‘Are We Having Fun Yet?’ & ‘What the Land Owes the Sea’ by Kerriann Curtis

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

On the third Thursday of each month I cart around foxes in my berry basket. When no one is looking I eat unfamiliar mushrooms to evoke familiar feelings I haven’t felt since I was a small child. I’m no Alice, but falling into rabbit holes and chasing strangers gives me an adrenaline rush akin to hearing I love you from your mother on a Sunday morning over pancakes and orange juice, no pulp. I awake on Friday to find I’m the size of a pea, so I crawl through the tiny hole in the wall by my bed and wash my feet in the tears of the female mice that occupy space hidden by size and naiveté. They teach me to be wary of four legged animals with long, whipping tails and in return I teach them to be weary of stealthy male mice with insatiable appetites. Not all women are meant to be mothers I sing on my soapbox, but the Gregorian chants that are broadcast over the airwaves are louder, and people are more willing to believe a group of men over one woman who cries. Powdering my nose in the reflection of my axe, I advise a balloon on proper floating techniques while trying to convince the hen to tell the truth about the rooster. After all, you can’t steal the eggs when dawn breaks if the hen is dead.

What the Land Owes the Sea

A mass extinction is in full swing and Angel-headed songbirds sing anthems of carnage. Pick sides in the fight for survival, Art and Science are our only gods. Love affairs with secret societies appeal to the great natural disaster while our hero has doubts and is often reticent. He tries to seek everything within and nothing from outside but comes up empty, and short 10 bucks on rent this month. His landlord is his arch-nemesis and ex-wife. Once upon a time they were happy until they sought meaning in a theatre and realized happiness is a lie. Understanding and honesty are the scary kids on the playground until you get to know them.

Kerriann Curtis is an artist and poet based in Queen Creek, Arizona. She is also the Co-founder and editor at Wordkrapht and a serialized writer at Channillo.

“Moving to The Big City” by Neil Clark

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You arrived on a cold day. Duvet warmth is cheap, so you went to bed and stayed there until the Boys came.

They’d heard the rumours. Eight month dry-aged small-town meat was available, locally caught.

They built a fire using your eviction notices and your unpaid bills. Made a hammock out of your bed sheet, with you in it. Erected a spit. Cooked you, slowly, until a smoke ring penetrated your small-town flesh.

They served your limbs and belly with mac & cheese and collard greens on the side. Diced up your innards for burritos. Boiled down your bones for broth.

Over beers and eats, they had a brain wave. Boy Broth Enterprises. They started a pop-up restaurant in your bedroom. Franchised the brand across the bedrooms of other small-town peeps in the city. Had queues out the doors, into the streets so the City Boys got wind of it and came in their droves. Booked the whole place for lunch every Friday afternoon, to celebrate the latest trades. Got blind drunk and pissed all over your toilet seat. Didn’t wash their hands. Slurped Boy Broth Ramen until your truffle-infused particles got caked onto their Armani shirts.

Every week, they’d stumble out of your place, into the chilly big city night, hailing taxis to take them for cocktails.

Their laughs and howls would blend with the sound of sirens. Their breath, warmed by your small-town marrow, rose high above the big city skyline – the one you never got to see by night.

Neil Clark is a writer from Edinburgh, Scotland. His work has is published or forthcoming in The Molotov Cocktail, Okay Donkey, Philosophical Idiot, The Open Pen, Occulum Journal and other cool places. Most days, he posts very short stories on Twitter @NeilRClark. Say ‘hi’ to him there, or visit neilclarkwrites.wordpress.com.

‘WE FELL IN LOVE AT THE NO AGE SHOW’ by Savage Ckhild

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WE FELL IN LOVE AT THE NO AGE SHOW

We fell in love at the NO AGE show. We were holding hands while MINER played. We made our friends jealous, I think. All the dopamine and adrenaline ran straight to my head and surging, wouldn’t stop the total elation from coming. I didn’t want it to ever stop. I had to headbang harder. My body was trying to find physical expression the magnitude too great for the limit of my tiny body in comparison, finding expression of such a spiritual experience. She was going to be my girlfriend because she knew what this meant to me. Winding, whirling, dizzying, droning, drowning in, a din of laughing distortion. She didn’t lean in for a kiss. We both knew it at the same time. Neither of us were high or drunk. It was the purest intoxication. Just blood and lust and love at first.

