I will use both our deaths. I will use both our deaths to sing this song. Trees have advanced language. Take me to your Research Team. I will give them. Evidence. I was spoken to from the confusion of your stolen cattle. Date me back to an all-knowing Omaha.

Your mother has a secret stash of animals. Use them to find her. You better find. Her.

There is a vault of friendships filed under Fantasy Baseball. I win by a system of placing my bet on love without rules. I didn’t hear from you so I started famous one act plays. Lost you again this time I made some friends. You become a mother with or without your child. Grief speaks with the authority of an off the charts Jesus. Are you having dreams again? It doesn’t matter why won’t you call. You have discovered a casket years into the Earth. As if Earth knows how to lower such a thing. My baby lost her doll in the snowbank, so we had to make a rescue. What is it? You don’t believe me. Snow harder.

I open something on your computer and it kills the lights. I know you better than they do is the farm I buy from them. When you learn how to lucid through, the gods will learn from you. Walk right in, honey. You’ve got to run this show.

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DEATH BED by Dóra Grőber

You're sitting in your bed, legs pulled up to your chest, black, unkempt hair in an unusual ponytail and you don't talk, not because he's not home but because you have nothing to say. Just a few hours ago you were standing on your desk and painting on the wall, first with a brush and then with your hands, listening to the song Rolling by Soul Coughing, not on repeat. You didn't feel like an artist but you didn't feel fake. You felt like this was recovery or at least some level or element of it, something he could see and think "he's getting better" and he would smile but he didn't come home and the half-done portrait feels more crazy than healthy now.

This woman in the group told you the other day you don't have to be happy, you just have to stay sober because realistic goals are key if you really want to reach them.

3 days ago J. came over and bought cola instead of booze and you wanted to tell him not to bother, to feel free to drink a beer or ten because you won't sway. It's been 4 months. You wanted to say if I want to get fucked up, I will, just like James Frey wrote in his book, and it doesn't matter whether you have a case of beer with you or not. You didn't drink because you felt like it would've been embarrassing, like losing a fight not against yourself but against J., which is stupid. You felt like it would make you look ridiculous and weak which you believe you are anyway even though you're trying hard to bring something home from all those sessions you sit through. Most of the time you just stare at your hands and listen and occasionally you offer a made-up story about yourself - you don't particularly need to fabricate stories, you just want to check if they can detect lies. They can't or they stick to their rule of respecting everybody's words equally. It makes them seem absolutely useless to you but you go every time anyway because you promised him you will and you don't feel like you've been trying enough yet. You think they can't or shouldn't be too soft or permissive if they want to help addicts, they have to be brutal because that's the only thing they understand or at least this seems to be true when you think about yourself. J.'s cheerful and forgiving and his forgiveness kills everything natural between you, you desperately hope only temporarily.

Self-forgiveness is the hardest part and you don't know what to do with the things you don't think you should forgive yourself for.

He's not home and he won't be for another 3 months and he said bad timing and he didn't want to go but you made him, you told him you needed to do this alone because he can't always be there to save you and you've always learned everything the hard way anyway, pushed right in the deepest of waters, but you miss him so much and you wish he were here and you remember how the leader of the group said you need to do this for yourself not for anybody else but sometimes you think it's bullshit and sometimes you think you'd be able to put up with anything, literally anything, 'til the end of times, to make him feel loved because words are cheap and you only use them to make a living. If he were here you wouldn't sit in your bed, you would be lying down.

You talk on Skype. You call each other. That means you call him too and not only when you're in need or trouble. You call him to tell him you made eggs for lunch and you call him to tell him nothing in particular. He always sounds calm and you can hear his smile and it makes your chest tighten with something elemental but you don't ask him to come home because you promised yourself not to be selfish, at the very least when it comes to him.

You deliberately don't tell him when you're in a bad mood - particularly bad because you almost always feel either numb or very anxious - because you don't want him to worry. He's worried anyway and you know it and you hate it because it makes you feel like some kind of a recurring illness instead of a partner. Cancer, cured for the moment, but you can never be entirely sure or relaxed. You jump at every sign, real or imagined.

Now the paint is slowly drying on the wall and you feel old and sad. This is not that blinding, heavy, sticky sadness that makes you sigh and make resigned gestures. This is sudden and not connected to him or his absence. As far as you can tell it's not connected to anything, maybe other than your whole life, your existence which simply narrows down to you sitting in your bed at this very moment. You don't feel pathetic, or that's not a dominant feeling. You feel small and you laugh at yourself for all the cliché thoughts that come to your mind about everything being meaningless and people not being more significant than mere specks of dust in the universe.

Most of the time you're bored out of your skull.

It's dark outside and the music stopped god knows when and you're getting hungry which is another newish feature or ability of yours, or at least newly discovered as O. reminded you once, and you tell yourself maybe something sweet or you think that and you say this is unreal. You want a drink to make the beginning of this unstable feeling go away. You want fifteen drinks and you want to be unconscious, preferably for a few hours or the whole night, and you want to pick a fight with someone stronger than you. He's never willing to hurt you even when you ask him to. The paint is slowly drying on the wall and you decide to paint something over that stupid face tomorrow. You want a drink. You want fifteen drinks. It's been 4 months.

You're slowly lying down.

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CREATION STORY by Bob Schofield

At first the world was just one spiral.

Then that spiral grew a face.

The face was hungry. It filled with water. The face was silent, but never sleeping. A single tooth grew through the bottom.

The face was a word, and that word was “lake.”

The lake was tended by older creatures. Giants with horns and black spiral faces. The whole earth cooled beneath their shadow. They danced over the hills on cloven feet.

The lake was the twisting center of a universe.  Gears were built to keep it all in motion. Fish were constructed, to keep the water swirling. If a fish got caught in the gears, well, that was tragic. But they found it made the machine spin even faster. All that was needed was heat. A touch of fire.

The lake was a factory that ran on smoke.

Empty space hung above the lake. A vacuum, roaring. This displeased the spiral giants, so they painted over it with sky. Papered over it with clouds as the bright blue paint dried. They attached blackbirds there with nails and a length of wire. Smoke was bound to paper wings.

The giants pulled dirt from their hooves, wrapped it in trench coats. They called the dirt “policemen,” and told them to stand guard over the lake.

Now the world was almost ready. Each part fit together. The sky. The stars. The fish. The blackbirds. Everything clicked in its proper position. Held with wire. Moving in slow motion. Line upon line, tracing the outer counters of the lake.

And the world was good.

Or, at the very least, not as terrible as it could be.

Then the giants carved themselves coffins out of lake water, and lay their bodies down to sleep, leaving the rest of it there to spin and spin

So much smoke and hurt and fishbones. So many chewed up blocks of ice.

But beneath the lake, the fish were changing.

Their bodies grew long. They started speaking. They climbed to the top of the lake, and decided to stay there. They had fallen in love with their own reflections. The sight of their new shapely legs.

