“Venice” Novel Excerpt by T.j Larkey

 

venice-FINAL.jpgAnnie isn’t responding to my requests for more marijuana. 

She says she’s busy with her other job. 

Some sort of self-help, shaman-yoga-instructor gig. 

But I have my suspicions.

A few weeks before the ghosting began I’d shown up at her door uninvited and intoxicated. 

Apparently, I was struggling to sit effectively on her bean-bag chair, then I threw up in her bong and demanded she sell me more cocaine.

I don’t remember this visit.

She sent me a message — emotionless, declarative sentences — explaining what had happened, and hinting that maybe I should try out sobriety. 

And then that was that. 

The drug-dealer equivalent to a break-up.

I have to find a new dealer.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

I’m out walking the boardwalk. 

I don’t like walking the boardwalk but that’s where I was told I could find weed so I’m out walking the boardwalk. 

It’s noon on a Saturday. 

There are people everywhere. 

Men holding CD players keep coming up to me asking if I want to make a donation to their music.

Which means buy their CDs.

Which means I cannot say no.

Which means I don’t have the strength to ignore them. 

By the time I find a guy that can help me out, I’m carrying three CDs that I paid a total of three dollars for because I didn’t want to talk anymore with the aggressive musicians peddling them.

“You broke under the pressure, huh?” the guy says after telling me he can hook me up.

“Broke hard,” I say.

His name is Fresh.

He has these small face tattoos on his forehead and cheeks and he keeps calling me “bruh bruh”. 

Fresh is also a musician, a rapper, but he doesn’t have any more of his CD’s left.

“They’re selling like crazy bruh bruh,” he tells me.

“Yeah?”

“Hell yeah, straight fire.”

I tell him I’d love to hear his music one day. As long as he doesn’t pressure me into listening to it in front of him. Then I ask how the transaction will work.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “You want that loud? Follow me.”

After walking for a few blocks we get to a dispensary. Fresh goes in without saying a word to me and I just keep moving past the dispensary and into the alleyway next to it. 

Waiting. 

Nothing to do. 

Nothing to distract me.

It’s dangerous.

I start worrying about cops for some reason, like I’m a wanted man, then I try to act like I have something going on in my life other than waiting in alleyways for drugs.

Act normal.

You can do it.

I pull out my phone, start having a conversation with myself. 

Saying things I imagine young men say to other young men on the phone.

“Yeah dude that party was nuts!”

“You banged her?!”

“No dude, Chad won’t be pissed, he’s so fuckin’ solid.”

After a while I start to worry that Fresh isn’t coming back. 

I’d gotten too deep into my character. 

How much time had passed?

Should I take this as a sign?

Should I be more like Chad?

After another fifteen minutes I give up and walk back to the boardwalk. I talk to a few more people but they look at me like I’m speaking a language not of Earth, like I’m an It. 

Makes sense, It says to itself.

Finally, a man who says he’d been watching and laughing at me as I asked around offers to help. He’s got a good look. Shaved head, wearing sweatpants and matching sweatshirt, and big fake diamond earrings.

I trust him.

“I got my card,” he says. “How much you want?”

I tell him I want an eighth and he makes a motion with his hand like, “No problem.”

He says, “But I will need a service fee though, that cool?” 

I nod my head and hand him the money. As he counts it he keeps looking up at me and smiling, either reassuring me he’s not going to leave, or testing me in some way.

“You’re not from here huh?” he says. “You got that look.”

“Arizona,” I say.

“Oh shit, for real? I’m from Downtown Phoenix. But I moved here a few months back. I sure as shit don’t miss it. Fuckin, had to get outta there, ya know?!”

“Fuck Arizona,” I say. “Yeah.”

He tells me to stay put and points to where he is going. It’s not too far but he is adamant that I stay put.

Five minutes go by.

Ten minutes go by.

Fifteen minutes go by.

And then I start to panic.

Without a plan or even a second thought I start walking toward where he pointed. Moving through the crowd. I pass a storefront with a man dressed like a doctor and holding a sign advertising quick and easy weed cards, and then I pass a shirtless man in a speedo, cruising on rollerblades and offering high fives to people. 

It forces a thought like– Venice Beach, baby. 

Today’s mantra. 

A song for my city. 

This is Venice, yeah. This is my new home, yeah yeah. 

I already recognize some of the people. 

The bodybuilders, the dog-walkers, the joggers, the homeless woman that threw a half-eaten yogurt at my feet on my first day here and hey hey hey, the largest gentleman I’ve ever seen in my life. 

You can’t miss him.

