Monthly Archives: July 2014

Punch-Drunk

  

by Russell K. Allen

 

For perhaps the first time you recognize Right Now, and it has an overwhelming, suffocating depth that reminds you of the deep end at the old neighborhood pool. The deep end that you would jump into and blow air through nose, open eyes, and sink and sink until you landed softly, Indian-style on the bottom. It’s just you and Dad and he is sick and skinny and unawake, unconscious on the bed because of the aneurysm. Mom and sisters are in the hallway outside the door, crying and talking. It’s been too long since you’ve been to see them. You lift the sheet: Dad’s feet. They’re too thin, you think, to bear weight; the calves are too thin to bear. ‘Goddamn, you look different,’ you say. ‘Goddamn.’ He doesn’t have hair on his head and, if you’d ever spent the time to wonder, it’s lumpier than you would have thought. An eye is slightly open, but you know he can’t see. He can hear, though. They say he can hear and understand things, so you think hard what to say. Right Now folds into itself, compressing and flowing past you like a swift river and you wonder about roaches: you’ve heard they can survive three full days submerged in water, extreme exposure to radiation, and months without food, despite the onslaught of the world and the ever-coming, ever-passing moments of Right Now that go on and on, amen, steady moving, past even the moment when a man’s life ends.

 

Russell K. Allen recently graduated with a B.A. in English. He will begin graduate coursework this fall at Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches, Texas, and he has one previous publication: Gingerbread House Literary Magazine.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

new hampshire (oklahoma is OK)

 

by Laura Heckel

stoned as skunks and bruisy-brained, we ran after some dude’s loose dog. the dog had bolted through three yards and taken off eastward, his tail-tip an iridescent fleck taunting us with boyish swing. it was the hour when everything operates on the curvature of a crescent moon, when roads slink out of view they cease to exist entirely, their crisp points painted thick as stiff bows of ships into sky. (our plane’s the only plane, fuckers.) it was the cold air that cleans your skin, it was the light that is lavender with yellow blush bottled in an orange bulb and hung from the porch of the townhall. yeah, hung. the townhall had a porch and the town had no zip code. purple and orange are the colors of haunting but also the colors of sherbet.

summoned by jingling and swallowed barks, we climbed the gate into the cemetery across the street, calling out the dog’s name. it felt right to shout and it felt right to be searching. while the dark divided us from our neighbors, the mute town beneath welcomed interruption. (they’ve heard every stray calling stray till we’re all kept or grow whole).

paddocked in iron is when we meditate on corpses, we wonder if they feel the impact of our boots on their faces and breasts and thighs, if there is a possibility that they are contrarily presssssing or gnawing at roots with their naked teeth to protect themselves from being impaled. i am made aware of lips and eyelids. he is made aware of lips and eyelids. i think a vain thought that jostles our wake.

then just as we’re about to climb out the other end towards the house, we came across this:

 

pi

 

when we got back the dude was pissed we hadn’t found his dog. we said sorry, we got distracted, we found pie in the graveyard.

 

Laura Heckel grew up in the great state of New Hampshire and now resides in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She came out with her first zine, “girl world, vol. 1” earlier this year, and is currently working on volume 2. She also draws and acts in plays.

www.lauheck.tumblr.com 

 

Tagged , ,

Cupcakes

 

by Eric Hawthorn

 

Dinner is a plop of low-sodium, a side of fat-free, a small helping of high-fiber. The man and his wife mostly glare at their plates while the kids argue over the facts of a video game. Tap water to drink. No dessert. After, digital clocks everywhere crawl toward the night, blur at the later hours, then sharply announce 1:00 AM.

The man struggles out of bed, silent as possible. His wife snores on.

There’s a produce drawer no one opens. It holds a few suspicious onions and a beet that’s just about fused to the plastic. Once you get past the horror, this is a perfect hiding place. The man has lasted 14 days. 14 days = 336 hours = a whole lot of minutes, and he’s barely complained. After 14 days his gut still lunges over the tabletop.

Before him, his ruin wears a swirl of vanilla frosting.