From there, everything moved quickly. The fish wore fur. They turned into foxes and bears and people. They climbed even higher, and mated with blackbirds. Their children took stones, and built a city in the sky. They lived in relative peace there, putting on corsets and inventing light bulbs. They paid their rent, and poured white powder on their wigs.

In time the fish forgot about the caves and gears beneath the lake. They forgot the smoke and all that spinning. The constant hunger of the waves.

But a lake needs fuel to keep it spinning. Something disposable to burn. So each night the clouds would roll in, weighed down with the dead, the dying. The sick and ruined. Or those just left behind.

A door would bloom in each cloud’s belly. The knob would turn, the hinges creaking. A bloom of heat, and the sky would turn orange. Like a second sunset, only this one framed in writhing bodies. Wrapped in flame and crying softly. From a distance they looked so small you might not even see them clearly. You might mistake them for fireworks over the lake.

Afterwards the doors would shut. The clouds would retreat. The lake was fed, and the world kept spinning. Things went on like this for years. A mound of bodies formed in the lake’s center. Each night it grew by a few inches.

Soon the mound became a mountain, and the fire inside was not so small.

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Nacogdoches, Texas

Jannick Meissner claimed to be from Eastern Bavaria. He spoke theatrically, e.g. “I will revenge myself upon Castro.”

Castro had slighted Jannick by not inviting him to an ongoing, Sunday afternoon table-top role playing game. Jannick was livid.

“I am an excellent storyteller,” he told me. We were drinking on Jannick’s front porch. I sat and he paced back and forth in a very tortured manner. “I will revenge myself upon Castro,” he repeated.

“You don’t even like role playing games,” I pointed out.

“This is accurate,” Jannick conceded. Jannick was a very cultured, seemingly intelligent German male in his early 30s. He did not like games. He preferred to drink whiskey, listen to Wagner and talk about the demise of Western culture. It was his favorite topic of conversation. Then, when he was very drunk, incredibly drunk, -- which was often -- he would make a solemn display of his sexual impotence, even in mixed company, and then stumble into the kitchen to cook you these extraordinary chicken quesadillas. I don’t think he even played cards.

Still, it was a matter of principle. Jannick felt like he was being ostracized because of his superior wit and charm. It was a matter of envy on Castro’s part. Castro is admittedly a bit of an ass, but the reality is Jannick could be very unpleasant. And his penis smelled horrible.


We were crossing the Straits of Colchis when Jannick rang the doorbell. Castro’s wife let him in and showed him to the game room, unaware of the fact that Jannick was not an invited guest. We all greeted him sheepishly. Castro managed to ask him how his day had been.

“Very good, Castro. I was walking through the neighborhood and thought I would stop by and say hello. What is it you are all doing?”

Castro explained impatiently that we were playing the Knights of New Corinth.

“May I observe the game for a little while? Would anyone care for a touch of mineral water and blended scotch? Castro, do you have a lemon and a sharp knife with a wide bevel?” Jannick sat down next to me and produced a flask without waiting for a reply.

Castro sighed audibly but we continued the game. I was never really worried that Jannick would revenge himself that afternoon. Traditionally, the man had never followed through on anything.

He was still overweight and still a drunkard, despite vowing tearfully on numerous occasions to give up cheeseburgers and highland single malt, his favorite pairing. But I did not realize then that Jannick’s vengeance that afternoon would be swift and costly.

We had made landfall on the Troezen Coast and were hiking to the caves further inland to mine for Adamantine, which was not a very glamourous undertaking, but necessary in order to defeat the Troll Wizard Pandonia X. This did not please Jannick.

“You’re miners, now?” He was incredulous. “This game is a fantasia, no? Why aren’t you fighting and pillaging? Kill the men and sexually humiliate the women in front of their children. Then sexually humiliate the animals in front of the clergymen. Then kill the clergymen. Let God watch this tapestry of devastation unfold.” Bear in mind that all of this was uttered unsmilingly, in a thick German accent.

“Jannick, right now we’re mining for Adamantine. You’re free to leave,” Castro said.

A pained expression crossed Jannick’s face. “Castro, Castro, I am sorry. I am not being a good guest. I apologize. Would you like some mineral water and scotch?”

Castro ignored him and kept narrating. As we were mining for Adamantine, a Praxis Dragon entered the cavern, attracted to the smell of our smoked whitefish.

“What’s the plan?” our buddy Stan asked.

“Well, fuck, I think we’ve got to make a run for it,” Castro opined.

Based on our diminished stores of magic and the abject state of our weapons (hence the visit to the mine), a retreat was a logical course of action. Jannick, again, objected.

“Stay and fight! Cowards!” “Goddammit, Jannick.”

But Jannick had a plan. Apparently, he’d done his research. “Use the Nabulus Vestibulovus spell to flood the cave with gas. Then shield yourself with the Adamantine you’ve unearthed. When the dragon releases his fire, he will blow himself up and you will be safe.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Stan said.

Castro, to be fair, acknowledged as much. “Alright, not bad, Jannick. Want a beer?”

Jannick happily accepted a beer. For the next two hours he was polite and inquisitive. He and Castro seemed to be getting along. When Castro’s kids came home from the park, they were introduced to “Uncle Jannick.” Jannick insisted on ordering pizza for everyone.

It happened after his third slice of mushroom and sausage. Jannick stood up abruptly and raised his fist. He was trying, I think, to make a serious declaration of his enmity, but before he could he leaned over the table and projectile vomited over everything, the seas, the mountains, the small village we massacred Sunday last, the sacred brothel of the elves. He kept vomiting for several minutes. When Castro ran back from the garage and offered Jannick a bucket, Jannick pushed him aside and kept willfully throwing up on the game table.

“Jesus! What the fuck, Jannick!” Castro cried as he tried to forcibly remove Jannick from the tableside. But Jannick gripped the table for dear life and kept vomiting.

When he was finally done, Jannick took a swig from his flask and wiped his mouth.

“I am an excellent story teller,” he said to Castro. Then he collapsed. I rode with him in the ambulance.

He was severely dehydrated. Jannick had eaten a big meal at home before he walked over to Castro’s, and he drenched his last pizza slice in syrup of ipecac, the well-known emetic. Wisely, he was put under psychiatric observation for 24 hours. I visited him, but Castro, understandably, refused.

Jannick complained, “Where is Castro? Why does he fail to visit me?” “He’s busy trying to repair the damage you caused.”

“Well, I think he is rude, and I shall, once more, revenge myself upon Castro,” Jannick declared.

The next day Jannick checked himself out of the hospital against the doctor’s advice. A few hours later they arrested Jannick for setting fire to the play structure in Castro’s backyard, then attempting to extinguish the flames by urinating on them. Despite a jubilant effort, he was not successful.

