2 Poems by Kyle Kirshbom

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Deer Friends

 

Killed a deer
driving Home
drunk Feet
spread out
clawing a lumberjack blanket

The air

conditioner on Feeling
better
I’ve killed
and forgot

My car’s
hot
tires treaded by
parts
of a carcass across
the dry heated
pavement

His antlers scraped
the road Standing over him
I pointed at his temple
with a squirt gun Washing
him because
blood was getting in his eyes

Drunk on the mattress
alone No sleep Thinking
what I’d do if I ever killed a deer

 

 ♦

 

Blaise

 

The party in my basement was a hooked fish
             struggling to jump
             ship

Kyle Kirshbom lives in San Marcos. His poetry can be found at Silent Auctions and Sybil, as well as the forthcoming issue of SCAB. Currently working on a collection.

Instagram: kushbom420

“A Poem in Response to the Act of Watching Paint Dry” by Nick Wort

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I have been skipping meals lately

(I know it doesn’t look that way,
bear with me)

just to feel those little rodents
circle inside my stomach —

a little centrifuge, a little
child I could have had.

You remind me, sometimes, of a mirror —
(I’m sorry, I’m too afraid to continue
that thought)

I don’t think hell is coming but
I don’t think this can be solved.

*

I want to talk about something
else now, this isn’t fun anymore.

It’s always love and money
and bodies with me, isn’t it?

Let me look at a parking lot
and see a bed of roses.


Nick Wort is feral and stupid and lonely. Follow him on Twitter @DollarTreeVegan

“Sunshine Butterflies” by Jon Berger

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It was around 7 or 8 on a summer night. I was 15 years old. We were hanging out in my friend’s driveway smoking stolen cigarettes when somehow, I was in the middle of the driveway kicking Tommy’s head in over and over again. I don’t remember what it was over, he must’ve said something wrong to me. I get like this sometimes. When my blood starts pumping and I start seeing tunnel vision and I stop hearing what is being said to me. 

I remember my friends Robert and Ben sitting on the cement steps watching. We were at Robert’s house and Robert’s house used to be a gas station in our town a long time ago. 

Ben asked Robert if he was going to stop me and Robert said he would step in when it got out of hand.

Tommy pulled a knife out of his pocket. It was a butterfly knife, he flipped it open and stabbed me in the leg. Just below the knee, in the meaty part where the calf muscle starts. It didn’t hurt. It just made me wake up. Like when you wake up from a weird dream in the morning and you still think for a second that it was real. I just felt it. I held my leg out and turned it, the knife sticking out my leg, blood running down my leg into my sock. It was a nice knife. It was burned steel so the sun reflected off it and into my eyes and I saw spots. Tommy didn’t have enough time to lock the handles in so the handles swayed and glinted like wings as I turned my leg and I could feel the blade shift in my leg. 

Tommy scooted away from me sliding on his ass, his palms scrapping on the ground. His face was a red swollen mess with blood stains down his shirt.

He got up and ran away crying wiping his face. 

Robert and Ben walked up to me.

“Holy shit you’re bleeding,” said Ben pointing at my leg.

It put my foot on the ground and put some weight on it and it felt fine. I bent over and locked the handles together and grabbed the knife by the handle and pulled. I think it was stuck in my bone some because it came out kinda hard. I had to twist the knife some and it cut into my leg more. I yanked the knife and it came out all bloody, more blood ran down my leg. The knife had white stuff on it and white stuff was leaking down my leg mixed in with the blood. 

“What’s the white stuff?” I asked holding the knife looking at it. 

“It’s tissue,” said Ben.

“What? Like Kleenex?” 

“No man, like muscle tissue or something.”

“Is that bad?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Fuck, can I keep the knife?” said Robert.

“Naw, I like this knife,” I said.

“But you already got that black knife.”

“Yeah, but I got stabbed with this knife. I get it. You ever get stabbed you get the knife.”

“Make sure that shit don’t get infected,” said Ben.

Robert had an idea. He went inside his house. His mom was mostly deaf and there was some other stuff wrong with her and she never knew what was going on. 

Ben and I were sitting on the steps, the blood drying down my leg. Robert came back out the house with a half drank pint of 5 O’clock vodka and a dish rag. Robert was my best good friend and he was making sure I was going to be okay.