Six Poems by Jeffrey Zable

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THE SUM

After explaining the grading system, and reviewing my life
the Maker gave me a “C” overall.

“I would have given you a C+,“ he explained, “if you had given
more to charity, and if you hadn’t said ‘God damn’ so many times!”

“How could I have gotten an A?” I asked out of curiosity.

“For you that would have been impossible,” he responded.
“Being an “A” person was not in your nature!”

And so I was led to the level half way between Heaven and Hell
in which the dead still have to work and are paid in tokens that
could buy the same kind of stuff one found at Target or Kmart–
those discount stores that you shopped at back on earth if you
didn’t have the money. . .

ANOTHER TRAGEDY

I’m walking up New Montgomery street when I see this guy
whose upper body is almost parallel to the sidewalk.
He’s holding an open newspaper in front of him,
seemingly reading the contents. I notice all this before I realize
the smell he’s exuding, which is the strongest smell of excrement
from one person that I ever smelled. I’m so surprised that one person
can smell that bad that I stop off to the side just to make sure
the smell is really coming from him. I look at people passing by,
many of whom have pee-yew expressions on their faces.
Mostly I’m feeling sad to be witnessing yet another modern day tragedy. The guy is obviously homeless, has serious back problems,
and is oblivious to the fact that he smells like a pile of shit.
As I continue down the street it seems like everyone else smells like he does.

SEX

is always an option when there’s nothing else to do.
What I mean is, if you’ve flipped all the channels
and the best you can find is a rerun of “Gilligan’s Island”
or if you’re out of bread and therefore can’t make a sandwich,
or if the cat or dog is peacefully asleep on their favorite chair
and doesn’t like to be suddenly awakened, or if all you get
is answering machines when you call your ‘so called’ friends,
then it’s a pretty good option, except that there’s always the possibility
that the person you’re with may not be in the mood,
preferring to do their nails or continue reading the novel they started
a couple of months ago and planned to return to,
but always seemed to get sidetracked with something else.
And then there’s the possibility of driving to that part of town
in which women and men frequent the streets,
who will usually give you what you want if you’re willing to pay for it, including a room at a cheap hotel, or at the hot tubs, or if it’s not too far,
will indulge you in your car so long as it’s in a part of town
where there’s mostly no one else around.
And of course there’s the option of pleasing yourself the old fashioned way, which humans have probably been doing
since they were able to stand upright,
and no longer lived exclusively in trees, caves, or underground. . .

SUCH THINGS

passed lots of females while walking along,
realized that the ones around 50 and older
were the ones who acknowledged me
if they acknowledged me at all, and that
the least attractive ones gave me the most
eye contact including a smile with a show
of interest, that those under forty seldom
gave me a glance and if they did it was probably
to make sure I wasn’t some psychopath who
would knock them down and try to rape them
right there on the street. I thought to myself,
so this is what I’ve come to, remembering
when at least I was able to get a nod from
a pretty young woman, and that once in awhile
one of them would sleep with me and ask me
questions like how long have you been playing
conga drums, and what kind of poetry do you write,
as if such things really mattered. . .

UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES

On the Facebook of one of my former students there’s a clip
of a nude woman bouncing back and forth,
screaming out in orgasmic joy, though we never see the person
who’s giving her such pleasure.
The clip is short, but definitely has all the ingredients
of hardcore pornography.
With this, I write to my former student–
who was in my third grade classroom,
and who must now be in his late teens–
that if I were him I wouldn’t have that kind of video
representing my personal taste as it could come back
to do some harm.
Within an hour, I get a note from him
in which he explains that his Facebook keeps getting hacked,
and as a result he has to keep getting rid of stuff
that other people put there to make him look bad.
Thinking that he may soon get rid of the woman
getting it doggy style, I decide to take a few last looks,
which I have to admit are quite enjoyable
under the circumstances. . .

