Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Return

by Iris Macor

Randal closed his eyes and breathed in the past, felt it alive in his lungs, his bloodstream, his heartbeat the pounding of cannon fire over a gray morning prairie. He concentrated, eyes squeezed shut in some distant place, but here they searched for the one he desired. Battle cries thundered in his ears while the ground beneath his feet quivered, just another thing wrecked and ruined for the sake of conquest.

His target was near. The little man who rode a mule had all the height of a dwarf. The Corsican’s eyes glittered, he wore a dead man’s grin.

He wasn’t exactly what Randal had imagined he would be. He had bad teeth and spotty gums, things no text book ever mentioned. The Corsican’s grin widened, he tugged the mule’s reins until the beast reared back, front hooves flailing in the air before it came to a stop. The bottoms of his breeches were splattered with mud, his leggings solid brown. He had fever burn eyes that promised he was ready, always ready. Ready to pluck a ripe world and squeeze it just to lick the juice as it ran down his wrist.

Randal stepped up to the mule before he could falter or second guess himself. The Corsican leaned forward, hungry, expectant.

Randal closed his eyes and breathed the man’s fetid breath, drawing in and in until the Corsican disappeared completely.

Randal patted the mule’s nose, the taste of rot mouth lingered on his lips. His gums ached. He closed his eyes for a second, and he was gone.

The smell of gunpowder faded, the thud-thud-thud of heartthrob cannon-fire softened until he couldn’t hear it at all. The Corsican opened eyes that weren't his. He stood. An open book fell from his lap but he paid it no mind. The room was unfamiliar to him, but it didn’t matter. He snuffed out the candles arranged in a circle around him one by one. There was work to be done, even if he had to start from the bottom again. He was thirsty for the taste of a ripe world, and this time it would be his. All of it. It was good to be back.

Bio: Iris Macor lives in North Carolina where she mucks stalls by day and studies Shakespeare by night. She does neither well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Angel in a Bottle

by Kyle Hemmings

My job all day is to hold and position bottles, mostly soda bottles, long enough for an automated metal rod to descend and push caps into a snug fit. I work at an assembly line and timing is everything. This is what I do all day, and around holidays, I sometimes work overtime. One interesting fact about these bottle caps is that some of them, especially the ones that fit over large-mouthed bottles, have riddles printed underneath. Like how many horns did the first unicorn really have. I always thought that was pretty freaky when I first started working at Cherico’s.

It was the same way I thought about my ex-girlfriend who loved showing photos of her old boyfriends' hard-ons. Like souvenirs. She could match each name with the penis. She could tell whose was which by judging the shape and size, distinguishing marks, whether it was circumcised or not. As crazy as she was, when she dumped me, I got fucked up. Truth was she said I was too depressing to be around, that I never wanted to do anything. With me, she said, it was like she was by herself.

Most of the women who work at Cherico’s are around my mother’s age, forty or fifty something, and very selective in whom they talk to. Except for Cindy, who is Korean. She doesn’t speak to anyone. Her real name is Sung-mi, but she tells everyone to call her Cindy, giving equal emphasis to both syllables with a slight pause between. She works across from my conveyor belt, facing me. She does the same job I do, in fact, she’s far more focused than I am. Before I go to work, I usually down an amphetamine, and after lunchtime, another one.

I can’t say that Cindy loves her job. I don’t see how anyone can. But I’ve never heard her complain either.

Cindy has long black hair, the face of a doll that never cries or ages-- her eyes are perfect and dreamless. Maybe she’s a year or two older than me. I’m twenty-one. But I could be wrong. Her industrious attitude and polite manner make her seem older.

When Cindy first started working at Cherico’s, we ate in the cafeteria at separate tables. Sometimes we faced each other. I tried hard to work up the nerve to smile or say hello. The most I got from her was a nod. I noticed that both of us always brought sandwiches from home or the deli down the street. Maybe, I thought, that was a point we had in common. When I did initiate a conversation, I noticed her English was poor and she blushed often.

Later, she admitted, after repeating and stressing certain words, that she was attending night classes, and she wondered if I could help her with her English. We wolfed down our sandwiches at lunch break, and I sat next to her, while she read aloud sections from a library book. Then I wrote on a piece of paper, the words or phrases she mispronounced or couldn't understand. One time, I stopped her, and said she needed to work on this particular pronunciation: I love you.