 He gave me the vodka and I put my leg out and I pinched the wound with my fingers and pulled it apart. It was deep red black and sticky inside. I poured the vodka down the hole and the vodka sizzled in my leg. I felt the sizzling travel to the center of my leg and down the inside of my calf. I grinded my teeth and grunted. Pink vodka blood spilled out the wound and splattered on the cement steps beneath me. 

“Hey guys,” Ben said. 

We looked at him. He was pale and sweaty.

“I think I need to go home.” 

Me and Robert nodded at him.

He left, slowly walking across the lawn looking up at the sky. He didn’t hang out with us anymore.

I poured more vodka into my leg and wrapped it with the dish rag. Robert went back inside and came out with a pair of his jeans for me to wear home so my mom didn’t see. I put the jeans on and left my shorts in his garage. 

 My leg was starting to ache by the time I got home. 

♦♦♦

A day or so later I was waking up to spots of blood and yellow puss on my white bedsheets. The wound was all red and puffy. 

I didn’t know what to do so I told my mom and we went to the new med express in town. 

When we got there the nurse asked me tons of questions in the room. I was sitting on the table with the crumply white sheet spread over it. I wasn’t smart enough to make up a story so I just kept saying I didn’t know what happened and shook my head. The nurse glared at me and my mom and said she wasn’t going to beat a dead horse. 

Another nurse came in the room and they had a syringe full of peroxide and they stuck it up the wound and it hurt like fuck and they shot peroxide up into my leg and it sizzled way more than the five O’clock vodka did. They did this several times until the wound was cleaned out. They cleaned it with disinfectant wipes and cotton swabs while shaking their heads at me and telling me how stupid I was. They said it had healed too much to put on regular stiches so they put on these butterfly stiches that held the wound together. The doctor came in to write out a prescription for antibiotics. He told my mom to take better care of me. My mom’s face was red and she looked down at her purse in her lap.

They printed out the bill at the front desk and my mom started tearing up and wiping her eyes when she saw it. 

We left for the pharmacy.

In the car, going through town, we got McDonalds and my mom begged me to tell her what happened. But I wouldn’t say anything. I just folded my arms looked out the window. The kid I beat up never said anything either. You just can’t do things like that. 

♦♦♦

A couple days later, when my leg was feeling better and my mom was at work I went over to Roberts house. I limped down the street. It was hot out and I was sweating under my bandage that I had to change every morning. 

I knocked on Roberts door and he answered, “Shit, what’s up, man? How’s the leg?” 

“Yeah, it got infected.”

“Fuck dude that sucks.”

Robert came outside and we sat on his steps and we lit cigarettes. I pulled the butterfly knife out of my cargo shorts pocket flipped it open and snapped it closed again and handed it to Robert.

“Here, you can have the knife.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you deserve it.”

Robert looked at me side-eyed while he grabbed the knife. 

“Why do I deserve it?”

I shrugged. “You wanted to help me. So, thanks.”

Robert said he would always want to help me.

He took the knife and started to flip it open and close until it was a spinning blur. Robert was superfast. More than I could ever be. And our cigarettes just sat smoking in our lips as we watched the knife fly.

Jon Berger lives in Saginaw, Michigan. His work has appeared in BULL, Jellyfish Review, X-R-A-Y, Ellipsis Zine, Expat, Cowboy Jamboree and elsewhere. He tweets @bergerbomb44.

“Bored Games: A Real Estate of Mind” by Bud E. Ice

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Jerney’s real name was Jennifer but she preferred “Jerney” because she favored herself to be the free spirited, hippie type. She even had the long blonde hair to boot. Although born in the nineties, she dickate on the fashion trends of a generation before her time. But it was all an act. She wasn’t really a free spirit. She was more so just imprisoned by the romanticized nostalgia of an era. Jerney just liked to get stoned and wear psychedelic dresses and fringed corduroy jackets. She was obvious and didn’t have much depth but I kind of dug her attempt at style. Sometimes. Other times her lack of mental substance just got on my nerves. The visual can only go so far. Otherwise there might as well just be a hologram there instead of a human being. 

One day the two of us were hanging out at her place and she was fiending. Jerney was a speed freak and was constantly on some type of upper. She was still cute though, if you were able to look past the dilated pupils and runny mascara, the constant fidgeting and nonsensical ramblings about nothing. She had a chaotic existence.  

“I need to cop up. I’m all out,” she blurted out at one point. 

“I agree. You’re more annoying now than you are when you’re on the shit.”

“Fuck off. Come on. I need to go to my dealer’s house.”

“Do I have to go? I don’t take that shit. Can’t I just stay here?”

