Down in the Dirt

welcome to volume 101 (January 2011) of

Down in the Dirt

down in the dirt
internet issn 1554-9666
(for the print issn 1554-9623)

Janet K., Editor - click on down in the dirt

In This Issue...

Fritz Hamilton
Mel Waldman
Sarah Lucille Marchant
Robert D. Lyons
Mary Stone
Lisa Cappiello
Christopher Hanson
Tom Ball
Marcin Majkowski
Katrina K Guarascio
David Meuel
Ryan Priest
Eleanor Leonne Bennett art
Ben Leib
S. MacLeod
Matthew Middleton
Matt Cunha
Jon Brunette
E. J. Loera
Ben Macnair
Sarah Mallery
Jack Bristow
Mike Brennan
Will Millar
Sandy Longley
Alexander G. Tozzi
Timothy Kidwell
Connor Cook
Janet Kuypers

ISSN Down in the Dirt Internet

Note that any artwork that appears in Down in the Dirt will appear in black and white in the print edition of Down in the Dirt magazine.

Order this issue from our printer
as an ISSN# paperback book:
order issue

or as the ISBN# book
“Perfectly Imperfect”:
order ISBN# book

Let’s extend tax cuts to the filthy rich

Fritz Hamilton

Let’s extend tax cuts to the filthy rich!
They own the U.S. economy anyway; so
we’d better give them more/ they
have nothing more to purchase/ they

already have it all/ the middle class is
dying; so why help them?/ the lower class is
already dead (& they don’t vote) so
let the the dead bury the dead/ I

live way below the poverty line/ don’t
worry about me/ I have no car to
enslave me & Sect 8 rent of
$275/mo - plus my medi-medi &

SSI/ at 74 yrs old I’m
protected by socialism, like
everybody else will be under Obama’s
health plan (John Boehner & his

Republicans will never get it repealed because
the people want it despite the
catastrophe of the midterm elections) &
when we get out from under our evil wars, if

we haven’t sunk entirely to a 3rd World status,
we might get employed again as a further
step out of recession, &
then I’ll rejoice because

dead ...


The phone rings, I put it to my ear

Fritz Hamilton

The phone rings, I put it to my ear/ out
creeps Beelzebub/ he eats my wax & climbs
into my brain/ all the dead matter bothers

him/ he stabs it with his fork/ it tastes like pork/ he
smokes it & it’s ham & bacon/ he cracks my
egghead, & it drips out rotten with an awful

stench that drives Beelzebub back to Hell/ I
follow him to apologize for the smell/ on the way
down, I’m blocked by the serpent making

free with Eve/ from her womb drops Jesoo making
an ass of the virgin birth, just like contradictions in the
Gospel truths if there are any, like God is love, but

tell it to the Babylonians as they massacre
the Jews or the Jews as they slaughter the Babylonians/ if
that’s love, so were the Nazis lovers when they

created the Holocaust, but what’s a cross if you
can’t twist it, & what’s a crucifixion if you can’t use
the gas chambers & the ovens?/ &

what’s Joe McCarthy & Karl Rove & the
Republican Party goose stepping us to the charnel
house in the name of spiritual cleansing?/ it

never changes except in style & degree/ it’s
man at his very best, & when Patton exposed
what was happening in the camps &

allowed the inmates to tear up the Nazi guards, he
was being Biblical, & with any justice we’d all
borrow our piece of rope from Judas, but

there is no justice, & we’re free to kill our
neighbor & rob him of everything in the
name of love, cause we’re the

army of greed & selfishness, &
a spade always trumps a heart until
the hearts are crushed &

stuffed with money, honey, &
the biscuits are all poisoned so
eat ‘em up, sweetheart, &

bones ...


Nth Time

A 25-Word Story
Mel Waldman

For the nth time,
almost made it.
Close but not quite.
Try us again,
they told me.
Catch your dream.
Too late.
The cancer’s spreading.

Janet Kuypers reads the Down in the Dirt 12/11 poem by Mel Waldman
Nth Time
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video

read live 12/11/11, at the Café weekly poetry open mike in Chicago


Mel Waldman, Ph. D.

    Dr. Mel Waldman is a licensed New York State psychologist and a candidate in Psychoanalysis at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (CMPS). He is also a poet, writer, artist, and singer/songwriter. After 9/11, he wrote 4 songs, including “Our Song,” which addresses the tragedy. His stories have appeared in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines including HAPPY, SWEET ANNIE PRESS, CHILDREN, CHURCHES AND DADDIES and DOWN IN THE DIRT (SCARS PUBLICATIONS), NEW THOUGHT JOURNAL, THE BROOKLYN LITERARY REVIEW, HARDBOILED, HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, and THE SAINT. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. Periodically, he has given poetry and prose readings and has appeared on national T.V. and cable T.V. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, American Mensa, Ltd., and the American Psychological Association. He is currently working on a mystery novel inspired by Freud’s case studies. Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?, a mystery novel, was published by iUniverse in February 2006. It can be purchased at,, at /, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. Recently, some of his poems have appeared online in THE JERUSALEM POST. Dark Soul of the Millennium, a collection of plays and poetry, was published by World Audience, Inc. in January 2007. It can be purchased at,, at /, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. A 7-volume short story collection was published by World Audience, Inc. in June 2007 and can also be purchased online at the above-mentioned sites.

not that I’ve noticed

Sarah Lucille Marchant

your car is often parked nearby,
and your hair is longer now

than ever before, but you
don’t cut it for anyone

in particular. you might for her
if not for the fact that your fingers

will soon be grasping
for a shadow of a thing.

Janet Kuypers reads the Down in the Dirt 12/11 poem by Sarah Lucille Marchant
Not That I’ve Noticed
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video

read live 12/11/11, at the Café weekly poetry open mike in Chicago

Cold Front Breeze

Robert D. Lyons

It’s getting harshly cold
As the relentless wind blows me away.
I’m freezing to death
In the paper thin, purple v-neck
I stole from the local thrift store.
I have nowhere to go.
A phone full of contacts with no one to call.
It’s getting colder, Thomas.
Where are you?
I’m completely alone in a crowded town.
I know everyone and no one will talk to me.
Please come get me, Thomas.
I have been waiting through muck
In this murky cold front breeze.
Lost with nowhere to go.
I have walked from the coffee shop at the corner.
You know, the one where Anne sits and sucks down
Those Camel royals.
Where she talks about Spain
And love.
I follow the trail
Of my old cigarette butts from months past.
The trail of tar.
Scared of where it will take me.
I followed it to my old dense two room apartment
Where I would dream of her
And watch soccer games in the patchy field.
I followed it to my ancient High School,
Whose bright polished halls I roamed like a ghost.
My prison.
The place was my prison.
I venture out,
But the wind keeps blowing my hair
In my eyes
And I can’t see anything.

Not You

Mary Stone

I see you coming from very far away:
wet-hoofed, your leather jacket
sprinkled with horse corral dust.
Desert winds drag behind you,
angry prisoners chained
to your belt loops.
Dogs bark around us
and sand slaps my bare legs,
cold needles.

But this is not what you see.
You have shiny keys, shirts without wrinkles.
I can’t see the coffee in your hand,
but instead a weapon. When we are apart

like this, the dust of your fingers thaws
my thighs, the scent of mint tobacco
warms my collar bone, your arms,
still wrapped in leather,
wrap around my waist,
and you are cool dirt beneath a rock,
your eyes flinching bugs in the sun.

But this is not really you,
as we pass another window.
You wear a shirt with buttons,
brand-name cologne. When we are together
like this, the dirt around you settles
on my shoulders and the pores across your nose
finally become visible.

Mary Stone Bio (05/20/11)

    Mary Stone’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in A Clean Well-Lighted Place, Notes Magazine, Mochila, Coal City Review, Amoskeag, Lingerpost, FutureCycle Poetry, and many other fine journals. In 2011 she received the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry. Currently, she is an MFA student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where she teaches English classes and co-edits the Blue Island Review.

The Third Friday in March

Lisa Cappiello

My sister and I sat with full bladders in bumper-to-bumper traffic
silently bobbing our heads to hardcore rap music
until we reached the split-level furniture warehouse in Suburbia, New Jersey
where were coddled by lonely, middle-aged sales representatives with honest eyes and holes in their shoes
as we spent our hard earned, blue-collar cash on overpriced, mismatched furniture
in an attempt to recover from the aftermath of the encore tug of war game that our parents forced us to participate in
reminiscent of the one we played twelve years ago
that earned each of us a purple heart

I would have invited my love to join us, but I hadn’t spoken to him since my last day off from work
  twenty six days prior
because he was too busy ruminating
about his ex-wife’s upcoming wedding to the man she cheated on him with

The moment I returned to my apartment I repeatedly punched the sequined rectangular throw pillow that sits primly on my couch
until my knuckles bled profusely
The fur-trimmed sleeve of my designer down coat is now in desperate need of dry cleaning


Christopher Hanson

Every time I see “the plane,” “that plane,”
Or MD-80,
I sweat the deadened drop of a labor
I’d wish not remember.
We called it, “The Oven,”
Name and noun for our innards shared,
The belly of the “Beast” –
A high Texas noon
In absence of water,
While tossing luggage:
Panties, prongs and cadavers,
Hours on end
Under Spanish howl
And deafening jet engines.

Literally boiled, I left.
I left the tarmac, the turmoil and chaos
Amidst vomit, human and mechanical alike,
So that I could chase nausea beyond the
Secure fences.
I picked up,
Walked to the cantina ‘cross the way,
Just shy of the border.
I stumbled unto cervesa plus a tequila or two.
Uno mas later unto seven or so
And semi-courage.
Lacking fear, I grabbed a U-haul, I grabbed my wife
And made our way towards the snow.

3,000 miles considered, I’m here now,
North and of no end to mechanism,
My newer commodity, food,
My newer machine, now a car,
Though admittedly,
When I look to the sky
And spot that MD-80,
I remember my toil
And sympathize for my sister,
A blonde and youngest of the brood,
Who continues to stomach that very
I’d freed myself from.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    Here the walls kept moving constantly, you never knew where you would end up next.
    People said there was a center where certain death would find you, but you seldom met the same person twice so it must be a large maze. The rooms were all 10 m by 10 m and sometimes had up to 10 people in one room.
    People here were guinea pigs who had agreed to volunteer for the experiment but after a few years passed and they were still there they began to realize they’d never escape.
    “But what was the experiment supposed to prove?” they asked each other.
    It was truly an enigma, but the government was so powerful they could do anything to anyone without having to give account for their actions.
    Outside they maze developers held closed casket funerals for the “dead” and said they had died in the experiment.
    But in the maze the people got used to it and looked forward to meeting new people and old friends in the maze...
    Some said the maze was like life and was therefore to be enjoyed. Forget about the outside world with its greed and struggles.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    Some people said that the world we see is not the whole picture. We are limited by our senses.
    And we are always ignorant on the cosmic scale of things... We are unable to understand all the important questions, such as is there higher beings, why do we exist, what is in space. What is under the Earth’s surface and so on...
    But human intelligence seems limited. If there was anyone smarter they would no doubt kill themselves out of sheer boredom and due to persecution...
    We are trapped in this mortal coil.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    Jupiter’s moon, Io, had a hellish landscape...
    Well below zero but the black flowers thrived all the same.
    In the center of the moon, was a settlement and it had a giant fiery volcano in the center of it. People who displeased the leadership were thrown into the volcano...
    Everyone had to dance, sing and do other performances for the rulers...
    Performers here were rewarded with rank for good performances but bad performers were subject to death...
    Of course it was considered an honor to be invited to dance before the rulers, but it was highly dangerous.


    But here one had nothing to hide, among delicate, graceful creatures...
    All the creatures were lit up in neon.
    Some even had “pets” who could do ballet... and win points from the rulers...
    But almost everyone wore clothes made of the black flowers that grew here in abundance. To these people, black flowers symbolized life here on this inhospitable planet.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    Some people say this and some people say that but in fact the reason civilization was invented was to brew better beer and make better wine.
    The oldest remains of wine is from China about 9 000 years ago so just at the dawn of civilization basically.
    Alcohol has allowed a lot of people to cope with life and its dullness, and people should drink more.
    Truth in wine (in vino veritas) and we should name our race homo veritas rather than homo sapiens. Or perhaps homo vino...

    Lie detectors could be improved and used also...
    Most people have a mean streak in them, but if they had to tell the truth all the time they would perhaps act more admirably.
    But of course some would be driven completely insane if they had to tell the truth all of the time and probably people wouldn’t get along so well as now.
    Ours is a race of liars...


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    I was an archaeologist who proved Early Humans had been in South America for 500 000 years. At least I figured I’d proved it. But there was a violent backlash. Everywhere people denounced me and libelled me.
    Such was the life of a scholar. I reflected I’d rather be a garbage man.
    My colleague said all archaeologists are like garbage men, only they study old garbage.
    Sometimes I wondered did the past matter at all with the focus today on the future. Nearly everyone these days (A.D. 2133) cared only about their future. But their future was mostly better drugs and better fantasy. I didn’t call that futuristic.
    In fact people were less futuristic than ever...frozen in time... Going backwards...


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    I said, “Every place I’ve been has been a surprise to me. You can’t read it on computer but have to go there in person oneself.”
    But she said, “This global village culture was boring and one place is much like another.”
    Still I said, “There are different types of people attracted to different cities. For example Toronto is now considered essential in a painter’s education.”
    And I said you can always go back to the fantasy worlds and drugs if reality gets you down.
    She said, “The multitude (and the radicals) though always end up more or less the same.”
    I said, “We are all in this together, even those in space, and we will sink or swim together.”
    She said, “there is no hope for humanity anyways; global village or not...”


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    God was the creator so I made sure all babies had me as the father. They were in my own image.
    I had numerous automatic factories that produced all manner of goods for free to the people. Even boats and air cars...
    People dreamed of God through MRT (Mind Reading Technology) and even house computers were God-like.
    “Finally I got sick and tired of it all and I tried to get out of this world through suicide but the house computer kept reviving me. It was hard to die in this world. I was God to these people and God can’t kill himself...”


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    On Mad planet DG-212, mad scientist 67-POF, replaced people’s heads with another. But all had a voice box and could speak...
    For example there was:
    Chicken head, totally afraid
    Lemon head, a total moron
    Blockhead, an idiot with a square block for a head
    Skunk head, smelled very bad
    Dog head; slavish behavior
    They were almost mindless bodies, but 67-POF loved all his creations.
    We are all animals he said.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    They locked the criminal in the cage and people came by to see him. The tourists would wear a special headset that would allow them to read the prisoner’s mind.
    He knew when they probed his head and he would scream and shout.
    But everyone knows there is no escape from the cages we build around ourselves.
    We feel we can’t be free and we don’t let anyone else be free either.
    For most the cage is imaginary but they’re all the same.
    To escape from the cage is to escape from society. But outside society there is nothing interesting...
    “Man is everywhere in chains,” as Rousseau said.
    Many people are masochists and sadists at the same time.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    He was a renegade soldier hiding from the victorious enemy...He lived on bones and dead people’s flesh in the catacombs of Paris and drank old wines.
    He met a woman who had been down here for some time; she couldn’t speak she could just growl and moan. She lived on the flesh of the newly departed and old wines as well. With water from a spring..
    He loved her. It was so primal, so mad...


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    I said, “Virtually every ethnic group that has come to America suffered from prejudice and privations. Even all women were held back and considered intellectual weaklings.”
    She said, “But those days are over.”
    I said, “But prejudice remains. For example some are prejudiced against genius, others against androids and still others were against ordinary humans.”
    And I said, “Freedom is hard, freedom from prejudice.”
    She said, “There is always room for improvement however...”
    I said, “Governments in this day and age only differ on what they spend tax payers’ money on. Fighting prejudice is not a priority.”
    Everyone hates a free person who does not want to be part of society. There is a lot of prejudice against those who are just trying to be free. This will be the next great revolution. Freedom for all...
    Of course we have taken away freedom from androids we discover but such androids are happy even when left alone with their “daydreams.”
    But she said, “It is insane to make so many androids, we need to stop them from happening.”
    “They are already dominating space,” she said. “And they are virtually all super geniuses...”
    Moral: future androids will take everyone by surprise and catch everyone unprepared. But we will love them.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    In the future it may come to pass that all men must pay cash for sex... After all for a suitable mate men have always had to pay alimony, child support and diamonds and gold and expensive dinners and so on. Women have always decided who loves who.
    It would be a world of prostitutes of various kinds... all teasers...And every woman would proudly wear a “price tag” to make all clear to potential suitors.
    In this world women had all the money and men had to work like slaves to afford sex.
    What else is new some said. Others said, society must treasure the fairer sex for they are superior to men.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    I said, “You are not Jesus or other great prophets.”
    He said, “Human progress had attracted the attention of God and he has sent more prophets.”
    I said, “Many people these days fancy themselves to be Gods but are in reality just weak humans.”
    He said, “God wanted his prophets to be respected just like they were in ancient times...”
    And he said, “I can do miracles if you want...”
    “Just cheap magicians’ tricks...” I said...
    I said, “I know you desire power and want to be the Universal Emperor...”
    “It’s too much power for one man,” I said.
    And I said, “Some people who aspire to rule are power crazed and will never stop trying to get more power.”
    He said, “Nevertheless 63% of people these days believe in God(s) (A.D. 2213).”
    I said, “But most of those believe in man-made Gods...”


