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Writers in this Issue Joe


Stewart Jacob Tobias Cee

Editor Joe

All submissions and enquiries can be directed to: pretty.good.artist@googlemail.com Little Research Monkey Boy Publications


Vanessa (3) - Joe When Vanessa goes into a coffee shop she orders her coffee black and adds one and a half packs of brown sugar before leaving it for five minutes. Brian buys a latte and sips away at it as soon as he is in his seat. Despite this conflict of coffee tastes, they are still friends. Brian had sipped his way through two thirds of his drink before Vanessa sat in front of him, and he realised that by the time he finished Vanessa would be practically starting. Conversation would affect this to some degree, but if they both spoke a steady amount then the difference would be negligible. So Brian began talking first. “You are in the presence of greatness today,” he said, picking up her coffee and sipping from it. “This morning I became the world’s authority on whoopee cushions.” Vanessa stirred her coffee expectantly. “It was invented in nineteen-thirty, by a factory experimenting with sheets of rubber. They found that expelling air through a small flap made a flatulent sound. Can you imagine the hilarity?” He rifled through his bag and pulled out a small black notebook. He opened up at a random page and flipped through the pages, licking his finger every once in a while and making the sound of the paper last longer. Vanessa was still stirring her coffee. He finally came to the page he was looking for and held it in front of his face. “‘The owner of the company,’” he quoted, “‘took the


finished product to a Samuel Adams, a man who was renowned for his practical joke inventions. However, he thought the product was too low key for his customers’ tastes and didn’t think it would sell, so the owner took it to their competitors. It was a huge success, selling all over the world.’ And then,” he added with a smile, “Mr Adams himself copied the idea, renaming it the ‘Razzberry Cushion’.” Vanessa had finally started sipping her coffee while during her speech Brian had not touched his. He was proud of this. “Now,” he continued, “they’re still popular. They even developed a self inflating one with special foam to save the hassle of blowing it up yourself. Modern technology, eh?” He celebrated the end of the talk by taking a sip from her latte. It tasted delicious. Vanessa cocked her head to one side and smiled at her friend. “You spend too much time on the internet.” “If I didn’t then you wouldn’t here about all the interesting facts I give you. Where would you be if I wasn’t here to tell you the average life span of a goat, or what animal could spit further than any other?” “I’d be in a happier place,” she laughed and took another sip from her mug. Brian put his notebook away. “What are you wearing anyway?” Vanessa touched the peak of her red hat. “There was a guy at a club. I was only interested in his hat, and this was the result.”


“Why was he wearing a red hunting hat?” She laughed to herself. “He considered himself the Salinger of our generation.” “But it was Holden Caulfield that wore the hat.” Vanessa nodded and sipped more of her coffee. “I didn’t want to tell him that though. He was cute in his stupidity.” They both smiled and slipped into silence for a moment. Each of them staring off into space. Brian was first to speak up again. “So, do you still think you’re the reincarnation of Einstein?” “Stop talking to my brother. You’re a bad influence on him.” Brian made a noncommittal sound and peered over the edge of his mug. “He‘s the one who talks to me. What‘s this I hear about a new girl on the scene?” “Oh it’s the same old story. Fallen hopelessly in love already. She seems alright. A bit on the weird side though.” “What’s she like?” Brian asked, noticeably different and obvious probing. Vanessa pretended not to notice. “A bit ugly, I think. She’s got really white skin and greasy hair. And from what I’ve heard she’s really dominating. I don’t know. Something about her grates with me.” “You can‘t pick who your brother likes, it‘s up to him to have bad choice.” “Yeah, especially with my friends,” shereplied pointedly.


Brian laughed. By now, despite his best efforts, Brian’s mug was empty while Vanessa still had halfway to go. He didn’t care though. He never really cared.