“I’ll buy you a six-pack if you go….”

We drove along for almost an hour. I was holding my breath for the whole trip because Jerney was driving like an erratic lunatic. I was afraid to breathe, fearing it would be my last. She cut three corners and blew two red lights along the way. The bitch drove as if the STOP signs weren’t in English. My head was on a swivel looking for cops. But we were lucky, and getting away with it. I wasn’t even sure what neighborhood we were in. All I knew was that it was a lot nicer than where Jerney and I resided. 

“Where the hell are we?” I eventually asked. 

“Maverford,” she replied.

“Never heard of it.”

“That’s because you never leave the fucking hood. I used to go to school up here.”

“Is it weird that I feel more uncomfortable in nicer neighborhoods than I do around our way?”

“No. That’s typical for someone like you.” 

I didn’t know what she meant by that and didn’t ask. However, it sounded derogatory. 

Jerney finally parked the car. We were on a residential street with big houses. None of the houses were connected and they all had yards. The grass and trees and birds all seemed appropriate unlike the manufactured nature that seemed wrongly placed around our way. We also had grass and trees and birds, but it always kind of felt like none of that shit should have been there. It never seemed appropriate. Nature in its most unnatural state. Surely it didn’t match the rest of the rundown concrete. It was like putting jimmies and sprinkles on an ice-cream cone full of shit and calling it dessert.  

“That’s Dean’s house right there,” Jerney told me. 

“Your drug dealer’s name is Dean?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I don’t know. Dean just isn’t a drug dealer sounding name to me.”

“What’s a drug dealer’s name supposed to sound like?”

“I don’t know. Like a nickname sort of thing. Like ‘Beans’ or ‘Fizzy’.”

“Not all drug dealers have nicknames. Plus, Dean’s not your typical drug dealer. I went to high school with him back in the day. Now I only go to him when he comes home from college. He goes to Princeton.” 

“Princeton, huh? A Poison-Ivy Leaguer. The upper-class is out here selling uppers. How ironic.”

“You’re so fucking annoying,” she replied. I don’t think she really meant it, though.  

We got out of the car and up a walkway that was lined with beautiful flowers, organized in a pattern of various colors. This guy Dean even had a screen door covering his storm door. That was impressive. You have to be pretty well off to have two front doors, I thought.  

“We’re going to have to stay here for a bit,” Jerney said. “Dean doesn’t like people running in and out. This is his parents house and he’s afraid the neighbors will get suspicious.” 

“Dino’s smart. I’d feel that way, too.”

“Don’t start calling him Dino. And don’t worry. We’ll only be here for like a half hour, tops.”

“There’s always some bullshit with you, so we’ll probably end up being here a lot longer. But, it’s whatever.”

Jerney knocked on the door and a dorky looking frat boy type answered. He was wearing a powder-blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a pair of pink khaki shorts. His shirt was tucked in and he was wearing sandals. I already knew we weren’t cut from the same cloth. His were a lot more expensive and mine had holes in them. 

“JERNEY! Long time no speak!” he rejoiced, while giving her an awkward ass hug.

“I know, right! How’s everything been?” she asked.

“Ehh, I’m just out here living the dream.”

Was he living the dream, or was he just lucky enough to be born into it? 

Dean looked at me and I could tell from the rip that he didn’t fuck with me. “Who’s your friend?” he asked, playing the fake nice guy role. But he had no lie in his eyes. He could tell I was white-trash.   

“This is Bud. He’s my friend from back home.” I reached out to shake his hand and he gave me a limp noodle. He probably thought my hands were dirty, which they might have been. But, regardless, I still felt some type of way.

“I’ll go get your stuff. How much do you need?” Dean asked Jerney.

“I got two-hundred on me, so whatever that gets me.”

“Sure thing. I’ll be right back.”

Dean went up stairs and I could hear him go into the bathroom and wash his hands. He must have thought poverty was contagious. 

“Fuck this dude. I don’t like him. Just a first impression, but still,” I mentioned to Jerney. 

“He’s a square. I’ll admit. But he usually gives me good deals, so it’s worth it.”

“You should just let him fuck you. You might get the shit for free.”

“I’d rather just pay the bread.”

Dean came back down the stairs with a sandwich bag filled with round, orange pills. If you didn’t know any better it could easily have passed for a bag of SweeTARTS. I’d never seen so many pills in one bag before. He handed it to Jerney and her face lit up like a Christmas tree.  