“I am no longer dehydrated. That doctor is a fraud,” Jannick declared as he was led to the police cruiser.

Some towns have their resident drunks and fading beauties. Ours has Jannick, arguably a synthesis of the two but so much more, eternally aggrieved, openly vain and routinely impotent by his own hand and bottle. His notoriety survives ice storms and the yearly lice and handjob epidemics at the middle school. Of course he seethes and bitches that Castro has yet to attend to him in prison. When they release him, any day now, Jannick tells me he will find another town, with more personable adversaries and perhaps a more sympathetic biographer.

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FROG POND by Chad Redden

After you open the door lying on the bottom of the pond it can go two ways.

The door will open to deeper water that shimmers in an unusual way. The water behind the door connects to another pond, in another world. To get there, you will swim downward, through the doorway. You will force every bit of air from your lungs, to keep you from floating upward, remaining in your world. When this doesn’t help you will grab onto the door frame, pull yourself through the doorway to the other side.


The door will open the door to mud, grime, more of the pond floor. You will close the door, return to the surface before your lungs give out. Before your lungs give way to the water trying to force a way into your body.


IF YOU RETURN TO THE SURFACE you look for your daughter, the spot she stood before you dove into the water. She is not there. You look to the other edges of the pond. Your sense of direction bobbles around inside of you.

You call out, “Daughter, Daughter, Daughter.”

Then, “The door didn’t open to anywhere.”

Then, “The door opened, but there was no place to go beyond it.”

You wait. You worry. You wait for her to call back. You worry she ran away again. You wait for her to reveal herself, from the darkness surrounding the pond, from the deep wall of trees, of underbrush. You worry. You wait. You call out, “Daughter, Daughter, Daughter,” again.

Branches bend, snap. Leaves shuffle, shiver against each other. Your daughter hides up in a tree. You watch for one of the trees to move, like you could see such a thing in the darkness. You watch for your daughter to reveal herself. She says to you, “My dream wasn’t wrong. Maybe your heart wasn’t full of intention, the right kind of intention.”

You consider the intention of your heart. As it is now. As it was under water. You recall kicking a turtle as you swam toward the door. What you thought might have been a turtle. You apologized with your heart. You call out to the daughter, “Maybe tonight, you’ll have another dream. Maybe it takes us someplace else. Maybe gives a bit more guidance.

Your daughter does not reply. You watch the trees. Wait for one to move, for your daughter to climb down to the grass. Clouds gather. The trees remain still, quiet.


IF YOU WATCH THE CLOUDS AS THEY COVER THE STARS you remember the constellations you made up for yourself when you were a child. Their shapes. Their names. ‘The disastrous egg.’ ‘The reminder mouse.’ ‘The many mixed up skeletons lost out in space.’

You remember the constellation you made up in the shape of your favorite professional wrestler. The one who used gardening shears to cut the hair of the other wrestlers. After a wrestler’s hair was cut, they were destroyed. Without power. Weak. Crumpled down to the mat of the wrestling ring. Career ruined. Crying on television. Like Samson after the loss of his hair.

You consider the powerless of your entire life because you have spent your entire life without long hair. You remember a time when you wanted to grow your hair long, to your knees. But the process made you feel awkward. Your hair grew upward, outward, heavy. It barely went below your chin. You gave up, cut your hair short.

You say to your daughter, “I’m walking home now.”


IF YOU DO NOT THINK ABOUT THE STARS you instead think about the mud drying to your feet, your hands. The coldness of the water in your clothes. The heaviness in them as well. You want to walk home. You call out to your daughter, “I want to go home.”

She calls back to you, “You should go back in.”

You say, “I don’t have the lungs for it. I don’t think I’d come back up.”

Your daughter says, “If you don’t come back up that will mean you made it to the other side.”


IF YOU WALK HOME WITHOUT YOUR DAUGHTER you take a path that leads you to a road. A road congested with an encampment of people living out of their cars. People who decided one day to go driving until they ran out of gas. Then began living out of their cars. How so many people ran out of gas in the same place is a mystery. Some living among the cars theorize a divine influence wanted them to live in the road, to be fruitful, to multiply. Some government agencies theorize possible solutions to clear the road of people.

A lookout for the camp sees you. When he slaps on the trunk of his car you say to yourself, this man has studied woodpeckers. He continues to slap on the trunk of his car until you look at him.


IF YOU LOOK AT THE MAN SLAPPING THE TRUNK OF HIS CAR he calls out to you, says “Are you interested in a tumbleweed?”

“Interested how?” You ask, unsure if this man wants to show or sell you a tumbleweed. “I don’t have money to waste.” You say. Which is true. Dollars are in short supply.

“Not trying to sell you anything, trying to give it a better home.” The mans says. He opens the trunk of his car, shines a flashlight inside to a narrow, small tumbleweed. It looks nothing at all like the tumbleweeds you’ve seen in movies. Small leaves are still attached to it.

You say, “It looks like a small shrub.”

The man replies, “That’s how tumbleweeds start out. You’ve got to let it dry up, change into a tumbleweed. Like one of those zen trees.”

“Bonsai tree?”

“Yeah, bonsai tree. Like that. But you don’t water it, you pull off the leaves.”

“I always thought tumbleweeds just looked like tumbleweeds.”

The man nods like he his sympathetic to your confusion. “It’s like this, I drove out west to find a tumbleweed for a girl. I was going to ask her out with the tumbleweed. If you were the girl you’d think it was a cute idea. But when I got to Missouri I got a bit nervous, being so far from home. So I turned around, bought this one from a store. So I could be truthful when said I drove all the way out west to get one. But it’s too late now, I’ve been out here for weeks. I’d just like to give this tumbleweed to someone who could use it.”

“I’m not sure that I could use it.”

“Maybe you know someone that might be then, someone who needs to calm down. Like a child or a boss? Someone with a lot of stress or energy?”

One side of the tumbleweed was already picked clean. When you point this out to the guy he says, “Yeah, I started pulling off the leaves. It made me feel calm, but not calm enough.”

You say, “Thanks though, I’m not that interested. What about the kids around here? One of them might like it, to have something to do.”

“The kids all ran off.” The guy says.

“The kids ran off?”

“Yeah, one day they were on the side of the road playing, then like a wind came. Blew them away. Not really the wind, it was their feet that carried them away. Into those trees over there.” The man points to a line of trees, hills. The kind of place that would hold a forgotten plane crash.

“Is anyone looking for the kids? The parents? The police?”

“Yeah of course. No one just lets kids run off to live on their own in the woods. Why else do you think so many of these cars are empty?”

It was true. Most of the cars on the road were empty. You think of how much effort it would take to get everyone back into their cars. Or to push the driverless cars to the edge of the road to make a path through them.

The man says, “Not everyone went looking for the kids. Some people have too many payments left to abandon their car. Which, I can understand, but they’re in denial. These cars aren’t moving again.”