Will Have Thoughts for Food - Stewart An actor appeared on television once. He’s one of those short-haired, shirt-wearing, wide-eyed guys with no personality. He looks dead into the camera and says his line. There’s a brief showcase of the product in question. Then it cuts back to him, looking earnestly off camera, and he says: ‘Can I have my money now?’ Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Did you skip through the laughter? Perhaps you had to be there. Perhaps you had to be there to have another little chunk of yourself being chipped off. Perhaps you had to be there to witness the beginning of the end, regurgitating itself over and over. But don’t worry. I’m sure you can catch a repeat tonight. The advert was selling


bleach. Fear and humiliation both shatter an illusion. It’s like unclogging a sink with bleach. If you leave it too long it starts to overflow and the stench of it is bad. Pour bleach down there and it cleans the badness out. Guts it. There are groups of young people who wander the streets with nothing to do. No-one cares for them much and they don’t care for you. They know they’re hated. There’s nothing you can do about them. Take your humiliation and walk on with your ears ringing clear. It’s for the best. Take your medicine and burn inside, like the sink. Whenever I feel bad, I call it depression. I find it can be relieved by talking to other people. Other people are like walking, talking bags of morphine. Morphine is a powerful but temporary pain-killer used to dull pain for serious injuries and the terminally ill. It’s very addictive, and a dependency is easy to create. But that doesn’t matter because depression is easily cured and the patient doesn’t really need it anymore. What’s a person to another beyond the next prospective fix? I had a dream once. It was a waking dream, more of a hallucination than anything else. I was lying on a raft, which drifted aimlessly in the waters around the Statue of


Liberty. In the distance was New York’s metal skyline. The dream went nightmare. My four limbs were missing, amputated. I look at the stumps and moan. They were being kept in a linen basket at the foot of the bed. I was eight years old. Then I dreamed about numbers. I always scream at 100. Intelligent depression is the real killer. It can’t be lied to, and it sits in the stomach cutting, grinding, and gnawing away like a malignant tumour. A malignant tumour is an inescapable cellular defect in the body that consumes, torments, and then finally kills its host. Sufferers of malignant tumours are prescribed morphine. They get addicted, but it doesn’t matter by then anyway. Their lives have stopped being worth living. Better to go in a peaceful dream than in a living nightmare. Clowns feel. But they can’t show those feelings. Their unwilling audience watches with their eyes closed, laughing on and on until their throats are harsh with the forced amusement they feel obliged to show. That’s what shape life is to a clown. They dance and jump and joke in the Big Top’s tent, laughing with the crowd that surrounds them on all sides. The older ones paint ignored tears onto their faces. No matter which stand they face to laugh along with, there’s always another stand behind them, laughing behind their back. Nobody likes clowns; they are bizarre and unsettling. Who’d want to be a clown, they ask. Fear the


unknown. I had a dream once. The great lord of Hell, Beelzebub, appeared to me (though I didn’t know its name then). It was a giant fly still wearing its maggot skin like a fleshy tutu. It said: “BZZZZ, BZZZZZ, BZZZZZZZ, BZZ, BZZ, BZZZZZZ?” People use other people. People are the cure, the answer, and the medicine. They’ll take you, prescribed or not. Hold it down and kick it around, pop! goes the weasel. I had a dog once. Her name was Yannah and she was a pedigree boxer left behind by my mentally ill aunt. The dog was tall, elegant, and timid. She’d been shouted at and hit a lot, so she quickly took to our small family of three that didn’t shout at or hit animals. Our cat left home for a while, though. There was a school I went to across the road from our old house. Part of it was built on a tiny contained field at the head of the cul-de-sac, arrayed with huts and full of tickly smoke-smelling wild grass and crumbly stone walls that led into a jungle heart of the suburb. I’d explore the field with the dog on walks, around the backs of the huts schoolchildren weren’t allowed to go to during term-time, beyond the walls to forgotten, walled-up gardens full of trees and thick green ivy. Years passed, the aunt came back for the dog and her