“They’re five milligrams, so I just charged you five each. But I threw in an extra ten because I haven’t seen you in awhile. So there’s fifty there, altogether,” Dean told her.

“Oh my God! Why are you so sweet!?” replied Jerney as she opened the bag and threw three of the pills into her mouth.

We all went into the kitchen and sat down. I sat there not saying much as Jerney and Dean talked about various things and people who they knew but I didn’t. Hollow smalltalk back and forth. I noticed the pills were starting to take effect on Jerney because she started talking a lot faster and couldn’t sit still. Then I heard her say, “Oh my God! Are those board games, over there?” as she pointed to a shelf across the room. “We should all play a game!”

“Sure. I’m down!” said Dean.

I’m not, I thought to myself. 

The two of them got up and walked over to the shelf.

 “Which game should we play?” asked Dean. “How about Sorry?”

I’m sorry I came here, I thought.  

“I’m not a big fan of Sorry,” Jerney said.

“How about Trouble?” Dean suggested.

I’m in enough trouble as it is, I thought. 

“MONOPOLY! OOOOH! OOOOH! Let’s play Monopoly. That’s my favorite!” Jerney emphatically said. 

“Then Monopoly it is!” Dean answered. I got the vibe that he just wanted to get in her pants and would go along with anything that she said. It was only annoying because I became aware of it. 

The two came back to the kitchen table. “To be honest, I don’t feel like playing,” I told them. I hadn’t played Monopoly since I was a child and I barely even played it then. I was always bad with money management. I could never manage to get my hands on any of it. 

“Oh, come on. Don’t be such a party pooper. It’ll be fun!” Jerney told me. 

“I’d rather not.”

“Here. Take two of these, you’ll get into it. You’re mind just needs to focus and be stimulated. Just watch,” she said as she took two of the orange pills from the bag. I had a fuck it moment. I popped the pills in my mouth and swallowed them without water. “Alright,” I said. “Let’s get this shit over with.” 

“I’ve yet to lose a game of Monopoly a day in my life,” bragged Dean, as he gleefully started passing out the assorted-colored, fake cash. 

“I’ve only played a handful of times, in mine,” I replied. I started counting out what fake money he handed me. “How much are we supposed to have?”

“There should be a total of fifteen- hundred dollars,” replied Dean.

“You shorted me fifty.” 

“Oh, I’m sorry. My mistake,” he replied as he handed me two $20s and a $10.

Right then and there I realized Dean wasn’t on the up and up. There were plenty of fifty dollar bills in the bank but he knew exactly which bills he had shorted me on, without me saying anything. I pretended not to notice. Playing dumb is one of the smartest things you can do. Especially when dealing with a fraud. See how far they try and take advantage of you, before unveiling the truth and letting them know that you were on to them the entire time. And, even then, they’ll still probably attempt to lie their way out of it.   

We were playing Monopoly but I came with my poker face. 

“Okay, let’s get started,” said Dean. “Pick which piece you want to be. Jerney gets to choose first since she’s a woman.” Was he well-mannered or a sexist? I’m out of the loop when it comes to gender etiquette these days. I once tried to hold a door for a woman and she snapped at me, going on this long spiel about how she didn’t need a man to do her any favors. She was so insulted by my attempt at being a gentleman. I went from chivalrous to chauvinist in the blink of an eye. Anyway, Jerney couldn’t decide what piece she wanted to be. It was between the dog or the iron. She ended up choosing the dog. 

“You should have picked the iron,” I said to Jerney. “Your clothes are wrinkled.”

Jerney looked down at her blouse and started brushing herself off, trying to straighten it out. 

“Don’t listen to him, Jerney. Your shirt looks perfectly fine,” Dean chimed in. 

“Thank you, Dean. See? Why can’t be more of a gentleman like Dean?”

“I don’t know. Anytime I’ve tried it ends up getting thrown back in my face. I feel much less vulnerable being an asshole.” 

It was my turn to choose what piece I was going to be. I reached for the car and Dean nearly smacked my hand away. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I must be the car. You can ask anyone I’ve ever played with. I’m always the car.”

“I don’t know about that,” I responded with sarcasm. “I have no way of asking everyone you’ve ever played with. You could easily be lying to me.” I was just being snarky and difficult on purpose. I really didn’t give a fuck whether or not I was the car. Shit, I didn’t even own a car in real life. 

“Come on, dude. Do I look like a liar?” he asked.