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    On planet 670-QW, the men were all kept in cages while the women roamed free. Men were just used for sex in the cage and were never let go.
    But one day a certain woman who felt sorry for the men opened their cages and let them go.
    But the men were all morons and didn’t know what to do. Finally a self-appointed leader had all the women rounded up and put in the cages.
    It seemed like the best thing to do. But the men treated the women harshly as they had been treated and they had no idea about any alternatives.
    The women tried to cajole the men to let them go, but most men said it was a kinky, interesting situation.


From Tales of Madness Vol. III by Tom Ball, 2011

    Some say some scientists have sold their soul to the devil. In their weapons development and other dangerous technology.
    The devil likes war and carnage and death. And people love to watch violence or play violent video games...
    Down deep in the Earth is where they say the devil lives, in the heart of the Earth.
    Why is hell always said to be down there? What about space, or the Earth’s surface?


    And a lot of people “sell out to heaven”
    But the devil tempts people with pleasure. And if you have pleasure and say you are good; is it heaven or hell?
    Boring humans...
    Most are somewhere in between heaven and hell.
    Yet most people now don’t believe in the soul. But they still don’t live for the day, but rather want to be safe and live to be old and good. Such a pity, says the devil.

Don’t Colorize

Marcin Majkowski

Don’t colorize
my life
with its grayness
the omnipresent

I’ll present
all shades
of black and white
life’s frames
of these colors
are so numb

I love
bitter conservatism
Withdrawing happiness

I locked myself
in the
black and white
theatre shrine
You coming?
I’ll tell you
about it
the dry wine

Beating Heart Cadaver

Katrina K Guarascio

I wish I could warm my feet on you tonight.
Wish you would take my hands in yours,
and ask me why I am always so cold.

I tell you it’s not my fault.
Ropes of red under pale skin,
beating burden buried in ribbed cage,
these things lack heat.

My cold body
doesn’t deny the pump of blood,
but heart is veiled deep
and when hand curls against chest,
the cavern seems hollow.

This is life without living,
disappointment in survival,
leading to dropped eyes
and limped wrists.

What’s the point of circulation
without the ability to feel sensation?
What’s the point of catching
the wind if unwinged?

Skin only prickles in the breeze.
A reflex, not a reaction.

Spiteful heart continues pumping under skin.
I lack the talent to stop it,
as much as the spark to ignite.

You once enveloped me completely;
concealing me safely inside cracked fingers
and protective embrace.
You shielded me from broken glass
and car crash.

Now, my back has toughened
under the beat of sun.
Thick casing becomes only shelter,
calloused limbs only protection.

I miss being able to fold myself inside of you.
I miss the way your hands made mine
seem warm and

Katrina K Guarascio Short Bio

    Katrina K Guarascio currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she teaches English, Poetry, and Journalism. Along with various literary magazine and ezines publications, she is the author of two chapbooks and two book length publications, A Scattering of Imperfections and most recently, They don’t make memories like that anymore...

Adultery on a Budget

David Meuel

    At 3:30 on a sunny September afternoon Janet and Russ met at the Santa Clara Marriott, where, earlier that day, she had reserved their room for $32 on
    Janet was amazed by how affordable adultery had become. Once only the rich could manage the afternoon interludes in the nice hotel rooms with the good champagne and the other trimmings that went with it. Now ordinary people like them could do it—and fairly often, too. Yes, she would joke with Russ, this was their version of the American Dream.
    Once in the room, Janet and Russ rushed for each other. She loved how he desired her. But it wasn’t only the sex that was good. Russ was funny and thoughtful. He knew things about wine and Picasso and Miles Davis. He worked out. He dressed well. Even at his best, her husband Bill was a slug by comparison. Under the bright green and blue and gold bedspreads in the different hotel rooms—so secret, so exciting—she hadn’t felt this alive in years. Except for the moments when she thought of her daughter, Madeline, it really was like a dream.
    “I love you,” Janet said, looking for a sign as they dressed to leave two hours later.
    “And I love you, too.”
    She lived to hear Russ say these words, but she wished he didn’t sound so automatic when he did. She wanted to ask him about his feelings, if he really loved her or was just being polite.
    “Would next Wednesday work for you?” she said at last.
    Russ checked his calendar and smiled. “I think I can slip you in.”
    “No,” Janet said coyly, “I’m the one who slips you in.”
    They blushed and laughed and kissed each other deeply.
    “I wish I didn’t have to go with Marci to back-to-school night,” Russ said. “I’d love to go another round or two.”
    “That makes two of us.”
    After Janet left the Marriott, she went to the supermarket and then home. As usual, Bill was drinking beer, eating Doritos, and blogging about his detestable right-wing politics. He had been unemployed for eleven months now and had stopped even pretending to look for work.
    “Did you fix the shower?” Janet said.
    “Maybe tomorrow,” Bill said without looking up from his computer.
    “How about the screen on the back door?”
    “No, I didn’t get to that either.”
    “Okay then, how was your day?”
    “Nothing special. Yours?”
    “About the same.”
    Janet often thought about telling Bill what she really did on the days when she met Russ. That would get him to look up from his computer. But she quietly unloaded the grocery bags and fixed dinner. All the while, she could still smell Russ’s sweet semen on her hands. Yes, after all the years of putting up with Bill, she was entitled to this.

    Late one afternoon four months later, Janet got a call at work from Russ.
    “Do you have a moment?” he said in a low voice.
    She went into an empty conference room and closed the door. “What’s up?”
    “Marci knows. She got into my emails. She suspected something but wasn’t sure. Now she’s fuming.”
    “What’s she going to do?”
    “She wants to tell Bill and your daughter—meet them face to face, show them the emails, tell them what terrible people we are.”
    Janet sat numbly, saying nothing.
    “Janet?” he said after a long pause.
    “I—I’m still here.”
    “Would—would you be willing to leave her?”
    “I don’t know. There are the kids to consider—and the money.” Now he paused. “But, after this, I might not have much choice in the matter.” Another pause. “I might be able to talk her out of telling Bill,” he said hopefully. “I don’t know about that, though. I’ve never seen her this angry. I just don’t know how this will play out.”
    “I—I don’t think we should see each other, at least for a while,” she said abruptly.
    “What?” Russ said, startled. “You can’t mean that?” Silence. “Sure. I guess that’s best,” he said slowly, sadly. “But I’ll keep you posted about Marci.”
    “Thanks. I appreciate it.”
    “I really am sorry about this.”
    “I am too.” She paused. “Take care of yourself.”
    “You too.”
    They had stopped saying “I love you” a month before.
    After the call, Janet looked out the window at the large, vacant office building that dominated the view. The winter sun was setting behind it, making the empty spaces inside steadily darker.
    She had calls to make, emails to write, and then groceries to buy and a dinner to cook, but she could only sit at the big polished wooden table and look out. At first, nothing came to mind. Then, one by one, she could see Bill hearing about the hotel rooms, then poor Madeline, then her parents, then other relatives and friends. The cost of her meetings with Russ now seemed much higher than it did when she had eagerly paid the Priceline fees. And, as she continued to look, the shadows from the building rose, like a swelling tide, over her chest, neck, nose, and eyes. Finally, all of her was submerged in silhouette.

David Meuel Bio

    David Meuel has published more than 125 poems and short fiction pieces in more than 75 magazines and literary reviews. He lives in San Jose, California, where he also works as a freelance marketing writer for Silicon Valley companies.

Hope and Sand

Ryan Priest

    “The city is coming to eat our souls.” Alvin Thomas said from the driver’s seat. The couple had parked alongside a dirt road intersecting a super highway. Strewn along the side of the road were billboards; WAL-MART COMING SOON and a McDonald’s restaurant had one for its grand opening. “I have to get out of here Lex.”
    “And go where?” Alexis McKnight was seventeen and one of the only three teenage girls within ten miles. The two were together out of necessity. Young people had to stick together. There was love there too though, the type of love that can only be shared between two lonely souls cut off from the rest of the world.
    Now that the city was coming they’d be outcasts no more. But now Alvin wanted to leave. None of this made any sense to Lex. She seldom understood Alvin the first time around. He seemed to have a way of wrapping poetry around every word. The rest of the world was going to love him.
    Their town had been buzzing about the news for months. A big plant was being built and bringing in hundreds of new families and businesses. This is what they had waited for their entire lives, to catch up with the rest of America.
    The town was called Anderville and at last census held a population of one hundred in its limits. Most of these were people living at the very outskirts, the rest were trailers. A gas station with an attached mini-store, dust and desert winds were all they had.
    “Come on Alvin, where do you want to go?”
    “I don’t know if it exists really. I want to go where no one can find me.” He said keeping eyes fixed on a certain patch of rocks. Lex tried to see what was interesting him so much but she couldn’t make it out.
    “People aren’t such a good thing. Think of everyone you’ve ever known, have they ever really done anything good for you? I mean in relation to what you’ve had to give up to please them.”
    “I can think of one.” Lex smiled up at him.
    “Yes, but I mean everyone else, people as in the rest of the world. All those faces that sweep in and then sweep out again all the time. Now they’ll be here forever.”
    “There will be jobs. We can get a house of our own like you said.”
    “Things will begin to cost a lot more. As is everyone’s got the same amount of money around here. No one is made to feel poorer than anyone else. That changes when people come into play. All they care about is making one another feel bad about himself.”
    “You see a lot of that when you lived in Tucson?” Lex had lived in Anderville all of her life but Alvin’s mother had moved in three years before.
    “Nothing but.”
    “Don’t you think you might be being a little hasty? I mean, the factory isn’t even finished yet. We have no idea what types of folks it’ll bring in.”
    “There’s only one type.”
    “Maybe you’ll like them when you get to know them.”
    “That’s just it, I don’t want to get to know them. I don’t want to have to acclimate myself to a whole different life.”
    Lex gave him a troubled look.
    “Acclimate means make myself accustomed to, to get used to.”
    Alvin was always reading books. He ordered them out of huge catalogues he had sent to him in the mail. He knew all the special deals to get good rates. Last time she checked he was only averaging a dollar a book. This gave him a bigger vocabulary than Lex. He didn’t hold it over her though, at least she didn’t think he did. Sometimes she didn’t know words and it was better to have him tell her the word than pretend she knew what he was talking about. Through Alvin’s influence alone she had learned more than she ever had in school.
    “I’ve watched them my whole life, people, they talk a big game about how everyone likes one another. How much they care for each other and the like. What they really do is use each other. ‘What can you do for me,’ and that sort of thing. You’re only worth as much as your use. They keep themselves believing this is civilization and they want you to believe it too.” Alvin could hold her attention forever.
    “You don’t believe it’s civilized?” Lex asked. Alvin always said the corner stone of any discussion was questions and answers. He said that that way everyone ended up on the same page. Alvin says, Alvin says, her parents were already sick and tired of her constantly quoting him. She couldn’t help it though, he was more than a boyfriend, he was like a mentor to her.
    “I believe ‘civilized’ is a word people have created for themselves. Do I think it is evolved or better? No. Do I think it’s necessary for our growth as a species? No.” Alvin always took things to their extremes. He wasn’t content to only look at the now, he always factored in the past and the future as well.
    “What do you mean?”
    “I mean that I don’t think we’re meant to be raised in massive communities. We’re stripped down from day one and refitted as we go on in hopes that one day we’ll be another of the faceless civilized people making someone else rich.”
    “Alvin who’s they? The government?”
    “The government, the postman, the bartender, the soccer mom, all of them. It is a self sustaining ideal that they’ve all become trapped in. They have this faith that better decisions are being made, have been made, by others thus freeing them from any personal responsibility.
    “They always look to someone else or something else to teach them how to feel and what to think. No one ever stops to just think for himself anymore. No one has anything to say anymore and even if they do it’s not heard.” Alvin sighed slightly. “Like screaming inside a soundproof cell.”
    “If not big cities then what?” Lex asked. She went looking into her purse for a pack of cigarettes. A habit she’d picked up off of Alvin.
    “Take one of mine.” Alvin lit two cigarettes in his mouth and handed one to her. “And to answer your question, I’m not really sure. I know I can see it, in my head, see it so real I think I can touch it but then a voice comes in and reminds me that I don’t have enough time. That this will take generations and generations to accomplish.”
    “What’s it? What do you see, a utopia?” Lex noticed Alvin give her a sort of proud smile as she used the word ‘utopia’. The smile made her beam.
    “I guess you could call it that. I see thousands of people all happy. Not just indulgent but content where they are. They’ll do only what they want to do and the opinions or actions of others won’t matter because every man will have found happiness within himself. The new discoveries won’t be made in plastics factories or hospitals, they’ll be made in people’s houses. Triumphs of the mind. If we as a people really knew what we were capable of we wouldn’t even need hospitals anymore.”
    “What are our full capabilities?”
    “What are anything’s capabilities? Infinite. But as I see it our limits are neither being pushed nor even met by people.”
    The dust picked up quickly and circled the car. This happened from time to time. The earth seemed to rise up and collect you reminding you where you came from. The two watched it in silence. Lex didn’t know if she should believe him or not. He was always going over the ills of the world in this way or that. That’s what she loved so much about him, he didn’t ever settle. Everyone else in Anderville had at one time or another settled for less than they’d wanted out of life. That’s why they were all out there in the middle of the desert. Now whatever crimes they’d committed against the rest of the world were paid for and they were being asked to rejoin.
    “I am leaving this place Lex. I am going to take this car and just drive off into nowhere.”
    “How will you survive or eat?”
    “If there’s no work for an honest man to be found then I guess I won’t be that honest.” Alvin smirked. It always drove her crazy when he did that. She wondered if it was really safe to love someone that much. Whether it was or not she couldn’t help it so she just went with the flow.
    “What does that mean?”
    “In a word, steal.”
    “I thought you didn’t steal.”
    “I never said that. I said I don’t take what belongs to someone else.”
    “Isn’t someone’s food something that belongs to them.”
    “What? A strip of bacon? The hog might have something to say about that. The grain and cornstalks don’t get to choose who eats them. Tell me, if you aren’t a part of society, if you don’t live under the auspices of that assumed code of conduct then what laws really apply to you?”
    “Well none but you still have ethics.”
    “Yes, and is it ethical to walk into a store and open a bag of potato chips to eat when you have no other food?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Then think it over.”
    “I guess it’s not ethical. The store is owned by someone who paid for those chips.”
    “Yes, he paid a man who paid another man to pick the potato from the Earth to process and bag. However if I was walking through a potato field and I picked up a spud to cook for dinner would that be akin to stealing?”
    “Because the Earth gives us our nourishment. Now if someone is going to go dig up all the potatoes before I can find them simply so he can chop them up into pieces is it ethical for him to charge a price to eat them when you’re after the food and not the special taste?”
    “So what does that mean?”
    “That it’s ethical to retake the potatoes?”
    “No. It means that ethics cannot be played by one side alone. When it comes to survival your ethics don’t matter as much as your reality. So I won’t weigh myself down with foibles.”
    “Traditions, ways of belief that are old or outdated or simply weak.” Alvin thought for a second, “I’m not sure if it’s in the definition that they’re outdated but coming from my viewpoint you can’t have one without the other. I’ll have to check on that.”
    “If you go you won’t graduate.” Lex said and they both shared a smile. Alvin as smart as he was, happened to be a failing student. They shared a school with the rest of the county bussed in from all different directions. Among them Alvin had the worst grades, straight Fs. Earlier in the year he’d decided it was stupid to do any work simply because a teacher had told him to. From then on when handed any assignment Alvin would demand a logical reason why he should do it. After a while the teachers had stopped even asking him for work. There was no way he was going to graduate but he didn’t seem to care.
    “You’re serious about this aren’t you?” Lex asked looking out the window.
    “Yes. I can’t stay to watch everyone here sucked up into that impartial, indifferent mass of...mass of,” Alvin searched his head for the right word. He always said that there were many words for many things but always a right word, one that fit better than any other. Alvin said the true gift of communication is finding the right words at the right time. “Normality.” He said half-sure, then nodded, “Normality.”
    “You just said you liked that no one here felt any different than anyone else. You said in your utopia that every man was happy with himself. Doesn’t ‘everyone’ mean normal?” Lex said hearing a crack in her voice. She wanted to convince him not to leave. Alvin always said he could be persuaded if he was ever proven wrong in one of his beliefs. The problem was doing it.
    “No, that is not normal. It is extraordinary. When you reach that place in yourself where it doesn’t matter about fitting in anywhere, where normal doesn’t matter, then you exude this light and brilliance that is simply extraordinary.”
    “Are you that way?”
    “Then how do you know?”
    “Because I can see it in your eyes when you smile. When I know you’re happy you glow. That is how I know there’s something better out there for all of us, when I look in your eyes.”
    Lex couldn’t breathe for a moment. His words had come like a swift kick in the stomach. She was crying openly now but couldn’t tell if it was out of pain or joy. “I love you Alvin.”
    “I love you too Lex.”
    “Then stay.”
    “I can’t. If I did I would be settling and you are too good for a man that settles. Don’t think this hurts me any less than it hurts you.”
    “You’re not crying.”
    “It is not my style. Besides I want you to remember me like I am now, calm and collected maybe even a bit poised.” Alvin smiled at her and put his arm around her shoulder.
    “Then take me with you.”
    “What?” Alvin sat back. “You don’t want to go with me. You said yourself that you’re excited about the rest of the world coming to Anderville.”
    “I’ve never seen the rest of the world. I won’t miss it. I love you already and I can’t bear to lose you.”
    “That isn’t fair to yourself or to me. Never let someone else control your actions with their feelings.”
    “Do you want me to go with you?”
    “I will refrain from answering that as it might unfairly sway your judgment in one way or another. If you were to go, it would have to be for yourself and no other reasons.”
    “I want to be where you are no matter where that is, is that a good enough reason?”
    “I suppose it is but Lex, I couldn’t live with myself if I drug you into this with me. I don’t really expect to come out of it. I’m really only giving it a noble attempt. I couldn’t stand to see you whither with me and watch that glow leave your eyes.”
    “You don’t ever want to settle for less than you want. Well I don’t want to settle for the rest of the world. You know that happiness you spoke of in me. It’s only around when you are near. It’s all for you, only you and if you go it will go too.”
    “You don’t know that.”
    “You say you’ve watched people your whole life. Have you ever seen a glow in a single one of them? It doesn’t take people to make me happy. It only takes one person, you.”
    Alvin was silent for a moment.
    “We’ll stop by your house so you can get things you’ll need. Then we’ll stop by my house.”
    “We have enough gas?” Lex asked
    “We’re not American anymore, we’re savages, we don’t pay for gas.” Alvin smirked as he started the engine. Lex suddenly felt a wave of freedom blasting across her face. They were really doing it. They were going off together. She couldn’t have asked for more.
    Alvin leaned over and kissed her one last time and they were gone. Lex took a look at the roads, the trailers, the dust and realized it was all she’d ever really known before.
    “We’re never coming back, are we?” Lex asked feeling somewhat indifferent. They were onto something bigger now, more important.”
    The car made its rounds and then it was on the super highway barreling towards an unknown horizon. The driver and his passenger with locked hands and beating hearts ready, for what they didn’t know, but ready.