furniture, left the house bare and empty. I saw Yannah many years later. She had grown fat, squat, and the shiny wooden floor the mentally-ill aunt had installed in her flat had given the dog arthritis. She still hit the dog. Yannah died soon after. My aunt wasn’t as big on exploring. I had a dream once. It was about a violin-playing puppet my sister owned and which hung from atop my mother’s wardrobe. The eyes on this dark-haired puppet were wide, open, and staring. A faint smile had been painted across its face. Edging around my mother’s bed to the door, I distracted it by singing along with it. Then I reached the door and went through, flung it closed, then ran downstairs into the living room. My mother was on one settee reading the paper with her glasses on. My sister was lying on the other settee, watching television. I saw through the open door the puppet drifting down the stairs and I screamed. The puppet entered the room and attacked my mother. The next day, we burned the puppet in the driveway. Intelligent depression is hard to diagnose. It covers its tracks very well. It slaps a smile on the host while it works its magic, twisting them into a mess inside. The host responds to treatment like it was normal depression; they thank the medicine then parade around with a bounce in their step. They have a bounce in their step because they’ve


been eaten away. Hollowed out. So sufferers should just smile. Do everyone a favour and smile. Make no worries, have no worries. No-one likes a misery guts!

First Impressions - Joe The media haven’t shown up on the scene, but only because they don’t know yet. The policemen keep telling me to get my act together before they arrive, that any minute now some spectator will realise what’s going on and call the friend of the friend at the BBC press office. The coffee they gave me an hour before is as cold as my hands, but they keep telling me to drink it. Sober up buddy, one of them says with a smile that’s a degree off disgusted. He slaps me on the arm to reassure me but in it I can feel the anger he’s trying to repress. I’m a goddamn hero, he’s not allowed to hate me. “It was the Sussex Strangler you hit,” they told me earlier, “it’s ok to stop crying.”


The female officer rests on the bonnet beside me. The story will go like this, she says, I was driving along after a night with my friends and I spotted him walking across the road. While I tried to grab my phone to call the police I fumbled and dropped it, hitting the accelerator in my panic. I ran into him, killing him instantly. The last thing this town needs, she tells me, is for the Strangler to be a victim of another drunk driver. She nods to my coffee and I bring it to my mouth, hands shaking. I have to choke it down, sobbing to myself. I try not to think of his face illuminated by my headlights, of the sickening snap of his bones rolling over my roof. They keep telling me he died instantly, but I can still hear the moans of pain he made when I staggered out the car. I try not to think about it, I try to shut it out, I need to stop crying. When the police first arrived I was sitting in my car, feet on the road and head in my arms. They looked me over and gave me a breathalyser. I would have told them that I had too much to drink, that I was far beyond the limit, but I couldn’t make words dominate the sobs. They tried three times because I couldn’t breathe properly, but eventually the little machine beeped red and they sat me handcuffed in the back of their car. It only took them ten minutes to find out who I had killed. They came, coffee in hand, smiling. They released my hands and I rubbed my wrists before I wiped my nose. They handed me the coffee and took me to the body, showing me his face.


Stop crying, they said. It’s ok. I shouldn’t feel sad. I’m a hero. The face was that of a dead man, bruised and bloody. It didn’t really bear a resemblance to the sketch plastered over the news, to the man who had raped and strangled eight girls. The tattoo was unmistakable though. One of the girls managed to escape and describe it vividly. There was no mistake; I had hit the Sussex Strangler. The female policeman squeezed my arm and led me back to the car, leaving the ambulance crew to take him away. The female policeman told me she was called in for one of the victims. She herself had to scour the scene where the body was dumped, pushing her baton through the tall weeds for any clue. She almost broke her foot kicking a tree with frustration. Now he was dead. She knows a lot of people who were going to thank me, including her. She gave me another reassuring squeeze. Her partner still looks like he wants to hit me. They leave me at the car and I drop the cold coffee, sobbing more. She was right, after this night I’d be a hero. The father of the first victim would pay to fix the damage to my car; telling me it should be kept in perfect condition as a lasting tribute to what I had done for them. For the first three months, everywhere I go people would give me free drinks, shaking my hand. After that it’d be nods, smiles, until finally nothing. I would have to smile through it all, accepting and thanking and basking in my heroism. A man comes up to me from nowhere, a nervous look


on his face. He holds a tape recorder in his hand and poises it between us, trying to catch my eye. His face is blurred and running, but I can tell he’s trying to smile when he asks me the questions I can’t hear. After tonight I’ll know how to handle the interviews and questions. The police will tell me what to say, how to say it, and when to hold for a pause. Make it sell, they’ll tell me. “It was the Sussex Strangler you hit,” the journalist tells me, “it’s ok to stop crying.”