“Nah. I trust you,” I replied. And here I was, ironically lying to him. I didn’t trust him one bit. That made us both liars. The only difference was that he cared a lot more about Monopoly than I did. 

I ended up choosing the wheelbarrow instead of the car. I only chose it because it seemed like the stupidest piece that was left. I almost picked the battleship but my lack of interest didn’t have me prepared to go to war. 

“You’re choosing the wheelbarrow?” Dean asked while doing  a very condescending laugh. “In all my years of playing I’ve never seen anybody choose the wheelbarrow.”

“That makes sense. I’m a non-conformist. Plus it might come in handy when I collect all the cash at the end of this. You’re both looking at a first generation millionaire,” I said while pointing my thumb at myself. 

The game got underway. The first half was agonizingly boring as we all tried to acquire whatever properties we deemed fit. I could tell Dean had some sort of strategy brewing because he wasn’t purchasing any of the properties he was initially landing on. I decided to be facetious and bought up all the skid row properties because they represented the type of environment I was accustomed to in real life. That meant Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue were going to belong to your’s truly. I was playing the role of a slumlord. Jerney, on the other hand, was basic and just kept talking about how much she wanted to land on Boardwalk and Park Place.  

The pills that Jerney had given me were starting to kick in. I felt a slight buzz and glow forming throughout my body. I became very tuned into the environment, both the board game and reality itself. I hadn’t felt mental clarity like that in quite a long time. Then I caught Dean cheating, again. He passed “Go” and when he went to collect his two-hundred his fingers got sticky and he took an extra hundred from the bank. I saw him do this a few more times as the game progressed. But I continued to bite my tongue. I didn’t care enough to bust him, yet.

Midway through the game I had acquired all of the railroads and was able to build a hotel on Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues. I didn’t spend my cash on anything else and was fortunate to not land on any of Dean’s properties. Dean’s main focus was on collecting all of the red properties. Despite stealing bread from the bank he had only managed to build two houses on each. 

Jerney’s strategy, or lack thereof, was a shit show. The speed had her far too erratic to play the game wisely, or even somewhat coherently. She was biting off way more than she could chew. All the properties she owned were random impulse buys and none of them coincided with one another. She’d buy one of the purple properties and then go buy a yellow one. She was able to grab Boardwalk, however, just like she had hoped. But by the time she landed on Park Place she didn’t have enough money to buy it. She was still having a great time, nonetheless. She was high as a kite and just enjoying life. I started thinking, maybe she’s the smartest one out of all of us. 

“So, what’s your dad do? You got a really nice place here,” I mentioned to Dean at one point.

“He works in real estate.” 

“No wonder you’re so good at Monopoly. You probably get it from your father. It’s that genetic real-estate of mind.”

“Yeah, maybe so,” he replied, but you could tell his mind was focused on the game. 

I laughed on the inside because I was really throwing shade. His father was probably just like him. Real-estate frauds. 

It came to a point where Jerney was almost out of cash. She passed “Go” and got her two-hundred dollars but also landed on my hotel, Baltic Avenue. Even with the extra two-hundred she didn’t have enough to pay the rent. I had to evict her. I had no choice. 

“Well. That’ll be four-hundred and fifty bucks, my dear. And by the looks of your bread over there, you don’t got it,” I said to her.

“Fuck it. I’m tired of this game, anyway,” she replied while leaning back in her chair and lighting a cigarette.  

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll be alright. I might even be generous and let you trick out of one of my hotels. How does that sound?”

“Suck my dick,” she said. 

“You might just have one, too.”

“ALRIGHT! ENOUGH! Enough of the talking! I’m trying to concentrate,” Dean lashed out. 

Dean was taking this stupid ass game way too seriously. I couldn’t understand it. You would have thought we were playing with real money by the way he was acting. He wasn’t conducting himself very well. I guess his own arrogance was getting the better of him. He did mention that he’d never lost a game of Monopoly in his life. But luck wasn’t going his way. Oh well, I thought to myself, that’s what you get for cheating. 

Being that he was so visually agitated I felt that it was only right to add a little fuel to the fire. I decided that I’d start talking shit at every given opportunity, just to rub it in. I had karma on my side, so I began feeling mighty braggadocious, despite the fact that I didn’t care whether I won or lost. 

Things really began reaching a boiling point when Dean started landing on my properties. Three straight times around the board he landed on either Baltic or Mediterranean Avenue. He became more and more enraged each time.  

