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Growing Strange Vol.1 Issue 5 Š 2009 All Rights Reserved. Published by Shoun Otis. All other copyrights or trademarks are the property of their respective owners. No reproduction of any content is acceptable without the written permission of Shoun Otis. Some content in Growing Strange or on this website may appear shocking or offensive and no warranty is made with regard to the suitability of this material for your viewing. Any and all suggestible ideas or comments made within the images presented that could be considered offensive or insulting are of the opinion of the individual artist and not of the publisher or website host.


“I’m invisible! I’m invisible!” He spread his arms wide and sang his homeless hymn aloud. The shirtless indigent spun like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. It was the first time I had seen despair turn to madness. I could see the frost on his breath as he walked up to the driver windows of cars he had halted by standing in traffic and looked in at the driver’s crazy eyed. “I’m invisible,” he howled at them and pounded on the windows. I was torn between feeling sorry for the guy because he had lost all hope and couldn’t even get a fellow human being to make eye contact and wanting to go down and kick his ass to get him to shut up and let me sleep. “Is it Sweater Head,” Tom asked me groggily from the bed. “No,” I lowered the blinds and headed back to the blanket pile on the floor. “I don’t recognize this one.” Sweater Head was one of the local homeless we had decided to name like a stray puppy. He was a youngish black man who usually wore a brown fur coat with red spray paint squiggled across it and a black sweater done up around his head in a Carmen Miranda type turban with the sleeves drooped around his shoulders like a lop eared rabbit. I had never seen Sweater Head with pants ever, but sometimes he wore a pair of discarded women’s hosiery pulled ¾ of the way up his legs so the crotch panel strained between his thighs. In the spring we watched Sweater Head ask a tourist for change then whip out his unit and chase the old guy into the street with a stream of pee when he refused. It was all in a day in the Tenderloin. It’s not a district you find marked on any of the San Francisco tourist maps though it’s just blocks from Market Street, which is basically main street San Francisco. Tom had come to town a year after I had from Columbus and we had enjoyed four months in our deluxe stained room at the Shawmut Hotel. He had a nasty breakup with my friend Catherine and showed up just as broken as I was but for different reasons. That night it was the invisible shirtless man, a few nights later the Pimp for the girls that worked the corner of Jones and O’Farrell had shrieked, “I been stabbed! Somebody done stabbed me, Bitches!”


The window to 614 was prime people watching space. Some nights we kept count of the number of times the street girls brought Johns back to their room. Tom had a ‘eureka’ moment one night after he realized that, “they’re spraying the room to kill the ass smell!” He had just watched a 20-minute session of anal across the way. It wasn’t just the Tenderloin district that had wacky action. One night Tom and I were over tripping at Brian and Kristen’s place and I was possessed with the thought that I had to go back to the Shawmut and retrieve a deck of the Heindl Tarot Cards for some god forsaken reason. So at three in the morning Tom and I are tripping balls on the cross-town bus. We grinned wide acid-grinch smiles on the oil painting of a bus. Every stop along the way turned the door into a gift box that spilled out people on to orange plastic monkey ledges. Occasional curious glances were tossed our way like darts that morphed into electronic surveillance spider robots. Tom was the nervous type but I was the acid Buddha calm and utterly oblivious. When we reached our stop Tom turned his head and said, “here.” We ran the gauntlet of eyes and nodded to the driver as we disembarked resplendent in drug sweat and reflected cheap neon as we crossed down to Jones Street. We could see the butter yellow lights of the hotel on the sidewalk as we approached. A bowl, we both agreed. We needed to have a seat for a few minutes and take the edge off. I fished out my keys and looked up to see about twelve of San Francisco’s finest milling about our normally closed hotel lobby. Some woman was in tears on some of the cheap dusty furniture and police radio chatter kept nattering on. ”I’m invisible,” I told myself in my head. That guy outside the other night seemed to have made it work for him. So I invisibled my way through the lobby to the ancient elevator, Tom obscured in my invisibility fumes. Once in the car I turned and closed the glass and wood lobby door and then the inner gate. Tom pushed the floor button and the car lumbered upwards. Once we could no longer see the cops we erupted into full blown belly laughs. We burst into the room still laughing and flipped on the TV. Tom jumped on the bed while I broke out the bag and packed my little wooden bowl with a sliding lid. I named him Woody after Tom Hanks’ character in Toy Story; call me sentimental if you must.