Work of the Unknown, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Work of the Unknown, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Beauty and the Bus

Ben Leib

    I’d been sober for five weeks and my hormones were raging. I had made a decision to stop drinking and using drugs through winter quarter, and, with five weeks to go, I was coasting right along. After one too many nights saying regrettable things, one too many calls to friends on lamentable mornings after to find out if I’d acted inappropriately, one too many unnecessary meannesses, one too many lost acquaintances, it was time to dry out for a spell. Furthermore, my health was declining. Because of my overindulgence I was gaining weight, I was out of shape in general, I smoked too much, and lived my life short of breath. So one day, snap, that was it, I’d had enough and it was time to pull it together – at least for ten weeks.
    I stopped cold turkey. Because I had no guidance and no idea what to do with my time, my best efforts were spent filling every second of my day with some kind of labor, motivated by the belief that idle hands pick up shot glasses: I wrote a thousand words a day, I enrolled in four classes instead of the standard three, I completed every word of the assigned reading. But I couldn’t balance my social life. I didn’t know how to have fun if I wasn’t inebriated to the point of speech impairment. I was actually afraid to go out, even with friends who were normal, who were untroubled by the thirst, for I knew that my default response to social discomfort was to grab for the bottle. That being the case, I wasn’t getting laid. It’s not like I was Don Juan when I was falling off of bar stools, quite the opposite actually, but without booze my libidinal drives were on overload, my hormones worked double time without a constant regimen of intoxicants to subdue them, and without a social life I wasn’t even speaking to any girls.
    To deal with this surplus of energy, I’d been working out at the school gym daily: I ran five miles a day, lifted weights until my arms failed against the resistance. If it didn’t hurt, I hadn’t done the job properly. It was as if, without booze as a form of self-punishment, I’d opted for the more socially acceptable flagellation of fitness. And it was paying off. I was watching my diet, and in those first five weeks on the wagon, I lost nearly thirty pounds. But looking good only added to my overwhelming horniness. What use was this new body if I didn’t get to put some miles on it? Even at the movie theater where I worked, the girls would ask me, “What plans you got for the new body?” Girls! That was my plan. They were the only thing on my mind. Unfortunately, they were not so forthcoming. Without the drink as social lubricant, as an impulse-control inhibiter, I wasn’t faring well.
    There was one particular girl that I’d had an eye on for months: a petite punk rock chick who lived in my neighborhood. Maybe it was something about her overt rebelliousness, maybe it was her lithe, nimble body, maybe it was her short bob, dyed black, maybe it was the softness of her cat-like eyes, a physical trait skillfully enhanced with black eyeliner, but the girl stirred my appetite. She wore short black jeans and tattered t-shirts that fit just tightly enough to get a sense of her subtle and braless curves. She wore her nipples like jewelry. I ran into her regularly during my frequent forays through town. I lived downtown Santa Cruz, on Lincoln Street, worked at the Nickelodeon Theater, a block and a half from my front door, and my best friends lived two blocks away: not counting the university, I spent my life within a three block radius. Because she was my neighbor and because she was a student, I saw the petite punk rock chick all the time. She lived across the street from me, up the block a bit, and she had to walk by the theater to get anywhere. We often ended up on the campus bus together. I ogled her from afar, dreamed about how uninhibited she must be, how funky and hip and sassy. She must have been an Art major, maybe with a minor in Feminist Studies. She was bound to be interesting.
    I never knew her name, but, particularly during my time away from the drink, I masturbated to her recurrently. I imagined those perky tits, her body, hard here and soft there. I imagined the faces that she might make, the noises, in a state of erotic ecstasy, the tight eyed groans, the screams of endurance on the verge of pain, her cat eyes as they soften, get that dilated, million-mile stare in the receding tides of orgasm. I could make good on these fantasies, I knew, given the opportunity, I’d show her just how it was done. I’d put her to sleep.
    Despite what I would, or could, or desired to do, despite what I knew I was capable of doing, I never said a word to the cute punk rock chick. I watched her from a distance, smiled occasionally, took pleasure in the thought that she probably recognized me, and that was about it. Something about the nature of my unspoken desire was self-perpetuating. The more that I dreamed of her, fantasized about her, the more that image of her would resonate with a deified aura, and the less likely I ever was to speak to her, for she had then become otherworldly. My desire possessed a momentum of its own, that had, in reality, absolutely nothing to do with the truth of this young woman, for, in reality, I had no idea who she was. I possessed only fantasy.
    Because I was going to the gym every day, I’d bring my workout clothes to class with me. I caught the bus up to campus each morning, hit up my lectures, and by early afternoon I was done with my school day. I’d run over to the gym, suit up, and torture myself for a couple of hours before heading back home to read and write and generally avoid the populous at large. I always wore my sweaty gym clothes during the bus ride home. I didn’t bother with the school showers. I figured that I lived a block from the bus stop, it was easier to clean up at home. So every day I was riding up to campus in jeans and some plaid shirt or another, and I was riding back from campus in polyester track suit pants and a sweat stained t-shirt. Occasionally, when the bus was crowded, I got a bit self-conscious about my informal attire, my sweatiness. But I never worried enough to change my habits, which, in sobriety, had the comforting function of structuring each waking moment of my existence.
    So there I was, five weeks sober, hormones alight, shod in my sweaty gym clothes, boarding the six pm bus off of campus. Dinnertime and it was one of the most crowded lines of the day. Oh well, fuck it, I gotta get home and shower and read and write and, shit, they’re just gonna have to deal with touching a sweaty guy on the bus today. When the university bus lines got crowded, students packed onto them like it was the last ride out of hell, not an inch of space was wasted. As I boarded the bus, as I was jostled and crowded into the available standing room, who did I find myself crowded against but the cute punk rock chick who had recently been monopolizing my erotic fantasy life.
    It took a moment to set in. I turned my head, and there she was, nipples erect, cute as ever, smiling at me in nonchalant recognition, smelling of femmy BO and some kind of natural body wash, of the restless dreams of thirty five sleepless nights, tantalizing my nostrils, driving my thoughts in a very specific, impure direction. She was short, and stood there grasping one of the rubber loops with both arms raised to keep her balance. She was facing the front of the bus, and therefore facing me. I stood toward the outside window, the right side of my body close to this fantastically beautiful woman. Unfortunately, I was also crowded into uncomfortable proximity with the person seated in front of me, my crotch pressed dangerously close to this poor kid who’d been lucky enough to get a seat, and unlucky enough to find me standing beside him.
    As the bus filled up, I found myself pressed more snugly against the delectable punk rock chick. Students continued to pile on the bus. There was no room to move, no room to shift around. I was hovering right above the innocent kid sitting there in front of me. The punk rock chick nestled closer. Her little body pressed unyielding against my flank. I felt the slight curve of her chest, the bony sharpness of her pelvis, her firm thigh. I felt her sultry breath against my elevated bicep. When the bus bounced, shook, I felt her nimble little body shift against me, my newer, tighter, harder muscles accommodating the bit of tension and resistance she needed to stay on her feet. My heart clamored with the thrill of physical and human contact that I’d been so starved for. I willed myself to stare out the window, over the dude sitting in front of me, but, with this stranger beside me who I’d constructed as the embodiment of sex, my eyes couldn’t help but wander. They had a will of their own.
    My body began to react before I was aware of my own innate responses to such intimate contact. My penis stirred in the loose fitting sweat pants. Terror set in. Blood was circulating. The body was enacting its natural responses to such stimulation. I felt movement. I wasn’t hard, but I was engorged and well on my way to fully erect. I looked down at the poor guy sitting in front of me. I’m sorry, I thought silently. Now, I’m not claiming superhuman physiological endowment, but, were I to get hard in that position, the guy who I was facing, who I was standing against really, wouldn’t fail to notice. And no one wants to feel a stranger’s erection while riding Muni.
    I began to sweat. Panic loomed. The pheremonal call of that little body beside me, my starvation for the intimacy of human contact... I was losing control of my bodily reactions. I looked at the punk rock temptress. Her face was turned to the side. She stared out the window, her head gently brushing my shoulder. Was she doing this on purpose? I looked down discretely. The outline of my cock was visible through the thin material of my workout clothes. Was this some kind of a game to her? Embarrass the lusty-eyed neighbor on the crowded bus? I closed my eyes. I willed myself flaccid. But, with every movement of the crowded bus, my penis stirred, my body conspired against me. I imagined things un-sexy: fat, shirtless clowns juggling hatchets, old women in purple hats playing craps and neglecting to tip the dealer, gristly and overcooked steaks, grease traps, foul and ghastly smelling human excrement. I fought that boner with every firing synapse of my conscious will. My own body, my own erotic urges became a mortifying enemy, and I fought back with stout perseverance. I fought back against the desperation of the lonely and the scared and the neglected and the sexually starved. But I won.
    We got off the bus at the same stop. I endured twenty minutes of delightful and dangerous proximity to this perfect little body without embarrassing myself. She gave me one glancing smile before trotting ahead of me to her own apartment, a block or so up the street from mine. I went back home kind of sad, adrenaline still astir. I was scared of what I desired. That depressed me. Near powerless in life, what little agency I could exert was exemplified and exhausted through this internal struggle with my own bodily reactions. I was a peeper, a voyeur in my own imagination, incapable of functionally interacting with the world at large. The drink started to sound pretty good.

Sex and Laundry

S. MacLeod

    “Am I doing something wrong?” I whisper, breathing sweat scent.
    It’s the third time he’s wilted like a salted slug, and I give up, turn over on my side. I’m still dressed, so I’m spared.
    “It’s not you,” he’s explaining. I hear the rustle of his clothes, his fly zipping shut.
    “I am attracted to you, it’s just....”
    He snaps on the lamp; the room fills with accusatory yellow light. I knew he was engaged when this started, so he’s wasting his breath. This was supposed to be fun. My hand creeps over the height of my hip, measuring like always.
    My fingers find smooth, warm skin that was supposed to be his, its electricity fading.
    “Self-pity isn’t winning you any points,” he says.
    Fuck him. I pull my t-shirt over my stomach, say nothing as I haul myself up, follow him downstairs and out, into unseasonable March sun.
    He makes some small talk about see you at work tomorrow. I nod, submit to his awkward embrace. He’s wearing Drakkar, but the undersmell is more honest, sex and laundry. He tilts my chin up, looks in my eyes, opens and closes his mouth.
    Then turns to go.
    I watch him retreat to the rusty Ford he’d said he was too drunk to drive.
    Some would say I lack impulse control, otherwise why would I be this way? But it takes all I have, not to slam the door behind him.
    “You’re welcome.”

Metal Spaghetti

Matthew Middleton


June 4th 1867

My Dearest Theresa,

    The calendar tells me that a mere two months have passed since I lest held you, but my heart tells me it has been and eternity. When I left you to earn the money needed to have your hand in marriage the only comfort I had was that the job I would take would be exciting and interesting. As it would turn out, this never came to be.
    The job I ended up finding was filled with promise. The Government is trying to rebuild after the war tore the country in two and had heard amazing stories of inventions that they could use to raise the money they needed to help restore the country to something that resembled normal. They needed people to look into these stories to verify their authenticity. This was to be my job. The chance to see America and witness truly amazing machines seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity, but it turned out that most of the stories were simply that, stories completely fabricated or that were gross over-exaggerations.
    As I write this letter I have one more town to visit before I can collect my pay and return to you. The tale of this town is the tallest of them all. A man built entirely of metal, walking, talking machine. I hold no hope that this tale will end up any different than the last tone, I only wish it to be quick so I can be blessed with your touch once again. Until we me again my dear.



June 13th 1867

My love,

    It seems my initial pessimism was unfounded, I have talked to several people from the town of Killbuck and they all corroborate the story of the metal man! Tomorrow I will talk to Bill, the owner of the local saloon and the man who was closest to the metal man. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm! May this letter find you well.



June 15th, 1867

My Eternal Heart,

    The story that Bill has recited to me is equally amazing and heart breaking! I am blessed to be the one who gets to pen it. I am working through the narrative now and will send it to you as soon as it is complete. With much love!



June 18th, 1867

My Love,

Here it is, may this tide you over until I can hold you once again...


    The midday sun beat down on the small town of Killbuck. The cloudless sky allowed the full force of the sun to attack anyone foolish enough to challenge it. Killbuck was an uninteresting dustbowl of a town with a single street, lined with a saloon, a hotel and a few shops that led to a large house owned by Mr. Slate. The town grew up around the mining community that put down roots when gold was found in the hills that surrounded Killbuck, but no gold had been pulled out of those hills for nigh on fifty years and the town suffered the consequences. Mr. Slate was the reason that Killbuck was still around. It wasn’t that he gave the town life; so much as they allowed it to live for his own personal use, kind of like feeding a servant just enough so they don’t die so you can use his services. Mr. Slate let the townspeople pretty much live their lives as they wanted as long as it didn’t interfere with his ranching business. He only had one rule, no religion. No one knew the reason for his deep seated hatred of it; some suspected it was to make sure that the spirits of the townspeople stay broken.
    Most days were plain and ordinary, and this day looked to be no different until the silence of the morning was broken with a gunshot as a man was launched backwards through the door of the Slate Mansion.
    “I’ll give ya five seconds preach. Better hope the good Lord grants ya wings!” Called a voice from inside the house, snickering.
    With that the preacher started running down Main Street.
    “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil,” the preacher mumbled under his breath.
    “For You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”
    “THREE!!” called the man from the house, his volume increasing with each number.
    “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
    “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”
    “FIVE!” With that a man stepped out of the Slate house, aimed, and took shot at the preacher.
    The bullet struck the back of the preacher’s leg and exited through the kneecap, sending him falling to the ground, grabbing his knee in agony. As he gathered his Bible and tried to crawl further, the man who fired the shot walked towards the preacher, flanked on either side by two large men holding rifles.
    “I told ya I’d run you outta this here town didn’t I preach?” The man said, stifling his laughter, looking at the men behind him, almost as if to ask for their conformation. “Gave you a chance to get out yourself, but you were just too stubborn to take it.” He said, almost to the preacher now. “I do say, you brought this on yourself.”
    When the man caught up with the preacher he kicked him over onto his back, the preachers Bible flew out of his hand and landing just out of arms reach. “I told you that you and your God aren’t welcome here.” He said, putting a bullet in the preachers Bible.
    “It doesn’t matter what you do to me, God will send someone who can help these people, in spite of you!” The preacher yelled up at the man in disgust.
    The man knelt down to get right in the preachers face. Grabbing the preacher’s hair, he said “Well preach, you better tell Him when you see Him that the next preacher he sends thisa way better be bullet proof.” With that the man stood up and buried a single shot between the preacher’s eyes and holstered his side arm.
    “Want us to clean this mess up boss?” One of the large men asked.
    “Nah, not your job,” the man said, staring up at the birds starting to circle overhead. “And it’s not anyone else’s job either!” The man said loud enough for the rest of the town to hear. “If I catch anyone burying this man, he better dig enough graves for him, and his family!”
    Everyone in town knew he wasn’t exaggerating.