“I don’t know, Dino. I’m starting to get the vibe that you like staying at my hotels.”

He didn’t answer me and handed me my cash. I counted it to make sure it was all there. 

“I’ll tell you what. Next time you come through I’ll personally send one of my best hookers up to your room. Free of charge, it’ll be on the house. Hell, I might even send Jerney up there for you.” 

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” he screamed. His voice even cracked. “And don’t call me Dino!”

“Whoa, whoa. Cool out, man. I’m just trying to look out for my favorite tenant.”

“JUST PLAY THE FUCKING GAME!” 

I rolled the dice and landed on a space that forced me to pick up one of the orange “Chance” cards. I flipped the card over and it told me to go directly to jail, which was appropriate for someone like me. Dean seemed to take slight solace in this. 

“Wait. So how do I get out of jail?”

“You either need a “get out of jail free” card, which you don’t have, or you have to roll a double on your next turn,” he replied.  

“Bet.”

My next turn came around, and you wouldn’t believe it. I rolled a double. Playing craps all those years had paid off. I had mind control over the die. The god’s were playing puppet master, and on this particular day the strings were in my favor.

“Well, well, well. I’ll be damned. Look! I rolled a double. Snake eyes. Just like yours.”

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?” Dean shrieked.

“Exactly what I said. You’re a snake.”

“AND WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?!?!”

“Because I’ve been watching you cheat this entire game. You ain’t slick.”

Dean jumped up out of his seat while flipping the entire board off of the table. All of the pieces flew in different directions, a few of which hit Jerney on the head. I don’t even think she noticed. She’d taken three more pills since bailing out of the game earlier. She just sat there wide eyed taking everything in.   

Dean stood tense and motionless, huffing and puffing with anger as all of the fake money slowly fell through the air around him. My eyes went back and forth between Jerney and Dean. I was waiting for one of them to say something. Finally I couldn’t take the silence any longer and spoke up.

“Sooooo, I’m assuming the game is over?” 

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, BOTH OF YOU!”

Next thing you know Jerney and I were back in her car, both bewildered by what had just taken place.

“Is it just me, or does that dude have a lot of pent up rage in him?” I asked Jerney.

“Nah, you’re right. He’s always been known for spazzing out over dumb shit.”

“Over Monopoly, though? It’s a fucking board game. Who would care that much?”

“He’s a rich kid, you know how they are. They don’t have anything but dumb shit to complain about, usually.”

“I guess you’re right. Anytime I go into the city it always seems like the homeless people are walking around content with having nothing. While all the dude’s in business suits look miserable as fuck.”

“That’s because they are, bro. How does the saying go? Money can’t buy happiness. That shit is real.”

“Facts. Sometimes that shit just helps finance your sorrows instead,” I replied.

“That’s actually pretty profound. Especially coming from you.”

“Yeah……don’t forget. You still owe me that six-pack for putting me through this bullshit.”

“Deep one moment, right back to shallow in the next. But, I’m a bitch of my word. I’ll get you you’re beer. It’s the least I can do after that whole mess.” 

Jerney started up the car and we made our way back to our crusty safe-haven. She kept her promise and bought me my six-pack, on the way. Life’s not too bad when you got a six-pack. It helps make life’s bored games a little more bearable. Shit, if you get drunk enough, you might not even have to cheat.


Bud E. Ice is a functioning alcoholic and part-time lowlife located right outside the ratchet grounds of Southwest Philadelphia. His work typically involves a comedic take on social etiquette, race, class, morality, battles within the self, family issues, death, vulnerability, and whatever other realities seem relevant at the time of the writing. It’s HIS reality, but a reality nonetheless. So the reader can either RELATE to it or LEARN from it. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? There’s far worse ways to waste time.

TWITTER: @BudEIce

“As The Crow Flies North” by Aqeel Parvez

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licking desperate dreamscapes picking at
a homeless man’s head with dandruff
flaking into dust a crushed life like ecstasy
in paper trials of white it is my second 9-5
commute through the city centre and this
surely homeless fella is asleep outside
maccies with his head on top of a Tesco
bag for life and he looks so peaceful like a
full bellied baby with a thumb in its mouth I
wander zombified onwards in a daze of
water bills and gas bills and electric
meters and torn shoes and clothes pegs
and wonder why he looks so much more
content than me. have I not suffered more,
I figure I did less wrong and he less right
as I take the second coffee of the day and
go cross eyed typing web chats to sick
customers. I think about the young
homeless fella his Tesco bag for life pillow
and I close my eyes I am him so free and
wonderful homeless jobless routine-less
and someone lays a £1 saver menu
chicken burger on my chest with the most
delicate intimacy.