I said it again, very clear and distinct. I waited until she looked into my face. She repeated it in a dry and even tone, as if nothing more than a grammar exercise, but she blushed when she looked into my face. After that, she said she found a tutor at school, and she thanked me for the help I provided. At the job, we never made eye contact again.

Retuning to the apartment, I still have a slight buzz from the pills, like I do on most days. I do nothing but flick the TV remote on and off, lay my feet on a coffee table. My mother comes home about an hour later, and I can tell what kind of day she’s had selling ladies’ underwear from the manner she puts down her handbag, whether or not she’ll start slamming drawers. Unlike my father, who took off one day without leaving a note or some cash, she never asks whether I'm going to return to college, whether Chirico’s is going to be a lifelong vocation. She always says something like, “Well, it’s a job. Be thankful for that. There are so many without.” She always tries to see the good side of things. Today, she’s humming some top-40 tune that's a bad version--I mean a train wreckage-- of a Sheryl Crow song.

I look at the assortment of empty bottles I have lined up on the coffee table. Some are tinted, some are Snapple, some are Pepsi, some are from Chirico’s. My eyes grow heavy and I drift. But not dream. I’m aware of my surroundings. I stare at this one bottle, the tallest, fluted. I imagine a girl trapped inside that bottle wanting to come out. Finding a way to shrink myself, the way they do in Harry Potter stories, I struggle to pull the cap from the bottle, reach in, and grab her hand. But something inside the bottle keeps sucking her back into the vacuum. Or maybe it's because my hands shake so much, the way they sometimes do at Chirico's.

“Try harder,“ I tell her, “give me your hand.” She’s given up.

The girl now sits Indian-style at the bottom, her face wedged between two fists. She stares past me. A vacant look. Declaring this hopeless, I place the cap back on the bottle. I do this so she’ll start suffocating, become so desperate and angry that she’ll cry for me to come back and try again. But I don’t hear her screams. Maybe she’s too proud to call for my assistance. I want to shout out “I love you.” But within the insulation of glass, my trapped angel is listening to her own thoughts, lost in them, tamper-resistant and in no need of translation.

Bio:Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey where he is constantly recovering from a long harsh winter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unconscionable Mattress

By:Adam Moorad


I am a mattress and nothing feels good

I am bumpy on the sidewalk and the neighborhood kids bludgeon me with their heels

I am damp on the curb in a puddle

The sun is hot and I can’t move an inch

I am beached like a whale and hollowed by seagulls

Or crabs

I want to kill sheets and pillows

I want to suffocate their fibers with my fibers


I am on a box spring and fluid is hitting my face. My eyes are closed and becoming infected. My mouth is making a warm spot and sweat is sinking into it.

And my coils are compressed

And my cotton and wood are like sunburned skin swelling with yellow-colored blisters

Strange elbows and knees knead my pad

I am anesthetic on my back and slamming my wooden headboard into the wall and I cannot stop my coils from squeezing and exploding

I can only lay flat and watch the ceiling

I can only breathe and bounce and feel my fabric burn from friction as my elastic frays and blankets rip.


I am against the wall in a crawlspace watching a raccoon rape a rodent rape a squirrel in the ceiling and squirrels raping other squirrels and raccoons raping rapist squirrels and raped squirrels raping rapist raccoons

I have soaked up a bottle of wine

The crawlspace holds the air against my ribs. I breathe in chips of paint and dust from a lawnmower

Inside I am feeling water rising around my feet and my tag bleeds ink across my face and my mouth tasting hot stagnancy

And my dick sucks inside me like a snail

And I picture myself suffocating a wall of sand on a beach with my springs sharpened and exposed

And I am salivating and saturating when I think I should be sharking or trying to stops myself from sinking


I am pressed against a first floor window with duct tape around me. I cough and try to breathe beneath the silver strands. I am moved from the window to the radiator and the radiator is turned on and I soak up its heat. I am moved from the radiator to the floor beside a fan and am petted where I am warm and bodies are resting against me


The cereal bowl is full of cigarette butts

I am touching the bowl overflowing with dust and cinder sweet like cremated babies and I breathe the particles in and power my belly with baby ash and I feel like an earth and I feel decay

Babies taste like campfire

I am lying crooked on the floor beneath a dented lampshade in a dark hallway

I am listening to the bowl of ash crackles with butts and babies

The bowl is tired and embarrassed by what it’s become


I am a mattress holding needles

My arms surround the needles and - smacked and woozy - I wonder why

I think, “When did they get there?”