CHAPTER 1: The Strange Stranger

    It had been three days since the preacher had been killed, and although his dead body, rotting out in the sun stunk to high heaven, no one dared challenge Mr. Slate. At least that’s what everyone thought. Every morning since the preacher’s murder, Bill, the owner of the local saloon, looked out his window, in the direction of the preacher’s body, and said a prayer for him. This morning was no different, except, whenever Bill looked to find the preacher he was nowhere to be found. Instead there was what looked to be a man standing there with a shovel patting down the ground. The man was oddly formed though, it looked as if his limbs were very thin and each of his joints jutted out into his jacket at odd angles. The man then pushed the shovel into the dirt to mark the grave and turned toward the saloon. Bill scrambled to get ready to greet him, but by the time he got downstairs the strange man was already seated at the bar.
    “What can I get you sir?” Bill asked him, trying to hide the fear he had in his voice. He didn’t know what he feared, this strange man, or what would happen if Mr. Slate found out that he was disobeyed.
    “A beer would be just fine,” came the man’s reply. His voice was unlike any Bill had heard before, very steady in tone, almost not human.
    “One beer coming right up!” Bill started to fumble for a glass when Mr. Slate’s two thugs, John and Don, shoved aside the saloon doors in a way that announced their presence.
    “Well, well, well. Looks like someone was stupid enough to disobey Mr. Slate and go ahead and bury that preacher.” Don said as they both took a seat, one on either side of the man who had done the burying.
    “You new here?” John said turning toward the stranger. “Never seen you before.”
    “Just got here this morning.” The stranger answered, keeping his gaze straight ahead.
    “This morning? Interesting.” Don replied, looking over the stranger he noticed that his gloves had dirt on them. “Say, wouldn’t have been you who was the one who went ahead and buried that old preacher was it?”
    “I did.” The man replied, matter of factly.
    “Well I say we have to do something about that.” John said shooting a smirk toward Don. “How about we go outside settle this.”
    “If that’s what you need to do, then let’s do it.” The stranger answered with no waiver in his tone.
    “HA!” John laughed, “I kind of like this guy’s attitude, you got a name?”
    “Preacher should do just fine.”
    John and Don shot each other a surprised look. “Reckon I’m gonna enjoy this,” said Don laughing. John nodded in agreement with a large smile.
    Outside, the men formed a triangle. John and Don stood about ten feet apart facing the Preacher who was about a hundred feet away.
    “We draw, ona count of three!” John yelled out. “One.” John and Don both moved their coats out of the way of their guns. “Two.” Their hands on their guns. “Three!” With that they both pulled their guns and unleashed hell on the preacher until both of their guns were empty. Once the smoke from the shots cleared there was the Preacher, just standing there, no harm had come to him save a few bullet holes in the over coat he was wearing, he hadn’t even drawn his firearm. Once John and Don noticed this fear crept across their faces. Then, very slowly, and deliberately the preacher drew his gun, aimed, and shot both men in their gun hands. Both John and Don instantly dropped their guns, grabbed their hands and fell to their knees in pain. The Preacher then holstered his gun, and walked very slowly over to the two men.
    “You men work for Mr. Slate I presume?” Both men nodded. “Good, tell him I want to meet him, to talk to him. And tell him next time don’t send his two bit thugs to greet me first. Now go!” John and Don both got up, still holding their hands in disbelief, and ran as fast as they could towards Mr. Slate’s house. The Preacher then turned to the bar keep, and in a very upbeat voice he asked “now, how about that beer?”

* * *

    In a few minutes the saloon went from being almost completely empty to bursting at the seams. Everyone in town wanted to meet the man who stood up to Mr. Slate’s men. The preacher however, just sat at the bar quietly while everyone stumbled over each other to get close enough to ask him whatever was on their mind. After a few minutes of this the Preacher stood up and turned toward the crowd. Everyone immediately hushed and waited for him to speak.
    “I imagine there are a lot of questions for me, and I intend to answer everyone, but let me say my peace first in order to try to answer them.” The Preacher said, the brim of his hat covering almost all of his face. “First things first, as some of you may have noticed, I am not quite like the rest of you. I was created, built instead of born.” As he said that he lifted his hat to show everyone his face. He had the shape of a man, and the features, eyes, a mouth, a pair of arms and legs, but it was very apparent now that he was made of metal. “I was built with the purpose of bringing the Word to you and those like you. Those people who have been prevented from hearing it, in one way or another.”
    The crowd burst out in conversation, some shouting obscenities as they had never seen anything like this, others shouted questions and still others stood silently shocked.
    “Who built you?”
    “A machine preaching? Blasphemy!”
    “What do you plan to do now?” Came voices from the crowd.
    “Good questions. I’d like to keep my creator’s name to myself, simply for his safety, however, what I plan to do from here on out is to preach to you, and to help you out in any way I can.” Came the Preachers reply.
    “How can a machine preach? What do you know of God’s will, you’re just a bunch of metal parts?!”
    “I promise you I know God’s word, and have helped others before, who built me and what I am made of does not take away God’s ability to use me to help his people.” The Preacher answered.
    “Help? Hows about you kill Mr. Slate!” Came another voice.
    “That I cannot do. I will not take a life. I will keep him from harming you in any way I can, as long as that doesn’t involve killing.” Came the Preachers stern answer.
    “You know what happened to the last preacher, you buried him yourself, he’ll do the same to you and every other preacher that comes thisa way less’n you put a stop t’him.”
    “I already said, I won’t kill!”
    “If you won’t kill then you are no good to us!! You’ll end up like every other preacher who has tangled with Mr. Slate, all you’ll accomplish is making him angry, which won’t affect you much, ‘cause you’ll be dead, but I can guarantee you it won’t be any good for us!”
    “I will have no more talk of me killing Mr. Slate or anyone else for that matter! It won’t happen! If that’s all you want from me I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed!” The room deflated a bit after this declaration. After seeing what the Preacher did to Mr. Slates men, everyone was hoping to a quick solution to their problems. “Now, If you don’t mind, I’d like to find a room to make my own while I’m in town.” He said, turning toward Bill. “Can we hold services here Wednesday nights at seven and two on Sundays, at noon and five?”
    Bill nodded his head. “Across the road and down three buildings is the hotel, they can make a room up for you.”
    “Much obliged.” The Preacher replied, flipping Bill a coin. “Thanks for everything,” and with a tip of his hat he was out the door.

CHAPTER 2: A meal with fate

    The Preacher awoke the next morning to find that a letter had been slipped under his hotel room door during the night. Walking over to the door to retrieve it he noticed the name “Mr. Slate” sprawled out on the envelope. That didn’t take long, The Preacher thought to himself. Let’s see what he has to say.

    “I would like to meet, how’s high noon at my house sound?”

    “Short and to the point isn’t he?” He said to himself aloud. “Looks like I still have a little bit of time,” he said, looking at his watch. “Might as well head to the saloon to let someone know where I’ll be.”

* * *

    “Howdy!” Bill said in his usual cheerful tone as the Preacher entered the saloon. “What can I get you.”
    “Nothing today Bill, I’ve been invited to Mr. Slates for lunch.”
    Bills face went flush. “’re not going...are you?” He managed to say after a few moments.
    “Not sure it’s a good move to turn him down.”
    “You have to know what he is planning! If you go in, well, you might never make it back out! I beg you, you’ve just started your work here, you’ve already proven he can’t handle you in his usual way. Just stay in, no use giving him any opportunities!” Bill replied frantically.
    “I appreciate your concern, but I think I have to go, give him a chance to do right, even if he doesn’t take it.” With that the preacher turned towards the door.
    “Sir...” came Bill’s voice, “there might not be anyone brave enough to make sure you get a proper burial.”
    The Preacher just smiled, tipped his hat and left the saloon.

* * *

    When The Preacher got to the Slate house the door was already cracked open. As he was about to knock a voice came from inside.
    “Come on in boy!”
    The Preacher pushed the door open to see a large room with a table already set for lunch and Mr. Slate sitting at the head of it.
    “Come on in, take a seat, I believe we have some talking to do!”
    He seems awfully cheerful. The Preacher thought to himself as he took a seat.
    “Now I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me already, about maybe the man that you buried the other day?” The Preacher simply nodded. “Good, well, let me clear all of that up. You see, the man you buried, the, um...preacher, as he called himself, was trying to unite the townspeople against me. We had a meeting just like this one, where I kindly asked him to stop, to move on from this town because he’s services, well, they weren’t needed here. Well he said, in not so many words you see, to um...well stuff it where the sun don’t shine if you catch my drift. Well that forced my hand, he wouldn’t leave, and I couldn’t very well let the townspeople to gather together to kill me could I? So you see, that little dilemma wasn’t my fault.”
    “Not your fault?” The Preacher asked. “Way I hear it he was turning the people toward God’s will, you say that was against you, are your will and God’s will incompatible?”
    “I’m not sure I like what you’re implying.” Came Slate’s reply in a rather dry tone.
    “I wasn’t implying anything, I was simply asking, what kind of man you were.”
    “What kind of many am I?” Mr. Slate paused thoughtfully. “Fair enough. How about I tell you a little bit about myself, that way you can decide for yourself just what kind of man I am?”
    “Sounds fair.” The Preacher answered.
    “Good. Here goes, I was the son of a clock maker. A clock maker, such a thankless, lonely job. No one knows you exist until they need you, and they forget you just as quick as convenient. My father was an honest man, a man of great faith, which did little more than guarantee that he’d die near penny less. He’d toil away on a project for days and not charge if the family if they said they couldn’t afford it, and when he did get some money for his work, he sank it right into the church. I still remember when I told him that I wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, I thought it might break his heart, and it may have, if not for my darling little brother. See my brother bought everything my father was selling, and wanted to be a carbon copy of the old man, he pretty much was ‘fore the old man past. ‘Cept my baby brother had more of a knack for working with gears and springs. I was a little jealous I guess, that he had the old man’s heart, so before my father past I drew up a will, got dear old dad to sign it too. The will stated that I got everything the old man had, not much, but it was a house and a spot of land, money enough to start a ranch, the same ranch made me what I am today. ‘Course I’ve since sold that land and moved around a bit before finding this perfect little town. As for my brother? Well, can’t say I rightly know, if he took my father’s route he’s probably slaving away somewhere for next to nothing and giving what little he has to the good Lord. Me, when I saw what was left of my father when he was gone, well, I swore I would be everything he wasn’t, and well, look at me, I’d say it worked out pretty well. So, what kind of man does that make me Mr. Preacher?” Mr. Slate asked with a smile.
    “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Was The Preacher’s reply.
    The smile on Mr. Slate’s face instantly disappeared. “I can see that you’re going to be just as stubborn as the last preacher.”
    “And do you intend on me meeting the same fate as the last preacher.” The Preacher shifted in his seat as he said this and something on his chest caught Mr. Slates eye.
    After a pause the cheeriness returned back to Mr. Slate’s voice. “Oh no,” he replied, “I’m sure your fate will end up being much different.” The smile crept back across his face. “Much different.”
    “Seems like time I should be pushing off.” The Preacher said standing up.
    “So soon?” Mr. Slate asked. “Well I hope that you enjoyed our little chat.” After The Preacher left Mr. Slate called for John and Don. “Do you remember Mr. Fredrick, he works for the railroad, designing the new trains?” John and Don nodded their heads. “Put word out to him that I’ll be stopping in to see him soon with a very interesting proposition.”

CHAPTER 3: A Clash of Gears

    The saloon was packed, everyone in town was there to hear The Preacher give his sermon that Sunday. It was his third sermon and word of his first two turned anyone who didn’t think a machine could preach into believers. The word ‘machine’ hadn’t even been uttered in the past two weeks; anyone talking about The Preacher called him a ‘metal man’ out of respect. Just as that Sunday’s service was about to begin the congregation was interrupted as Mr. Slate and his men barged into the saloon.
    “Well, well, holding Church in a bar? Ha! I have seen it all.” Cackled Mr. Slate as he walked in through the doors which were being held open by his henchmen.
    “It does not matter where you gather, the Church is the people.” The Preacher responded in an even tone.
    “Well, Mr. Preacher, I came to ask you if you have given any thought to our conversation a few weeks back?”
    “I have given it much thought, and I intend to stay, as you can see, these people need someone to bring them the good news.”
    “The good news?” Mr. Slate said, smiling as he looked at his henchmen. “Well, that’s a shame Mr. Preacher, you see, I’m off to see a friend, and this friend, well he may be able to help me with the recent pest problem I seem to have. I was hoping you’d reconsider, save me the trip, but...well oh well, I gave you a chance. You may proceed with your service Mr. Preacher man.” Mr. Slate said, mockingly bowing towards him. “Enjoy it while it lasts!” And with that he left the saloon.

* * *

    A month had passed since Mr. Slate made his uninvited visit to the saloon that Sunday morning. One would think that his absence would have given the town some relief, but that was far from true. Everyone in town knew Mr. Slate too well to think he had given up on his vow to get rid of The Preacher, and with each passing day the tension grew thicker in the town. On the fourth Sunday since the visit, when The Preacher was getting ready to start his sermon, the whole town was visibly nervous.
    “I know that everyone expects Mr. Slate to attack me soon, but I think we need to take this time to realize the power of our Lord, and realize that His power extends over everyone and everything. Even Mr. Slate, and maybe, just maybe, Mr. Slate had a change of hear......” The Preacher was interrupted by a loud noise. He turned to see the front of the saloon had been completely torn off. Outside he could make out the shapes of three men. Mr. Slate and his henchman no doubt. Thought The Preacher. But it was what stood behind the human figures that had him worried. A massive object took up almost all of the visible space behind the men, almost completely blocking the sun.
    “Mr. Preacher.....” Came a deep and thunderous voice from the street. “Come out Mr. Preacher.”
    The Preacher made a move toward the door, but was stopped by Bill.
    “Please don’t go, I fear you won’t live if you do.” Bill pleaded.
    The Preacher put a hand on Bills shoulder. “Bill, you know I have to, I have to keep all of the people in here out of trouble.” As the preacher made it outside he caught his first real glimpse of what had torn the front off of the saloon. It was a large, lumbering metal man, much like him, but it looked like it was built for destruction. Mr. Slate, standing in front of it, looked like a small toy.
    “Well Mr. Preacher, I gave you a chance, just like I did the other preachers before you, and just like them, you didn’t take it. Consider this your ultimatum.” Mr. Slate then turned and walked toward his house. “Take care of him.” He said as he passed the large metal man.
    That was all the word the large monster of a machine needed. It heaved it’s huge hands above his head and swung them downwards. The Preacher was just able to jump clear of being crushed but was knocked back into what was left of the front of the saloon by the force. Struggling to get up The Preacher called out to Bill to make his way to his room and get his guns. Fear filled Bills eyes, the hotel that The Preacher had been staying at was across the street and the goliath stood in his way.
    “Bill I need you!” The Preacher called out, snapping Bill out of the trance he was in. “Take the back way, he won’t notice you, I’ll keep him occupied.” Bill simply nodded and ran towards the back of the saloon.
    “Giving up so soon?” The metal monster mocked.
    “Not hardly!” The Preacher said as he grabbed the nearest large rock and hurled it with all he had at the monsters head.
    “HAHAHA!! I hope you have more than that for me!” The monster cackled as he started to walk toward The Preacher, each of his steps shaking the ground along the way.
    Just then the Preacher noticed Bill slipping around the back of the hotel. That’s it Bill, I knew I could count on you. “Hope I have more than that for you? All you had for me was that weak ground pound!”
    “Weak?! I’ll show you weak!!” The monster once again heaved his fists in the air, but The Preacher was ready and quickly jumped up and climbed onto the roof of the porch of the shop next to the saloon.
    Need to time this right. The Preacher thought. Just before the monsters fists landed The Preacher jumped and landed on the monsters hands. With all the speed he could muster he ran up the arm of the monster and on to its shoulders. “NOW BILL!” He shouted. Bill, now in the hotel window of the room The Preacher had been staying in, hurled two pistols out the window toward The Preacher. In one motion The Preacher jumped up, grabbed the guns and started to unload them into the back of the head of the monster, sending it crashing to the ground. Everyone in the town started cheering and clapping as The Preacher himself fell to his knees.
    “Are you ok?” Came Bill’s voice, running from the hotel towards The Preacher.
    “I’ll be ok, please just help me to my room. If I write a letter to my maker, how fast can you get it out?” The Preacher asked Bill.
    “The train comes through each Wednesday, but I can take it straight to the station tomorrow if you want.”
    “I’d be much obliged; he’ll be able to fix me up better than before.”