Aqeel Parvez writes and makes collages. He lives in Leeds, UK. He is the author of the
chapbook The Streetlights Are Beckoning Nirvana (Analog Submission Press). His work has been published in 16 Pages Press, Sludge Lit, Horror Sleaze Trash, Back Patio Press,
Saturday Night Bombers & Expat Press.

instagram: @ap.writer
twitter: 
@aqeelparvez

“The Spire Has Fallen” by Nick Wort

original.jpg

I.

We used to name the spiders
on your porch after characters
from movies I’ve
never seen.

Watch them crawl into
the siding of your house
and laugh at the idea
of them winding up
in your bed. 

And it was all so nice
as long as we didn’t think it through. 

 

II.

It really is okay, dear
you do not have to worry about me

Just put it in your mouth. 

Let it sit on the wet under-
neath your tongue
and wait for it to melt. 

 

III.

Art turns on the last call lights
that run along the ceiling
— a little row of teeth, a little string of
rosary beads 

I give him my card but
I do not have to pay.

(I never have to pay)

And suddenly I am in front
of my house
and it feels so
pornographic, to step
out of your car,
feel the gravel waltz under-
neath your feet

and simply laugh.

 

IV.

You can watch Paris burn from the
comfort of your home.

Isn’t it lovely?

 

V.

We swayed across that nicotine
yellow floor at what felt like
one-hundred-and-twenty-six
miles-per-hour, but really only
one-hundred-and-forty-two
beats-per-minute.

(it’s beautiful)

Those beads of sweat
pooled into the cotton of
my shirt, painting it green under-
neath my arms

(there’s beauty in that, too)

And who would have imagined
the patters our shifting feet
would draw, like a child
clutching an Etch-a-Sketch™

Why were we there in the first place?

(it’s less beautiful to remember)

 

VI.

You could sing one-hundred-
and-twenty-nine songs
about my inadequacies
and it would be okay

— I am too stupid
to understand what 

you really mean.

 

VII.

(redacted)

[Did you really think I would just
say it?]

 

VIII.

I need help understanding your
opinion of me

but there are too many metrics—
you know that I am bad with numbers.

Hold out your hand, count
the folds that sleep under-
neath, on the back side of,
your knuckles.

Is the answer more than ten?

If you are able to, if it is not too much
trouble, imagine me bringing you
a Coca-Cola™

(full-flavor, not diet)

Is it in a can or a bottle?

 

IX.

You ask me where
my blanket is
and I tell you it has been under-
neath your head

this whole time.

 

X.

Today I am a child again
knocking on your door.
I can hear your mother’s red
high heels clicking on the tile behind that
white washed wood

There is no answer.

I leave, sit beneath
the tree in my old backyard
feel the sticks plead under-
neath my weight

I know that there is
not much time left.

I tried to sing, but

there was only silence.

 

“Del Taco” by J. Edward Kruft

5139134629_1c717edd89_o.jpg“Out of the van!” yelled the cops, guns drawn.

Wide-eyed and hands up, Marc answered: “I swear! He said he was eighteen! Didn’t you? Didn’t you? Tell them!”

Meanwhile, in the desert, Monica posed next to a Joshua Tree while her girlfriends spread the blanket and popped the champagne and tapped weed into the bowl and, one of them, Sheila, squat-pissed behind a cactus that was playing a game of stick-em-up.

“Anyone ever notice,” began Joanne, as she was like to do, “that Mr. Murphy had a face like a weeping willow?” This betrayed that they had all been together since high school, excepting pissing-Sheila, whom the other girls tolerated for Monica’s sake, who had a bead on Sheila marrying her brother.

“Can I just say,” said Sheila, buttoning her Levi’s, “that this is one fucking-out-of-the-way place to have a shower?”

Monica said: “This bride-to-be is ready to get baked. Who’s with me?”

They sat around the blanket, Sheila plopped into the middle, and while Joyce got the pipe lit, Mirabel poured champagne into cups made from avocado pits.

Meanwhile, in Laguna, Mrs. Blancas listened on loop to Elaine Stritch belt “Ladies Who Lunch.”

