Page 1

Thanks for checking out this little sampler of Barrelhouse Seven. We think it’s our best issue yet, and we hope this little taste inspires you to buy the whole thing (hint: http://www.barrelhousemag.com).

Issue Seven includes the winners of our Barrelhouse Invitational: The Future edition, and two of those works, Sandra Beasley’s “Antiquity” and Mike Czyzniewjewski’s “The Atheist Reconsiders,” are included in this mini-issue. To go along with the futuristic vibe, we’ve published photos of toy robots taken by Flickr sensation extra super cutie. Here’s what we have for you: fiction

The Truth About Ninjas, by Alex Irvine Bandit, by Ben Stein

The Atheist Reconsiders, by Mike Czyzniewjewski poetry

Antiquity, by Sandra Beasley

From “Stove Seasoning,” by Caroline Knox

Thanks for taking the time to read this sampler thingy. If you like it, please spread the word. It’s free, after all. Don’t miss out on all the barrelhousey goodness: buy the whole thing at www.barrelhousemag.com. Keep on keepin’ on.

Aaron, Dan, Dave, Joe, Matt, and Mike barrelhouse editorial squadron


When we founded Barrelhouse way back in Ought Four, we could not envision the future, much less the heady hangover that followed our beer-soaked decision to start a literary journal. But here we are, in the future, and the future is good. It is not good for homeowners, banks, American taxpayers, or most of the world, for that matter, but for us, it is good. Mostly. Befitting our addled states, the original business plan was South Park gnomish in nature: 1) Collect underpants 2) ?????? 3) Profit! And it was doomed to failure. So we tried a different tack: 1) Drink beer 2) Make rash decisions 3) Not profit! And it worked out well for us. So well, in fact, that our nation’s benevolent tax adjudication agency, the Internal Revenue Service, recently set it in stone. Only you, the reader, may profit from our kickass and thought-provoking stories, poems, essays, art…the whole shebang. On the upside, however, we can probably write off most of our beer intake. Like any addict, we are taking this whole journal thing One Day at a Time, and we are making slow and steady progress, but a relapse is always just around the corner, waiting to mug us with reality. And reality, as you know, is ever present, and the present sucks. And the past is always sneaking up on you. Which leaves us The Future as our only friend, and possible lover. We envision the future as a happy-go-lucky time where cars no longer drive on roads, subprime mortgages can be taken out on Cloud City condos (Where every cloud is Cloud 9!), drugs exist to satisfy our every mood and whim, and where all men have a harem of statuesque robot women to please them secularly, and all women a cadre of handsome, virile menbots who love to scrub the toilet and flambé soufflés. So we were all ready to impress the future, and what better way than to set aside some precious Barrelhouse space for it to express its eternally sunny vision of itself?

Perhaps we should have seen the warning signs. Already we had gotten some stories on the future, about extraterrestrial Catholics, and a new drug that simulated the effects of beer goggles, and not in a good way. But we were desperate. We wanted to make this work. Turns out the future is really all about torture as self-expression; zombies who eat brains and get a little introspective; “wish killings” to make dying dreams come true; packs of wild dogs after a Jabba the Hut-sized baby who just won’t die; and, worst of all, Nobel Prize winners who squander their gifts in and around Hollywood. Thank God for the non-future related stories in this issue—an expose of those fearsome killing machines we call ninjas; racism and worse at the factory; an essay about one man’s complicity in the whole Homeland Security mess…okay, never mind. It’s all fucked. Not only are we going to hell in a hand basket, but the tickets for that ride have already been bought. The only consolation we have to offer for this mess is the strongest slate of stories, essays, and poems that we’ve ever sent to the printers. Someday, in the future no doubt, you will ponder on the awesomeness of this issue, you will look around you, and, as you drown your sorrows in a delicious beer to escape the cold, hard mug of reality, you will say to yourself: “In their own beautiful way, they tried to warn me. They really did. It’s about time I sent them a tax-deductible donation of one million dollars.” Which, in the future, is worth about ten bucks. So have at it! With love,

Aaron, Dan, Dave, Joe, Kylos, Mike, and Matt


Once there was a great ninja, capable of holding his breath for an hour and remaining perfectly still for so long that moss began to grow on his eyelashes. He could kill with a touch and disguise himself as common household objects. He could climb a wall of butter. His accuracy with shuriken was such that he practiced by bisecting snowflakes at a distance of fifty yards.