A fly circles the light above the kitchen table. The glass dome is spattered with its friends. After a few more passes, the fly has second thoughts and disappears for the living room.

1:06. Late at night, every sound is an event: the refrigerator harmonizes with the air-conditioning, the chair legs squeal on the linoleum. Dessert emerges from its translucent wrapper, tender, moist, the flesh of it ribbed from the grooves of the paper. The frosting is solid from the cold.

1:22. Eleven damp wrappers fill the plastic bakery box. The last one, the last of his dessert, trembles on the table before him. The man takes a bite. Where cake meets frosting, it opens like a wound. (The air has changed, the kitchen growing warmer.) This last one is putting up a struggle. There’s a clumping in the man’s throat. He feels a band of sweat where his stomach curls over his sweatpants. The light above turns bendy through his tears.

Beneath the cabinets and the refrigerator and the dishwasher, antennae twitch.

The roaches are confused. Their time is invaded by a hostile brightness. An oblivious giant rocks above, making strange deep noises and sending tremors through the floor. The roaches keep still. To their primitive senses, no telling what is happening, or why, or when it will end. Whatever is taking place, it’s great and inevitable, like thunder or boots. (Wisps of antennae test the air. The space is sweet and getting cooler.) The roaches are patient. They will wait for the quakes to subside, the creature to still, before they creep forward to feast on what’s left.

 

Eric Hawthorn lives in Philadelphia with his beautiful wife and their temperamental cat. His stories have recently appeared in Spork, Timber, and Thrice Fiction. To read some of his other pieces, including a free, mixed-media novella about pornography addiction, visit his website: TheBackroomDiaspora.blogspot.com.

Tagged , ,

Number 7

 

by Roland Leach

 

He lived alone in Number 7, his wife well gone. He slept in the afternoons, woke in the middle of the night and went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and smoke a cigarette. He only smoked one a day and looked forward to it.

Number 7 was the worst house in the street.

He often sat in a plastic chair on the front porch and watched the kids coming home from school. He rode a green scooter, a lime-green scooter, the type that has trouble getting up steep hills.

Sometimes he played old cassettes and cried. When it became too much he went into the garden and pruned the plumbago into a perfect sphere. Pruned the hedge into a triangle.

They used to picnic on the lawn. On hot nights they spread a blanket and ate chicken and drank red wine.

The body and blood. Amen.

 

Roland Leach has three collections of poetry, the latest, My Father’s Pigs, published by Picaro Press. He is a past winner of the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Josephine Ulrick Prize and the recipient of an Australia Council Grant to write poetry in the Galapagos Islands. He is currently the Poetry Editor at University of Western Australia for Westerly and is proprietor of Sunline Press, which has published eighteen collections of poetry by Australian poets. Most of his time, however, is taken up as a teacher of Literature.

 

Tagged

Weakness

    

by Jesse Cramer

 

Saturdays require strength. Lenny wakes with the sun, just as it creeps over the hay line and heats his slacks. He brushes off soot and dew and smashes a thin, expansive spider. Sprawl has crept into Blairstown in recent years, now that the pipeline is down and folks in the periphery know what a little gem the town is. The urbanites arrive just after dawn, once the farmers set out their crops for market. Lenny intends to put up a fight.

He walks from the awning outside the barn and tips his hat to the confused farmer.

He says, I am no bum.

Lenny pinches an ear of corn from the edge of the field and tosses it in the gutter.

The crowd’s shape changes in each moment. Its volume remains constant, but the pitch bulges. Each person holds a credit card and believes in its value. Lenny stands at the entrance of the market and lets every sleeve graze his face. He allows his instinct to dictate.

He enters the crowd and touches the covered heads of toddlers. His oil stains their caps.

Lenny overhears a lady utter the name Christopher at the end of a laugh. The two stand together adoring a bunch of green grapes scattered in a barrel without their stems. Christopher lights two cigarettes and hands one to his lady. No smoke penetrates their lungs. He smiles at a joke without parting his lips. She tosses her wrist around his forearm, and he accepts it without affection.

Lenny plans to take Christopher’s wallet and burn it.