The man pulls the tumbleweed from the trunk, sets it on the ground beside the car. You both stand over it, watching for a wind to come help the tumbleweed tumble away. Wind does blow. Rocks the plant a little.

You ask the man, “Why do you want to get rid of the tumbleweed now?”

“I saw all of this playing out a bit differently.”


IF YOU IGNORE THE MAN SLAPPING THE TRUNK OF HIS CAR you walk around the camp, continue home. You find your daughter is already there. This confuses you as you are unsure of which path she could have taken to arrive home before you.

Once you are home she tells you she wants to go back out to which you say, “It’s a little too late already.”

Your daughter says, “It’s a night for dressing up in order to be scarier than anything you might meet in the night. I’m going to go around wearing my insides on the outside.”

You look at the calendar. It’s true. It is a night for dressing up in order to be scarier than anything else in the night. You know you can’t argue with her. You say, “There is a box of old bed sheets I’ve meant to donate out in the garage. You could turn one of them into a ghost by cutting some holes for eyes.”

Your daughter asks, “Have you even seen anything scary in your life?”

You say, “I have, but don’t want to talk about it.”

Then you say. “Ghosts still scare plenty of people.”

Your daughter holds out to a book on human anatomy. She shows you pictures of lungs, hearts, organs, intestines. She says, “Look at all of this stuff. Sitting around inside of us. You’d never know it by looking at a person. All of it is just waiting to pop out, scare you. That’s what I think is scary.”


IF YOU WALK HOME FROM THE POND WITH YOUR DAUGHTER you see searchlights shine upon the clouds in the sky. The kind of searchlights only people would think to use on the sky. The clouds above hang thick, plastered in place. It feels like a ceiling about to come down at any moment. Searchlights shine upward from many locations. Some whirl. Some swirl. All move without organization, or any purpose you can determine. You ask, “What are they looking for?”

Your daughter replies, “Probably a way out.”

When you arrive home you find your searchlight, then shine it toward the sky. You guide your light to meet the others already shining upon the clouds. Many lights move to meet your light. Swirl around then glide away. Your light follows them. This makes you feel like a fish, swimming among other fish in a school. At least what you think it would be like to be a fish, swimming among other fish in a school.


IF YOU TAKE A MOMENT TO PRETEND YOU ARE A FISH you make your light chase the other lights. You move your mouth like you breathe water. You think a few fish thoughts. Then stop. You remember you didn’t like being in the water all that much tonight.


IF YOU FOCUS ON YOUR LIGHT IN THE CLOUDS FOR HOURS WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN you move your light along with slow passes, not wanting to miss any movement, or opening. When your neck begins to hurt, you rotate it in circles to release the tension.

You think you could trick something into poking out of the clouds by turning off your light for a moment, only to turn it back on again a second or two later. Thinking something was in the clouds that could be tricked into making an appearance, making it think it was safe enough to come out. Other spotlights get the same idea, flash their lights. You feel proud for having some influence on the night. Even after spectacle turns hard on the eyes.

Somewhere south of you someone lets out a shout, “There!” The searchlights converge, find their way to the ‘there’, to the object. Your light follows the others. You see it. A small twin-engine airplane. Free from the clouds, its silver fuselage in the searchlight reflects the light back at your eyes with a harsh speed. As you are blinded, it seems the pilot is blinded as well. The plane wobbles. Loses control. Dives to the ground. You realize there is too much light shining on the plane. You yell out, “We’ve blinded the pilot.”

The searchlights do not hear you. They follow the plane to the ground as it falls into a tailspin. Then faster than the searchlights can follow. The plane crashes into some faraway hills. The wreckage burns in them in a way that makes you realize you missed the sunset this evening. That you miss the sunset many evenings.


IF YOU DO NOT SPEND THE REST OF YOUR EVENING TRYING TO ORGANIZE YOUR FAVORITE SUNSETS INTO A TOP TEN LIST you search the sky with your searchlight. You look for a parachute, the pilot. You see them falling slow like a paper tissue to the ground. You know how paper tissues fall to the ground. Once you pulled all of the tissues from a cube of tissues to make it snow upon your sister. It was summer, one of those July nights when the heat made it impossible to sleep. Your sister wanted to feel cool. Both of you tried to think cool, as a way to handle the heat. You both imagined sleeping upon things like icebergs, avalanches.

Your mother became upset that you wasted the tissues. She was more mad about the money it took to buy tissues. It didn’t make sense to you at the time. How could anything so soft cost money? You asked your mother to make more money to buy more tissues. This made her cry. You apologized. Swore to her you’d make enough money one day to make it snow tissues all over the world. It would be the softest day for everyone.


IF YOU SWAM THROUGH THE DOOR ON THE BOTTOM OF THE POND you find yourself on the bottom of another pond. A pond in another world. You swim to the surface. The air in this world smells like mint. Fresh, growing from the ground mint. Not the mint of candy, ice cream. You try to think of what your world will smell like when you return to it. That maybe you will be able to notice its smell after an absence. You hope it smells as good as the mint of this world. But remembering the state of the place you came from, it may very well smell like burnt popcorn.

You wade out of the pond, your ears clear of water. Frogs begin to croak, sing. A few at first until it becomes a chorus of frogs until it sounds like every frog in the world sits around the pond. All calling out at once. A wall. A storm of sound that makes it hard for you to remember what you’re doing in the night, walking out of a pond in another world.

You call out to them, and say “                         .”

But the volume of the frogs overwhelms your voice. You cannot hear what you say, cannot be sure you have said anything. You call out again, “                                              .”

And again, “                                              !“

And again, “                                               .”

Until you shout out random words, hoping that one of them can break through the frog sound, “



IF YOU DECIDE TO JUMP BACK INTO THE POND you lose the sound of the frogs under the water. You swim down to the door lying on the bottom. It’s closed. You reach for the handle, but find a blank wooden space where a handle should be. You feel around the surface of the door for a way to open it. You find nothing. You try to pry your fingers into the jam, to open it that way. Your fingers slip. Your lungs knock at the undersides of your ribs.

You return to the surface. Cough up a little pond water. Feel not all of it left you, that you swallowed a little. Recover. When you can’t stand the chorus of all of the frogs at the frog pond, you dive down again to the door.

This time you knock on the door. No one answers. Then you slap at it. Kick at it. Scream out the last bit of air you have. Then return to the surface.

Cough up a little more pond water. Knowing more is inside you, you think of yourself as an expensive container for pond water. Your tongue feels dead, overwhelmed with the bitter flavor of the pond. An over brewed tea, except not a tea made from tea leaves. A tea made from dirt, rot, rain.

When the sound of all of the frogs at the frog pond overwhelms you, you dive back down to the door. You don’t have a plan this time. You stare at the door until pond water forces itself into your mouth.