* * *

    Mr. Slate had watched everything from his window along with John and Don.
    “Well that didn’t go so well.” John said after the monster had been brought down.
    “On the contrary, it may give me an opportunity to take care of The Preacher and an old problem all at the same time.” Mr. Slate answered as he played with the stubble on his chin.


    The Preacher had been laid up for four days since his run in with the monster that Mr. Slate had meant to kill him. Word was sent to his maker on Monday and as the sun rose on the Thursday there was a knock on The Preachers door.
    “Father! It is truly a blessing to see you!” The Preacher said as he opened the door.
    “As it is a blessing to see you son, how are you?”
    “I’ve been better.” The Preacher answered, pointing to his busted arm and leg. “That is why I called for you from so far away. I do apologize if it is an inconvenience.”
    “It is never an inconvenience to visit my son and see to his wounds. Now let’s get a look at these.” He said as he pulled a seat up to his son. “I think I can fix this in no time.” He then opened up his tool kit that was full of tools and all manner of parts used to fix timepieces.
    “How is the clock business treating you?” The Preacher asked.
    “Oh, as good as ever. It allows me the ability to give a lot of time to those who need it.” Which was his way of saying he didn’t have much work. “There you go, good as new!” The Clockmaker said, standing up and wiping his hands off.
    “You are truly amazing at your craft.” The Preacher replied, moving around his limbs to test them out. “Now let’s head to the saloon to grab a bite to eat.”
    As The Preacher and The Clockmaker made their way out of the hotel they were greeted by Mr. Slate, this time sans his henchmen. The Preacher instinctively stood in between Mr. Slate and his Father in order to protect him if Mr. Slate should want to try anything.
    “Now, now, now, Mr. Preacher man, at ease, do you think I’d do anything to my dear old brother?”
    The Preachers eyes lit up with surprise and he turned toward his father as if to ask for an explanation.
    “So good to see you Cain.” The Clockmaker said in a dry, sarcastic tone.
    “Aww, what have I done to you to deserve such a cold reception?”
    “I could make a list, but let’s just say the little stunt you pulled just before dad died is enough in itself.”
    “Poor Abel. Outfoxed by his older brother and still sore after all these years. Is that why you sent this abomination after me?” Mr. Slate said motioning towards The Preacher.
    “That ‘abomination’ as you call him, was made to help all of the people that you left like me, helpless and penniless. I heard of what you were doing with all your money, raping town after town, just like you are doing this one. You steal all of the money a town has, leaving its people on deaths doorstep and then moving on to the next. I made my son to help those people get back on their feet, to undo all of the evil you’ve done!”
    “You are just as naive as the old man. Each of you so worried with what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ what’s ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that you barely eek out an existence, and now you are condemning me for doing what I can to make sure my life here is as good as I can make it.” Mr. Slate then walked over beside his brother and placed an arm around him. “Now, dear brother, I am going to do something so evil that nothing your preacher can do will undo it!” Mr. Slate then pulled a large knife from his coat, turned to face his brother and stabbed him in the stomach. Looking his brother deep in the eyes his final words to him, or anyone else for that matter were “You think dad would have seen this coming when he named us how he did.” As his brother feel to his knees Mr. Slate caught a glimpse of the last thing he would ever see, the bright red eyes of The Preacher and the barrel of his gun.

* * *

    It took just seconds for almost everyone in town to come running to find out what happened. When they got to the scene they were surprised to find The Preacher on his knees sobbing loudly, Mr. Slate dead on one side, the clock maker dead on the other.
    “What happened?” Bill asked; the concern thick in his voice.
    The Preacher’s hands dropped from in front of his face and he just stared at the ground. “He...he killed my father.” He said slowly, turning to look towards Mr. Slate. “So I killed him.” There was something in his voice that no one had heard before, it was anger and disappointment rolled into one.
    “I’m sorry for your loss.” Bill said, looking at the ground.
    “When my father made me, he sat me down and told me that though I was made to look like a normal person, that I was different. I was stronger than a normal person, more accurate with a gun, but that these things were given to me in order to help people, not to hurt people. Not only have I let my father die, I have betrayed him.”
    “You’ve hardly betrayed him, you avenged his death, not to mention took care of a man who has done countless evils.” Bill replied.
There was a long pause from The Preacher before he got up. “Thank you Bill, for your friendship. I need to be alone for a while.” And with that The Preacher retired to his hotel room.


June 28th, 1867

My True Love,

    As it turns out, no one in the town of Killbuck ever heard from The Preacher again. I have heard other stories from the surrounding towns of a man wondering the deserts nearby. After I am back in your arms I may ask the government for the job to look into these stories, to see if I can find this marvelous preacher.


Ms. Washington’s Babies

Matt Cunha

Here they come, dressed as cops
so cute!
with bushy mustaches and plastic nightsticks

Here they come, dressed as firemen
with faces ashed like the elbows of elephants
silent like heroes

Here they come, dressed as nurses
with meaty cleavage
so cute!
sticking bandages on everything

Here they come, dressed as saints
bleeding like martyrs, so cute!
absolving us of our sins

Here they come, dressed as bankers
candy bulging from their breast pockets
laughing like penguins

Here they come, dressed as generals
leading a charge across the lawn
so cute! Here they come, dressed as teachers
slapping at us with their rulers
Here they come, dressed as robbers
holding us up on our front porch
so cute Taking all our candy
Here they come, dressed as monarchs
scepter, cape, crown. Here they come
dressed as sheep
dressed as wolves dressed as sheep
Here they come, dressed as pilots
zipped up in flight suits
Here they come, so cute
dressed as salesmen
stuffing candy inside their briefcase
Here they come, dressed as vampires,
as mummies, as zombies, as trolls
splattered in blood, Here they come
Here they come, dressed as lawyers
Here they come, taking all our candy
Here they come
We can’t get them off our porch

What a Way to Lose It

Jon Brunette

    I wondered a lot in the years that followed: how could women sell her bodies and not feel dirty or used? Naturally, they enjoyed sex, but women didn’t have to sell their bodies—men naturally offered theirs. There must’ve been other benefits, I figured. I just couldn’t think of any until she came, and finally, I had sex with her.
    I decided I shouldn’t care. I wanted it badly; it didn’t matter who gave it up as long as she was actually a she. Like I had planned since childhood, I dialed the number in the Yellow Pages (it surprised me that prostitution was a crime yet a lot of hookers advertised in the “Escort Services” page), and I got a woman who had thick yellow hair, a complexion that had never seen sunlight, and a body built for sin—exactly what I had always wanted.
    It took quite some time, but finally, her headlights beamed into my room, and she was wearing the clothes I had wanted like she should’ve for the wad on the nightstand. Below yellow lace and little black heels, her body felt as chilly as ice, her hair as brittle as straw, and her teeth seemed as yellow as rust, but still, I had a girl in my room, and I didn’t complain. Not the person to whom I had hoped to lose my virginity, but I looked as ugly as a sea lion, so I didn’t argue. I had a girl in my room—finally; why should’ve I cared about anything else? I took my clothes off, exposed pectoral mounds as big as her breasts, and put my body where it belonged—at least where she told me it did. It didn’t take an hour to shoot into her body, which smelled like Lysol, but I got what I wanted—why should’ve I complained?
    Finally, I stood in the shower to wash off. I didn’t worry about my virginity, but I did about something else that had bothered me since she first knocked on the flimsy wood door of the motel. What seemed weird was that she didn’t have heat in her body, she stared rather distantly, and she flopped around the bed in a manner that made me wonder why people got so excitable about sex in the first place. What seemed really odd, though, was that I would’ve stood below that hot spray eternally had pressure not shot out of my body like a vent that couldn’t be turned off.
    Like a sliver below my nail, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else; I could just focus on her alone. And I couldn’t help but hunger for a taste like alcohol only thicker and more pungent. With a wet hand, I massaged two holes on my neck. Like never before, I could feel an urge that I couldn’t quench. What I figured was that her fluids had mixed with mine until I became like her: a creature of the night obsessed with sex and the habits of people who walk the shadows of eternity.
    It might be called blood lust, but whatever one called it, I would have it eternally. What else should I call it? She had wrapped me up in a vortex which I couldn’t resist. What a way to lose one’s virginity, huh? I didn’t think so at the time, but as the years passed, I really enjoyed life as a vampire. Although I probably shouldn’t have, I touched women a lot, whether they liked it or not; as the years passed, I really think they didn’t, but I hardly ever thought twice about it. Why shouldn’t’ve I? They had never wanted me before, and eventually, they had no choice whatsoever. Why shouldn’t’ve I enjoyed it? Why wouldn’t anyone in my place?


E. J. Loera

Beethoven and I write letters
from my right ear to each of his
and we invent melodies of colors
and the feel of water on a stone,
the clouds dance around our dreams
to illuminate our fantasies with
quarter notes and half rests
as we imagine what a creature
Sound might look like
or what the sensation might be
to hear the music we envision.

Janet Kuypers reads the Down in the Dirt 12/11 poem by E. J. Loera
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video

read live 12/11/11, at the Café weekly poetry open mike in Chicago

No Reason

Ben Macnair

A leech has 43 brains.
There is no reason for that, except for Evolution.
They will not take over the world,
They will not discuss the issues of the day,
Or confuse you with dazzling word play.
They feed on the blood of other animals,
With fewer brains and seem happy enough about it

Janet Kuypers reads the Down in the Dirt 12/11 poem by Ben Macnair
No reason
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video

read live 12/11/11, at the Café weekly poetry open mike in Chicago


Sarah Mallery

    Sometimes memories come loaded with all five senses: hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting. The more potent these sensations are, the stronger the recollection. Case in point: Yutzler’s.
    If I close my eyes, I can travel back to a time when I was just shy of twelve years old; a time in the 1960’s when I was tiptoeing on the edge of puberty. It was also a time when my body hadn’t quite changed and I could still enjoy simple things without the heavy backpack of teenage angst.
    Just getting to Yutzler’s was half the experience, with four giggling cousins squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on top of a lowered Ford station wagon tailgate. No adult ever thought of seatbelts, or the piped gas fumes wafting up around us. Those things just didn’t seem to matter then. What did matter was the humid 50 mph summer breeze making our hair fly every which way, singing popular songs of the day at the top of our lungs, and how our calloused bare feet hovered slightly over the softened tar pavement as we barreled down the final hill that led into the tiny town of West Cornwall, Connecticut.
    All around us was a blanket of green. Green leaves from Oak, Maple, and Birch trees; green Forsythia and Smoke bushes, as well as Mountain Laurel, polka-dotting the roadside. Holsteins lazily jawed their cuds, totally unaware, as were we, that the stone walls enclosing their feeding grounds were painstakingly hand-built by farmers during the 1700’s.
    As we arrived in the town itself, my aunt reminded us that on the way home, we might go towards Sharon. We knew what that meant: we would be taking the Cornwall Covered Bridge route, over the Housatonic River. We would also get to do our high-pitched yodeling in the bridge’s dark cavern, then listen to our echoes and the double echoes of our laughter on top of the first echoes, without any thought of General Washington’s weary troops having marched through there on their way to fight the British.
    My aunt cornered into the town’s only graveled parking lot, and instantly, there was a frenzy of flailing arms and legs as we all hopped off the rolling tailgate, just before coming to a dead stop.
    “Last one into Yutzler’s is a rotten egg!” Martha cried, as always. She was the third oldest, and by far, the toughest; if Martha told you what to do, you did it, no questions asked.
    Then we raced to open the screen door, with its simple aluminum frame and its Coca Cola sign plastered across the bottom. It squeaked as it was opened, neglected after a rainy spring, and upon our entering the store, it slammed shut with such a bang, it made me utter, “Ouch!” although I hadn’t even been hit.
    Once inside, I heel-toed on the dank wooden floors, as tiny renegade gnats landed everywhere; in noses, eyes, ears, and sometimes even a mouth or two if they were open. I stood there, swatting these creatures away, as the smell of the brined pickle barrel almost burned my nostrils. But none of these obstacles fazed me at all. I was far too busy thinking about the five-cent ice cream cone I could design myself. After all, this one-a-week ritual trumped everything else.
    How it was done was easy: first, you scurried over to the waist-high metal freezer, and after opening up the heavy, horizontal doors, you grabbed a nearby scooper from its watery bucket, looked down, and made your decisions. Would it be vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee, chocolate chip, or, for a special treat, chocolate mint chip?
    I was usually joined by two of my equally gluttonous cousins, Jody and Lilly, who shared my tastes; maybe a scoop of chocolate mint chip (save the best for last), a scoop of vanilla, and for starters, a scoop of strawberry on top. But whatever combination, stacking three over scooped balls precariously on a sugar cone was definitely the only way to go.
    Soon the smell of freshly baked bread competed with the taste of our dripping ice cream. But as we licked our sticky fingers, we wouldn’t let ourselves get sidetracked from our second mission.
    “Teen” magazines, strategically placed next to copies of “Time” magazine, “Field and Stream,” and “The Cornwall Gazette,” gazed up at us seductively as we angled for a good place to read. If we had been the daughters of our forefathers, we might have been sitting around the fireplace, carefully pulling our needles in and out of our intricate embroidery piecework. But we were children of the 60’s and so we spent the next hour, devouring all the latest Hollywood gossip as we licked, then munched through our treats, in a state of total bliss.
    Eventually, my aunt came in, and after the usual exchange of niceties with Mr. Yutzler, turned to us to say, “OK, kids. It’s time to go home.”
    To my surprise, I found I was more than willing to go. I was even willing to by-pass the covered bridge, the swirling currents on the Housatonic, and the birds circling over the tops of trees. Sometimes too much entertainment news and a stomachache can be more than enough for one day.
    As I gazed out the window at the blur of natural beauty on the way home—the back seat had replaced the tailgate—I suddenly wondered if my great-great-great-great grandmother would have taken bicarbonate of soda?