I’d noticed him a few days ago, harassing anyone that looked too weak to say “get away,” while talking on the phone at a volume that could be classified as abuse. The kind of guy that you can’t imagine being alone or not speaking, his huge body like a cancer consuming everything around him to survive.

I cut through the crowd trying to avoid him. But we make eye contact and it’s awful. He walks right up to me, no hesitation. I’m one of the weak ones. 

He says, “Hey, young man,” over and over, and I know he’s talking to me but I try to ignore him.

“Young man! You, walking away from me.”

But I can’t ignore him. He steps right in front of me and asks if he can help me. I tell him no. I tell him I just moved here and I’m taking in the sights.

“You sure I can’t help ya?” he says. “Are you abso-fuckin-lutely sure?”

And that one does it. Without thinking, I break. I tell him what’s going on and he starts laughing.

“I knew it!” he says. “I know everything goin’ on in this bitch. So you want my help or what?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe I should wait. Maybe he’s just—”

“Nah nah nah. That’s what I’m saying, you can’t trust people these days. And I ain’t motherfucking people. I can get you anything,” he says, “Eh-nee-thang.”

As soon as the very large gentleman says this, I see the man I’d given my money to. He’s walking directly towards me until he sees the large gentleman talking to me. He stops, changes direction, heading for an alley behind a tattoo parlor and gesturing for me to follow.

So I follow.

And the large gentleman follows too.

“Thanks,” I say, “But I see the guy.”

“Who!?”

“Thanks for your help man. Have a good one.”

“No no no young man,” he says. “Where this man at?!”

I walk down the same alley the man from Phoenix went down. I see him smiling. He looks like an old pal, my fellow Arizonan. I never should’ve doubted him. 

He raises his arm out to do the exchange and we slap hands. Then I tuck the weed in my pocket as I walk away. Finesse.

“Hey, young man!”

I turn around. 

The large gentleman is standing in front of the man that just made the exchange with me. 

My fellow Arizonan looks terrified. 

And the largest gentleman in the world suddenly looks like he’s also the angriest man in the world.

“You know this punk-ass could get jumped for what he just did right!?” He points at the ground aggressively. “This my shit right here! You come to me!”

The man from Phoenix tries to walk away but the large gentleman towers over him, standing in his way. A shoving match ensues. And I can still hear, “You come to me!” as I walk back home.

My new home.

Venice.

 

“Venice” is currently available for pre-order here

a bundle option including Venice and two other titles premiering this Fall is also available for order [we recommend this for obvious reasons: uhhh they’re good books lmfao?? obviously]

Exploding Note Theory by Mike Lee

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The morning began with me feeling more twisted than fresh cornbread in the river. I read it on the Internet, that place where one gets rewired to be like everyone else who spends too much time online. I should know. I go back to the prehistoric times before the Swiss came up with the world wide web and some techs in the Midwest designed Mosaic.

Those were fun times, I guess. Writing a novel and college essays on a six-inch Macintosh SE screen, while playing a one-dimensional game fleeing a mummy deep in a pyramid.

Now living through a pandemic wired to talking fish repeating phrases while blowing up stuff to win coins and diamonds to move on to the next round. I ended up spending way too much money on that. When it finally occurred to me that I spent more than two grand in six weeks, I realized I was like my damned rounder father. He who failed to be a parent, a husband, and left behind a box of checks to Vegas gamblers. Several were to a then-legendary poker player Nicholas Dandolos, named “Nick the Greek.”

I looked Nick up on Wikipedia. He was a good guy to lose to. Won and lost perhaps 500 million dollars in his gambling career. Once had Einstein at the poker table.

My father was stupid. No wonder he was constantly broke, stole cars to cover his losses and abandoned the family, with the FBI, of all people, on his heels.

I never met him, but in reading the biography, Nick was quoted as saying “Never bet on anyone who could talk.” My father should have listened. But, didn’t. There was nothing left of him but a box of cancelled checks I found in mom’s bureau drawer when I was nineteen. She later threw them out.

My half-sister, who was a teenager at the time, told me after the Feds visited the house, my mother burned everything of his, including all of the photographs. Therefore, I do not know what he looked like, except he had sandy hair. I am gray now, so, it doesn’t apply.

But I wasted a lot of money on an Internet game for six weeks.

For nothing.

My girlfriend called between clients. In our conversation, she asked what my longest train ride was. I said when I was a baby. That was when we took a Santa Fe from Los Angeles, where I was born, to East Texas to live with my grandparents.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, I considered taking an Amtrak to see her. She’s 1900 miles away in Austin, and I have two weeks off at the beginning of next month. Might be safer that way.

She panicked a bit about the idea. I understood and talked about something else, such as mopping the floor or how my daughter was doing.