IF YOU WALK AWAY FROM THE FROG POND you consider taking off your clothes. They are heavy with water, mud, the filth of the water. Their weight forces your back into a slight, uncomfortable hunch. You feel like a creature made of scales, gills, slime. You make creature sounds you cannot hear. The frog song overwhelms your voice.

You walk until the sun rises, walk toward the sunrise. This burns your eyes, because of the brightness of the sun. Also your eyes feel tired, worn. Your clothes feel lighter. They have dried. The mud on your hands turned pale. Flakes off. You feel like less of a creature now. Someone coming upon you might think you were a ghost.. You make ghost sounds. You can hear them. You walked far enough away from the frogs to hear yourself again.

Ahead of you someone yells out, “Here comes something. Something not from the road.” People gather in the road, around cars, an encampment. You wave to them. They wave back with tire irons, boards.

You say to the people, “I fell into a pond. The mud.”

A woman wearing a hubcap as a sun visor asks, “Were there fish? Something to eat in the pond?”

You tell the people you didn’t see any fish. You tell them about the frogs. A man wearing duct tape sandals claims to know how to catch, cook frogs. A group gathers, runs off in the direction of the pond. Some children follow behind, dragging along amateur spears, nets.

The people among the cars offer the back seat of a car to you as a place to rest. You accept the seat, lay down. Before sleeping you think about the frogs, the expedition headed to the pond. You feel guilty about the fate of the frogs. But remember you only heard them, you didn’t see any frogs around the frog pond. Maybe things would work out for the frogs.


IF YOU STAY AMONG THE PEOPLE OF THE CARS you witness frogs become currency among the people of the cars within a day. The people capture them alive. Find or create makeshift buckets. Fill the bucket with water. Some people leave their cars to go to live by the pond full time. To catch frogs. Then trade them for parts of cars they use to build shelters. Then a fence around the pond. So they may keep control of the frog supply. The pond water.

At night the frogs continue to sing. No one sleeps. Not the people among the cars. Not the people living near the pond. People take to yelling at each other, the frogs, the cars, the water. Some people go about eating the frogs as soon as they trade or capture them. Just to make the world a bit quieter.

You find a windshield sun visor to trade for a frog. You would eat the frog, but have no way to clean the frog or to cook it. You keep it as a companion. You lie in the backseat, watch over the frog. The frog lives in a shallow pan of water you placed on the floor board. You sleep during the heat of the day, stay up with the frog at night. You let the frog sing all it wants. You reach down in the dark with a finger, try to pet the frog. Sometimes all you do is dip your finger in water.

You tell the frog, “This is all my fault. I should have never said anything about the pond.”

The frog does not change their singing in any way that would let you know if the frog forgives you.

You consider releasing the frog. Opening the back door, letting the frog hop away. But then in this economy. You’re sure someone would scoop up the frog and eat them. Or trade the frog for something from someone who would eat the frog.

But you also don’t wish for the frog to starve to death. You are unsure how long a frog can go without eating. You have been unable to capture any bugs to feed the frog. You had hoped it was a vegetarian, that the frog might eat the leaves, seeds, grass you found near the road. The frog pushed the vegetation down into the water of the shallow pan.


IF YOU DO NOT RELEASE THE FROG you wait until the part of the morning when frogs stop singing, when the people fall asleep. You leave the camp knowing it is the only way to keep the frog safe. From the people, the economy of frogs. You hide the frog in your shirt pocket. You carry a bottle of water to sprinkle water on the frog. To keep them wet. You look up at the sky. There are clouds. You do not understand what the clouds mean.

You tell the frog, while sitting among grass, “If it were raining I’d let you go here, among this tall grass. You’d have water. Also, I bet you could find a lot to eat out here.”

You tell the frog, “I wish I would have studied clouds. To know which ones mean rain or storms. Where I’m from, there are people who have jobs were all they do is look at clouds, then report to others what’s coming.”

You tell the frog, “Not like looking at the clouds to see shapes, omens. Though rain clouds look a certain way. But that would be a fun job. To look at clouds all day. See what is going to blow over the town, the state. Tell the people what kinds of feelings are in the air based on the shapes you see in the clouds. Maybe people would be a bit better about their actions, knowing what was in the air above.”

You tell the frog. “While I wish that was how people worked, that’s not how they work at all.”

You tell the frog, “If I were someone else I would have eaten you. Honestly, if I were me but a little more skilled at killing animals, I would have eaten you.”

You find a small stream. You set the frog down on a hump of sand, gravel in the water. The frog crawls away from you, to the water.  The current carries the frog away. Faster than you would have thought. You feel accomplished. You feel lonely. You sit by the water a while. Scoop up a few handfuls to drink. Then a few handfuls to wash your face.

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An Inspirational/Crazy Informative Guide to Proper Book Blurbage

(An excerpt from Sad Laughter, forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms)

“[This book] will fry up some prose eggs in your ol’ brain pan.”


“[This writer] is the kind of poet whose madness and how [he/she] exorcises that madness is a thing of dark brilliance one can admire from afar but if you ever let [him/her] crash at your house for a few days [he/she] would scare the living shit out of you.”


“[This writer] can fix your pipes and your roofing but [his/her] book of durable, brick-layered stories can also fix your mind plumbing, too.”


“[This book] sends a roundhouse kick to your funny bone before blowing it up. Disagree? Then I don’t con­sider you a person; you are a terrorist towards good taste.”


“Reading [this book] is like waking up to find a bloody horsehead in bed with you and then screaming but not screaming because you’re repulsed but because you’ve actually discovered a fresh way to look at life and it’s amazing.”


“[This writer] definitely has a way with words—they aren’t written; they’re kicked and fondled before being splattered across the page like a dead, wet dog.”


“[He/She] is the type of writer you’d let crash at your apartment and then wake up to find they’ve murdered your pets and then turned them into dancing puppets that are now lip-synching to all your favorite Debbie Gibson cassingles, so yeah, a real party animal.”


“[This book] takes readers on an uncompromising fun­house ride of damaged people attractions.”


“[This writer] is the type of poet who will put [his/her] head through a plate glass window just to make killer poetry out of [his/her] face.”


“[This book] is a brave and poignant look into a per­son’s mind as they struggle to exist in a world where Hulka­mania is generally not the strongest force in the uni­verse and we are all in danger of being crushed by a 500-pound giant hailing from parts unknown.”


“[This book] is recommended for anyone who knows how to read.”


“[He/She] is the kind of writer clever enough to moon­light as a lawyer/sociopath capable of freaking out a table full of squares by using hella unassuming meth­ods, so yeah, a wonderful talent.”


“[This writer] writes like a sadistically imaginative child who plays house by burning down the house.”


“[This book is] a coming-of-age fever dream [the author] carved into some Ouija board [he/she] later used to summon the spirits of David Koresh, Jesus Christ, and Richard Ramirez.”