WAITING FOR THE END TO BEGIN

I can no longer keep up with all the poems I’ve written.
Some of them I read over, and think to myself,
“I don’t remember even writing that. What could’ve I been thinking!”
And then I go and write another poem.
It often appears in a magazine and I think again, “Well, that’s good,
but now what!? And then there’s another and another.
I’ve written over three thousand poems, two thousand of which
have been published through the years, yet I seldom hear from anyone
who’s read my work with the exception of the editors.
And one day I won’t even be able to wonder what anything thinks
of my poems. I’ll just sit there staring into space
like most of the people at my mother’s care facility. . .
waiting for the end to begin. . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban Folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies.  Recent writing in MockingHeart Review, Awkward Mermaid, Ink In Thirds, Third Wednesday,  Uppagus, After the Pause, Rosette Maleficarum, Chrome Baby, Former Cactus and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

“THE SCABS” by Marisa Crane

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Stefonia has a nasty habit of ripping the scabs off her face. She has a condition. The scabs appear overnight. The scabs never leave. Underneath the scabs are more scabs. The scabs have hopes and dreams. They write to-do lists and tape them to the walls next to their beds. Stefonia hates the scabs.  

Jeremiah has been threatening to put her in a cone for years.

“Cones don’t work for people, asshole. I have hands,” says Stefonia, flashing him the middle finger on both.

“We’ll see,” says Jeremiah.

When they are at bars, Stefonia picks her face and scabs float in her margaritas. She stirs the drink hoping to drown the scabs. They whisper prayers that sound like incantations.

When she was a young girl her mother home-schooled her and every night after all of her assignments were complete, her mother spent hours vacuuming and assuring Stefonia that one day she’d be normal. One day she wouldn’t have to hide.

Stefonia wakes up this morning with something wrapped tightly around her neck. Snug, but not suffocating. Her peripheral vision is obstructed by something silver and solid. She is in fact wearing a cone. A cone about 3 feet long so she can’t reach inside with her super dexterous fingers.

Jeremiah stands over her watching her acclimate to her new situation, smirking. His hands are crossed over his chest in triumph.

“It’s fine, I’ll just cut it off,” she says, climbing out of bed and knocking glass angel figurines off the bedside table.

“It’s steel, babe. I had it made just for you. It has a code so I can remove it if I choose to.”

“Give me the code now. This isn’t funny,” she shrieks, running into a wall.

Stefonia claws at the cone and it makes a horrific screeching sound. Imagine a flock of teen girl ghosts passing a cute boy ghost.

“Not a chance,” says Jeremiah. “You’re gonna kick this habit.”

“How am I supposed to eat?” She asks.

“I made a trap door I can feed you through. A different code.”

“You’re a fucking psycho.”

“I know,” he says. “I know.”

After that, she thinks of nothing but her scabs, how much they must miss her. It feels like a betrayal. She whispers positive affirmations to them. You are kind, you are good, I love you, I’ll be back soon.

They scream in response. Help us! Save us! He is an evil man. He can’t be trusted.

Stefonia refuses food and water. She begins to waste away. Jeremiah begs her to be reasonable, to understand that he is doing for her what her mother should have done years earlier.

Soon she stops speaking to her husband. Only speaks to her scabs. They multiply. Have big families, tons of mouths to feed, bills to pay. They grow increasingly distant. Can’t juggle the work-life balance. Hope that Stefonia understands.

She doesn’t. She truly doesn’t. She grows hysterical. Spends her nights spinning in the streets until she collapses.

She lies panting on the pavement, holding on tightly so she doesn’t fall off the planet. The moonlight drowns the scabs she can no longer call her own.

Marisa Crane is a lesbian fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, Drunk Monkeys, Jellyfish Review, Okay Donkey, Cotton Xenomorph, formercactus, Maudlin House, Riggwelter Press, X-R-A-Y Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently lives in San Diego with her partner. You can find her on Twitter @marisabcrane.

‘Saturday’ by Harrison Jackson

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I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.  With a heavy sigh, I got up.  I walked over to the phone, but it stopped ringing before I could pick it up.  I was annoyed.  I had hoped to sleep in later.  After all, it is one of my few true days off.  Today was all Peter’s day.  It felt good for someone to take the load off.

I can’t help but worry about Peter though.  He is young and impulsive; even overzealous at times.  Nope.  I’ve got to stop thinking like that.  Today is my day off.  I’ve got to relax.  I got dressed, and sat down for a while with my favorite book.  I’ve literally read it thousands of times, but I just can’t get enough of it.  It speaks to me in so many ways.

As I was reading, the phone rang again.  I figured I ought to answer it.  With another sigh, I gently closed the book and walked over to it.  But right as I picked it up, it stopped ringing again.  I hope it wasn’t John.  He’s always been paranoid.  Keeps on saying that his older brother is in “mortal danger.”  Hopefully he’ll get over it all.

Maybe it was Simon who called.  I don’t know much about the fellow, but I figure I should get to know him better.  I’ll have to remember to see him.

I took a good look at the clock.  It was an antique work.  I got it from my grandfather, Matthew, who got it from his father Gabriel.  It was made during the Revolution if memory serves me right.  Someday it’ll pass to my grandson, and then his grandson.  I’ve got to remember to give it to my son soon.

I realized I was getting distracted, and I snapped myself back to reality.  It was already eleven thirty.  I realized I was hungry.  I straightened my collar, put on my coat, and headed on outside.

I strode confidently into effulgent sunlight, which cascaded upon the beautiful streets of Phillipsburg magnificently.  Not a cloud was in sight to tarnish the piercing deep blue of the sky.  How often I wondered what lay beyond that veil, and if mankind would ever reach it.  I slipped my notebook and fountain pen out of my pocket, and hastily jotted down my cognitions.  My musings completed, I took a deep breath, allowing the fresh autumn air to fill my lungs.  I exhaled, and felt a wondrous sense of bliss.  Today was superb in every way.  I had a strong desire to satiate my appetite, so I began my peregrination through town.   I had no particular place in mind.  I only needed to find just the right delicacy to gratify my hunger and slake my thirst.

I rounded the corner to discover a frightful commotion up ahead.  A crowd had gathered around something, like ants around a decaying piece of fruit.  A policeman did his best to stop the unruly mob, about as effectively as an umbrella stopping a tempest.  As I neared the scene, I quickly surmised what had happened.  It appeared that a car swerved off the road and collided into some poor soul.  Upon some quick inquiries with the medical examiner, I discovered that the driver was a chauffeur.  The man struck by the automobile was a local fisherman, who was most unfortunately pronounced dead on arrival.  Once the horde knew that, they all swept to the telephones to spread the news as quickly as possible.  It is simply fascinating to see how some rumors spread faster than plagues.  I hastily placed that in my notebook alongside my earlier idea.

Once I knew what I needed to satisfy my curiosity, I proceeded past the crowd, continuing my quest for a meal.  I dislike mobs.  One person sees a group, and feels a compulsory urge to join.  It is pure animalistic behavior; a “safety in numbers” mentality that holds no place in civilized society.  Especially the way they linger.  It is just an accident.  Accidents happen.  I understand curiosity, but loitering for such a long period of time is unnecessary and hopelessly inefficient.  I inscribed that thought into my notebook as well.  Today was a fantastically productive day, in the sense of things to ponder later.

After jaunting around town for few more minutes, I made my selection.  It was a small family owned business, which produce quality food.  I assumed that Bartholomew was a surname, although I suppose it could be a given name.  I then entered the luncheonette.