A seed grows into tree inside my lung and I am looking at myself in broken glass reflections inside a closet

I do this for a while

I have nothing else to do

It’s what I do

The needles bleed and rust

I have openings with stuffing dripping and I am watching ants puss inside the opening and there is nothing inside me but my lung and a tree inside it.

Ants are moving things around in me

I become sick

I am feeling the needles

They are sharp and flavorful like fecal baby ash mixing with fresh baby ash

I taste ominous and self-knowing


Green grass sprouts appear on the spores of my back

I am feeling them and the hepatitis

It is spring time

I am lying beneath two big branches with a puddle in my mouth

One day my mouth will explode with the things I can’t explain and it will not make any sense


I am bouncing in a truck bed and soaking in a dead battery

I have given up on drying

I have absorbed several million gallons of semen and human waste

Probably about an ocean’s worth

“You are a like earth diaper,” I say to myself. “Or like a baby-ash magnet anthill”

“And don’t forget about the needles,” I think

“And I am an AIDS sponge,” I say


There is a hole between my tag and frame that is gradually growing wider

I feel nervous

I try to sleep but it’s too cold without any sheets or pillows and my skins bogs and my bones corrode

When I hold a body, my coils break and stab the body’s arms and legs and the body’s fists reel and mouths screams and I soak in the body’s blood

And I have a cotton tumor on my rib

And when it rains the mice hide inside me and begin to pick


A leg is resting on my leg

The leg moves across my threads to the floor and from the floor back to my leg

The radiator is on and drying me

I have a coma

The leg is rising and falling against my leg and my springs hiss like emphysema

I taste the leg

It is covered in small crystals of salt and scab


I marinate in gasoline on a garage floor and feel my rodents inside my suffer and drown

I am melancholy

I ignite and am moved to a driveway

I am looking at the sky and thinking, “I am on fire I am on fire I am on fire” and smoke chokes my lungs and the tree dying inside my lung

My springs curl and melt

The skin on my face explodes and peals back

It is changing sun into clouds into rain

Someone is crying


I am sleeping on a school bus

I dream about gallons of sweat and semen and white-sheeted inertia on my gut

A tin can rolls across me

It falls to the floor and sits, shiny, label-less

I am dreaming about eight elbows and eight knees stabbing me

They are sharp and working and waiting impatiently and I am expecting them to crush me and pounce when they think they’re ready

I think I am becoming a tree and growing someplace nice

But that my trunk is hollow and full of rodents and parasites

And my bark is pined with needles and my sap is weeping mucous

And my bones are shaking and decomposing

When I wake I am still a mattress

BIO: Adam’s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Underground Voices, Titular, DOGZPLOT, Thieves Jargon, and Pear Noir! He lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. Find him here:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pattern Recognition

© KJ Hannah Greenberg

Francesca regarded the mottled upper limit. Beneath her organs of locomotion, a motif of light and dark repeated, except unlike the sky’s uncompromised positive and negative spaces, the shapes below her treads were trampled.

She tried again to roll gently and to ignore the yellow/green forbs, which bent from her chassis. Meanwhile, Janice, whose drooping filaments made fresh havoc, lopped alongside of Francesca. Per no perceivable algorithm, Janice’s strings sliced bits of leaves and tiny buds from both twining plants and ground cover. Janice paid no heed.

Behind Janice trailed Sandy, a young malcontent who made bug eyes at most of the indigenous birds. Sandy realized that the thicket, which they transversed, was beginning to offer fewer tangles. His understanding came from an anomaly; he had looked forward, instead of upward, the instant that a small, hard object got caught in his runners.