No one knows what his name was; but the specter of his

existence haunts us. All predators admire excellence in the dealing of death, and all prey animals admire stealth. In matters of the heart, we humans are both. Love is what teaches us that as prey, we often mistake ourselves for predator. Perhaps this, and not all the standard gobbledygook about the increased likelihood of offspring, is its evolutionary rationale. A great many other animals mate as casually as undergraduates on a Friday night, and with as little regard for possible outcomes; their offspring survive just fine in the absence of love.

Often, so do I.

The truth about ninjas is that nobody knows anything. If you

find a record that says one thing, I can find a record that says another. The idea of—perhaps I should say identification with—this kind

THE TRUTHaboutNINJAS byAlex Irvine art by Terra Steele

of self-contradictory and fragmented story, history that never quite settles into history, exerts a centripetal influence on me now. I am held together by the act of interrogating and considering the collapses and failures, large and small, which serve as data points in my current hypothesis about my life. The conflicts, the disagreements, the unanswered phone calls and endlessly awaited affirmations all come together into a grandly synthesized gestalt falling-apartness. So, ninjas.


NINJA • 2 • IRVINE

Nonuse: the art of stealth. From this the ninja arose, or that’s

the points of his shuriken are found lacking in sharpness, and as he

what the histories say. It’s not a good idea to read too much into

endures the sting of the instructor’s lecture, from the corner of his

transliterations, but this one’s too good to pass up. Non-use is exactly

eye (for ninjas are possessed of exemplary peripheral vision) he sees

descriptive of the status of my romantic faculties. They’re on standby,

one of his classmates palming a whetstone from another. He swears

in stealth mode. Inert. Waiting.

revenge, and soon enough that classmate finds that the eye-slit in his hood is sewn shut, or his knife glued into its sheath, or his grappling

Like so many other things, it’s all Sun Tzu’s fault. He was the

hook replaced with a rubber facsimile. I imagine the cadets making up

guy who pointed out that you can win a battle before firing an arrow,

scatological haiku about which shapes their master prefers to assume

if you can sow enough confusion and disarray in the other side’s

in his disguises, and communicating them with subtle changes in facial

camp. In matters of love it’s much the same.

expression. Ninjas laugh silently.

Nin-sha: a concealed person. It’s that simple. If you’re looking The truth about ninjas is that we needed them for a particular

for another job on your work computer, if you’re cheating on your

wife, if you’re hiding money offshore, you’re a ninja. If you don’t tell

kind of story we wanted to tell, of the stained honor that comes from

a woman when you’re about to take her home that you have sexual

rejecting honor. The ninja is the samurai’s dark other. No bushido for

proclivities she might find unsettling, you’re a ninja.

the boys in black—their credo is do what it takes. All of us would like

to be samurai, fearless and honorable; but wouldn’t we also all like to

In the movies, ninjas hang like ticks on castle walls. They

peer cold-eyed and patient from their slitted hoods. They wait. And

fake our own deaths and start over again? Ninjas did that.

when it is time to act, they act with preternatural grace, and with an economical savagery which proves that training can beget instinct.

A school for ninjas exists. Through its window I once saw them

Edo to the country estate of a debauched nobleman who had defiled

practicing nonuse, and could not see what they were doing until,

his cousin’s daughter. It was winter, and so much snow fell on him

responding to a tap on my shoulder, I turned to find that they were all

that he developed the power to see through it. He felt himself slowing,

behind me. I suspect this is as close as ninjas ever come to humor.

his body synchronizing itself to the rhythms of snowfall and sunset.