We had skipped dinner that night and decided now would be a good time to get some food in us. So while I packed the bowl Tom buttered up some bread, broke out the individually wrapped cheese clones and clothing iron to make grilled cheese. Bread, Kraft Singles and circuses it was and truly. Speculation arose about the cool off period for the lobby as we enjoyed residential hotel fine dining. Once we had cashed a bowl or two, I got into our deep closet and sifted through half a dozen boxes until I found my deck of cards. Stoned, tripping and satisfied we put our coats on and went to face the police convention downstairs. Happily the lobby was deserted; the street was too except for the mobile pimp who usually parked himself at the front door to monitor the Ho’s. When we stepped out he was ranting to a fellow pimp, “These Bitches don’t know how to suck dick. I’ll teach em how to suck dick. Hey! Yo man, help me teach these bitches how to suck dick.” This was aimed at Tom who looked up and brushed off the offer with an amiable, “Uh, no thanks.” Inwardly I applauded his wisdom. Tom reached in his pocket to fish out his Camel Lights and discovered that he was a man in need. So we popped down to the Bodega at the end of the block and he went in while I casually watched the hookers buy condoms. It was made all the more interesting by the amber syrup dripping from the streetlights onto the parked cars. ”Let’s get a cab,” Tom tapped me on the shoulder to break my trip into brain space. It was a great idea; one thing I was maybe not up for being stoned now on top of everything else was a 40-minute wait for the bus. Up on the next block I knew there was a cab company garage so once Tom had lit up his Camel we strolled over. It didn’t strike me immediately that there should not have been that large of a crowd on a street corner at 4AM. I just did what I would normally do when looking for a cab and walked to the curb and faced traffic. Time did that funny moonwalk thing so that in spite of the fact I was watching traffic pass I could not even guess how long I stood there.


“Um Honey,” came a saccharin sweet voice, “I think you’re on the wrong corner.” I looked up and discovered I was in a crowd of about two-dozen hookers of various ethnicities, genders and ages. The little man running the machinery in my head slowly delivered the message that I was tacitly offering my ass for sale to any number of the freaky Johns driving by at 4AM. “Sorry,” I muttered, and wandered off to see Tom laughing his tripping balls off. I wondered just then…was I still Invisible? Apparently not to the hookers.


Aftermath 13


Aftermath 18


Lisforlonely


Chicago NE


Beautyshop 18


Beautyshop 24


It was down in Abilene back in the early 1870’s, long before youngsters like Jesse James and Billy the Kid made names for themselves. He wasn’t anything like them anyway; he never robbed anyone, nor was he ever wanted by the law. Sure, he shot a lot of men in his brief gun-fighting career, but he only killed a few, and these were seasoned gunmen or murderous drunks. Most of the fellows he shot were just young punks trying to get famous. They could barely fire their weapons, much less draw and shoot at an armed man. These he simply nicked and sent on their way, hopefully with the lesson that gun-fighting doesn’t make any kind of sense. He was known simply as Slim in those days, and at fourteen he was as tall as a man. His face was fresh and youthful with a delicate bone structure. Yet something in his eyes made him look older. Everyone commented on it, but in the years to come, they would all be amazed at how youthful his visage remained. New in town, he found a job working for Miss Burgundy Phillips, proprietress of the Pink Rose Saloon and Whorehouse, where he stocked the bar and did odd jobs. This was the beginning of a new life for the Kid, his third in fact. His first life was on a small farm somewhere east of Kansas. He didn’t remember much from those years, but sometimes when he stepped into a barn, the bright sunshine streaming into the dark interior along with the not unpleasant smells from within, comforting memories of childhood fell back upon him. He was only seven when his parents moved out west. Like so many others, they were ill advised and unprepared for such a move. So it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that savages attacked them – no – let’s just say that Indians attacked them. That might keep things clear. A lot of white men proved to be savages in those years. His parents died, probably scalped right in front of the boy.. But for some reason the Indians took him along with them. He was soon adopted by a powerful medicine man, thus beginning his second life. It wasn’t a normal life, even by Indian standards. The shaman who raised him didn’t belong to a particular clan, and he was friendly with a lot of different tribes. He and the boy traveled far and wide, trapped and traded, and participated in a variety of rituals. That Slim consumed peyote in this period, there can be no doubt. But that alone is not how he got his name.