This meant two weeks in New York, alone. Alone, again. A lonely two, we have become.

I got through the day of working from home. When doing so time stretches out so far you lose track of time until sundown. It is Midsummer. Therefore, this is a very long day, and unhealthy this sure is.

I wrote a feature, edited some copy, posted a blog, and ran a social media campaign on Twitter and Instagram. Answered emails and texts from neurotics. The paychecks come weekly, so I count myself lucky. I know people living on unemployment, and a close friend was just laid off a second time from the retail store that just reopened because there was not enough business.

Of course. There are no tourists in New York, and the well-heeled have fled since the lockdown began in March.

My girlfriend was tired when she called at bedtime. Too tired to Skype. She put in 14 hours, too.

Amid the boom of firecrackers, I fell asleep, assisted by Xanax. It is very stressful here.

I dreamed. I am on a train, passing through Mississippi. I sat with Nick the Greek and a man with sandy hair, his face turned away from me. My father, obviously.

Nick put his hand gently on my shoulder.

“The crystals cannot reach you,” he said, reassuringly. “Sleep well. They can still see you.”

“They watch over you like the diamonds I promised your mother,” said my father.

I opened my eyes at the gloaming sky through the window.

All will be well.

Yes, will be well, and slept a bit more before waking to begin another 14-hour day, starting with exploding coins and diamonds.

 

Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union magazine in New York City. His fiction is published in Soft Cartel, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Opiate and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story. https://focusonthestory.org/stories/

“No One Can Figure Out Why John Fed Himself to a Bear” by Benjamin Davis

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I was thirty years old. I had money. It moved around me. It didn’t grow as I wanted it to, but it didn’t run away from me like it used to. I could afford a car, an apartment, and an assortment of smart gadgets.

I called my friend Carl and said I’d drive him to the zoo. “There is a new superhero exhibit,” he’d told me a few days earlier over a club sandwich. “I really want to check it out,” he’d added, before the day spiraled into sidewalk therapy about our friend John. John had fed himself to a bear.

“Thanks,” Carl told me as I paid his entry ticket. We made our way to the exhibit and I tried to make small talk as we went.

“How are things going with Angie?” I asked.

Carl shrugged. “She keeps wanting to work through everything.”

“Oh, poor baby.”

“No—it’s nice, but I mean, I am just in no shape to be getting serious with someone. I’ve
got too many things in my head and I am falling apart,” he said. He looked up. It was a nice day.

“Anyways, how are things with Y?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, good.”

“Good.” He sighed. “Good for you.” Carl was quiet as we passed through the gateway and
stopped at the first enclosure: Victor Jaws | Alias: Bite Doctor

“My penis fell off last week,” Carl said.

I turned away from the scene. It was littered with great chewed-through blocks of concrete. I tried to look sympathetic.

“Damn, man.”

“I put it in a little bag.”

Carl reached for his pocket.

“I don’t need to see it!”

“What? No. No-no.” He unwrapped a piece of gum and put it in his mouth.

“No—it’s at home.”

“What’d Angie say?”

“What do you think? She said we’d work on it, that it’d be okay—everything will be okay,
okay?”

I nodded.

Carl chewed his gum and we walked.

It was a fascinating exhibit, though most of the heroes didn’t come out to where you could see them. We passed a group of teenagers banging on the window of Mark Storm | Alias: The Whirlwind and crying, “BLOW ME!” Carl watched them.

“Remember when we went to the aquarium and John pressed his bare ass into the glass on the tank—sharks or something, right?”

“Sharks or dolphins or something, yeah,” I said.

Carl laughed. “His mom was pissed.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Have you seen her?”

“His mom?”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

We watched the kids. They laughed and laughed and called again, “BLOW MEEEE!” At
least someone was having fun, I thought.

“I just still can’t understand,” Carl said.

Here we go, I thought.

“Why would he do it?”

“I don’t know, man.”

I always hoped I’d have a better answer for him, but every time I just said, “I don’t know,
man.”

“Like even if he’d just been normal about it, like a gun or something, or pills. He was happy, though. Right?”

“Yeah. I don’t know, man.”

“But why that way,” he sighed. “You know, when we were young, it felt like the world made a lot of sense. Now, it’s like -” He looked over to the kids—they were beside themselves, laughing.

“Enjoy it while it lasts!” Carl shouted to them.

The kids looked over. “What’d you say bro?” said the largest of the three.

Carl narrowed his eyes at him and said, “I said enjoy it while it lasts. You’re young and you’ll laugh and you’ll plan all of these things and then you’ll grow up and some of you will succeed, a little, maybe, but two out of three of you, one if you’re a real bunch of shits, which from the looks of it, you are, will fail because the world doesn’t have enough for all three of you and you’ll fuck up everything you touch because that is all anyone does is fuck things up and then make some money and—and, buy a car!”