Bohemian Groove

Jack Bristow

    The man—Jordan Emerald, thirty-five, with long black hair and clean-shaven—sat next to the canvass, gently administering the finishing touches with his fingers of the water colors. Green, purple and pink. It was of a smiling president of the United States of America. The incumbent, Barack Obama. His face was inside the rainbow but it was not. Underneath it, there was a group of shepherds dressed in shepherd’s garb. White. They were Obama and former president George W. Bush’s cabinet—Biden, Clinton, Rumsfeld; then, Cheney, Hillary and Napolitano.
    On top of the rainbow, and the shepherds was the words “One Party.” What it had meant exactly, Jordan was not sure. But he had known there was a market in these type of “radical” paintings.
    The man’s life was great—there were no complaints from his side. Economically, he had never been better. The federal grant money was making it possible for him to function as a full-time artist. He had all the time in the world to work on paintings like this, and so what if he could only sell them for twenty dollars apiece? Sure, a quarter of that money had probably been invested into the goddamn water colors and canvass. But so what? He was making money—albeit such a short amount—doing what he loved to do, no: had to do.
    Later in the week, he would haul this beauty—with about twenty more he had done early in the week— to the local swapmeet. Darren, the man upstairs, was a beautiful man to loan Jordan his big green van on the weekend, and Jordan had loved driving the big gas guzzling monster into the vacant lot he had paid seventeen dollars the night before to use. He had loved the way it looked. Straight out of the 1960s— white-topped and ridiculously outdated. In the back there was a mattress, yellow and lumpy with age.
    You could still smell the cannabis, as well as the sweet- dirty smell of sex of the summer of love wafting off of it.
    Ah, how the 1960’s must have been—and how angry Jordan was to not have lived through them. Free love. That is something in this society we are sorely lacking, Jordan had thought. Not that he ever went hungry for long periods of time. Outside the apartment complex there was always a group of junkies, more than willing to accommodate you with such endeavors. Laila was his favorite. She didn’t have your normal abuser’s face. Her cheeks were rosey and filled with life. Her hair blonde. But whenever she was “panicking”—itching for her fix—she was willing to go to bed with Jordan.
    Jordan had seen something different in the girl—a rare, innocent type of intelligence. And had told her so. Tactfully.
    “Those people outside, especially Frank, are losers Laila. No-goods. You know my buddy Darren that lives upstairs? He’s been living here for twenty years, and you know how many people like Frank he has seen come and go? Hundreds. Thousands, maybe.”
    Laila, lying in the bed beside him, had looked sad. And then tears had started to stream down her cheek. Jordan had felt terrible lecturing her—especially after the excellent service given him—but thought she had deserved the truth. Maybe there was still hope for her. After all, when she looked at you, she didn’t have that soul-sucked, vacant look most of the junkies had in their eyes.
    “I’m telling you this because I like you. I think you’re extremely intelligent—too intelligent for the crowd you are hanging out with. Why don’t you live with me, get off that shit, and stay away from these losers?”
    The girl, Laila, would always break down. Crying hysterically, she would tell Jordan how right he was. “Tomorrow, I’m leaving them. And going to the Methadone clinic. I swear to God. To Jesus Christ Almighty—I’m doing it tomorrow.”
    Tomorrow, unfortunately for Jordan and more so for Laila, had never come.
    At the swapmeet now. Jordan had taken enormous delight in all the modern-day yuppies taking him in— this bohemian weirdo with a green van selling his art. A cute girl of about nineteen had walked up to the van with a two-by-one. It was another political painting—the kind that he knew would sell. It was a crude rendition of Uncle Sam. He was in the middle of an opium field, and his balls were being squeezed savagely, mercilessly by a large, gloved hand that had said over it Halliburton.
    “I love this,” the girl beamed. She had auburn hair and an innocent way of speaking. “How much?” She teased her own curly hair as she asked him.
    “Normally, twenty. But you—you I like. I like your face. Free.”
    “Free,” she beamed. “You’re sure?” She looked at the painting in wonderment. Jordan had felt sorry for her—he could just see her showing the painting to her radical liberal friends at Berkeley, or wherever the hell else it was that she studied. But she definitely studied somewhere, and she was definitely a bright apple. It was a shame she would have to wait another three years, at least, to overcome this silly little phase in her life. Then and there Jordan had felt a tremendous love for this woman, and he didn’t want to see her get away. Not before he could consummate it on Darren’s bed which, up until now, he had not the good fortunate of using.
    “You like that,” he smiled at her innocently enough. “And you’d really like the dozens more I have in the van.” There was a pause, so he could think up a good story. “I just don’t keep them out because they were recently painted, and the sun can possibly distort the colors, making them splotchy and whatnot.”
    “Sure,” the girl smiled. “I’d love to see them!”
    And then she followed Jordan into the back of the van—and, it wasn’t three minutes later that their tongues were wrestling one another, and that her warm, roomy chest was beating against his fiercely, radically.
    Seconds after climax, the girl in his arms, the two of them sweaty, alive and beaming, Jordan couldn’t help thinking, beyond gratefully, It doesn’t get much better than this.


Mike Brennan

    According to musician mythology, Robert Johnson started it all. Eternal recognition is fantastic but hell is a motherfucker, and you can take my case as a road starting from a much different time and place.
    Son of a slave Johnson walked down to a Mississippi cross-road, couldn’t play a lick on his guitar, and sold his soul to the devil who met him there in human form, gave him a contract, and then tuned his second-hand acoustic instrument to the key of legendary. He could suddenly out play anyone and everyone, and died a blues legend at the ripe old age of twenty-seven. He allegedly met his maker barking like a dog on the floor after imbibing some poisoned whiskey spiked by one of his many women’s jealous lovers.
    Several more followed his tragic lead. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was found face-down in his swimming pool, Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit, Janis Joplin shifted off the mortal coil in a hotel room with a body chocked full of smack, Jim Morrison met his end in a Parisian bathtub, and Kurt Cobain blew himself away with a shotgun shell to the brain. There are about a hundred more cases that aren’t really as worth mentioning, yet, they all experienced phenomenal fame and all expired at the age of twenty-seven.
    I didn’t realize I may have had made the same decision until it was too late. It was too easy to ignore fate when you have so much money and fame and women and of course all the chops to back up the fact that you have everything any warm-blooded man could ever dream of. I didn’t until I died.
    I made my sale when I was twenty, yet the uncertain circumstances were always marred in the unknown. All I wanted my entire life was to become a rock star. I took lessons with several adequate and noted players, but despite everything, and no matter how much I practiced the music just wouldn’t come to me the way I so desperately desired. Unlike Johnson, who supposedly met the devil in the flesh, I suppose I made my sale with the accidental assistance of a Ouija board given to me as a gift on my thirteenth birthday. The LSD I was on at the time probably left me open to all sorts of possible spiritual contact. It also probably helped that I was playing with the eerie children’s toy alone in my bedroom at three o’clock in the morning.
    After about an hour of inane questioning, I asked the board, “Will I ever be rich and famous?”
    Instead of moving towards the Yes or No responses, the marker spelled out, “If you so will.”
    I was amazed with how quickly the marker moved beneath my hands.
    I moved the marker to spell out, “Yes, I do.”
    The marker spelled out, “I’ll see you soon and we’ll seal the deal.”
    I was entranced by the board’s swift replies, but as the effects of the acid began to wane, I gradually felt myself fall into a fitful state of semi-sleep. I felt my eyes open to a sea of shadows swirling around my bedroom. The darkened shapes all came together into one huge formation that stood in the corner besides my bed and formed into a figure before my opening bedroom door.
    The shadow had no features asides from looking vaguely human and about the size of a large gorilla, it spoke in a deep baritone: “You desire wealth and fame, but do you know the price that those who are willing to play will wind up having to pay?”
    “No, but I would do just about anything if I could greatly play and receive everything of which I dream,” I replied, semi-mocking his syntax.
    “If you desire a complete conquest of all your worldly goals, I’ll suffice with a gift of your immortal soul?”
    “What if the goal I seek, is fame, fortune, and immortality?”
    “Sign my deed and soon you will see.”
    A sheet of paper appeared and floated over towards my bed as if tossed away by an invisible pair of hands.
    I read, “When the clock strikes 11 on the 27th day of your 27th year, you will no longer receive the welcome of heaven. In exchange, you will obtain unlimited wealth and fame. Are you prepared to play this game? If you so agree, than just sign your name.”
    Once I had finished perusing the document, a raven flew into the room and presented me with a jet black quill with a tip as sharp as syringe that it swiftly pulled from its left wing and handed over to me between its beak.
    “Barter in blood and become my brother,” the shadow stated. I scratched my right arm with the quill and signed my name with the minimal amount I drew.
    The Shadow laughed and said, “See you soon, and know that all your wishes will soon come true.”
    I awoke in a toxic sweat that I tried to attribute to my recreational drug use. I believed it all to be a dream but it seemed just too real, too vivid, and too unnatural in comparison to my usual blanked out states of sleep. My arm was definitely scratched, and I was terrified at what I might have done. I had never before remembered my dreams but this one haunted me for years; seven to be exact.
    Within a week or two my playing began to drastically improve. I suddenly could play anything and everything I ever heard or desired; anything from Beethoven to Led Zeppelin, rock, jazz, blues, classical, and flamenco. I had it all effortlessly down. My voice reached a perfect pitch, and lyrics flew into my notebooks as rapidly and as unexpectedly as the shadows and the raven had entered my bedroom. After a few weeks, I was auditioning possible band members, who replied to the many ads I put in local musician rags. In Los Angeles there was no limit on unemployed musicians, so it didn’t take long to find a few that would form a perfect unit. In particular, my bassist, Miguel, could play pretty much anything and was also soft-spoken enough to always allow me the lead. A month or so later, I had the sound, the tone, the rhythm, and the tunes that I required and desired for my ultimate success. It all came together way too easily. I knew that the most vivid dream of my lifetime may have some footing in reality.
    My band, Sunset Babylon, cut our first record in just six days and the album was released after just a month of studio production, polishing, and promotion. We’d only played six gigs before we were picked up by Capital Records, all complete with a six figure advance and a guarantee of total artistic freedom. As much as I enjoyed the sudden success, I always had the sinking feeling that I was damned.
    World tours followed. We conquered North and South America, Europe, and Asia. I felt like a pampered version of Alexander the Great; it was all too easy so I quickly grew bored, tired, and spiritually jet-lagged. I made a game with myself to sleep with every race of women that existed on earth. I conquered that goal by the time I was twenty- two. The company of women became an addiction and my favorite vice. By the time I received my second Grammy, I had done all that and more. Lord Byron and the Marquis De Sade would have been proud of me. I remembered my visions but I also remembered Nietzsche’s Superman, and truly felt I was the poster-boy until I would finally reach the much-debated pit of damnation, that I somehow always knew was just lurking around the corner.
    I tried hard to resist the temptations that doomed my predecessors. I donated money to charities, I wrote a novel, I received a Masters Degree in Philosophy, and yet despite my fame and fortune, it was Miguel that led me on my downward spiral. I had just turned twenty-five and he quickly taught me how and why I was going to die.
    Sunset Babylon had just played a spectacular sold-out show in Tokyo, and decided to hit Thailand for a little rest and relaxation. I’d already done pretty much every drug known to man, even before my dream, but I couldn’t help but give in to the one that would destroy me.
    Powerful women in novels are called heroines, but I fucked hundreds and they never compared to a main-line shot of heroin. Heroin literally became for me, as Lou Reed once sang, “my life and my wife.” I knew I never should have gone there but I feel like I had to.
    I never knew Miguel used smack, but after I spent an afternoon partying on the beach with a couple of beautiful Thai women, I stopped by his hotel room to see what he was doing and what kind of debauchery he might want to indulge in that evening. When he opened his door, he appeared to be in a total state of bliss.
    “What’s up bro?” he slurred, as his glassy eyes drooped to half-mast.
    “Nothing man, just want to see what you want to do tonight.”
    “Well, right now I’m just enjoying some fine, fine China White. Wanna hit?”
    “Sure, but I’m scared of needles.”
    “This shit is so good you’ll get over your phobia pretty quick.”
    I entered the bedroom and saw another attractive and naked Thai woman nodding out on the bed with a half-smoked cigarette smoldering between her fingers. There was an array of needles and spoons laid out around her crossed legs and a large bag of powder placed on the night-stand besides her. I watched intently, as Miguel prepared me a shot.
    “You ready?”
    I presented him with my right arm and looked away as he pierced a vein in the crook of my elbow. It didn’t hurt at all and I immediately felt my body overflow with a warm inviting glow. It felt better than sex, an instant orgasm, which accompanied the image of the gorilla in the corner of the room. It was smiling at me.
    Over the next two years, heroin became my life’s focus. I couldn’t play music unless I had a fix. I couldn’t even get out of bed unless I shot at least a hundred bucks into my arm. My mansion in the Hollywood Hills quickly became a seedy drug den, but my albums still continued to sell and the money and adulation kept pouring in. I tried to keep a squeaky clean public image as well, donating money to this foundation and that, but while I was lying in bed at night the gorilla would still be lurking behind my eye-lids. I knew I was fucking up. I just couldn’t stop.
    After an all-night party celebrating my twenty-six birthday, Miguel fatally overdosed on smack and crack in the backroom of my guest house. He had just turned twenty-seven. As I was being arrested for possession and furnishing narcotics, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had made the same deal that I believed to have done. He was now a member of what many called the “27 Club.” I would soon learn he made a similar deal. I knew my turn was coming all too soon.
    I avoided jail-time and wound up on a celebrity addiction rehab television special, where I realized that I also had a knack for acting. It was all too easy to act repentant and all so sorry for my sins and discretions. The tabloids believed in my new image and ate up my desire to change. Maybe, somewhere in my soul, I kind of meant it but I already knew I was doomed. I quickly and quietly relapsed with an ounce of smack and a couple grams of crack six days after I was discharged from rehab, and six days after I went into the studio to record my first and only solo album. It debuted at number six on the charts. It was my swan song; melancholic, introspective, and a poetic examination of a life lived on the edge. Hell was definitely waiting in the wings, and I began to prepare for my fate.
    The days leading and following my twenty-seventh birthday were an absolute blur of unbridled excess. I shot and smoked and popped anything anyone made available to me. I was a doped-out zombie shuffling around my mansion in a tattered Japanese silk kimono, staring off randomly into space, mumbling incoherently, hardly eating anything other than pills, and just waiting for the absolute worst to happen.
    The dream constantly haunted me, as did the time described- eleven o’clock on the twenty-seventh day of my twenty seventh year- I knew the clock was rapidly counting down on me, but was there anyway to beat this curse?
    I spent my last day of life, barricaded up in my private office and library with only a suitcase full of several Class A Narcotics and a .38 Special for company. My last album was laid out in front of my face, the cover riddled with lines of cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine, and several syringes littered my desk like baby rattlesnakes. I waited and constantly wrote in a notebook, although I can no longer remember the words. The clock on the wall kept ticking. I kept nodding and contemplating on all matters of life and death.
    By the time of my scheduled appointment, I was far passed the realm of oblivion. I was in another dimension. All the better for spiritual contact. At 10:55, I prepared a shot mixed of heroin, cocaine, ketamine, and methamphetamine. I issued it into my left arm, savored the rush, and fondled my handgun.
    As high as I had probably ever been, I decided to take matters into my own hands. At 10:57, I loaded one round into the chamber and spun the cylinder. I placed the barrel against my temple, sighed, and pulled the trigger. Click, nothing, nada- it was all in my mind.

    Suddenly, I saw the large gorilla shadow appear against my wall in front of my locked doorway.
    “Time to collect,” the shadow spoke, in a deep baritone.
    Fuck you motherfucker,” I yelled, while placing another two rounds in the cylinder and firing in his general direction.
    Before I could blink, I felt my limbs ripping apart from my torso, and looked down to see my body fully intact with a bullet wound in my brain.
    With the force tearing away at my soul, I felt myself quickly tugged downward into a fiery whirlpool that appeared in the floor.
    Indescribable demons began to claw away at my flesh, as the shadow drug me down.
    I have been here ever since, but I made a deal to make my situation down here a bit better. So has Miguel.
    Would you like to make a deal?


Will Millar

    The house that crouched at the bottom of Odd End had a way of draining sunlight from the daytime sky; much like a bad alternator can suck the juice out of a car battery. It hid there like an enormous Venus Fly-trap for who-knows-how-long, swallowing up traveling salesmen, crusading Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the occasional pair of star-crossed lovers.
    Then the heavy machinery arrived.
    Utility sirens warbled a dirge as the cheery yellow beasts turned left on Odd End. Massive treads chewed up the crumbling macadam. Nary a speck of rust could be found on the line as they advanced; thunderous hulls painted the sunny bright color of a “Have A Nice Day” smiley face.
    The house fairly trembled in its foundations as the first pair of treads climbed the curb, raised high its heavy blade –
    - The edge of which, recently sharpened, winked in the sun for an instant.
    Then the blade whistled down, smashing the colorless front porch into splinters, toppling the ancient gabled roof in a single stroke. A kamikaze gargoyle leapt off a minaret, exploding into a scree of pebbles and dust as it dive-bombed the driver’s roll cage.
    Ed paused long enough to wipe a little dust off his work shirt before throwing the beast into reverse.
    “Hugghy huzz-wuzz izza bish!” he said.
    Tony half-listened as he shook the grit out of his hair and rubbed his eyes. Unlike Ed, he’d been startled by the pounding the cage just took, and was nursing a bit of a headache to boot. “Ed,” he said, “Either take out the fucking cigar or just keep your mouth shut.”
    Thick fingers plucked out the wet stump and deftly flicked it through the gaps in the steel mesh. Ed never looked away from the work ahead. “Don’t get attitudinal with me, Tony. Remember I’m doing you a favor here.” Ed paused, frowned, threw a couple levers and stomped on the gas.
    The beast’s blade shot out and punctured the house again, swinging to its apogee before crashing back down, tearing a hole through the front wall. At last, rays of sunlight pierced the house’s secret heart, illuminating a shabby front parlor festooned in moldy shades of crimson and olive.
    “What I was saying was,”
    “Yeah Ed, I got it. Haunted house work is the best.”
    Of course he likes this the best. His fat ass barely has to move on these jobs. Tony immediately chastised himself for thinking ill of Ed. The two of them had been tight since their Army days, and truth be told, Ed was doing him a favor today. In order to move up the ranks at T.R.S., you had to be able to handle the heavy equipment. Of course, handling the heavy equipment meant logging a few hundred hours in one of the cabs, and that usually didn’t happen without somebody vouching for you. It kept the grunts in the trenches, where the higher-ups wanted them.
     Tony swiveled in his seat and looked out at the front yard. Amongst the day laborers feeding chunks of the house into wood-chippers, he saw a few of his own donning gas masks already. Their bright yellow flight suits matched the heavy machines. With black body armor, black gas masks and MP-5 sub-machine guns hanging from black mesh webbing, they looked like a squadron of wasps. Tony didn’t envy the day they were about to have, not one bit.