The peyote experience, from a recording of Slim that Old Doc made years later: “First I vomited, and then I thought I was dying. Suddenly though, these giant sheets of vibrant colors appeared in the wind, and they were flapping through each other, Doc. They were so beautiful and so wise. They scooped me up, and took me with them. It was the adventure of a lifetime. We flew, higher and higher, to the stars… past them, to where things are all melted, and floating. My teacher Wise Eagle was there, but he couldn’t talk to me. The whole time I was gone I felt my living spine, like a tall cornstalk, back on Earth. The sheets of bright colors returned me to the cliff, and they left me with a beetle, who called himself The Universe. That’s right Doc, a talking beetle. He guided me through a sort of a doorway made out of lightening, and then I became someone else, then another person, then an eagle, a horse, a small child, a dying man, a young woman and the baby she was delivering, a gravedigger, a rich widow, an insect, a field of clover; anything that lives… Then the beetle not only brought me back, and this is the weird part: he also left me there. Is that stew ready Doc? I’m starving!”

Whether the old Indian died, or sent him back to civilization for his own good, we can only guess. But for whatever reason, Slim found himself in Abilene, living and working among whites, and learning to read and write English. Miss Burgundy was quite pleased with his work, and all the girls at the Pink Rose were fond of him. It’s said that each and every one of them, at one time or another, crawled into his bunk in the lonely hours before dawn. They just couldn’t resist him. He was likable and handsome, and he never got drunk and pawed them like so many customers did. In any town out west, there was always some bully who was meaner and more offensive than any man ought to be. Abilene’s was a man by the name of Skunk Baxter. He was a seasoned drunk and troublemaker, and after a long night of drinking rotgut whiskey, he concluded that he had it in for Slim, though he wasn’t exactly sure why. Perhaps it was because the boy was so well liked. Slim bathed regularly, wore clean clothes, stayed away from strong drink, and was always ready to lend a hand with any kind of work. Earlier in the evening, Skunk had been thinking about trying to become more like that himself. Then he thought, naw, that’s too much trouble. I’ll just kill the son of a bitch.


Skunk Baxter had needed a bath days ago, and now he smelled like a dead possum. Saliva hung from the ends of his ragged mustache, and his eyes were so red that they seemed to bleed. His shirt might have been white a long time before. He kicked down the door to the back room and staggered in. Slim sat there drinking coffee. “Stand up, you little bastard,” Baxter snarled. But Slim just sat. Annoyance engulfed the lad, though his face remained expressionless. He really didn’t want to kill this man, yet it looked like his only other option was to be killed. The Kid became mortally depressed, not so much because of Baxter, but because of the limited choices that life sometimes presents. Using his peyote training, he went into a momentary trance; while he was in this state he saw clearly that he could make himself a third option. He stood up. “Draw,” Baxter ordered. Lightening fast, the Kid pulled and flipped the gun barrel up to his own temple, as though offering a snappy salute. Baxter was surprised and confused to see this young man pointing his gun at himself, and so much so that he couldn’t draw his own gun. Then he stood stock still and they stared at each other. “You need to leave me alone now, Skunk.. I’m busy with concerns of my own, as you can plainly see,” Slim told him. Then Baxter drew. The boy turned his gun on the derelict and put one right through Skunk Baxter’s forehead. There was a perfectly round disk of bright red for a second, then it dripped down, and the man slumped to the floor, dead. A small boy witnessed this from the open window. A crowd began to gather there as well, including a newspaper man from the office across the street.. There was a confusion of noise, people shouting, asking what his name was, what he called himself. Slim focused only upon the small boy, who asked: “Why’d you do it mister? What made you point your gun at yourself?” “Peyote, kid,” was his reply. “The Peyote Kid,” the man from the paper wrote in his notepad, “age fourteen” it continued in the paper the next day, “kills Skunk Baxter in self defense!”


Mr.