He looked at me.

I looked up at The Whirlwind.

He was in midair on the other side of the glass, tights rolled down, masturbating with the
angriest goddamn look on his face.


Benjamin Davis is an ex-fintech journalist and folklore addict living in South Korea. His work can be found or is upcoming in *82 Review, Defenestration, Cease, Cows, and others.

3 Stories by Dylan Gray

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Solar Purification

He keeps all his water in jars beside his window. He wants to capture the sun. He tends to his garden. He gathers acorns. Water molecules bind with the photons emitted by the sun; these photons contain restorative properties. He is a young man, already considering life after death, excited for whatever shape comes next. He hopes to be a tree, growing tall, stretching closer towards the sunlight with each year, one day seeing the light travel atop his brethren against the blue mountains and aqua sky. He lays outside on his naked back to absorb all the light he can, rolling over occasionally on the soft grass. He thinks of his future kids. They will tend the garden after he is gone. He will teach them how to harness the sovereignty of the sun. When he is older, he will live inside a glass house.

Ornaments

She kicked her TV habit, now she didn’t know what to do with her life. Reading disturbed her sleeping pattern. Music was a bore. Instead, she bought all the discount Christmas ornaments from the dollar store. She would drive an hour into the country at night and toss the cheaply ornate bulbs into an abandoned quarry. The shimmers of moonlit water coalescing at the bottom with an explosion of scintillated shards of glass enthralled her for hours. She bought hundreds of baubles over this time. Eventually the quarry sparkled brilliantly, even on the clearest nights, so much so she could enjoy the tableau
promulgate without input. It would take her years to realize it was the moon she was watching, not the glitter. She kicked that habit too.

 

You and I are floating on

My butt is sucked into the center of my inner tube. You are floating on an inflatable lounging chair with the back raised. You are slightly sitting up. With our sunglasses on, we both stare at the sun. I ask what time is it. From the sun, you say, I imagine one. I dip my fingers into the cool water. My body is warm. I pull my hair out of the water and let the droplets fall on my chest. The bleary sky is empty except the sun. Fringes of water inflict my peripheries. You reapply more tanning oil. I think I’m starting to burn, I say. You can get out whenever you want, you say. The water feels so nice though. It does, doesn’t it? I tilt my head back, returning to my angst, across the inner tube, my hair slumping back into the water. I hear the splashes of water against the elastic. What is that sound? Squeaky? I hear the sound in my head – its squishy beginning, the supple pulling of the middle, the bouncy end like a loose rubber ball – and think yes. I sink my whole scalp into the water. Tangles of hair squiggle around me like a halo. I am happiest in water, I think. I am aquatic. A seagull lands between you and I. I pet its small head before it takes off. I watch the bird become indistinct from the hazy sky. I feel emotional then but am unsure why, which makes me feel more emotional. I begin to resent the seagull for having ever enter my heart. I can’t think straight, I say. You are texting on your phone. How can I relax when my brain won’t shut up and I feel so emotional all the time for reasons I  don’t know? Try actively not thinking, you say. Build a psychic barrier for your feelings from your thoughts so you can think without the input of subjective sentimentality. The restless mind will stay occupied as the flow of consciousness filters in unabashed. To quell the monkey mind is a full-time operation, but by assiduously assuaging your mind, you train yourself to resist the rational and accept the irrational, the absurd, the void. I try this out. I’m bored, I say. You can get out whenever you want, you say. I dip my hands and feet into the water. But the water feels so nice. The sun is hot. But the water is cool. I consider reorienting myself. With some effort, I am able to slide my other half into the water. I nuzzle myself via my armpits onto either side of the inner tube, stare out onto the horizon, gazing at the nothing around us.

Dylan Gray is a writer from Indiana, currently residing in Phoenix, AZ. He works at the library. Follow him @dylanthegray but don’t tell his boss.

Push to Exit by Nick Perilli

 

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Push to exit: a new button to limit intrusion into the break room and create a clear distinction between
useless and productive hours in the minds of the workers. It’s green.

O

The workers have already stopped pushing to exit. They mill around the door, their hands hovering over the delicate button. It is difficult for them to choose to work because they know work is bullshit. They build a colony in the break room and it thrives. It is self-sufficient with its own economy and robust
culture.

Push to force exit: a new button to limit abuse of the original button. Administration pushes it. The door blows open, sucking all but one worker into the endless vacuum of responsibilities. They can’t breathe out there. They go limp and choke. The blue light of the planet glows across their sad faces.