“[This writer] is like the Tombstone of frozen descrip­tive prose pizza.”


“While reading [this book] you’ll feel as though you’ve been taken hostage, like you’ve been stuffed and then zipped inside of [the author’s] emotional baggage, which is okay because it’s warm in there, at least.”


“[This book] is kind of like Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov meets Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, or maybe like The Notebook meets Re-Animator, I don’t fucking know.”


“[This writer] is like Sissy Spacek in the movie Carrie when they dump pig blood on her but instead of setting the prom on fire [he/she] ignites your thoughts using dark and mysterious word torches.”


“If the literary scene were a slammin’ mosh pit, [this writer] would be commanding that shit using wind­mills and crazy roundhouse kicks.”


 “[This book’s] narrative is like the music video for Van Halen’s ‘Right Now,’ except it makes sense, and it’s funny for the right reasons, and it isn’t as preachy.”


“[This book] is the literary equivalent of Kid Rock’s dandruff.”


“Though [this writer] has never won a literary award, it’s quite possible they’ve accidentally urinated on themselves while drunk, so…”


“Crackling with powerful satanic energy, [this book] is like When Harry Met Sally except Harry listens to nu metal and Sally is possessed by Zuul from Ghostbusters, has an addiction to shitty speed, and may or may not be a juggalo.”


“[He/She] is the type of writer you’d let crash at your apartment and then wake up to find naked and sum­moning weird spirits while kneeling in the center of some pentagram they’ve drawn out on your living room floor using your pet’s blood, so yeah, a real pain in the ass.”


“Reading [this book] is like having your emotions con­stantly dunked on by Shaq.”


“[He/She] is the kind of writer who will pilfer a leather bomber jacket out of a garbage can and then hit the shitty neighborhood bar thinking they look real god­damn good in it, so yeah, a kindred spirit.”


“[This book is] dripping with comical dark poignancy... like a bacon, egg and cheese McGriddle.”


“Reading [this writer] is like getting a totally sweet hand job from someone with an MFA—someone really smart, but also someone kinda shifty, kinda dangerous.”


“[This writer] is the type of person who’d eat the fries off your plate after you’ve gotten up to use the bathroom at Perkins, which means they’re a real sneaky ass.”


“Sorry, book blurb was replaced by Metallica’s St. Anger snare drum sound.”

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ON OUR WAY TO SEE YOU by Ashley Hutson

Right now we're stuck behind a funeral procession and it looks like we're going to be late. Mack keeps saying, How long, how long? We're on our way to see you.

I adjust the rear-view mirror, and Mack is in the back seat, bouncing around. He never settles down when the car goes slow, refuses to be lulled like other children, does not even want to be sung to. He's saying, How long, how long?

And it is about noon right now, and it is a beautiful day and it is November. There is a hearse way up at the front. The cars in the line are mismatched and strangely colorful. Funny how these things appear without warning. An hour ago I got the call, and I swept up Mack and yanked some clothes on him and we piled into the car and I hit the gas. I flew out of town, I don't mind telling you, and it seemed like I turned around for a second—just one second, to yell at Mack to calm down and quit screaming—and when I turned back there was this line of traffic in front of me stopped dead. It happened so quick that I slammed on the brakes, throwing Mack and me forward to strangle on our seat belts for a second. Uh-oh, Mack said.

These long, narrow roads between towns. You know them. You always complained about them when you had to get up in the pre-dawn hours, never knew what animal would jump out from the black woods and drive you off the road into death. Every morning in winter I'd listen to you grouch as I poured the coffee, and this was before Mack was born, this was when everything between us was an adventure and the only thing that worried you was a lonely road in the dark, and my biggest fear was a spider lurking in a kitchen corner. The kitchen of that house we loved, that was a long time ago, remember? And now here we are, me here on this road and you there, and Mack is in the back seat wailing like a devil, ignoring me like he was birthed out of some other woman's loins. Like I am not his mama at all.

Mack starts counting the cars ahead of us. They don’t make noise. I wind down my window and there’s only silence and wind. It is colder than it looks. I close the window. We're a mile outside of town, at the part of the road where it stretches wide and flat after a steep hill, and the cornfields spread out, and at the horizon are rounded mountains so far away they look blue. An open space like this is something special around here, you remember how the first time Mack saw this part of the road and yelled Roller coaster! like it was some big deal.

Now he's in the backseat and saying How much longer? and I tell him to keep counting cars. He skips numbers. He goes from eleven back to three.

I start counting, too. Everything is slow. And I am telling you what, these cars are all clean. I don't see a filthy one in the bunch, not like our old beater that I haven't taken to the carwash in who knows how long. And this day is so fine, so clear, and it's November and just as brown and gold and blue as a late fall day can be, crisp as flint corn. On these kinds of days you and me used to go out right before dusk, we would take walks in the woods down by the old gristmill's abandoned skeleton and I'd kiss you on a path so private no one but deer would see, and then on Sundays we'd go to your Granny's house and eat pot-pie until we were sick.

I am on my way to see you but I am stuck. A procession is ahead of me, a long, crooked line. How long? How long? Mack is saying.

He's lost count, and so have I. I can't see the hearse anymore, it's gone over the far hill and out of sight. There are three cemeteries between you and me and we’ve already passed two, and I keep hoping these cars will stop, I keep waiting for them to turn. But the cars keep moving in a slow drip-drip-drip fashion, and for some reason I am thinking of water, thinking of the word wet, thinking of sex, trying to think of the last time we did it in that small bed in our apartment before you got the night-cough and started with the pills. That apartment we had to move into after you got laid off, you hated it because you thought I hated it, but let me tell you right now: I never hated any room you were in. Right now I am thinking of your jaw clicking when you bit into a sandwich, and how the noise sounded like you were crushing gravel. The sound would satisfy me so, as if your mouth were mine.

The third cemetery is approaching, and Mack is in the backseat like some kind of ghoul that was visited upon me, upon both of us, like a night flower that bloomed in my stomach, like a premonition saying How long? How long? Mack is like a lot of things but the thing I most regret is that he looks exactly like me and not like you at all, even though that was something you cooed and congratulated the baby for—you congratulated a baby—while I lay there in the hospital bed, wondering if my insides would ever feel properly arranged again. And Mack being born sickly, with my spongy bones and looking like me, surely that was some kind of punishment? An omen? But of course you took his birth as a boon, to you Mack was a gift and it didn't matter that he was smaller than most or couldn't get his words out clear like other kids or that maybe my blood was to blame. You said he was a good kid because he was us put together and that blood was not poison, blood was just blood, and you'd never seen an omen in your life.

We've been following this funeral parade for what seems like a few hours now. I am trying to get to you but there is this line of cars I cannot pass or see the end of. I still cannot see the hearse. Sometimes I get glimpses, but you know how this countryside is hilly, is rocky and rough, and I keep losing sight of the hearse over the next hill or around the narrow curves that infest this place, the steep inclines that laugh at this old car, the landscape sneering at the humans who tried to carve a road into it.