The Beatles Had It All Wrong - Cee There was a hole in the wall of Daniel’s bedroom. He didn’t make it, it wasn’t his fault but it was probably coming out of his deposit in the end. Daniel discovered the hole when a great cloud of smoke trickled in above his head while he was trying to sleep, a week after he’d quit. Two hours consumed him searching for the mystery smoker taunting him, bringing on cravings he thought he was above. Two hours he tore through his room, peered into the sleeping dens of his flatmates until, desperate he started picking at the paper on his walls. It was an idle diversion until a long strip peeled away in his fingers. The plaster crumbled away with little assistance and lo! There was a hole in the wall of Daniel’s bedroom. Cara had always been aware of the hole in her room. She hadn’t made it but part of the blame was arguably hers and she didn’t give a shit about her deposit because she wasn’t the one who paid it. It was on Cara’s list of things to do, like sorting out her council tax and dumping her boyfriend and finding a new job. But the longer she neglected the hole the more it felt like home. While Daniel was tearing off his wallpaper, Cara was in bed, smoking and thinking. Mainly smoking. She was waiting for her phone to ring and pretending like she didn’t care if it did or not. There was no reason for anybody to contact her. A fight with her boyfriend almost validated her anxiety but he never called after an argument. He stayed


out alone while she twisted and tortured her own opinions to better fit his. Then they began again, forgetting all the awful things they said to each other. Cara needed to talk but instead of dialling anybody’s number she lay in bed, smoking and thinking. Smoking mostly but contemplating, not for the first time, the benefits of enforced solitude. “Do you have a fag?” She jumped. Her phone tumbled from the edge of her bed and as she bent to pick it back up Daniel’s two pleading eyes flashing through the wall. “What?” “Do you have a cigarette? Can I have a cigarette? Please.” “Oh,” Cara stayed where she was, over the side of the bed, her legs cramping and her phone still silent in her hands. She didn’t know what to do. “Yeah. Sure.” Her hands pawed around until the pack was located and she passed one through gingerly. “Thanks, thanks.” “Do you need a light?” “No, I’ve got one. Thanks.” She heard the click and tiny sizzle of the flame igniting the cigarette. Then there was a long sigh. She climbed back onto her bed and laid there, thinking and smoking and waiting. After the giddy rush faded from Daniel’s head that comes from prolonged abstinence he began to feel awkward.


“Has there always been a hole here?” “What?” The legs he could make out in the semidarkness tensed. “I’m Daniel,” he said, changing tack. “Cara,” a small hand was thrust through the plaster. He took it briefly, out of politeness. “It’s been awhile.” “Sorry?” Daniel had finished the cigarette too quickly. His hands felt empty. His head was jumping and his skin wouldn’t stay still. “The hole.” Cara took a long drag and carelessly tossed the end towards her ashtray, spilling ash on the floor. “It’s been there awhile.” “Oh.” He still felt awkward. “Can I” A second cigarette appeared between them, cutting him off. It shook in his fingers. “So, how did it happen?” “Have you ever been in love, Daniel?” Cara sighed. A shiver ran through him when she said his name. It was the thrill of a stranger trying out his own syllables for the first time. He tried to answer. “I’m sick of it. I’ve been with my boyfriend for what, two years now? Two and half. And I’m not bored of him, I still like him. I’m still interested. But he’s so smug in the way he knows me. He flaunts it, wins every argument with how predictable I am to him. It’s always the same argument. Same misunderstanding. He never knows when he’s upsetting me. He never gets it. I just hate the way I act with him. I hate the way I submit and pick so passive