O

An administrator descends the emergency elevator to the break room. They can’t stand the air down there, so they wear several breathing apparatuses. They prod the lone straggling worker – holding fast to the edge of the break room door – with a broom handle. The worker fights back, grabbing the handle and pulling the administrator with the rest of the workers into the howling vacuum.

Administration doesn’t know what to do. We sit in silent penance and grief. In time, the emergency elevator snaps back to life. We do the same, tearing webs from our crusted eyes.

We welcome the admin back as a hero. They are changed; shifted; they look nothing like their employee ID. Before they even remove their breathing apparatuses, they install a new button.

Push to pizza party: a new button in administration to be slammed all damn day, filling the voids of this place with radiant pizza.

But the admin pushes it too much. There is only so much space for the pizza and we are concerned. The pizza filled this place and has begun to encroach on our person. A few of us fight through the impossible amount of cheese, of sauce, of dough that’s not too chewy or crispy but just right, to reach the lost admin in their office.
Some of us succumb to the lack of oxygen and the pressing weight of the pies growing against our chests with each push to pizza party. I don’t just yet.
The admin sits at their desk, slamming their raw fist down on the button. They see me enter, a knowing look on their stark worker face. I am already suffocating. I tell the “admin” to look out over the company floor. The workers are dead, consumed by the product of this endless button. The admin knows this already. The workers died happy, they tell me, a party all around them and pizza in their lungs. Perhaps a new company—a new world—will be born from the sauce-soaked remains of this one. Until then, the admin will push to pizza party.

I cannot speak. My mouth is dough. My blood is marinara.

Nick Perilli is a writer and librarian living in Philadelphia with loved ones who have yet to watch Gremlins 2 with him. Links to more of his published work are on his discount website nickperilli.com. Sometimes he tweets as @nicoloperilli. That’s it.

All Created Equal by Bud E. Ice

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I stood there looking at this hole in the ground. Six feet deep with walls made of dirt. That’s where Soapy was going. Everyone at the job called him “Soapy” because we came to the conclusion that he never took a shower. We found humor in the irony even though it wasn’t that clever.

I decided to attend the funeral because I was off from work that day and Soapy had never given me a particular reason to dislike him. I was one of three people there, with the exception of the priest and those working for the cemetery.

Soapy’s gravestone was so small that it could have easily been stepped on had there not been a big ass hole dug up in front of it. The priest said some prayers and I blessed myself once I saw everyone else do it. Then it was over. The whole thing took about ten minutes. The groundskeepers stood off to the side, waiting, so they could lower the body in and cover it up with the excess dirt.

I walked up to the gravestone as everyone began walking back to their cars. One last look to take it all in and see what the inevitable future was headed for. Apparently Soapy’s real name was Bernard. He was also a lot younger than I thought he was. Aside from the bad hygiene, I didn’t know much else about him. But I still ended up paying my respects somehow. There were probably people out there who had known him much better than I, but they were nowhere to be found.

“You almost done here?” I heard a voice say from behind me. It was one of the gravediggers, an elderly man who looked five seconds away from burying himself.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry for your loss.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks.”

I didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t really my loss. But there was no point in explaining any of that to him. He was on the clock and had a corpse to bury.

“How do you guys get the hole so perfectly squared?” I asked.

“We get a lot of practice,” the old man replied. I almost forgot that people die everyday. And that other people get paid to bury them.

I looked around and scanned the cemetery. I saw a group of men constructing a rather large monument a few yards away.

“What are they doing over there?” I asked.

“That? It’s called a mausoleum.”

“It’s a lot  bigger than my friend’s little plaque, here.”

“That person probably had a lot more money than your friend.”

“Even in death you can tell who the winners were.”

We may have all been created equal. It’s just a shame we don’t always get to live or die that way.

 

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. Follow him on TWITTER: @BudEIce

“Under One Minute Remaining” by Lucy Zhang

Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung / Dumbo Arts Cen

Under one minute remaining. In theory, fifty-nine seconds, fifty-eight seconds, fifty-seven seconds…

It has been at “under one minute remaining…” for about half an hour now. 