The cars passed the last cemetery miles ago and I can't help it, I keep following them. Now they're splitting off the main road, going up a mountain. The night is coming fast. I forgot how early darkness falls this time of year. My ears are going shut. Mack is quieter now, lying down in the backseat. He's whimpering a little. I can't get the memory of a normal afternoon two weeks ago out of my brain. Do you remember? It was October then. You were setting trash bags on the curb outside the apartment, and I was at the kitchen sink skinning an apple, and Mack was watching the TV in another room, and when I caught your eye through the window you gave me a smile. You raised up your hand and waved.

From the back seat I hear, How much longer? but I ignore it. I gun the engine, willing the car to climb higher, higher. Where this mountain ends, I don't know.

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GHOST SEX by Chris Dankland

Lucille died of leukemia in Utah. Richard died in a car accident in Seoul. They were both 16 years old when they died, and now they'd be 16 years old forever, two pissed off sulking virgins condemned to populate the dreams of the living. All those faceless extras that appear in your dreams, where do you think they come from? Just whipped up out of nowhere? No you idiot, those people are ghosts.


In 1967, a Dominican garbage man in Queens dreamed about winning the Nobel Prize. Lucille and Richard were in the audience, sitting next to each other. Richard was wearing a tuxedo and Lucille was wearing a beautiful dress made out of a giant wet tongue. At the front of the room, the Dominican garbage man ranted about how he invented trash that doesn't smell. Every ten seconds, every audience member was supposed to stand up and cheer.

Richard looked over at Lucille, looking her up and down. Nice dress, he whispered through the side of his mouth.

Lucille stood up and cheered. She sat back down. Thanks, she said, grinning. It's the only good thing about this dream. What a jackass, she said, nodding at the stage.

Richard grinned. He stood up and cheered. He sat back down. The Dominican garbage man droned on and on and on. The two teenage ghosts managed to have quite a long conversation during that time. They introduced themselves. They complained about the afterlife. (What a fucking disappointment, sighed Lucille.) They talked about how they’d died. They talked about all the things they missed. They talked about the things they never did.

I never kissed anyone, said Lucille, quietly. She stood up and cheered. She sat back down.

Really? said Richard. But you’re so pretty!

Lucille blushed the same color as her red tongue dress. Thank you, she mumbled through a grin. Nobody wants to kiss somebody that’s dying, I guess. You didn’t see me the last year of my life. I was bald and pale and skeletal. I was throwing up all the time. I could barely get out of bed.

Can I kiss you? said Richard. He stood up and cheered. He sat back down.

When they sat back down, Lucille nodded enthusiastically. Richard leaned over and pressed his soft lips on hers. Everyone else in the audience stood up and cheered. But Richard and Lucille just stayed sitting there, pawing each other, breathing hard, making out.

Hey! said a nearby ghost. Pay attention!

They didn’t even bother to peel their faces from each other long enough to tell the creep to fuck off.


In 1983, Richard and Lucille met again. This time it was in the dream of a Japanese house wife who was taking an afternoon nap. She was dreaming about a haunted house full of pillows with arms and legs. The pillows had giant mouths full of razor sharp teeth, and they were running around murdering people. Richard and Lucille were both dead bodies laying on the kitchen floor.

Hey! said Lucille, quietly. She moved her foot and nudged Richard. Richard opened his eyes in a squint, but when he spotted Lucille they shot wide open.

HEY LUCILLE! he said loudly.

Lucille grinned and said: Shh shh shhhhh. The pillow monsters were running all over the house, chasing the Japanese housewife. Those fuckers have sharp teeth, she said.

Richard nodded and quietly crawled over, closer to her face. He kissed her. I missed you so much, he said.

Me too, she sighed.

Who knows when this bitch is gonna wake up again, said Richard. Lucille nodded sadly. Do you want to know something that I never got to do before I died? he asked. Lucille nodded happily. Richard stretched out his hand and put it between Lucille’s thighs. She blushed. Thirty seconds later, she was squirming. Lucille looked over at Richard’s pants. Something big and long was bulging down his leg, twitching like a chrysalis eager to shed its cocoon. She unzipped him and pulled it out. It felt good in her hands. Warm and hard and swollen. For a long time, they rubbed each other like that, watching each other grin and grimace and pant and whimper and groan.

All the sudden, a pillow monster scampered into the room, bug-eyed and wild.

Fuck! said Richard, jumping to his feet, hard as a rock. He jumped in front of Lucille and wrestled with the pillow monster, punching it in the face and throwing it around. Lucille! he said, between kicks. Meet me in the dreams of the first baby born in 2078! Find me! The pillow monster snarled and screamed.


The Japanese housewife woke up.


In 2078, the first baby born on the planet was a girl from Nigeria. Her first dream came on the the third day of her life. Newborn baby dreams don’t usually have ghosts in them. Babies know nothing of the world. They know nothing of other people, not in the way that you and I do. To babies, people are amorphous blobs with liquid vibrating voices. And that was how Richard and Lucille appeared. Two naked lava lamp bodies with voices like singing waterfalls. The baby floated in a fractal womb full of patterns and squiggles. Richard and Lucille were playing the baby’s father and mother.

Your dick looks like a bowl of red jello, said Lucille, giggling.

Richard smiled and rolled his eyes, which nearly floated out of his head. He had to reach up and grab them so they didn’t get away from him. Look who’s talking, Miss Picasso painting, he said.

Lucille looked down and laughed. I have like fourteen breasts, she said. I guess the baby is hungry.

I think it’s kinda hot, said Richard.

You do? Well, I have to admit your jello boner is kind of doing it for me, too. Let me try something. Lucille floated down until she was six feet from Richard’s waist. She started sucking in air through her mouth like a straw. Richard groaned. His jello dick start stretching out, slowly pulled toward her mouth. Soon his dick was six feet long, filling her mouth. Richard held his head back and groaned.

Come here, he gasped.

Lucille floated over like a wiggly amoeba. Richard’s six foot long dick gently pushed through her skin, deep into her center. She wrapped her arms around him and gasped.

They finished fucking two hours later. In the newborn baby’s dream they held each other tight, their hearts pumping in perfect synchronized rhythm.

We have to do this again, said Richard. We have to.

Yes, said Lucille. I don’t want to be without you. I love you, she said.

I love you too, said Richard. Next time, let’s meet in somebody’s wet dream. Lucille nodded enthusiastically.

Lucille hugged Richard as tight as she could. I love newborn babies, she said. They sleep all fucking day.