Sandy suctioned that seed out from the grooved surface of his lowest extremity and placed it, carefully, in a side cabinet. He then wheeled on, pausing only to photograph a skyfish that snarked by. Thereafter, he yielded his consciousness to his mentations.

In fourteen cycles, there would be another Coming. Unlike Francesca or Janice, Sandy had not existed at the previous Juncture. Such a dearth of experience, though, failed to protect him from his cohorts’ constant references to the past Happening. While not invested in his physical differences from those earlier models, Sandy remained concerned with his pod’s constant, exclusive conversations about the last Occasion.

As Sandy processed those notion, the bird that had been snidely chirping at him, stopped, and dove. For his part, the young engine, an objector with few qualms about resisting his primary encoding, felt zero compunction; he hit back. Sandy missed, however, and found himself toppling into the bushes. Among those layered twigs and leaves, he espied the feathered bandit.

The moment Sandy had that avian within reach of his foremost appendage, the bird bit Sandy flitted and then fell. Francesca would not approve. Janice would mock.

Righting himself, Sandy moved deeper into the unevenly illuminated arena. A series of measured events followed that involving tail feathers, snipped wires, head feathers, and a punctured cable, At last, the mechanized man captured the small fiend. Carefully placing his pinchers around the critter’s neck, he demanded an apology.

The bird spat at him.

Sandy squeezed gently. He did not want to anger Francesca or be labeled “clumsy” by Janice.

The bird’s eyes bulged and its breath became raspy. It indicated that it would comply if released.

Sandy opened his claw. The bird splatted on the ground. Sandy, sensing a little liquid leaking from the thing’s eye, photographed the moment, collected the droplets, crystallized and compressed them, and placed them into his tiny, refrigerated slot. In short shrift, he caught up with Francesca and Janice.

The two were in communication with Luol, who was so eager to read their records that she forget to examine Sandy’s data. Even later, when the bird, whose announcement was to have heralded the Arrival, failed to appear, no one thought to check the Sandy’s tapes.

During 2008-2009, KJ Hannah Greenberg’s lightly pert and somewhat exuberant, layered writing has been published or accepted for publication by: 365 Tomorrows, AlienSkin Magazine, AntipodeanSF, Bards and Sages, Bewildering Stories, Cantaraville, Cerulean Rain, Della Donna, Doorknobs and Bodypaint, Fallopian Falafel , Fictionville, Flashshot, Flash Scribe, G. Stern’s Hag Samaiach Anthology, Getting Something Read, Hamodia, Horizons, Joyful!, Ken*Again, Language and Culture Magazine, Literary Mama, Mishpacha’s Family First, Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine, Morpheus Tales, Motherwords, Parenting Express, Poetica Magazine, Poetry Super Highway, Shakespeare’s Monkey Review, Short Story Library, SMITH Magazine, Static Movement, Miriam Liebermann’s The Best is Yet to Be, The Blue Jew Yorker, The Clarity of the Night, The Externalist, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Woman, The Lesser Flamingo, The Mother Magazine, The New Absurdist, The New Vilna Review, The Shine Journal, Tuesday Shorts, Type-A Mom, Unfettered Verse, Winamop and Word Catalyst.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Club

by Christian Ward

My friends and I belong to a club that meets up every fortnight. None of us are sure how we joined or what the rules are exactly. That's part of the fun. We just wait near a freeway on the outskirts of town and a black van comes to pick us up. We are blindfolded and gagged. I don't know by whom or what. Once Dave thought he saw a mask, like the one the guy from Scream wears, but he couldn't be sure.

We black out and wake up in a random location. No place is ever the same. Once it was an abandoned farm where all the people were dressed as farm animals, another time we were dumped in the desert.

The most fucked up time was when we woke up in a forest somewhere. It was winter and the trees were moustachioed with snow. No-one was about. We walked around in circles, getting lost. Everyone was starting to get delirious, imagining the moon was unravelling its skin, the trees were giant needles for us to be impaled on.

And that's when I saw them. Half a dozen crow-like creatures. They were tall as people but had the heads of crows. I'm not sure where they came from or what they wanted; they just appeared.

I can't remember what happened next. There is the taste of smoke in my mouth and my skin is charred. I don't know what caused it.