Here’s how this came to be:

A father has a daughter who just started ninth grade. He didn’t grow up in the United States so he’s only now learning about college applications and National Merit scholarships, AP exams and extracurricular activities. This father comes into work at seven am and buys a bowl of oatmeal mixed with raisins and almonds, a habit that has endured for over two decades. Today his task is to animate the progress bar from start to finish, as accurately as possible. He figures he can divide everything into operations: each operation takes a constant amount of time, equivalent to some portion of the bar, and he’ll let progress move at constant velocity until it reaches the next operation where a new velocity will be defined. Or, he can hard code a time–like thirty minutes–and have the progress accelerate towards the end should the real work finish early. And if not, stalling at ninety-nine percent until everything finishes might be viable. But ninety-nine percent looks rather close to one hundred percent and people might think that’s good enough when really it isn’t. Because that last operation? Without it, you end up with a mutant system where launching Microsoft Word triggers the simultaneous destruction of the internal clock, roaring of spinning fans, and a defunct security mechanism whose original purpose was to save you from this very situation but now all it can do is write files to a directory forever. Perhaps he should make an indeterminate progress bar with flashing blue and white stripes, but he is certain the higher-ups wouldn’t approve a user interface without a time estimate. He is also certain the last operation will not complete in under one minute, but these are just semantics, the “nuances of language” so his high school English teacher liked to say, and all of this seems superior to “Under an infinite amount of time remaining…”. Plus he enjoys wasting millions of people’s time–time they could be spending making the world a worse place, so he’s probably a hero of sorts. He clicks into the text file, fingers rapidly hitting keyboard buttons for two or three seconds, saves his work, and pushes it to production with privileges he acquired back when the company was small and really someone should’ve redacted these godlike abilities because him hitting the “return” button is, at least today, surely a violation of corporate democracy.

Somewhere else, in a poor country where only one person has enough money to afford products meant to elevate the life experience beyond basic physical sustenance, this person stares at a progress bar moving neither forward nor backward, even though it seems so close to completion. Well, if it’ll take under a minute, it may be worth the wait. Governing a country can come later.

“coyote sunset” by jordan pansky

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i lay in bed, saying my simple prayer
lord please help me, to stop my dumbfuck ways in this dumbfuck world,
amen.

the desert heat beats my brow. sweat dribbles down my back. i shut the plastic door of my car, and lock it. 

i’m in the waiting room, and everyone’s getting mad at the tv. i can’t see it, but it sounds like the guy from wheel of fortune, discussing that which concerns celebrities and their followers. i sift through the magazines and pamphlets. long spreads of lipstick glossed over, with a sun hat. a man at the front desk talks on two phones at once. his smile radiates. 

i finally get in to the doctor, and he tells me to pull my pants down, so i do. 

moved here a few years back. telling myself i’d build a cardboard house in a cardboard town. with a silly putty wife and a silly putty dog. stars made of cellophane.

she makes flapjacks, as the dog does jumping jacks as i play solitaire with a deck that’s missing the jacks. the clock strikes bonanza and she pours the pink mist. i think about what the doctor said about my hemoglobin. he said it was looking fine, everything in order. i went because i thought i’d vomit up blood if it ever got that far. if it got that far, that i’d vomit at all. 

i was having waking dreams, of some woman i used to love. sweating.

i kiss the silly putty wife, florence. i kiss her and tell her i’ll be home by six. i tell her to be ready by six. she says i’d better be ready, too. i will, i assure her. better run, engine’s gettin cold. 

out the door, into the car and down the windy roads. styrofoam cactuses darting past. thick greens set against the orange, and some sort of effigy enclosed by mesas made of salt. jutting out, on the outskirts. the news man says we’re reaching a heat wave. the hottest in 38 years. i roll the window down for a smoke. cotton lazily seeping out the tip of my stick. that’s much better.

great serenity washes over me as i sharpen my pencil. my boss walks in, his red comb is droopy. he’s been crowing since he was three, and now he does so at me. i yap back a bit, and head to the cooler. lester sips from a straw. 

i’ve been working on an expansion for the house, something that’s really gonna stick. i bought some chairs, finally. oh, they look nice in the bulb room. sometimes the neighbourhood bullfrogs come round, and i give them a pop, and they scoot. always prankin. always riding their high wheels down the bend, to the creek. 

it’s 5:30, and i punch the clock. i go to pick florence up, and silly dog must stay. we park on the main street. a slight wind causes the buildings to sway like they’re dancing around the fire. i can see embers and sparks if i think hard enough. 

corner booth, noise dampened. our tronic waitress scoots over to top up the pink mist. she sends idle chit chat. i ask her to call me mad dog, she commits it to memory. 

florence mashes her face, frowny. i ask what’s wrong. oh, nothing. the night goes on.

we put a dime in the robot and it emits frequency for us to drink to. the pitch is higher than normal, but palatable. maybe even a bit more roomy than normal. i pretend i’m on safari.

i see the cutouts in the sky. jfk and fdr and bogart. at the beach, a train line running over stars with cars backed up for miles and miles. miles davis in the window, frozen. and the dandelions swaying in unison with the monolith.