A mouse, tunneling under the snow, took refuge in his shoe, and the

Perhaps I’m wrong about that, though. Who knows what

The great ninja waited in perfect stillness on the road from

hijinks ninjas-in-training might get up to? I imagine them disappearing

next night when the mouse left, an owl stooped and snatched it from

en masse into the shadows of their dormitory, stifling laughter as

beneath the snow. All of this the ninja watched. He composed a poem

their instructors search for them in vain. Or fiddling with each other’s

in honor of the owl’s silence and lethality, and another in honor of

equipment: imagine the embarrassment of the cadet ninja when

the mouse’s dying.

8

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

9


He heard the laborers shoveling a path for the nobleman’s

employer before the ship arrived in China. Upon receiving his orders,

carriage when they were ten miles away. They would not reach him

the ninja knew that he would have to swim some distance, and that

for six days. The scrape of shovel blade on frozen water became

were he to be on board the ship for too long, even his preternatural

nourishing to him, as the heartbeat of the mouse against the sole of

physical abilities would not suffice to fulfill the second condition. So

his foot had nourished him and as the infinitesimal impact of the first

he stole aboard the ship while it was still in port and, assuming his

snowflake on his shaven head had nourished him.

disguise, observed the movements of the spy until he could determine

the best time to accomplish the first part of his task. Then, during

The day after the laborers shoveled their way around the next

bend in the road, the carriage approached. When the ninja struck,

the change of the watch after sundown on the day the ship left its

it was with such speed that the dying thought of every man in the

Japanese port, he struck. The spy, walking under the spar where the

nobleman’s carriage was that an avalanche had consumed them, and

ninja lay in the guise of a knot, never knew what hit him. Before he

their souls fled in puzzlement, for there was no mountain.

could even fall to the deck, the ninja slipped a tortoiseshell pendant from around his bleeding neck and, in the same motion, leapt from

The truth about ninjas is that some of them come from

the spar. Stripping out of his clothes, he swam with the pendant in

supermarket vending machines in small, acorn-shaped plastic

his teeth, arriving before dawn in the harbor he’d unobtrusively sailed

containers with yellow tops. From the inside of these, the world is

out of that evening. No one saw him come from the water, and no

slightly refracted, leading to a sharpening of the already legendary

one saw him re-enter the mansion of his employer; but when the

ability of the ninja to focus. When only a small swath of your field

employer came down to breakfast the next morning, the tortoiseshell

of vision is clear, you learn to amplify it, to make it stand in for the

pendant was balanced on the edge of his teacup.

rest—to see the entire world in that teardrop isle of lucidity.

I have one of these ninjas. He observes me without

Of course, even when you think you have it perfectly right,

you don’t. You disguise yourself as an ornamental shrubbery—a

comment.

rhododendron, let’s say—near the gate of an important daimyo who

The great ninja once swam sixteen miles of stormy ocean

is in the crosshairs of whoever is paying you this time. Your disguise is

after spending three days and nights disguised as a complicated knot

so perfect that a dog passing by stops to urinate on your foot, and you

in the rigging of a ship belonging to a Chinese general. The ninja was

do not move. Then you find out that it’s a trained dog, and that it only

there not for the general, but for a sailor on the ship who was a spy

urinates on shrubs that it recognizes are not really shrubs but ninjas,

under suspicion of being a double agent. The parameters of his task

and then there are blades all around you and the only thing you can do

included the elimination of the spy and the return of proof to his

is hope to survive long enough that they will speak of your death with respect.

10

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

11


None of it was supposed to happen like this. But now I am

ninja by virtue of self-definition. Spread the word thin: I grow lean,

All the while, though, behind that, you’re hoping she’ll do

this, or do that.

I wear black, I move quietly and anonymously through spaces I once If she did, you’d have another problem, which for the ninja

possessed.

was extraction. It’s one thing to get into the castle, to disguise yourself

Once I loved a woman who seemed to forget from day to day

what she had learned about me the day before. This was odd because

as a kanji character carved into the lintel over the master’s door and

she seemed to take such delight in the process of learning, and I

then to catch the master in the midst of his nightly pleasure and give

joyed in all of the minutiae of blossoming love. Why did she forget?

him a big death to go with his little one. The trick is getting out again,

I never asked. I couldn’t bear the possibility that I would discover that

which is to say the trick is living another day so you can have that kick

I had been wrong about her, so instead I lasted as long as I could in

of being on the edge, possibly about to die, uncertain of your next

uncertainty.

breath, let alone your next meal, sunrise, kiss…the trick, in short, is

recreating that state of gloriously agonized unfulfillment. You can

It is characteristic of me that I cannot ask for what I want.