aggressively. Have you ever read the definition of passive aggressive behaviour? It’s us. It’s all we do. I worry that I’m only with him so I don’t have to find somebody else. I like the sex.” “Is that how the hole?” “I started thinking about the end. Because it will end. I thought about how I’d feel, how I’d cope. Whether I’d cry and make a scene or just smile understandingly. If we’d be friends. If I’d leave him. If I’m only staying because I can’t leave him. I’m just staying and waiting for him to leave me. They always leave me. That’s how it works.” “Do you love him?” “He’s started suggesting new things to try. In bed. During sex. I don’t know if he’s trying to get the thrill back or if he’s cheating on me and got the idea from someone else. Maybe I bore him. I can’t work out if I mind the idea of him sleeping with another girl.” There was a pause as she lit another cigarette. “I’ve thought about it too, you know. There was Simon at the party. But it felt so distant. So, so, I don’t know.” She passed the half-empty pack of cigarettes through the wall and the two smoked silently, sharing nothing but feeling like there should be a connection. A significance. “Have you ever been in love, Daniel?” There was none. Cara had drawn her legs up. All Daniel could see of her were her toes. The nails were painted a fading blue. His name still sounded foreign in her voice.


“Just once,” he cleared his throat and lay back on his bed, blowing smoke through his nose at the ceilings. “I left her.” “A friend of mine punched the wall at a party. He was drunk. I didn’t want to listen to him. He got angry.” There was another shared silence. Cara’s phone began to ring. She turned it off without looking at the flashing name. “Goodnight Daniel,” she curled in a ball and squeezed her eyes shut, hoping sleep could be forced. “Goodnight.” And he lay there smoking and thinking, mostly smoking, trying not to listen to her sleep.


Discomfort food - Jacob My Dad was different from most. It took me a while to realise this though. Every person thinks their childhood was normal, and every one of them is wrong. In most respects he was everything a father should be. Kept me fed, clothed and sheltered. Cared for me and probably loved me, though I’ve no way of knowing. But there was one failing he had that set him apart from other dads. He made me eat everything I killed. On the surface it doesn’t seem so bad. Most would even call it a good idea, and the thinking behind it isn’t difficult to understand. It would teach me value for life, respect for the wilderness and things like that. It might even lead to some heartfelt bonding if we went hunting or fishing together. Not a bad way to be raised, if you lived in the countryside. Except we didn’t live in the countryside. We lived in the city, deep within its rumbling heart. And let me tell you something. As far as I can tell, nothing that lives in the city tastes good. I’m probably coming across badly. Just to be clear, I wasn’t one of those children that threw stones at birds or set fire to dogs. But every one of us ends up killing something or other in the course of our lives. Dull, boring kills that weigh


on no ones conscience. The earliest memory I have is being no older than three, playing about in the apartment we lived in, when this big cockroach comes crawling up. I was bored and it was quick so I made a game of trying to squish it with my new dinosaur trainers. Jump. Stomp. Crunch! Clean right in the middle so it squooshes out either side of my shoe. Of course just then my dad walks in, sees what I’ve done and quick as you like he picks up the front and back of the bug and pops them in my mouth. I try and spit still twitching bits out, but my mouth is clamped shut and I’m told to chew and swallow. It feels like I’m going to vomit. It’s either sick or swallow. I swallow. “Good boy” And a good boy I was Apparently you’re meant to swallow nine spiders in your sleep through the course of your life. I’d made that by the age of 12, without the sleep. They had plenty flies for company. Another time I made the mistake of asking for a pet. I got


three- three little fishies. Named them smart too. Dé, jà and vu. Good names for Goldfish. Then one day I get invited to a friend’s house for the weekend, so I fed my fishies up. Come back and find them, bloated, belly up and floating like round orange shits. And my dad standing there, waiting. I copied the toilet, and flushed them down my mouth whole with a large glass of water. The next day I really did flush them down the toilet. My fishies, deep fried in stomach juice till they went a deep golden brown. After that I had a cat named Schrodinger. And it was the most well cared for cat in the world. Enough digressing about my digesting, here’s the meat of the story. I had hit my moody teen phase, where the world and I didn’t get on and I hated everyone and everything in it. One day I come home from school angrier than usual, open the door and there’s my Dad, with that disappointed look in his eyes. I know what’s happened before he says. Then again he does have a dead cat in his arm. “He got into some chocolate” My dad says “Chocolate is poisonous to cats. I don’t eat chocolate” Never a man to mince his words, he holds Schrodinger out for me to take. Instead I turn and run up the stairs and he follows, still


holding the cat. Up four flights I run. Finally at the top I turn around and face him. I am so angry and sad and all I can see is a limp long stretched out cat being thrust at my face. So I push it away. I push hard. Too hard. My dad, off balance and with his hands full, goes tumbling backwards. Looking isn’t hard. Listening is. Wet thuds and dry crunches echo in the hall forever, until finally there he lies, crumpled in an impossible position with a double jointed neck. Schrodinger is still clutched in his hand. I looked for a long time. Nobody came out to see about the noise. Eventually and with great effort I carried him back down home. Finally I had found something in the city that tasted good.