i ask the teller what’s playing. real cinema, he insists, taking token. i buy some buttered biscuits, and sit with florence. the lights go down, and it’s quiet. there’s only about 5 other people in here, tonight. the commercials were nothing to write home about. some value cream, and linked sausage. 

it begins. the flickering light, and running tone. blank screen, changing brightness intensities. i am in awe. at one point i notice the exit door has been left open. i’m having a hard time taking my eyes off the screen, but best i can tell it’s a smudgy gentleman. his walking cane is propped against the frame. he unbuttons his shirt, and buttons it back up. over and over. 

used to be we could tune in to soft core porn on friday nights. there’s a message on the machine waiting for me, once i get home. 

hey derrick, thought i’d give you a ring, but i must’ve missed ya. the waterboards all done. up in the shop. you really wore it in, didn’t you? i’m taking the fish to the lake if you wanna join, let me know. bye.

florence and i sit, staring at the cotton candy sky as it turns all shades of red and orange and pretty pink. those hues, cutting me deep. some memory tucked away, in a plain, unlabelled box. it’s summer, and not enough light is getting through the blinds. frequency is soft in the distance. the sprinkler is on. it’s some great buried sadness. like the world won’t be here tomorrow. i desperately want it to end. for it to become dark. but deep down, i know i’d rather live in this singular point in time, for the rest of my life, than ever have it leave me. was some time during the foggy years. when things took longer to form. 

the bulb dips beneath the tarmac, and it’s over. 

we slowly make our way back to the street. passing the laundromats, and dunk diners with their low hum. some people seldom sleep. sometimes i wish the same. 

 

——————————-

Jordan Pansky is a writer/video person. Currently editing Angels in the Outfield in the style of David Lynch. His videos can be viewed here.

“Hell” by Daniel Eastman

hell

I don’t think it’s really all fire and pain like they say. I think everyone’s got their own thing coming. Some guys, they get their dicks chopped off for all eternity. I dunno. My version of Hell? Well, my dick’s still there. The sun’s shining over the lake. Temp’s a comfy 75 during the day but drops to a cool 60 at night. We build bonfires out of dry branches when the sun goes down. Everyone I’ve ever loved is with me. Every friend. Hell, even some enemies too. We take the boat out sometimes or we just sit back in Adirondack chairs. We drink but we never get drunk. Cheap beer in an endless cooler. We’re forever in that sweet spot right after the first or second drink when your belly gets warm and you can talk about anything. Sleep is optional. Night comes. We share a furnished cabin with those green 70s countertops and pine needles in the carpet. Jealousy does not exist. Someone always plays a half decent guitar. Doesn’t suck at all, really. We circle the fire and listen to owls and the hush rippling of the shore. A column of smoke reaches the stars and all of our secrets are carried off and dissolved within it. People harp on cheap coffee but you ever have it in the cool good morning of a calm lake? We do that in Hell. Still, in spite of the eternal beauty of earthly nature and leisure at our disposal, none of us can escape the unspoken feeling that this is not enough.

“i am dave” by @yuhhboy2clout

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Jeremy is listening to sum gangsta shit from Shoreline Mafia “Gangstas & Sippas”. It is a nice song “bout that fuckin life” that be slappin. Jeremy looks at mirror to reassure himself of his beauty and that he is beautiful. He is so very beautiful. He is a perfect beautiful boy. His name should be Dave like that statue ass hoe in Italy all made up of chiseled marble n shit. “My name should totally be Dave cuz I be the epitome of male perfection.” The Shoreline Mafia song be deadass goin hard. Jeremy vibes. “GANGSTAS. SIPPAS. PACK FLIPPAS.” His phone has text from his girlfriend Krista. She always be textin. Jeremy likes her, enjoys her company, but hates that she be texting so much. “Damn, she always be texting me. I def have to break up wit her before Senior Year.” 

Jeremy sprays his bare chest with Axe body spray. He sprays Axe all over his chest. He sprays so much Axe Body Spray he creates a cloud of Axe mist. The mist mesmerizes Jeremy. Time pauses. Jeremy sees the truth. Jeremy understands now. He understands the universal theory of everything. The Axe mist slowly evaporates before his eyes, Jeremy watches, and contemplates the nature of his existence after he sees a microscopic wormhole leading to the outer edges of our Milky Way. “If I had the ability to fully stop time, and unlimited supply of Axe Body Spray; I could travel the cosmos.” Jeremy looks at himself in the mirror again. He adjusts his hair. Jeremy inhales the Axe fumes permeating from his body. “What the fuck just happened, yo?”

 

“Jeremy! Can you hear me? Clean your room, please.”

“Ayy mom, I can’t be worrying bout that shit right now. I’m headin out.” 