I want the woman I love to know without me having to ask because

never get everything you want, because one of the things you want is

that would mean I don’t have to put myself in the position of

always to know that feeling of wanting.

supplicant, and because that would mean she is trying as hard to understand and please me as I am her. Of course, she might be doing

But back to the great ninja. Once he completed the

this already, and I might be difficult to understand and please. Also

assassination of a prominent merchant who had swindled his younger

insensitive to her efforts and commitment.

brother—also a prosperous and influential trader—out of a shipment of Malabar pepper. Having gained entry through the chimney, he was

Thus myself, erotic ninja. I do not say what I want. I hope

preparing to exit the same way when the merchant’s mistress appeared

to be asked, but unlike the ninjas with their nerves of steel and their

through a secret panel behind the bed. Instantly both of them knew

cold, cold blood, I am afraid. It is enough to be wanted; to be fulfilled

all of the possible combinations of events that might ensue. She could

seems far too much to ask or expect. The concealment of desire is

raise the alarm, or not; he could kill her, or not. Four possibilities.

a kind of discipline, a self-abnegation that leads me to the wintry

Both parties had an interest in silence, but the mistress might also

mountaintop of ascetic sensuality. Ha. Paradox. It’s true, though. You

have thought that by screaming for help she would force the ninja to

can, while between the thighs of the woman you love, feel acutely that

flee without harming her. If she thought this, she was wrong, for he

desire has fallen away and that you are in the presence of a kind of

could have killed her before she had fully drawn breath to scream.

physical truth beyond amatory urges.

12

Barrelhouse

Her thoughts on the topic are not recorded, but her actions fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

13


have become the stuff of legend, for she smiled. It was not a smile

ninja. Other people try to make sense of him; all he tries to do is get

of bloodlust, or satisfaction; nor was it an implied offer of herself in

from one day to the next. You’re looking out your window, thinking

exchange for her life. She smiled as a mother smiles while watching

that this was supposed to be the morning that you got used to waking

her child leaping after falling leaves in a forest, and the ninja fell in

up alone, and you still haven’t. Also you haven’t finished your taxes,

love with her on the spot, fell in love with the improbability of the

or folded your laundry, or remembered to get stamps. The cistern

circumstance and the irruption of joy into the grim invisibility of his

on the roof of the apartment building across the street could in fact

life.

be a ninja. A battalion of ninjas. They await your emergence from

He ducked into the chimney and vanished; but after that

night, he could never vanish from himself.

your building so they can deploy. As you go about your business, preoccupied with handicapping the date when you will in fact wake up alone and feel okay about it, you are observed and subtly undermined

On the other hand, when ninjas are the topic, nothing is to

by invisible forces bent on your destruction. This is the problem with having a one-track mind, that even

be trusted. Their histories are fables, their biographies akin to the

lives of saints in their didacticism and outrageous symmetry. Those

when things aren’t, they are; and the deeper problem is that once you

of you who have massaged your own histories when talking to a lively

self-diagnose, you train yourself to combat your natural inclinations.

possibility at the bar, you know what I’m talking about. The act of

In other words, you train yourself to doubt yourself. So then, even

making your life into a story is an act of concealment. Do it often

when things are, they aren’t, and that’s when they get you. I haven’t

enough, and you start to believe your own stories. Training begets

yet been run over by a bus with a ninja at the wheel, or had a ninja

instinct.

longshoreman drop a packing crate from a ten-story-high crane on

Every Friday, how many of us fake the deaths of our

my head. But don’t think I’m not on the lookout for it. When even

quotidian selves and stage a smarter, more confident rebirth? How

gumball machines incubate ninjas, there’s no point in soft-pedaling the

many of us pop the yellow tops off the plastic bubbles that contain

severity of the situation. We recognize each other, the ninjas and me;

us, and revel for a few hours or days in having gotten away with it for

the differences between us can’t obscure our fundamental kinship.