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A list of things you miss. A touch with the lips. The knock-you-on-your-ass touch, the kind that starts in the lower extremity of the leg below the ankle, as he moves closer to you, the kind where he waits for you to wrap your ammunition around him and then he pulls you in and you press with your lips pursed and slightly parted, like an immature form of animal or insect which undergoes some metamorphosis on this fucked earth, together with all of its countries, peoples and natural features which hide in our internal organs, a pear-shaped enlargement of the alimentary canal linking the esophagus to the small intestine, insects waiting in their little silky cases spun by larvae for protection, waiting for the true combination of high polymer qualities such as shape, color or form, those that please the aesthetic senses, especially sight.

A list of things you miss. Kiss so the insects with two pairs of large wings covered in tiny scales, usually brightly coloured, typically held erect when at rest, and the nocturnal insects (pocket of dust) related to butterflies could spread their number of specialized paired appendages that enable them to fly, in particular: outwards and upwards and out, out of the opening in the lower part of the human face, the tunnel surrounded by the lips, left dust and spines of insect foot in the wet membrane home through which food is taken in and from which speech and other sounds are emitted.

A list of things you miss. The kind of touch with lips that wait until 2AM, after I was gone for each of the twelve named periods into which the Gregorian year is divided, after I was gone for thirteen rotations of earth’s satellite mother. The kind of touch that waited at the lowest part or point of the grief container, typically made of glass or plastic and with a narrow neck, used for storing booze, before it had the strength in the face of pain or grief to crawl up out of its trash hole and hit me on the face, breaking the orbital, surface of the thing, what is a fracture on the socket of the eye? Especially the touch that was presented to his view, in particular, the touch on the lips slightly parted with teeth showing, which cradles the upper part of the human body, or the front-or-upper part of the body of the animal, typically separated from the rest of the body by a neck, that which contains the brain, mouth, and sense organs in between its palms, fingers, and thumbs, he waits for me to cry, the touch on the lips slightly parted with teeth showing and a tongue that pushes through the mouth that tastes drops of salt liquid secreted from glands in the eye when they cry or when the eye is irritated and he tells me it's going to be okay.

A list of things you miss. The touch on the lips slightly parted with teeth showing and a tongue that pushes through the mouth to touch another’s tongue, the touch that doesn't happen anymore is the one that says "I’m here you're here and we're alive" after a near miss; internal combustion engine unfortunate incident, one which happened unexpectedly and unintentionally, resulted in damage or injury, left black polymeric substance made from latex on the mixture of dark pitch with sand or gravel, used for surfacing roads, scraping skin, flooring, roof of mouth, etc; this accident which left a strengthened band of metal fitted around the rim of wheels screaming louder than the invisible gaseous substance surrounding the earth, a mixture mainly of oxygen and nitrogen, hefting in and out of the pair of organs studded within my rib cage, elastic sacs with branching passages into which air is drawn, squealing like a hard-boiled egg or some skinned sausage bursting with juice, so oxygen can pass into the blood uncollapsed and carbon dioxide can be removed.

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Ain't it always the case.

I'm bored as fuck. Life's like that. So I fill my coat pockets with cans of beer. Drink as I cruise the streets. Stopping to look in windows that aren't obstructed. And ain't it always the case? You get caught on the last one.

The whole night going good. Then blammo. Out of nowhere. It's over. Some fucking do-gooder concerned citizen. Prodding into affairs that ain't their own. Acting tough. And as soon as they start yelling. You know you're sunk.

Like tonight. I'm standing there in the darkness. Behind these shrubs. Tall ones. I recognize the scent. Spruce. I convince myself I'm hidden here. From the quiet streets. Prying eyes. Even pedestrians.

And boy oh boy. You can imagine. I'm having a real good time. Beer in hand. Peering through a curtain free basement window. Watching this big fat fuck bastard standing in his bathroom. Shirt off. Shadows cast from a bare bulb above his head.

Makes his tits look extra saggy I whisper.

I lean in a little closer. Confident the light indoors hides me in it's reflection. He picks up a can of shaving cream. Fills an empty palm. Then grabs a blue plastic razor. Disposable variety. Holds it in his hand. He lathers both shoulders. He draws the cheap razor upwards. Flinging the used foam in the basin shadowed by his gut.

Then it happens. All the peace and quiet is interrupted. Some fucker yelling. I can't make out what he's saying. But I can't ignore it either. I turn around. Towards the street. No one in either direction. Fucking bizarre. Oh well. Maybe I'm going nuts? I am staring in people's windows after all.

But that can't be. I'm in control. So I hone in the noise like a dog. Look up. Ah ha. There's the source. Some god damned kook on a wrought iron terrace built for one. He's got both his fists wrapped around the railing. Shaking with anger. And the only detail I can make out in the dark. Is the small orange glow of a cigarette between the knuckles of his left hand.

When I look up at him. The son a bitch gets even hotter. Jumping up and down. Flailing his arms. I worry about structural stability while he yells profanities. Calling me demented. A pervert. The complete line of slander. I'm hurt. I'm not doing anything lewd. I'm only stealing a moment.

And there's no way I'm going to stand here. Take this bullshit. I've got dignity. Self-respect I think it's called. So I gulp my beer. Then yell up hey buddy, mind your own damn business. Like ain't you got a dog that needs sodomizing?

Well shit. That does the trick. Hit a soft spot I suppose. Because he kicks the posts. Rattles the rails. Thrashes his head back and forth. And without noticing. He accidently crushes the cigarette between his fingers. I watch it tumble through the air. And I forget about him. The yelling. How guilty I look.

Until I hear those words. The ones I’ve heard so many times before. The ones that hit like a knife. And break me from my trance. I called the cops you fucking piece of shit! Uh oh. God damn it! I have to get out of here. Find a way to get even with this lowlife another time. I know where he lives.

It seems like he must have a dog I can poison?

Remember that for later. Because if he isn't lying I'm running out of time. I chug the rest of my beer. Then run in the direction opposite of the main street. Down a smaller side one. It's dark. I feel safe. But I don't let false security stop me. I need to make some ground.

About a block away. My lungs catch fire. My head is pounding. I'm not cut out for this kind of exercise. But I hear a siren close by. So I double my effort. Nausea mounting. Huff and puff in overdrive. There's a park a block away from here. I'll be free and clear if can make it.

You can do it you old fuck!

And I do. Slipping on the loose gravel pathway as I enter. But not falling. Rounding a bench to dive in the grass. Hidden from the street by a high thick row of hedges surrounding the park. Even if the cops start looking for me. They'll never see me from the street. Too lazy to get out of their car.

So I roll over on my back. Check my pockets. Grab a beer. It explodes a little. I gulp half of it. Drop my head down into the grass. Stare up into the night. The beam of a flashlight waves above my head. I freeze. I hear the static of their radio. And hope they mistake me for a lump in the ground.

The light passes through the park. I stay still. It feels like forever. My blood's running cold with fear. Heart rate hitting the roof. Smiling wide. Boredom no longer a concern.

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