 

Jeremy finds a Champion heritage tee with the wrap around logo to wear. Jeremy picks up his phone. Krista wants to know when he’ll pick her up to go to Nathan Miller’s pool party. “Damn, you always be textin. No wonder I be breakin up wit yo textin hoe ass.” Jeremy walks out of his room.

 

“I know your room is not clean. Jeremy.”

“I heard you mom. I heard you. But I gotta dip.”

 

Jeremy goes to the kitchen to get a Coca Cola. His mom is in the living room watching Top Chef. She is dressed in a Martha Stewart robe over her sweatpants pajamas from Macy’s. She almost never goes out on the weekends. She watches TV and barks orders at Jeremy. “Clean your room. Do your homework. Say hi to your grandma. Help Mrs Clarkson next door bring in her groceries, she’s an old woman, Jeremy, a widow. Don’t you have any compassion? What is wrong with you? You’re becoming your father. A spoiled entitled frat boy. I’m at my wits end with you. No, I am not hiring a maid. You’re nuts, mister.”

Jeremy is sick and tire of chores. 

His dad would pay for a maid to do Jeremy’s chores, but his mom refused. His dad sends money every month in alimony and child support, but she refuses to take the money. Its in a savings account stacking up while they live in total squalor. The money is there, it is on the table, all she had to do was pick it up. Jeremy is not a butler. Jeremy has the best dick in the bizz. Everyone in town talks about Jeremy and the way he slangin dick. “Yo that Jeremy kid be slangin dick heavy. You know he fuckin runnin it.” His mom is just completely oblivious to how much of a fuckin smoke show Jeremy is. 

 

“Don’t drink soda. It’s not good for you.” his mother say.

“I don’t care. I have the best dick in the bizz.” Jeremy say.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Clean your room. I am watching Top Chef.”

“I have to go to a pool party and slang dis dick.”

” I can’t relax knowing that your room is a mess.”

“Moms – why do I have to clean this shit? I hate cleaning. I hate everything. I hate this apartment. I hate working at Pizza Hut. I hate not being respected by bum ass muhfuckas when I be slangin dick heavy and erry bitch around town be fuckin wit me. I’m like a greek god reborn. It’s so weird too because you and dad aren’t even Greek, and I’m practically Zeus’s son. I am Zeus’s son, Dave.”

“Zeus’s son? Hercules?”

“Whaa?”

“Hercules; Zeus’s son.”

“No, not Hercules. I’m Dave. That statue in Italy. Zeus’s son Dave from Italy.”

“My goodness, Jeremy. That’s Michelangelo’s David.”

“Whatever moms, I’m Dave.”

“It’ll take you 20 minutes to clean your room. Just do it. You’ve completely ruined this episode of Top Chef for me, but it’s OK. I’ll rewind. We have DVR.”

“DVR these nuts, yo.”

“On Top Chef, these chefs compete with each other to be the Top Chef. It requires commitment and the spirit of a champion. These people are champions. Do you think the Top Chef has a maid? If you want to succeed in life, Jeremy..” his mom sighs. 

“Fine, mom’s. If it’s that motherfuckin’ important.”

 

Jeremy walks back to his room. Jeremy makes his bed. Jeremy picks up clothing on the floor. Jeremy picks up an empty can of Axe and puts it into a wastebasket. Jeremy vacuums the carpet. While he is coiling up the vacuum cord he looks at his reflection. “I’m not Dave, I’m David.” 

That was the last time Jeremy and his mother argued over chores. A few weeks later Jeremy would lose his mother to a car accident. A drunk driver plowed into her car, flipping it over, and caused it to explode. After his mother’s death, Jeremy moved in with his father and stepmother in their fancy home with a maid service. But, like a good mother’s son, Jeremy insisted on doing his own chores. When he would do his chores it felt as if he was with his mom again in their tiny apartment. He would clean his room and talk to her with a big smile. “I’m making my bed, moms. No, I won’t forget to wash my pillowcase.” The alimony and child support that his father paid all those years wasn’t going into a savings account like Jeremy assumed. Rather, his mom had every cent of that money put into a trust for Jeremy. Over $100,000 was in the account, along with a message from his mother: “Be your best self, Jeremy.” Jeremy’s girlfriend, Krista, helped him immensely dealing with the tragedy of losing his mother. He thought he would break up with her but he fell very deeply in love with her. They were together all senior year, planned to go to the same college, and talked about marriage before Jeremy himself got shotgun blasted in the fuckin face yo when that crazy ass tried to flip his 100k into a milli buying packs off the cartel. The game is the game yo. You either play or get played.

 

2 Clout be writing screenplays and short stories. You can find him on Twitter (@yuhhboy2clout) makin those dope moves.