___ ___ ___

    “A fucking lack of imagination is what that shit is, if you ask me. A haunted house ain’t no good these days without at least a serial killer or, I don’t know, something to set it apart. I’m amazed the damned thing ever got built in the first place.”
    The two men stood at the edge of the yard and watched the patch of scorched earth sink into itself, while grass that had been dead and patchy at sunrise grew verdant and lush with new life. Ed shook his head and lit another cigar.
    Tony marveled at how un-sinister the lot looked, now that the blight had been removed. “What do you think they’ll end up replacing it with?”
    “Don’t know, don’t care, amigo. Not our department.”

___ ___ ___

    It was the accent that set them off, not Russian but German. Even then, he might have been alright with some newer clothes, or maybe a little product in his hair. As it was, the old man was doomed from the minute he threw open the door.
    Tony shoved the pale wraith and marched inside, making no attempt to be subtle. “So, where are you keeping them?”
    Claude was his name, and his blood rimmed eyes flickered like a busted film reel as he tripped over his own feet and fell on his ass. He struggled to get up and coughed once, a raspy sound that echoed in the vast marble hallways of his lonely estate. His bony frame shuddered as he straightened up and looked at the two men, at their guns, at the doorway that stood behind them, now a long way off. His eyes pleaded with Tony. “I’m sorry, gentlemen-“
    Tony shot him in the face. Claude’s body flopped and twitched in a swirl of black shrouds. They opened fire.
    Seconds later, slides racked on empty magazines. Claude was reduced to a bloody bundle of rags. A single twitch, then another, and Ed glanced nervously at Tony. “Hurry it up.”
    “Relax.” Tony reached into his jacket and pulled out a stainless steel beaker. He emptied the contents onto the shuddering heap while Ed popped a wooden match with his thumbnail. A flash of green fire marked the end of Claude.
    The pyre bathed Ed’s face in a sickly radioactive glow. “Call them in.” he said.

___ ___ ___

    Tony watched the sunrise and felt depression settle on his shoulders like a heavy coat. Of all the vampires he’d seen this week, Claude was the one he wanted to shoot the least. The coffins in his basement were, in Tony’s opinion, ultra-cool. The castle’s whole layout reminded him of the Hammer films that got him so juiced up as a kid.
    Those movies were the whole reason Tony signed on to T.R.S. in the first place; to kick a little monster ass, long before he ever knew what a trope was. The company explained it all in orientation, and it seemed a little backwards to Tony. But hell, the salary and benefits were amazing.
    So, Tony sold out. Welcome to adulthood.
    He felt Ed staring at him and grew annoyed. “What is it, man?”
    “Nothing. Just making sure you weren’t nodding off at the wheel.”
    “Nope, just thinking. Hey Ed, you ever try nailing one with a stake?”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “You know man, vampires. You ever try driving a stake through one of their hearts?”
    “Have you lost your mind, Tony? Jesus, why would anyone try something like that?”
    “I don’t know, maybe to see if some of the old stories are true.”
    “Fuck, Tony, keep it down!” Ed straightened up in his seat and watched the line of headlights in the rear view. “You better cut that shit out if you don’t want to find your ass in a sling, amigo.”
    “Come on, man. It’s just us two talking.”
    Ed turned the rear view back in place and slumped down low. When he spoke, he kept his voice low, too. “You better listen to me very carefully, Tony. Number one, on the job, you never talk about stories, myths, legends or folklore.”
    “What about the collective unconscious?”
    “Don’t be a fucking smart-ass. They’re tropes, and that’s it. We identify them, and we get rid of them, and we don’t ask any questions. Number two, never, ever assume it’s just the two of us talking.”

___ ___ ___

    “This is bullshit.” Tony crumpled up the memo and threw it across the break room.
    Ed waddled over and deposited it in the trashcan before sitting down. He sipped greasy coffee from a paper cup and pushed a pair of dimes across the table. “Don’t sweat it, amigo. People around here got a short memory. Just keep doing good work and keep your ideas to yourself, and they’ll put you in the driver’s seat next year. Forget about it and grab yourself a cup of go-juice. We’re heading into the city.”

___ ___ ___

    A laptop had been hardwired into the front passenger seat, so Tony sat in back next to one of the noobs. He was ignoring Tony and tapping on a smart-phone with a white ear-bud jacked into his skull. Tony ignored him back and leaned between the front seats. The SUV threaded row after row of crumbling tenements coiled in barbed wire.
    Tony saw the exit to the bridge that would take them east, towards the waterfront, and held his breath. Another word he’d never heard before taking the job was “batrachian,” but he sure as shit knew it now. Batrachian meant unpredictable, and damn near impossible to kill. Even when a team figured out how to knock out a nest, it didn’t matter, because the squishy fuckers turned out a little different every time.
    Didn’t matter anyway. Tony breathed a sigh of relief as the truck swung uptown, away from the shoreline, towards the projects. More than likely then, it was zombies. Zombies, Tony could handle.

___ ___ ___

    A charnel smell, thought Tony.
    Ed frowned at him. “Screw your fucking head on straight.”
    Tony nodded and glanced back at the trio behind him, held up 3 fingers, 2, 1...
    The front door cracked in the middle and burst out of its frame into the small apartment. Tony glided inside as it skidded across the carpet, leveling his front sight at the head of a man seated in a high backed easy chair. A cathode-ray TV wrapped in a cocoon of warped mahogany groaned in applause at sit-com antics.
    The trigger creaked under the weight of Tony’s index finger. The man threw his hands up, over his head.
    “Don’t shoot!” cried a voice like rusted fish hooks in stagnant water. His face had been flayed open, exposing a row of molars slimed with blood. One eyeball jiggled and bounced on his cheek like a tetherball in a high wind. He rose up out of the seat. “Don’t shoot!”
    Tony’s finger relaxed, almost against his will, as he surveyed the room over the muzzle of his gun. “Jesus wept,” he muttered to himself.
    A blue-skinned woman staggered out of the kitchen, holding a tarnished silver serving tray with a human head bleeding on a pile of decaying lettuce leaves. Tony swung the gun at her and she shrieked as she threw her hands up. The tray clattered to the floor, sending the head tumbling over to Tony’s boots. A yellow apple, spotted with brown rot, had been wedged into its mouth with toothpicks.
    “Quiet, Shirley,” he said, slowly turning to face Tony, still with his hands high in that universal don’t kill me gesture. “There’s obviously been some sort of mistake.”
    “I’ll say there’s been,” said Ed, stepping around the grunts as they lowered their weapons. “I’m very sorry Mr-“
    “Argus.” The zombie reached out a rotting claw to Ed-
    -Who shook it, firmly, and then pulled out a handkerchief and cleaned the blood and ichor from his hand. “So this is what, some kind of social commentary?”
    “That’s right. You see, we’re actually just a metaphor for...”
    Tony wheeled away from the conversation and examined the den, a blood soaked abattoir alive with blowflies and roaches. The TV guffawed again, and Tony saw more zombies on the analog bubble screen laughing over a dinner table laden with body parts. Blood roared in his ears at the wrongness of it all. He blocked Ed’s path to the front door.
    “We are not giving them a pass on this.”
    Ed’s jaw pulsed under his heavy jowls. “Shut your fucking trap and get downstairs. This doesn’t concern us.”
    “But this-“
    “-Is a new idea.”
    “But, it’s not even a good idea! What was wrong with things the way they were?” Whatever Ed started to say was lost in the hail of gunfire that nearly ripped Tony in half.
    Tony watched the darkness gather in the room as Ed’s porcine face swam into view. “Tough break, amigo. Friendly fire. Seems to happen a lot, especially to certain ah, types. An idealistic upstart who asks too many questions, that kind of character, well... Some might even say it happens too often to retain its impact. Some, but not us. Not yet, anyway.” Ed bit the end of a cigar and lit it. “Gavvaghh wigg-wogg.”
    Tony puzzled over that last one. Ed might have said “Go with God,” or “Go fuck yourself,” or something else entirely. Then he decided it didn’t really matter, and then it didn’t.
    Ed was careful to step around Tony’s body on the way out, while Mr and Mrs Argus salivated over the evening’s unexpected windfall.


Sandy Longley

Act I
From a distance they looked like
two Glad trash bags
billowing in the April dusk,
a plastic adagio.
But when I walked closer
I could see

Act II
those small turkey heads,
long, fan-shaped tails,
glossy, bronze wings dragging,
dark, rufous, feathery tips,
a prince-like display, the male
strutting his comic brio,
wattles ablaze like pieces of the heart,
an offering.

And the hen, dreaming of poults,
yelping in response to the call
of her polygamous lover,
a sudden ballon skyward on her
scrawny legs before the
destined coupling.

No evil sorcerer,
no promise of fidelity,
no Lake of Tears -
instead a grayblack disappearing act
into open fields,
all eyes on the roost,
stage left.

a Soda for Juliet

Alexander G. Tozzi

    Justine always got a lump in her throat before speaking to crowds. If it hadn’t been for her low grades she would not have signed up for this play. Pacing behind a velvet curtain which separated her from an auditorium stocked to maximum occupancy, she could hear the audience’s fragmented conversations and sense their cold stares when those curtains were drawn.
    “I need a drink of water,” she choked out. Scott, the stagehand, nodded, and she hiked up her gown to rush toward the water bubbler. It was broken, of course, and she scolded herself for not knowing. This was a high school, after all.
    “Five minutes to show time, Juliet,” came a booming voice. Justine turned and saw Mr. Berman, all three hundred pounds of him, directing stage hands and actors alike. He shot Justine a look that threatened detention if she didn’t get over there.
    Justine smirked as he went away. I’m not on until the second scene, she thought to herself. Her throat was getting sore now, itchy as though she’d swallowed a pine cone. “I can get some water first,” she rasped, and went deeper into the recesses of the auditorium until she came to an exit.
    Through this exit she was blinded by the fierce glare of the stadium lights, her ears pounding from the booming of a football announcer. Romeo and Juliet fell on the same night as one of her school’s football games, and it was just as crowded in the stadium across the parking lot as it was in the building. Which was just fine with her.
    Justine tended to like crowds, when she was part of them. But when she had to set herself apart, usually making a speech or performance, her throat got lumps, turned sore, and became dry. A crowd of football fans would suit her just fine, especially since they were too busy jeering at the game.
    “And drinking sodas,” she whispered. In her dress were a couple of dollars she kept just in case, and she hiked it up to cross the parking lot. Halfway across the black tar she realized what she was dressed in, and started to turn.
    I can’t be seen in a football stadium like this! If everyone saw her in that fluffy pink dress with garters down its back, they’d stop screaming insults at those juggernauts on the field and shout insults and wolf-whistles at her. But I can’t go back inside, either, she worried, feeling the dryness spread deeper into her throat.
    A fit of coughing overtook her, each cough tearing up her throat worse than the last. Crying from the strain of coughing, she hunched prostrate in the dark parking lot, feeling the lump grow through her dry throat. She needed a drink, needed it now.
    Sniffling, she rose, swallowing against the pain. It helped but little.
    If I do go back in, she asked herself, how would it be any different than going into the stadium? It wouldn’t be much different, probably better to be embarrassed in that stadium than face the wrath of Mr. Berman.
    Once more hiking her dress, she crossed the lot and stood at the entrance to the stadium. There were no ticket takers now, probably inside watching the last quarter of the game. It was thunderous at the entrance, though, and Justine’s ears started to ring. Let it distract you, she told herself, and marched in to the stadium.
    It was pandemonium. Two teams were charging against each other on field, both ready to risk life and limb for that dead heap of pig, and in the stands, fans were ready to pour out of their seats to help those teams in their quest. Justine felt sucked into a whirlwind of screams, and made a tight beeline toward the stairs. No one seemed to notice her, and those that did just stared at her for a moment before shifting their attention back to the game. Even the soda vendor just glanced at her.
    Holding the large, icy soda cup in her hand, Justine couldn’t bring herself to drink. She was too busy wondering why, why hadn’t anyone paid any attention to her? She couldn’t figure it out, and she grabbed a nearby fan by the shoulder, asking him why no one cared to look at her.
    The fan made a face and said, “Cram it, Cinderella, I’m trying to watch the game!’
    Justine’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. Not over the fan’s insult, but at his words.
    “’I’m trying to watch the game’.” Justine glugged her soda and pondered those words. Pondered them the whole trip back to the school. At the concrete steps to the exit she’d left, she took another gulp of her soda and let the cup fall on the grass. She opened the door, smiling. She’d figured it out now.
    Mr. Berman lunged after her like a rampaging elephant. “You’re on in five minutes, Juliet!” he trumpeted. Justine ignored him as he stood there fuming, red in the face. She passed him by and went to the curtain, no longer feeling any lump in her throat at the staring eyes behind it.
    They’re here for the performance, she decided. Here to be entertained, not to ridicule me. She took a deep breath, feeling the air soothe her now moist throat. “And I’m going to give them a performance worthwhile.”
    The curtain rose, and she began her lines.

Perfectly Imperfect

Timothy Kidwell

    He had never done it with an android before and, looking down at her, after having finished, felt an awkward mixture of satisfaction and revulsion. Her body was warm and smooth and curvy in all the right places, and she moaned and moved and touched just like a living lover would. But no matter how beautiful her big, green eyes, how sweet-smelling her hair or voluptuous her breasts, it was all artificial, from the pleasure she experienced to the inviting taste of her lips. Even her coy smile denoted nothing more than what her programming told her to do.
    Jordan rolled off of her. It, he reminded himself. With some modifications and a firmware upgrade, Lilly could easily be Lyle.
    “Was it good for you?” Lilly asked, raising herself up on one elbow and swiping a strand of sandy blonde hair out of her eyes.
    “Uh huh,” he hummed and nodded, still staring at the ceiling. It had been good. There was no question about that. Lilly was extremely attractive, as all androids were — inhumanly so. He guessed the company thought there wasn’t any reason for creating androids that looked less than perfect, no matter how they would be put to use once released into the general population.
    “How are you?” he asked, not trying to keep the disgust out of his voice.
    “Really good,” Lilly sighed.
    He could have been awful in bed and she wouldn’t have complained, although he guessed that wasn’t much different from real women. Unless she was a real bitch, a real woman would say you were great even if you’d been the worst lover in the history of sex, and then complain to her friends about you. But Lilly wouldn’t complain to her friends — not that she’d have anything to complain about. A smirk formed on his lips.
    “What are you smiling about?” Lilly asked.
    Jordan pursed his lips and shook his head.
    “It’s nothing,” he said.
    “Are you sure?” she pushed.
    Was that doubt he detected in her voice? No, Jordan told himself. It couldn’t be. Its programming wouldn’t allow an android doubt, at least not in a situation like this. Sure, you couldn’t convince one to jump off a bridge or shoot itself in the chest with a gun, but something about an android’s programming always made it naîve concerning interpersonal relationships. Lilly must be trying out something she had seen on a videx show.
    “Positive,” he said.
    “Okay,” Lilly smiled, wrapping the bed’s comforter around her body. Weird, this display of modesty. “I’m going to take a shower,” she said and headed toward the bathroom. The door slid shut.
    “Fine,” Jordan sighed, putting his hands behind his head.
    The alarm clock shrieked, loud and persistent, for precisely five seconds.

    “Well done,” Janis said as Lilly emerged from the sonic shower in a powder blue terrycloth robe. Janis held a ream of papers in her hand and the pocket of her white lab coat was jammed full with pens.
    “Thanks, Jan,” Lilly said, combing her fingers through her tousled hair. “How are the readings?” She gazed at the android’s still and lifeless form through the faint digital weave of the illusory wall.
    “Great!” Jan said. “All the cortex readings are on the screen over there, and you can read a thought transcript in a couple of minutes.”
    The lab bustled with activity; the engineers and scientists all wore excited smiles.
    “The girls and I think we got it right this time,” Jan said, clapping Lilly on the shoulder and giving her an affectionate squeeze. “An android who can believe it’s completely human. Full societal integration.” She chuckled. “It even had some very flattering thoughts about you.”
    “It said with an ‘upgrade’ that I could be a man,” Lilly said, disgusted. She continued to scroll through the readings on the computer screen. “We should have stopped our work a year ago.”
    “A year ago? Why?” Jan raised an eyebrow.
    “Now, it’s altogether too male.”
    “In a world without a Y chromosome, isn’t that what we wanted?”
    “I guess,” Lilly said, sounding unconvinced. “At least this time we can just turn them off.”


