, fried chicken stands. Folks hanging out on front stoops, sipping from bottles sheathed in brown paper bags, watching the traffic with long, bored looks.

“We’re gonna get you some soul food, Raymond.”

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THE NAVIGATOR by Kelby Losack

Because your friends are assholes, they toss us in the trunk in the sixty-nine position.

They duct-taped my ankle to the steel rod of my prosthetic leg. I don’t even know how to feel about that.

You think that twin telepathy shit is real?

Check, one, two.

Nod your head or something if you hear me.

How are we getting out of this alive?

One-two, one-two.


We’re going to die, huh?

Check, check, one, two.

If I had any memories of being in the womb with you, I think being curled up next to you in this cramped darkness would trigger some flashbacks. Nod your head if you feel me.

I can’t imagine where your friends might be taking us. This ride is bumpy as fuck, though. Remember learning how to drive? We couldn’t see where we were going then, either. Too small to see over the wheel, so we learned how to drive by the feel of the road. I was always careful not to keep the wheel too straight, swerving this way and that, like I’d learned from watching Mom. Always thought of her driving all over the road as her version of rocking us to sleep. It usually did the trick, except for when she’d slam on the brakes and laugh hysterically at some shit we weren’t privy to, reaching back with a hand that always shook, saying, “You okay back there, babies?”

Then there was the time she didn’t so much slam on the brakes as she did just let off the gas and sink into the driver’s seat, hands sliding to her lap, head bobbing against her shoulder in rhythm with the tall grass blades slapping the rearview mirror. I don’t remember if that was the first time we rock-paper-scissored for who would drive/who would navigate standing in the shotgun, but it wasn’t the last time, I know that.

Those times, when we took Mom by the underarms and ankles and sort of carried/sort of dragged her gently as we could into the backseat—thankful she didn’t weigh much more than the pitbull we had at the time—she always smelled like burning plastic, like when we’d use one of her lighters to pretend those little green soldiers had real flamethrowers. Same way she smelled when we found her the last time, slumped against her bedroom door, not waking up.

That first time we drove Mom’s car out of a ditch, it was you standing in the seat, telling me which way to turn as I steered blindly with my foot reaching down to the pedal, my chin ready to get smacked by the airbag if I fucked this up and crashed us into something. I was too scared to take us all the way home, so you told me where to turn into a gas station parking lot and that’s where we stayed until Mom woke up several hours later and she was so proud of us, she gave us some money and said, “Go inside and get you some candy, and bring Momma a pack of cigarettes,” but the clerk wouldn’t let us buy cigarettes, so we came out empty-handed and she said, “Fine, I’ll get it,” and she adjusted her hair and bra strap and checked her teeth in the mirror then staggered inside and when she came back out, she didn’t have any candy, but we didn’t say anything about it.

Check, check.

One-two, one-two.

Are you hearing any of this?

You know, come to think of it, you were always the one navigating, and I was always the blind driver.

That’s why I can’t blame you for any of this.

Your friends are going to kill us—probably tell us to run off into the woods and then shoot us in our backs—and yeah, it might be ‘cause I freaked out thinking the neighbor’s TV was a real police raid and went and flushed all the dope down the toilet, but this is your fault, too. I was just the one steering.

Still, I can’t blame you.

And if we could go back, I’d probably do it again, because without you, I’d be lost.

Nod your head if you can hear me.

Check, check, one, two.

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