another week? That’s nonuse (and, if things don’t go well, also non-

See, there are two different kinds of ninjas. One way to talk about the

use). I really have to insist on this. If I don’t, I have to admit that she

difference between them is to say that there’s you, and then there’s

might not be out there.

everyone else. Another way is to say that there are wishers, and then

You know. Her.

there are doers. I’ll find my own way to talk about this, and sooner or later, you’ll find yours, and then we’ll understand each other in the

Every man emerging from a slow-motion heartbreak is a

way that ninjas do, which is the same way that gravity understands magnetism.

14

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

15


The great ninja died some months after the incident in

the merchant’s house. The mistress’ smile pervaded his mind so

Bandit

completely that he developed an interest in aesthetics, in the strange

by Ben Stein

art by Jason Riedmiller

evanescence of love, and this led him to poetry. He was considering a senryū one evening by candlelight, turning over in his mind the image of a fallen leaf on the surface of a mountain brook, when an arrow shot through the window of his bedchamber struck him in the heart and killed him. Suspicion centered on the murdered merchant’s brother, and a cycle of reprisals and long-simmering blood feuds ensued until the shogun himself put a stop to it. It was widely believed that the ninja could have deflected the arrow had he wished. I would write that story off as sentimental garbage, but something about its ridiculousness makes me believe it is true. After all, I am ridiculous, and I am true, and don’t all of us understand things by resemblance?

The equipment is this: glue-on moustache, lowslung slouch hat. Barbara’s hairbrush for a gun.

(This is important: it goes near her mirror, edge of the doily. Do not

I could imagine a ninja woman, who would steal into my

life unnoticed and without ever firing an arrow throw me into utter disarray. She would shock me out of my lethargy, restore me to life by breaking me down and filling me with the soul-deep terror that comes with falling in love.

pull away the knotted hair in a fidget.) The approach: a note. The wedged suggestion of armed. Squarish canvas bag, gathered at the top. Maroon Honda in the Bi-Lo lot. And after, everything under the seat. A beer maybe, across the ex-

Until she appears, I press my face to the clear plastic wall of

the acorn-shaped bubble within which I await my rebirth. There is a teardrop of lucidity.

pressway. This is what simplicity does: pare back. Pare back. Barbara, moustache, heft of bag. Yes, and the bank of screens at the OTB. Yes, because ninety seconds of maybe. Because there are good jockeys and bad and this is what a person should know. Jockeys and trainers—these are what count. Horses are just animals, fast and hard as animals. It’s the people doing the business.

16

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

17


Antiquity by Sandra Beasley

We are living in someone’s antiquity.

was once a fetid, fatty white lump, which

They will study our compromises—

was once the pearl of a whale’s intestine,

how we used two faucets for one sink,

which was once the irritant squid beak

how we wired and cemented our teeth,

lingering after the meal was long over,

how our kids spent hours stacking pennies

greased until it slid free of the body.

in cardboard tubes. They’ll wonder

We will corset our chests in whalebone,

why we ever took ourselves so seriously,

knowing every heart has its Jonah song.

measuring each ideal serving of meat with a deck of playing cards, declaring “Estelle” the official state soil of Alaska, going door to door every ten years to ask: Do you live alone? Where is your toilet? In antiquity it will always be past bedtime. When they tuck us in, the quilt will fold gently over our eyes. They will tell us the legend of hanging a curtain to divide a city. They will tell us of the spider sent into space, Anita, the webs she spun finer than any on Earth. In the dark of antiquity we will map our skull-scapes, each bump foretelling temperament and shoe size. We will daub perfume behind our ears knowing it was once ambergris, which

18

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

19


The aliens themselves don’t change his mind. A lot of people find God the day the ships come, but not our hero. If anything, their arrival proves he’s been right all along. A certain smugness sets in, self-affirmation, several I-told-you-so speeches forming in his head, the exact list of whom he’s going to call. Some champagne and a cigar might be in order, the proof he’s been waiting for landing in the middle of the Mall, practically a smack in the face to anyone who’s ever believed in anything.