Sometimes I see flashes of images when I sleep: surgeons, lots of surgeons. One reaches in and pulls out reams of black feathers. Fade. Lead coloured sky, remains of a forest. Men with guns, lots of men with guns. Another fade. In a room, folding my wings back into my body. Letting my eyes grow, my mouth emerge.

I haven't been to a club meeting in a while. I'm too afraid of what I'll end up next.

Bio:Christian Ward is a 28 year old London based writer and translator. His work
has appeared in Diagram and Elimae and is forthcoming in Ezra, Welter
and The Emerson Review.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Squeal in the Sky

By:J.S. Graustein

Before the New Depression, before 9/11, before semicolons equalled eyes—Drake Bundy tended pigs beside Illinois Route 126. Drake's dad and grandad had been dairymen, but pasteurization laws and the cost of the associated equipment killed that option. So Drake chose pigs. Far less repulsive than sitting behind the wheel of a tractor for months on end. At least to him.

In 1958 when he made the switch, none of his neighbors minded. Back then his nearest neighbor was 60 acres away and shielded by a fragrant heirloom-rose garden. But in the waning moments of the 20th century, suburban neighbors sprang up 'round his pig enclosures—cheek to jowl in poorly crafted house-farm homes. They had no heirloom gardens or rows of crops to block the unfortunate gas-production of Drake's pigs because their builders had scraped and paved every living thing within their lot lines.

So Drake found it highly suspicious when the tornado siren wailed amidst popcorn clouds that salted a jay-blue sky. In October. And not on Testing Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. He lifted his mesh-backed DEKALB ball cap and slicked down the 27 strands of hair that covered his bald spot, wincing as he looked into the warm autumn sun. “Stupid computers. Mess up everything,” he muttered to the sow that tried to eat his coveralls.

And yet, the wind picked up. But the sky wasn't even close to grey-green or stacked with black thunderheads, so Drake kept on slopping. However, the pigs no longer jostled for position around the feeding troughs. Or wallowed in the pungent mud. Instead, they clustered in perfect circles: dead-center in each enclosure. In over thirty years of tending pigs he'd never seen anything like it. Again he slicked down his hair and winced at the sunny sky. Nothing.

He tried to scatter the pigs by shouting, shaking a bucket of feed, even kicking a couple sows. The pigs just snuggled into tighter circles. And then—WHAM! It sounded like the Burlington Northern Railroad sent a spur line right up his aspens. Gelatinous fecal-mud quivered around his boots as swirling shadows engulfed Drake's farm...

...yet the surrounding house farms remained awash in October sun.

Drake looked up and finally saw something. More than something. A massive grey-green eddy circled over his head and sent out a funnel cloud to suck him and his pigs up, up, and away. He floated—suspended in the center of the vortex and surrounded by his herd. A herd that was now embedded in the spiraling sides of the cloud. Oddly, it no longer sounded like the Burlington Northern in the funnel. It sounded more like a swinesque cantata with bovine undertones.

Yes, bovine. As he neared the top, Drake swore he heard the deep lowing of a cow. One cow—steer?—that moaned with so much force it vibrated his ribs. The pigs must have heard it too, because they squealed and kicked against the funnel current, like they were trying to swim back to land. The tornado condensed into a stovepipe, lifted, then swept out across the once-vast Wheatland Township.

With each bovine bellow, the cloud lost its grip on pigs. Nine porkers splattered onto the 13th green at Fox Bend Golf Course. Another dozen flattened trees at Morton Arboretum. Not even Soldier Field escaped the porcine rain. Fifteen carcasses pelted the 35 yard line and were later barbecued for the visiting Green Bay fans. All the while, Drake floated in the eye of the storm.

Over Lake Michigan, the tornado got enough lift to enter the stratosphere. And there, a whisper away from vacuous space, Drake saw the bovine in question. Only it wasn't a cow. It was an ox. And not just any ox. It was Babe...the legendary Blue Ox. Drake slapped his stubbly cheeks and rubbed his hair in an attempt to wake himself from this ridiculous dream. But it wasn't a dream. There stood Babe the Blue Ox with ants crawling all over him: ants in his slimy nostrils, ants pooling around his nobbly knees, ants hanging off his tail as it lifts for an ox-sized dump.