Percy made his way across the park, which led up a long slow hill to the li-

brary. He took long strides and kept his balance with a cane. He wore a fishing hat that kept the sun out of his eyes, a blue work shirt, and black jeans that looked as though they had never been changed. He made his way along the field and as he approached the red brick library building, a couple of kids who were playing on the steps stopped to stare at him. He didn’t notice. He was deep in thought, thinking about his research. He came to the library several times each week to pick up books, look up more books, and drop off the ones that were coming due. He was always careful to get them in on time, even though he had a senior card and, as such, was not required to pay fines. He went slowly up the steps. The kids stared at him. Homeless, one of them said to the other in Spanish. Maybe it was the old man’s generally filthy appearance, or the hard lines on his face, or the big backpack he had slung over his shoulder. In any case, Mr. Percy was not homeless. He lived just down the hill, past Speer and over in one of the old Victorians that was now split into apartments. Mr. Percy lived alone, had never been married, and had no reason to make himself presentable to anyone. Going into the library, he passed the kids’ parents coming out with stacks of DVDs cradled in their arms. They nearly bumped into him but he didn’t notice. Daniel, Mr. Percy’s here, said Gabriela to the young man standing at the other end of the counter. She called over her shoulder as she checked out videos to someone. I think he’s got some books waiting. Sure, Daniel said, heading over to the holds section. Wonder what he’s got today? He went around the corner and found the P’s. There they were: Holographic Image Design, How to Increase Your Reading Speed, The Secret Government And The New World Order.


Mr. Percy, Russell said. He was unloading books from the book drop. How are you this fine, sunshiny day? Percy leaned his cane in the corner and slouched against the counter. Hotter’n hell out there, he said. Nice in here though. Well, I don’t plan to leave the old AC myself until I have to do my walk-around later. Any suspicious characters in today? Only you, Mr. Percy. At that the old man laughed. Daniel swung around with the books. Howdy Mr. Percy. Hey there young man. There was a bounce to his voice. Here’re your books. He reached around Russell and put them on the counter and the old man’s rusty eyes lit up at seeing them. Daniel went back to his side of the counter and the old man picked up each one tenderly, examining the covers. That what you ordered? Russell said. Sure is. We aim to please at the Denver Public Library, Russell drawled sardonically as he passed the books under the scanner which, with a blip, put them on Percy’s account. Get all the DVDs you want, tear em up and bring em back late, then demand that we erase the fines, and we’ll do it. We value our customers- ah I mean patrons here. As he said that he sneered at the mob of people tearing apart the video shelves. Hi Mr. Percy, Gabriela sang as she came out of the backroom. Hi angel, always nice to see you. She went by and disappeared into the shelves.


In my day, Percy said, they wouldn’t let you take out but one book at a time, and if it was late even a day, why you paid a nickel. That was quite a bit back then. And you couldn’t check out another’n til you paid. Russell was shaking his head as he scanned in books from the book drop. We ought to do that here. Sure, Percy said. It was a high far-off sound the way he said it. And we didn’t have no DVDs ‘r CDs ‘r videos ‘r nothing. Just books. He tapped his stack of books. Sounds good to me. Get rid of all that shit. I’d be happy. And them librarians, why, they was meaner’n hell. You didn’t talk back to those ladies, lemme tell ya. He was looking off at nothing in particular as he spoke. Russell picked up one of the DVDs from the book drop, held it up and said, Now Mr. Percy, have you seen Bad Boyz 2 yet? Much better than the first in my opinion. The acting is superb. The old man laughed wheezily. Naw, I’ll pass on that. Why, I check out a movie now n again. Casablanca. An ol’ Clint Eastwood. Old men like our old movies, y’know. Nothing wrong with that, Russell said. They were better in those days. How old are you anyway, Russell? Me? I’m 47, sir. And already talkin like an old fart. Wait till you get into yer seventies. Hope I don’t live that long. Mmmm, that’s what I always said. Percy fell to laughing again, then gazed off. Nothing was ever a hurry for him. He said, Y’know, I think I’ll go talk to that young man over there. That whippersnapper? He’s nothing but trouble.


Well. He picked up his cane and went around to where Daniel was standing. Daniel was working on somebody’s registration, entering things into a computer with a clack clack of rapid keystrokes. He acknowledged Percy with a smile and started typing faster. Percy just stood patiently expressionless waiting for Daniel to finish. The customer gave Percy a look. Okay, now please sign here, Daniel said, slapping the card on the counter. Now, you can have up to ten videocassettes, up to ten CDs, and up to ten DVDs out at one time. The overdue fines are five cents a day, and you have a five day grace period before fines start accruing. Okay? Understand? The man nodded and Daniel said, Here you go, handing him the card. The man took the card and headed for the video shelves, and Percy stepped up to the counter. Are you sure he understood? