timothy willis sanders

ZERO PINEAPPLES by Timothy Willis Sanders

Billy asked Chris and Molly what movie they had picked and Chris held up a DVD copy of The Birds.

Billy shot a look at Meg.

“Hitchcock had a really fucked up obsession with Tippi Hedren. I read about it online so I decided to never watch the movie,” said Billy.

“Who’s Tippi Hedren?” said Chris, sliding the DVD into the Playstation.

“Exactly,” said Meg.

“Well, sorry about Tippi, but I have a surprise for you both after the movie,” said Molly.

Billy pictured Molly wheeling out a human-sized box with a large gold ribbon, from which Gene Wilder, dressed as Willy Wonka, flipped out of and tipped his hat.

“It’s pineapple upside-down cake,” Meg whispered to Billy.

“You think so?” said Billy.

“Yeah, I saw it in the kitchen. Don’t eat too much,” said Meg.


Billy fell asleep 30 minutes into The Birds. He woke up to Tippi Hedren’s catatonic and bandaged face staring back at him. He announced to the others he still understood what was going on.

“Thanks for the update, babe,” said Meg, patting Billy’s knee.

Billy looked at the birds covering the landscape of Bodega Bay. He said, “Good for these birds, taking back their beachfront property,” and imagined a seagull wearing sunglasses and sipping a margarita.

After the movie, Molly brought out the surprise: a pineapple upside-down cake on a large white plate.

Just before finishing his first slice, Billy decided to ask for a second slice.

“Sorry, but anyone mind if I jump in again?” Billy said, pointing to the cake.

Molly laughed and said, “Wow, Billy,” while pointing to everyone else’s plate, each one occupied with a barely-half-eaten slice of pineapple upside-down cake.

Billy cut a second slice and licked his lips dramatically as he lowered the slice onto his plate.

“Billy’s blood sugar is so high that his blood is sugar,” said Meg.

“He had a physical and the doctor told him he was pre-pre-diabetic,” Meg said to Molly in a low voice.

“It’s literally crack cocaine,” said Billy, crumbs falling out of his mouth, “like you literally cooked rock cocaine into your pineapple-upside down cake. It’s that good.”

“Thanks Billy,” said Molly.


Billy contemplated asking for a third slice of pineapple upside-down cake. He looked at the other plates and noticed everyone was still nursing their first slice of pineapple upside down cake. “Even after all this time,” he thought and wondered if he was the only one that actually liked the pineapple-upside down cake.

Billy listened to Chris talk about greed in the banking industry. Meg tried to interject things about the sexism in the tech industry but each time Chris steered the conversation towards greed in the banking industry. Billy checked out of the conversation and tried to think of a company that makes pineapple-upside down cake available in 7/11s around the country.

“This is boring. Let’s talk about something else,” said Meg.

“Sorry, Chris is just ‘incredibly attuned’ to all the ways the banks are fucking you over,” said Molly.

“Uhm, the banks are fucking you over?” said Chris.

“Okay, time to go,” said Meg.

“Yeah, it’s time to go,” said Billy.

Billy put on his coat and just before he left he wondered how rude it would be to ask for a plate of pineapple upside-down cake to-go.


Billy flipped his pillow and closed his eyes. He scratched his forehead and felt sweat on his fingertips. He wondered if Alfred Hitchcock gained weight by eating too much pineapple upside down cake. He thought about how common it is for a man to imprison a woman. He imagined Alfred Hitchcock in a recliner, eating pineapple upside down cake from a TV tray and thinking up ways to imprison Tippi Hedren.

Billy wondered if he had the ingredients to make pineapple upside down cake. He tried to take a mental inventory of his baking supplies. “I have zero pineapples,” he thought, sensing his body become restless. He flipped himself over and woke Meg up in the process.

Meg said, “Why are you awake?” but before he could answer she rolled over and fell asleep. Billy thought about how she’d regret falling asleep before hearing his plan to put pineapple upside down cakes in 7/11s around the country.

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dora grober

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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bob schofield

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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brian alan ellis


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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penny goring

PENNY GORING’S hatefuck the reader REVIEW by Chris Dankland

GET THE BOOK (read online + download epub and mobi versions for free)

LENGTH: 7,000 words

PUBLISHER: 5everdankly publications, 2016

YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS BOOK IF YOU LIKE: Kathy Acker, Édouard Levé, Sarah Kane

Penny Goring’s book ‘hatefuck the reader’ starts with the sound of someone talking so close to your ear that you can feel hot breath:

when i was invincible i believed beauty lasts forever and i died every day. you gave me nothing. i prefer to think you hit me because you are ill. i prefer to stroke my cold pillow. i prefer to sit on a chair than a sofa. i have a plastic joint in my right big toe. you permanently damaged every part of me. my aches and pains are not caused by ageing they are the aftermath of the violence. the end of a story is something i forget. in the month leading up to the twin towers event, i kept waking from a dream where an aeroplane was crashing through my window. i look better in photographs than irl. i don't truly believe in anything. i am startled when anyone calls me Pen, it implies familiarity and affection. i am slow to learn from my mistakes in life, but not in my work. i am attracted to boys girls women men anyone anything anybody. competition repels me. to describe what remains would distress me. i wonder if i will ever truly want to give up smoking. when i sit on the edge of my bed i worry about damaging the mattress, i try to sit on a different area every time, there are not enough different areas. you said i was boring in bed, then you fucked me every day for 2 years. i have cheated on all of my lovers, they were easy to fool, so was i. i joke about Art when it is invoked with a capital A. i wonder if i love anybody except my daughter, it often feels like hate. i do not intentionally remember hurt. i do not trust you. i was fined £1000 for criminal damage, this is how it happened, you punched me in the face until i stopped talking, then you grabbed a knife, then you stabbed holes in my thin plaster walls, then you ran outside, then i knew what had hurt me was outside, then i wanted to hurt the hurt, then i hurled dirty plates and cutlery out the window, then a plate smashed the sunroof of a BMW parked in the road way down below. it is a serious crime to damage a car because car equals money on wheels, and that is the true meaning of beauty.

The book comes at you in a non-stop flood of confessions:

“i got my 1st black eyes, broken nose, walking home through the park after school. i curled in a ball in the mud, a crucial bone in my spine got kicked into a new shape”

“at times i have lived with people who are now dead, believing it to be a forever thing.”

“i have seen a dead junkie hovering 2" above me in bed, yes, i have known ghosts, and i have felt their fabric.”

The book looks beautiful to me. It’s one of my favorite examples of digital literature. I look forward to the time when print versions of books become collectors items and pdfs become the norm. Nowadays most of us consume our music and movies in digital, streaming formats. We don’t need cds and dvds to enjoy albums and movies. We don’t need print books to enjoy great works of literature.

‘hatefuck the reader’ never stops to take a breath, and even by the last sentence it seems like it could keep going forever. What does Penny talk about? Poverty, abuse, art, memories, sex, habits, apartments, dreams, death, children, drugs, unconsciousness, sickness, hope, and everything else. It’s hard for me to think of many other books that have as much sustained energy. It’s relentless.

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ashley hutson

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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