But on the newscast, the original break-into-your-regularly-

scheduled-program announcement, the one broadcast to billions on every station in every country on Earth, the atheist sees something to make him pause. Not on the speaker alien at the podium, the apparent leader, but the one to his right, the alien who keeps wiping its brow, shifting his weight back and forth as if anxious. Around this nervous one’s neck, the atheist sees, or maybe imagines, what could be anything, but appears to be, unless he’s mistaken and he probably is, a crucifix.

One trinket, especially so unverified, cannot change a lifetime

of staunch insistence, not without indisputable evidence. However, one interstellar crucifix can pique curiosity, or at the very least, a burning desire, in yet another way, to prove that you are right. The

The Atheist Reconsiders by Michael Czyzniejewski

atheist takes this opportunity, recording the broadcast, playing and replaying the tape, in slow motion, back and forth, for the better part of three days. To his chagrin, the object, cast in what could only be described as a tin pewter, not only appears to be a crucifix, but is more than similar in appearance to Earth’s own—beard, crown of thorns, loincloth, the whole deal. The only difference lies in anatomy: This space Jesus looks like the aliens, sporting their broad foreheads,

20

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

21


star-shaped ears, and, braided gracefully together, three legs nailed to

land their ship outside the front doors of the Air & Space Museum?

a point instead of two. Without a doubt, the charm is a crucifix, two

Irony, along with spirituality, was not lost on these beings.

thousand light years traveled, its story, undoubtedly, mirroring our

own. No coincidence was taking place: The aliens believed in God,

crucifix-bearing alien standing in the background for each and every

and worse yet, they were Catholics.

feed. The atheist pegs this one as either the second in command or

some sort of PR consultant, an interstellar spin doctor. Soon, pictures

Raised a Catholic himself, the atheist feels conflicted about

The next several weeks prove intense for the atheist, the

his beliefs, this for the first time since becoming an atheist, second-

and movies of the aliens’ home world are broadcast, images to make

semester sophomore year of college. While most of his friends were

the visitors seem more like us. In most ways, it works, our planet’s

smoking hash, skipping class, and changing majors, the atheist was

citizens given many reasons to relate, to accept the visitors as friends.

declaring disbelief. If pressed, the atheist would say his conversion

The aliens have large cities, small villages, neighborhoods. They live in

resulted from years of study, facts upon facts contradicting shaky,

houses and apartments, drive vehicles that resemble cars. They wear

inconsistent doctrine, an enlightenment of simple common sense;

clothes, eat at restaurants, play competitive sports, suffer vices, and

really, it was a girl. A red-haired, free-spirited, chain pot-smoking,

much to the atheist’s dismay, worship God. Or, in some cases, multiple

God-doubting girl, one from his chemistry lecture, a spoiled nympeht

gods: From what the atheist can tell, the aliens have temples and

whom the atheist dated for exactly forty days; whom left college that

mosques in addition to churches, three-legged Buddhas, Yahwehs, and

summer, moved to Texas and married a dentist; a girl who would

Mohammeds adorning all sorts of comparable buildings, relics, and

raise five children, the whole lot of them Baptists, Bible-beating, self-

baubles. The aliens have religion, and seemingly, freedom of religion

righteous, stubborn Baptists; Baptists who kept their family history

as well.

recorded in the front pages of one such beaten Bible. But the atheist,

moved by their break up, remained steadfast. His father’s shocking

religious freedom comes religious doubt, and with religious doubt

recovery from brain cancer did not impede him, nor did any of the

comes religious strife. Religious war is not so far a stretch from there.

minor miracles he himself experienced: his last-second appendectomy,

The atheist knows having so many religions means that someone

winning $400,000 in the Powerball, not even the birth of his children,

is wrong, if not necessarily everyone, that somebody, on the aliens’

one four months premature. Once a man goes so far, pledging

planet as well as ours, is worshipping something that doesn’t exist.