The funnel spewed Drake above the cloud. He landed on Babe's back and saw that the ox wasn't actually covered in ants, but in dairymen. 300 years worth of dairymen by the looks of their clothes. Some were using push-brooms to scrub Babe's coat. Others were using iron tongs to pull giant ticks out of Babe's skin. And at the base of Babe's tail stood Drake's dad, using hedge trimmers to cut out globs of poo matted in Babe's hair.

Drake ran to his dad, surprised he could. He wasn't even panting when he asked, “Dad! What are you doing here?”

“Dairyman's Purgatory,” Mr. Bundy replied while clipping.

“But Babe's an ox. Why are you here?”

Mr. Bundy paused, straightened up slowly, then said, “I know Babe's an ox, you daft beggar. Why'd you think I called it purgatory? Nothing worse for a dairyman than tending a draft animal. Nothing.”

“But you were a good dairyman. Why on earth would you go to purgatory? Is grandad here too?”

Mr. Bundy puffed his cheeks full of air, then slowly let it escape in that exasperated breath-sound he always made before belting Drake. “I was a fine dairyman. But you! You had to go and raise pigs—smelly beasts. You could have farmed corn for cattle feed. Or hay. Or learned to be a livestock vet. Something to do with cows.”

Mr. Bundy let the hedge trimmers fall out of his hands so that the tip poked Babe's rump. They both hit the deck before Babe's tail flicked up in response. Drake could barely breathe after the blow.

“And your grandad? Oh, he's in heaven alright. Look over there.” Mr. Bundy pointed to a lush rolling grassland with Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins grazing and swishing silky tails. “See the Brown Swiss near the log there? That's your grandad's. He's probably taking a joyride on her tail right now. Loves to swing on the end like Tarzan, he does. Crazy loon.”

Drake had barely known his grandad, but he knew his dad always feared him. The change in tone made Drake dizzy. “So why are you in purgatory and grandad's in heaven? I don't get it.”

“Because I,” Mr. Bundy thumped his chest, “I was a dairyman. You,” Mr. Bundy shoved a calloused finger in Drake's chest, “You were a stinking pig farmer!”


“Yes, were.”

“You mean I'm dead?” Drake sat down on Babe's rump and gripped handfuls of hair to steady himself.

“Well you're not walking the earth, at any rate.” Mr. Bundy retrieved his trimmer and set back to work. “Although, I wonder why you got sucked up the vortex instead of dying like the rest of us. What's your son do?”

“Drake Junior? He's at U of I studying Agribusiness. Why?”

Before Mr. Bundy could answer, Paul Bunyan himself strode over. He picked Drake up by his coveralls and raised him to eye-level. “Drake, I've got something to show you. Then I'm putting you to work. You're mine for at least the next two hundred years.” Paul Bunyan laughed.

Drake lost his hat to the gale-force laughter. Paul Bunyan raised his axe up so that Drake could see himself reflected in its polished-steel head. Then Paul Bunyan breathed on the axe. In the mist, Drake saw his son—Drake Bundy, Junior—signing the deed of the Bundy farm over to a developer and collecting $1.5 million in cash. Drake cried. Begged for another chance.

But it was too late. Plus Paul Bunyan was hungry. He swung the axe into the eye of the tornado. The stovepipe immediately dissolved. Centrifugal force spewed the pigs into space before gravity brought them back into the stratosphere. Re-entry friction roasted them to perfection. Paul Bunyan scooped up the bacon-bits before they splashed into the Pacific Ocean and invited the heavenly dairymen to join him for supper. The purgatorial dairymen ate ticks.

Except Drake. He found himself with his own set of hedge trimmers, tethered to the underside of Babe's tail.

Bio:When J. S. Graustein isn't writing, she fries bacon and plays Managing Editor at Folded Word Press. She fled Tornado Alley in 1995 to settle in a tectonically-stable region of California. She tolerates the 49ers now that Mike Singletary's in charge, but she'll go to her grave a Bears fan—in Brian Urlacher's jersey.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Running Traffic

by:Jonny Kelly

The cars paint a vivid picture, all open-minded and frightening.
Open-air insanity is my hands, covered in the red liquid, which smells
of innocence playing with my head.