Does anyone still wear…a hat?” she asked along, clutching her gin fizz. She adjusted her turban in the mirror and spoke to herself: “My father used to tell me, he’d tell me, ‘Lolo, you better marry rich, because you are the laziest person I’ve ever encountered.’

And one for Mahler!”

“Can you imagine he said that? To me?”

In the parking lot of Del Taco, Marc sat in the back of the cruiser. A cop was still questioning the boy that Marc thought was a man and he tried desperately to read their lips through the bulletproof window, the heat stifling him. He was caught off guard when the front passenger door opened and the other cop – the cute one, the one with the pencil mustache – got in. He handed Marc back his cell phone. “You might want to call someone. We’ll be heading to booking in just a few. Figure bond will be about ten.”

Marc showed his hands, cuffed behind his back. The cute cop sighed and got into the back with Marc and unlocked one of the cuffs so that it dangled like a gaudy bracelet from his left wrist. “Giorgio for Men?” asked Marc. The cute cop slammed the back door and left Marc alone.

Nothing. Not even voicemail. He dialed again. Nothing. He looked through his contacts.

In the desert, Sheila’s phone rang. Being she was in the middle of the blanket, everyone stopped as she looked at her phone. Monica said: “I can’t believe you get a signal.”

Sheila got up and walked toward the stick-em-up cactus.

“The fuck you want?”

“Sheila,” said Marc, “you with Monica?”

“What’s it to you, you fuck?”

“Sheila, listen, really, I need to talk to my sister. I’ve tried calling her but she doesn’t pick up.”

“You know, you’ve got a lot of nerve….”

“Sheila! Seriously! Now is not the time!”

She hung up.

“Fuck!” yelled Marc, enough that the cops and the boy who pretended to be a man turned to look.

Marc began to cry – not ugly-cry, but a single, dramatic tear – as he dialed once more.

Mrs. Blancas turned down the volume and picked up her princess phone.

“Yes?” Silence. “Yes, who is it?” she asked, looking in the mirror at that mole that ought to be removed.

“Hello, Mrs. Blancas.”

“Oh.”

“Wait. Mom. Don’t hang up.”

Silence. Then: “What do you want, Marco?”

As he searched for words, Marc watched a family walk through the parking lot. The kids were devouring their tacos as they walked, the littlest one dripping salsa verde down his front.

“The tacos here really are delicious,” he said, wiping away the tear, the dangling cuff brushing his cheek.

“What?” asked Mrs. Blancas. “Marco, are you drunk?”

“I said: THE TACOS HERE REALLY ARE DELICOUS! THEY’RE JUST REALLY FUCKING DELICOUS! OKAY?”

“Oh, I can’t do this. Really, you’ve always been such a churl,” said Mrs. Blancas.

“Mom. Really. Please. Don’t hang up.”

Silence.

“Do you remember,” asked Marc, “I broke my arm and you wouldn’t take me to the hospital, until finally I vomited on the dinner table and….”

“Your father was much too tolerant….”

“What has that have to do with….?”

“Someone had to be the heavy.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That was you all over.” Silence. “So, you’re not at Monica’s shower….”

Sheesh. Are you kidding me? It’s in the Goddamned desert!” She huffed. “Now, what’s all this cockamamie talk about tacos? Marco, where are you? Marco? Good God, you’re not in Tijuana, are you….?

The back door opened and the cute cop stuck in his head.

“All set?” he asked.

“Who’s that?” asked Mrs. Blancas. “Marco, who are you with? I hear a voice….”

Marc took a breath. “Here’s the thing, Mrs. Blancas. I’m in a little bit of trouble and as much as it pains me to no-fucking-ends to ask: I, might, kind of, you know, need your help….”

But soon enough he understood it was too late. In her impatience to get answers, Mrs. Blancas had put down the phone to examine more closely her mole, this time with the magnifying glass, and then she readjusted the volume to ten so that the only response Marc received was Elaine Stritch screaming at him, full throat:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAiii’lll drink to that…..


J. Edward Kruft received his MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College, and has been a Best Small Fictions nominee. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in several journals, includingJellyfish Review and MoonPark Review. His sister used to needle him with the same knock-knock “joke,” the one where the answer is banana over and over, until finally, the punchline is “orange…you glad I didn’t say banana?” He hated it immensely. He lives in Queens, NY and Sullivan County, NY with his husband, Mike, and their adopted Siberian Husky, Sasha.

His fictions can be found on his Web site: www.jedwardkruft.com
and he can be followed on twitter here: @jedwardkruft.