The moment I sat down, a kindly youngster named James was right there with me.  Apparently he was the waiter.  I ordered some fish and potatoes, and just water to drink.  Before he left, I asked him for today’s newspaper.  He quickly brought the earliest issue of the Phillipsburg Gazette.

I took a quick look at the headlines, and saw another murder in this fine town.  It was a shame that that kind of person lived in such a nice place.  Somewhere in the restaurant I heard a phone ring.  Strangely enough, nobody answered; it just rang for a minute or so before stopping.  I kept on reading, but didn’t find anything else of note.

As I was waiting for my meal to arrive, I noticed a nice young gentleman sitting in the table in front of me.  Always glad to start some good conversation, I politely asked him who he was.  Well, it turns out that his name was Matthias, and he had just moved in to Phillipsburg today.  He was trying to figure out how to town worked and where the good eateries were and the like.  I was, of course, as helpful as I could be.

We were having quite a good talk when James came back with some wafers.  I was happy to split them with Matthias.  We kept on talking.  We briefly talked about the news of the day, but we soon changed to a more interesting topic.  It’s nice that some good people are moving in.

I couldn’t resist offering to have him over for dinner tonight.  Although my poor wife, bless her soul, died a few years back, I still remember how to make one of her delicious casseroles.

He tried to politely decline, but I would hear none of it.  New folks in town always had to have dinner with me.  It was a kind of tradition I suppose.  Finally he came around, and said he’d be over at eight.  I guess I can pretty persuasive.

James came with my meal.  This place sure does make some good potatoes.  The fish was a little cold, but I didn’t mind.

Once I finished my meal, I called the waiter for the check.  James did just fine, and I was sure to give him a generous tip.  He was a nice lad, and would one day grow into a fine gentleman.

My check paid, I got up, straightened my collar, and left the place.

I exited the building, and hastily caught my hat before it was blown away by an unexpected gale.  The weather clearly had taken a turn for the worse.  The once crystal clear firmament, replaced by dark, swirling clouds, loomed oppressively overhead, seeming ominous and foreboding.  The wind, before but a light breeze had become a torrent, blowing newspapers and other loose items around haphazardly.  It is amazing how quickly climate can change.  I of course placed that into my notebook.

I decided to return to my humble abode on the other end of town.  The weather dampened my euphoric disposition, replacing it with melancholy.  Curious how deeply the weather can affects one’s mood.  I carefully placed that idea in my notebook, despite my qualms about the risk of losing my most valued possession to Boreas.

The other townsfolk hastily rushed about like cockroaches fleeing light in their desperate attempts to tie things down or take shelter indoors.  I continued my steady amble, indifferent to the conditions as long as my precious notebook was secure.  It contained everything I would and will ever require in life.

I passed a friendly shepherd named Andrew on my way home.  He was working pretty hard to keep his sheep from spooking.  I took a right turn into an alley.

I rounded the corner into an alley, made dark and depressing by the poor weather.  Nonetheless, it made a useful shortcut.  I was surprised to find someone else in front of me.  Concerned, I reached into my breast pocket.

I heard footsteps.  I turned around to see who it was.

I recognized the man.  I tipped my hat, saying, “Evening Father,” as I drew my revolver.  Nonchalantly, I raised it and aimed it directly at his chest.

I was terrified.  I thought I was being robbed.  But then I recognized the man.

The gun felt natural in my hand, and my gloved finger fit perfectly into the guard.  The trigger eased back effortlessly to my gentle touch.

The gun roared.  I felt a sharp pain, and I fell backward.

As the man lay on the street, a crimson lake inexorably flowed from his wound.  He coughed, and blood flew from his lips, staining his collar with the ruby liquid, creating a stark contrast to the clean ivory.

I tried to utter a final prayer, but all that came out was gurgling blood.

Soon his contorted visage relaxed, replaced by a tranquil look, as if he were merely asleep.  I replaced the weapon to its place in my jacket, and, my task completed, resumed my final stroll through Phillipsburg.