Vanessa (2) - Joe I have a bad memory, I'll admit. But what I do remember cannot be beat. I remember Annetta led me by the hand, half running, half skipping through the doors. Her fingers had a soft rubber feeling from all the sweating, and her dark hair stuck in places against her temples. Her coy little smile was framed by almost and imperceptible sparkle. Her perfume was still there, at least I think it was perfume. The scent of purple flowers curled in her wake, setting itself upon my in an overwhelming wash of intoxication. I remember all that now, but I don't think I took the time to remember it then. I remember thinking hot damn I'm getting laid tonight. The cold of the night hit us hard and she stopped her skipping, falling back into me. I instinctively pulled my arm round her and held her to my chest. The wind picked at her hair and she looked out into the smoking area with a fingernail in her teeth. Her body rose in a deep breath and again she cascaded forward. I followed eagerly. We rested under an awning and she stole a cigarette right from the pack in my hand, teasing it between her fingers. She was smiling, I remember that, but it was only in retrospect that I remember how distracted she seemed. She played with the buttons on her coat, she threaded her hair through her fingers, she laughed like she didn't know how. I saw these and wrote them off as cute little nuances, pointless details


that burned themselves into my mind just to remind me how horribly in love with her I was. But I wasn't thinking that at the time though. I was thinking sex sex sex etc. She said something to me that I didn't catch. The music was so loud that my ears still thumped with the beat. I could barely hear her on the dance floor. I was dancing with my sister and her friends when she stepped over to me, telling me her name. Annetta. I murmured the name to myself as she ran to the wall and yelled something to a guy standing there - arms crossed, watching the floor, sulking. I remember thinking it was an ex and gave him a cocky wave. He didn't see me. I asked Annetta what she said, and she asked me about my hat. I gave her a drunken grin and explained; "I'm a writer. I write stories and stuff - whatever I can really. I love Salinger though, he's one of my heroes. So I like to wear this," and I touched the peak of the red deerskin. I remember that Annetta was familiar, that she reminded me of how I had imagined Franny. The drunken possibility of nicknaming her Anne, then Annie, then Franny, made me smile. "Do you mind if I call you Anne?" I remember asking, still thinking of the book.


She giggled into the smoke of her cigarette and looked at me from beneath her lashes. "An ex-girlfriend?" I didn't know what she meant, but suddenly her eyes did remind me of one of my ex's. My thoughts were thrown off balance, and now when I look back on this memory I think of snow when I know there was none. "What? No, I just..." trailed off. "You can call me that if you want." I tried to recover and clamped my cigarette between my teeth. "So, Anne, what do you do? Student, worker, artist?" "I'm a scientist," with a mischievous smile that changes colour every time I think of it. "What kind?" She pushed the toes of her shoes into the gravel and pushed the small rocks around, staring at them - again distractedly. "It's all relative, really." "Ah. Quantum physics." At this her mood changed noticeably. It was so sudden that


I could almost be sure that I imagined it, but everything was too detailed. The speckles in her eyes, the wet shine of her hair, the way she grabbed my arms and squeezed. She hopped up and pecked me on the cheek, pulling me close into a hug, her lips cold but breath hot in my ear. "Remember to shoot for perfection, but on your terms - not on anyone else's." It was Salinger, I remembered it when she kissed me. There's a blank here, a god awful blank that left me running through the doors, looking for her. She had disappeared completely, at the pivotal moment where I had realised how I fallen so quickly, so hard, in ten minutes. Even her sulking friend was gone. I was left in the middle of the dancefloor, searching, searching for the girl who had stolen my hat.



You'd Make a Pretty Good Artist but a Shit Pokemon - Issue 2