The witnesses and their cars look on. They don't want to get involved
with my murderous fists. The child on the road bleeding is too much of
a commitment.

Carrying a dying child to the hospital in the traffic, "Can I borrow
your phone?" No fucking reply!

So the dead lies on the road, the cuffs go on my bleeding wrists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Engaging the Flame

by:Mel Bosworth

Glitterbug and Hucklebuck prance barefoot on the farmer’s hayfield. Hucklebuck, jut-toothed and freckled, hops sun dried windrows that curl like giant worms along the land. Glitterbug somersaults, spinning a big world beneath the kite of her cotton dress.

Enjoying a moment of repose in the cool breeze off the lapping creek, Hucklebuck blushes at the spires of gold that tumble around Glitterbug’s laughing shoulders.

“Do you love me?” she asks.

“Course I do,” he says. “I’ll even prove it.”

The chunk and punch of the farmer’s baler creeps up the rise, and Hucklebuck straddles the windrow. Puffing up his chest, he hooks his thumbs into the faded straps of his overalls, and waits.

“I would die for you, Glitterbug. I would let the old farmer bind me in a bale of hay so the horses could eat me in winter.”

The green tractor comes into view, the lid of the stack flapping like a busy mouth. The farmer, twisted in his seat, watches the yellow bales chug up the chute and then flop over.

Glitterbug stands in the shade by the creek, wiggling behind a nervous smile.
The farmer turns as he steadies the wheel, and his eyes flash emerald in his worn leather face. He knocks back his straw hat and then swipes a heavy hand through the air.

“Move on out, boy!”

But Hucklebuck, snapping a single, defiant nod, holds his ground. The farmer frowns and hunches, veins like ropes in his dark arms as he fumbles for the throttle. He lowers himself from the tractor, tired knees popping in greasy jeans. Above the low idle he growls,

“What did I tell you, boy?”

But Hucklebuck is gone. Through an arch of broad maples, the old farmer sees the pair splash and kiss in the swirling blue of the creek.

He slaps the hat on his thigh, and thick dust clouds the air for an instant before drifting. After nudging up the throttle with the meat of his palm, he grunts back into the seat. The hat’s wide brim veils the tepid overflow of his green pools while a wisp of hay see-saws like a memory between his lips.

Bio:Mel Bosworth lives and breathes in Western Massachusetts. Read more at his website,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Sloth and the Newspaper Boy

by Bradley Sands

A wager. Twenty bucks says a sloth can be a sloth faster than the newspaper boy can be the newspaper boy. You’re on! The sloth sloths slowly. The newspaper boy delivers papers quickly. You scowl. You take out a cell phone and place a call. A Pit Bull with a cell phone chases the newspaper boy. Its saliva eats through the newspaper boy’s bicycle. I call shenanigans. You put a gun in my mouth. I stop calling shenanigans. The sloth sloths slowly. The newspaper boy delivers newspapers on foot. The Pit Bull’s saliva has not eaten through his positive outlook. You scowl. You take out a detonator and push a button. The paperboy’s Nikes go bang. The explosion eats through his limbs. I call shenanigans. You open a manhole to reveal the sewers and a cage. A hungry alligator is in the cage. My family is in the cage. I stop calling shenanigans. The sloth sloths slowly. The newspaper boy crawls to his next delivery. The explosion has not eaten through his positive outlook. You walk into a secret control room and go through the motions of dropping an atom bomb on the newspaper boy’s head. The atom bomb eats through his everything. I call shenanigans. You cover The Light with a blackout curtain. I stop calling shenanigans. The sloth sloths slowly. The newspaper boy has stopped being a newspaper boy. The atom bomb has eaten away at his positive outline. I frown. I give you twenty bucks. You rush off to spend it on absolutely nothing.

Bio: Bradley Sands is the author of the novel, It Came from Below the Belt, and the editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. His work has appeared in The Bizarro Starter Kit (Blue), Lamination Colony, No Colony, Opium Magazine, Robot Melon, decomP, susurrus, Thieves Jargon, and elsewhere. Visit him at