The crowd helps the cause by remaining thick and settled. No one senses danger. Heads dart around with stochastic delight, yet no one sees. Lenny easily ducks between bodies and avoids elbows. Christopher stands before a farmer carrying two bushels of apples. The farmer sets them on a table and speaks with his hands. His hands say succulent. Christopher nods and places a bruised McIntosh in the pocket of his tweed jacket. He clutches his wallet with a feral grip.

Lenny sinks his teeth into Christopher’s thigh.

Christopher drops his wallet, which tumbles into a muddy footprint, and howls with ferocity. He tosses off the arm of his lady and catches Lenny by the knots of his hair. His knee thrusts into the sternum of the boy.

Christopher grips the sleeves of Lenny’s jacket, carries him from the market, and tosses him into a bush with thorns.

Lenny says, Attacking a boy is the act of a coward.

‘A boy becomes a man once he preys on the innocent.’

A boy becomes a man through no fault of his own.

‘You have girth but no strength.’

I have guts.

‘You have guts. But no stomach.’

A wild cat yawns and cuts between them. It takes in a breath and shows its hollow, hollow ribs.

‘Beg,’ Christopher says to his boy.

I am no bum.

‘Beg,’ he says to the cat.

The cat arches its back and turns. Christopher produces the McIntosh from his jacket pocket. He rips it in two in one motion – without grimace – and holds out half with an outstretched arm. The cat chews and mutters to himself with chirps and growls.

‘Beg for money next time. Or make your own.’

I am no bum.

No.’

‘You are alone.’

Christopher walks away and his lady walks with him.

The cat prances on cocky male legs down Juniper street, towards a road full of curbside garbage cans, and Lenny wants it dead. He wants to press his boot on its guts until it bloats and perishes. Blairstown stretches its limbs outward and milks the sun of its strength. Suckling branches grow millimeters. Lenny crouches and skulks with sideways steps towards the cat. He fills his nostrils with air, but the air never reaches his lungs. Lenny and the cat move at the same pace; neither is willing to confront or flee entirely. The cat stops on the cross of an intersection and faces him. Lenny is a living example of evolution, but he does not understand or believe it. The cat rests on a crack in the macadam and curls its tail over its eyes. Oaks lining the street wink from the wind. Lenny’s boots create thunder as he stalks. The cat keeps its eyes hidden. Then, the cat bolts towards an oak tree as a Ford Truck races into the intersection. It slams Lenny across the gut. The top point of the Ford’s grill grabs the flesh between his ribs and tears. He spins and lands teeth first onto the double yellow lines. There is no defeat without competition. The Ford continues without stopping. There is no strength in defeat. The cat escapes and lives.

The night sky has lost its pitch of years ago. Each passing headlight breaks off a piece of the darkness and carries it away. Now, the Blairstown night settles for a very deep blue.

Lenny begins to walk under that night sky, but his walk quickly becomes stilted. Despair forms at the corner of his eyes and falls downward. His arms tremble under the weight of adolescence. Blood does not leak from his insides but, rather, is drawn out. A trail of blood one centimeter thick lays uninterrupted for blocks and blocks.

Then, a woman, a leftover. Her hair – flaxen. Her face – hidden, unknown. Skin – taut and round. Knee high hosiery – torn. Her fingers move as one, as if connected by string. She rests her veggies on the trunk of her wooden flanked station wagon. She says, ‘oh no no.’ Her whimsy – suspended. His grief – suspected. She grips the collar of Lenny’s shirt with both hands. She attaches herself to him. They crumble. She cradles him. He cannot face any direction besides down.

Blocks and blocks away. A boy with narrow glasses mistakes a bloodied tooth on the road for a smooth white arrowhead. He keeps it as a memento and pedals away. Dried blood is as good as dirt.

 

Jesse Cramer is a play, screen, and fiction writer based in Los Angeles. His most recent full-length play The Strange Attractor received its world premiere in ay 2013 and was nominated for a Suzi Bass Award for Play Writing. You can read his most recent short story “Permanence” at http://www.wordriot.org/archives/6130. Reach him by e-mail for comments or inquiries at jesse.cramer1@gmail.com.

 

Tagged