himself beyond doubt, beyond skepticism, committing himself so

And if there are aliens worshipping things that don’t exist, there have

assuredly, it’s hard to back down and not look like a fool. The atheist

to be aliens refusing to worship things that don’t exist: space atheists,

was not, after all, out looking for ways to disprove himself—only quite

the atheist concludes. Outstanding.

the opposite. But who would ever guess that Catholic aliens would

22

Barrelhouse

But it is in this freedom the atheist finds hope. Along with

In fact, there is probably an alien atheist thinking the fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

23


same way our atheist is thinking, thinking of our atheist, our hero, and smiling, rooting for him to fight the good fight on Earth. Both atheists are contending that it is possible for two worlds to,

flotsam POP CULTURAL j e t s a m

coincidentally, have the exact same deities—and for all of them to be wrong. The atheist, our Earth atheist, feels better than he has in a long time when he considers this celestial counterpart. He’s so happy, he walks outside his house, stares up at the stars, and bows. Then the atheist goes back inside and watches more twenty-four-hour alien coverage, spying all the silly, God-fearing aliens, firmly believing that his counterpart is smiling, too, taking a little time to gloat. He is without a doubt stuck between swells of smug self-righteousness, and the ever-so-important fight to have the word God wiped clean from all alien government documents, cease tax exemption for alien religious organizations, and have every single alien crucifix removed from alien public squares.

ROBOT PHOTOS BY E X T R A S U P E R C U T I E 24

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

25


From “Stove Seasoning” by Caroline Knox Four small fires, the first only

Stoked with very old

kindling sticks, to cool down by themselves, as the fire dies down. The second, one log with kindling and the third two logs ditto,

the new stove has a tiny low-relief lion on it holding a hatchet.

while fuming oil and paint set off the fire alarm several times,

It’s a Jotul 602 CB; the old one was an Upland 27; we

and finally a new stove is

bought it for $128

seasoned. Dies irae, dies

in 1979; everyone thought

illa, I had to translate in

we were crazy. Well, we offered

a ninth grade Latin project:

this old Upland to the Stove

On the day of wrath, that day

Museum, who said, oh no,

you shall with flames the earth’s race pay, as David and the Sibyl say. Francis Ponge, an advocate for things,

we don’t take any stove made after 1935. Fine: with some help I got the Upland

an oracle every time, says:

out to the curb at a quarter

We can’t get near our

to five on a Friday, with

stoves without turning red.

26

chokecherry, dried and checked,

a sign on it saying FREE

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

27


in red electrical tape.

But to eat the tree’s red

At 6:45 the Upland was gone.

fruit burns your mouth; that’s

The Jotul beamed heat

why it’s called choke, it’s so

waves at, to, and for us.

astringent. Alternately, I sat

I incinerated seven-year-

staring into the computer

old paper records in its

screen at the red Rover

“color-range, black to red.”

roving on the red planet

Chokecherry is not the

and its lander, Phoenix by name.

tree from which they make

“Nerves and Joy,” said NASA.

Robitussin—that’s the sweet Black Cherry. This is a weed tree, once a “dispenser

They cooked soil samples of what looked like an old red clay

of shade and damp coolness,”

tennis court in poor shape

warm enough for here. A canker burns through chokecherries,

in Rover’s labs. On Mars, “Bright Chunks at Lander

though, and windfalls are full of

Site Must Have Been Ice,”

huge black ants and other eaters of xylum and phloem tubes, not

NASA went on. On Earth, as Mariana Goswell, an

so hot to burn. Tent caterpillars

exhaustive ice expert,

move into chokecherries and completely defoliate them.

writes, “We are still in an ice age, just a warm part in it.”

28

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

29


flotsam POP CULTURAL j e t s a m

ROBOT PHOTOS BY E X T R A S U P E R C U T I E 30

Barrelhouse

fiction. poetry. pop flotsam. cultural jetsam.

31

Barrelhouse 7 Online Sampler  

Here's a little taste of the awesomeness that is Barrelhouse issue 7. Get the whole shebang at http://www.barrelhousemag.com

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you