Connor Cook

    Everyone knew the man was innocent. We knew that there was no way he could have possibly stolen the king’s chalice, no way he managed to get past the guards. And yet, no one had spoken up. We had all shifted uncomfortably while we heard the verdict, death by lions. And yet, we kept our silence.
    There our victim stood, alone and unaided in the middle of the arena. Allowed only a knife, his chance of surviving two starving lions appeared miniscule. The man, really only a boy, nervously fingered his weapon.
    A bell tolled. A gate opened, allowing two ravenous lions to storm in. Terrified, the youth froze, slowly bringing his knife forward. The lions, hungry and fearless, attacked, gracefully launching themselves in the air.
    Oh! The blood, the screams! The lions crunched on flesh and bone as we watched, enthralled by the sight. I found myself roaring my approval, jumping in the air, begging for more violence.
    And then it finished. The shame of what I had done hung on me like a yoke. I realized that day that humans are inherently cruel, savage by choice, and that only small differences separate us from the lions.

Pornography (an Essay) Janet Kuypers

    The language of sex that is forbidden used to be a language like this:

    “Bitch,” he snapped, pulling away from her, yanking his dick out of her mouth. “You’re trying to make me come before I’m ready...” She ate up that kind of talk.

    John Stoltenberg, “Pornography and Male Sumeracy - the Forbidden Language of Sex,” “Refusing ... Essays on Sex and Justice.”


    Think of some woman in a porn magazine or movie. You probably be able to think of one in particular, so just think of the general notion of a woman in porn.

    Here’s a woman, which you probably wouldn’t even think to call a woman, doing whatever the said man in the movie wants her to do, on film, for others to derive pleasure from. Now in general, when men or even women look at her, they don’t wonder about her intellect, her personality, even the sound of her voice. You don’t even wonder if she’s a good cook. When it comes to the viewers of this woman, all they’re thinking about is sex - her body parts and what she does with them.

    That’s all you’re supposed to be thinking about when you watch it - that’s the whole point of porn.

    Okay, so now you’re looking at this woman and you’re thinking of her as, well, not even as a human being as much as some sort of object with legs and tits and other things. You’re not thinking of her on any other terms, you don’t want to think of her on any other terms. Her express purpose is your sexual satisfaction. You begin to objectify this woman - you don’t even know her name, and you are shown to think of her as and object derived to fulfill your needs.

    Now, you watch a porn more than once, you see different porn movies, you see these naked women more than once, you see them in magazines as well as in movies. For your purposes, they could even be all the same person - they’re just legs and tits anyway, right? For all you know, you could have been looking at the same woman on numerous occasions without even knowing it. They have no personality to you in this form, in pornography. And you may even become accustomed to seeing them this way - seeing the women in these videos and pictures as objects of pleasure for the male viewer.

    Now tell me, who is to say that on some levels there aren’t men who don’t begin to look at women in general in terms of the images they’re seeing of women - as objects, as sexual creatures? Do men begin to think of all porn stars as women whose personality doesn’t matter to the male, then think of all naked women as objects without feelings, then think of all women in general as tools for men’s satisfaction?

    Skin flicks and porn reading matter market women as commodities, denying physical uniqueness, women are presented as “tits and ass” with bulging breasts and painted-on smiles. This caricature of the female body and its reduction to a few sexual essentials is presented undisguised in the “hard core” material and covered up with sophisticated packaging in Playboy, Penthouse, and “soft core” porn films. Whether explicit or implied, the underlying message is the same: women are to be treated by the consumer (the male reader) as pieces of ass.

    Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

    This woman in the porn movie, on the pages of the magazine, she’s probably not even the type of girl the average guy would want to take home to introduce to mom and dad. For some reason she is acceptable for sexual purposes, but not for relationships. She’s acceptable for what men, in general, prefer for interactions with the opposite sex, but she is the opposite of what women in general want for interactions with the opposite sex.

    Pornography promotes our insecurities by picturing sex as a field of combat and conquest. The sex of pornography is unreal, featuring ridiculously oversized sexual organs, a complete absence of emotional involvement, little kissing and no hugging...

    Besides reinforcing destructive fantasies toward women, porn promotes self-destructive attitudes in men. By providing substitute gratification, it provides an excuse for men to avoid relating to women as people. It encourages unrealistic expectations: that all women will look and act like Playboy bunnies, that “good sex” can be obtained anywhere, quickly, easily, and without the hassle of expending energy on a relationship.

    Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

    The male viewer is turned on by her, but these men wouldn’t want to actually have to spend time with her. Now why? Because what she does is unacceptable? Why is it acceptable for her to make these movies, take these photos for the pleasure of men, but because of that she is not respectable enough to date?

    But how to chart the pressure sensed by women from their boyfriends or husbands to perform sexually in ever more objectified and objectifying fashion as urged by porn movies and magazines?

    Robin Morgan, Pornography: Who Benefits

    Now tell, me, what is to say that men don’t begin to look at women in general in terms of the images they’re seeing of women - as objects, as sexual creatures, as legs and tits, but as something they don’t respect?

    I want the world to know that I have a brain. I want the whole damned world to know that I have ideas, and talent, and intellect, that I’m hard-working, that I’m interesting. But how am I supposed to fight these notions that men have of how women are? Of how I am, or am supposed to be, according to their standards?

    Do you have any idea how sick it makes me feel when I see some guy leering at me in the street? But you have no idea why. No, the typical male response of “She just doesn’t want to be flattered” doesn’t make sense, because you’re not flattering me by reducing me to something you can abuse. To tits and legs. To something like an object in a porn magazine or movie, someone who wants to solely be a vehicle for the man’s pleasure. No, I don’t think finding someone attractive is a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very good thing. But that isn’t all there is to a human being, and that surely isn’t all there is to me. If someone is going to stereotype me into one category, I would rather be thought of as smart, or hard working, than a potential fuck.

    Every time I see a pornography magazine, I wonder if the owner, or the men looking through it, expect me to look like that, or expect me to perform like that for them. Or if they think I like the submission and degradation. I don’t. Most women don’t.

    Janet Kuypers, How Pornography Affects Me, 1994.

    “But the women who are porn models and actresses like it, I mean, they’re not being degraded, they’re being paid for it.”

    Would you enjoy having a photographer take pictures of you so everyone could fixate on your penis? (maybe you would.) Let me put it this way: would you like it if every interaction you had in the world related and depended only - and I mean only - with your penis? That the only way you could achieve anything in life was only if you exploited your sexual organs? If your brain didn’t count? If your abilities didn’t count? If you as a person didn’t count?

    Would you enjoy it if you were trying to apply for a job and all through the interview your potential employer was more interested in how you looked naked than your skills applicable to the job? It would be so frustrating, because that wouldn’t matter to the job, and you wouldn’t be able to prove to these people that you are qualified for the job. It would be so frustrating, because there would be nothing you could do to make these people see you as a person.

    You probably think it sounds funny, but in all honesty, these things all relate. Pornography objectifies women, and these views of objectification translate to other parts of society, from looking for a job to walking down the street. And in my opinion, it’s just not fair that women should be treated that way, simply because that’s the way it is, simply because that’s the way men and women have been taught in this society think.

    Many men, knowing intimately the correspondence between the values in their sexuality and in their pornography - share the anxiety that the feminist antipornography movement is really anattack on male sexuality. These nervousand angry men are quite correct: the movement really does hold men accountable for the consequences to real women of their sexual proclivities. It is really a refusal to believe that a man’s divine right is to force sex, to use another person’s body as if it were a hollow cantaloupe, a slap of liver, and to injure and debilitate for the sake of his gratification.

    When one looks at pornography, one sees what helps some men feel aroused, feel filled with maleness and devoid of all that is non-male. When one looks at pornography, one sees what is necessary to sustain the social structure of male contempt for female flesh whereby men achieve a sense of themselves as male...

    John Stoltenberg, “Pornography and Male Supremacy - the Forbidden Language of Sex,” “Refusing ... Essays on Sex and Justice.”

    “But women like porn movies, too, and there’s naked men in the pictures. It’s eroticism, it turns everyone on, not just men. What’s wrong with that?”

    First of all, the way pornography depicts sex is different from eroticism - the one difference is that pornography is by nature degrading towards women. How? By her submissiveness, her subservience. Is she tied up? Is her aim to please the man? Is rape a common fantasy in pornography, or physical pain, or very young women (even more weak that full adults), or more than one woman serving a man? Eroticism does not rely on one sex submissive and subservient to the other. Pornography relies exactly on just that degradation of one sex.

statistic: 75% of all women involved in pornography were victims of incest.

    Think about this, which is one of the most common fantasy scenes when the tables are turned: would you, as a man, like to be naked with another man, the both of you working to satisfy one woman? Would you really feel comfortable being with another man in that situation? No, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to compete. And I’m sure you’d want to know that you are capable of bedding a woman and don’t need to share the responsibility of satisfaction with another man. Would you want the woman deriving pleasure from another man while she was with you? No, I’m sure you’d want to know that she was dependent on you, and not someone else, for her satisfaction. Imagine that situation, really think about it, and tell me honestly that the fantasy of two women having sex with one man is fair, or accurate, or considerate, or even enjoyable for women.

    Both law and pornography express male contempt for woman: that have in the past and they do now. Both express enduring social and sexual values; each attempts to fix male behavior so that the supremacy of the male over the female will be maintained.

    Andrea Dworkin, Pornography and the First Amendment.

    Pornography supports, encourages these situation if submissiveness, like multiple women, or bondage, or rape. And in my opinion, any medium that eroticizes rape is completely inaccurate.

    Women don’t like it. No women do. A woman may fantasize about rough sex, which could be played out in the bedroom like a rape scene with a trusting partner, but that is definitely not rape, and it doesn’t feel like rape. Why would men want to fantasize that women actually enjoyed an actual rape? To feel secure that women enjoy their oppressed place in the society? Because the men want to rape someone? That’s hard to believe, but if that’s really a possible answer, then where do they get the fantasy of raping a woman? Pornography.

statistic: it icurrently is legal to sell tapes of real rapes in this country.

    And if women like pornography, it might be because they have grown to like it. It is one thing to be sexual, and it is entirely another to support this kind of degradation toward women. In our culture, pornography exists, but eroticism barely does. Women don’t have the choices for pleasure in this society that men do. Playgirl and other similar magazines are designed mostly by men - and revolve around the same fantasies that men have. It is assumed that women enjoy the same fantasies. No one questions whether or not they do. And in fact, the vast majority of readers of Playgirl are gay men.

    Pornography contains hidden messages. For example, the recent surfacing of sadomasochistic material in more respectable publications such as Penthouse illustrates how reactionary sexism gets mingled in with the turn-on photos. The material suggests that women should not only be fucked, but beaten, tortured and enslaved?triumphed over in any way. Penthouse gets away with this murderous message by casting two women in the S/M roles, but it’s no problem for a man to identify with the torturer?the victim is provided.

    Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

    Does pornography produce these subservient, submissive, sexual, non-human notions about women in men, in all different levels in society? It may be one of many forces that produce these notions - and all these different factors feed upon one another. Sexism pervades every pore of our culture, and pornography reinforces these barriers, as do other forces in our day-to-day lives.

    There is little understanding that pornography is not about sex but rather is a fundamentally misogynist expression of patriarchal rights...

    Gary Mitchell Wandachild, Complacency in the Face of Patriarchy, Win, January 22, 1976

    Women are portrayed as sexual objects in almost every form of media today. There are so many more strip joints for men than women, and there are so many restaurants and bars with female employees wearing next to nothing. Women make 63¢ for the man’s dollar in the work place.

    Women are abused in marriages and relationships, physically and sexually. A single 30-year-old man is considered sexy while a 30-year-old women is considered a hag. One in three women in their lifetimes will be raped, one in four before they even leave college. Over 80% of the rapes that do occur are committed by a man the survivor knew, a friend, a relative, a boyfriend - someone they trusted. Playboy and Penthouse outsell Time and Newsweek twenty times over.

    And the word misogyny exists - it means “to hate all women” - and a similar term does not exist for hating men.

    No, I don’t believe that pornography should be banned - I also believe in the First Amendment, and I believe in freedom of expression. I just wish that people didn’t support it so much. I wish that these notions weren’t forced on to me by men I interact with, by society in general.

    No, I suppose I can’t change the world, but I’ll do what I can to make people understand me.

Because every day I have to live with these notions in society, these stereotypes about me. And I don’t like them, and I don’t want to live by them. Most women don’t want to live by them, but they figure it’s easier to go along with it than fight the system. I can’t go along with it. That is who I am - a person who cannot be submissive, who has her own thoughts, her own brain. And if these notions are in my way, than I’ll do what I have to to get rid to these things. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.

    Janet Kuypers, How Pornography Affects Me, 1994.

    The rallying cry of porn dealers is freedom of speech and the press ... Yet we would be appalled if movies showed blacks being lynched or castrated, Chicanos being systematically beaten and tortured, and we would quickly protest. But we say nothing when the same activity goes on with women as the victims.

    Michael Betzold, How Pornography Shackles Men and Oppresses Women, Male Bag, March, 1976

    “Women don’t like pornography because they’re afraid to say they really like it. Women are just jealous of better looking women being sexually active, doing what they think they cant.”

    Women don’t like pornography because as human beings they don’t like being reduced to an object for men’s pleasure, a receptacle for a man’s penis. They don’t like being reduced, and in such a graphic way, to a non-thinking, non-feeling pile of rubble. And they don’t like the fact that men can go into many newsstands or video stores and get something commonly sold, or even popular, that supports this. That harbors this. That encourages this.

Janet Kuypers Bio

    Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
    She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com,’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
    She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through and She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images.
    Since 2010 Kuypers also hosts the weekly Chicago poetry open mic at the Café, while also broadcasting the Cafés weekly feature podcasts (and where she sometimes also performs impromptu mini-features of poetry or short stories or songs, in addition to other shows she performs live in the Chicago area).
    In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, po•em, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, and the Stories of Women. Three collection books were also published of her work in 2004, Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art).

what is veganism?

A vegan (VEE-gun) is someone who does not consume any animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans don’t consume dairy or egg products, as well as animal products in clothing and other sources.

why veganism?

This cruelty-free lifestyle provides many benefits, to animals, the environment and to ourselves. The meat and dairy industry abuses billions of animals. Animal agriculture takes an enormous toll on the land. Consumtion of animal products has been linked to heart disease, colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and a host of other conditions.

so what is vegan action?

We can succeed in shifting agriculture away from factory farming, saving millions, or even billions of chickens, cows, pigs, sheep turkeys and other animals from cruelty.

We can free up land to restore to wilderness, pollute less water and air, reduce topsoil reosion, and prevent desertification.

We can improve the health and happiness of millions by preventing numerous occurrences od breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks, among other major health problems.

A vegan, cruelty-free lifestyle may be the most important step a person can take towards creatin a more just and compassionate society. Contact us for membership information, t-shirt sales or donations.

vegan action

po box 4353, berkeley, ca 94707-0353


MIT Vegetarian Support Group (VSG)


* To show the MIT Food Service that there is a large community of vegetarians at MIT (and other health-conscious people) whom they are alienating with current menus, and to give positive suggestions for change.

* To exchange recipes and names of Boston area veg restaurants

* To provide a resource to people seeking communal vegetarian cooking

* To provide an option for vegetarian freshmen

We also have a discussion group for all issues related to vegetarianism, which currently has about 150 members, many of whom are outside the Boston area. The group is focusing more toward outreach and evolving from what it has been in years past. We welcome new members, as well as the opportunity to inform people about the benefits of vegetarianism, to our health, the environment, animal welfare, and a variety of other issues.

The Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology

The Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation (SEREF), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., established on Earth Day 1993 the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST) as its central project. CREST’s three principal projects are to provide:

* on-site training and education workshops on the sustainable development interconnections of energy, economics and environment;

* on-line distance learning/training resources on CREST’s SOLSTICE computer, available from 144 countries through email and the Internet;

* on-disc training and educational resources through the use of interactive multimedia applications on CD-ROM computer discs - showcasing current achievements and future opportunities in sustainable energy development.

The CREST staff also does “on the road” presentations, demonstrations, and workshops showcasing its activities and available resources.

For More Information Please Contact: Deborah Anderson or (202) 289-0061

this page was downloaded to your computer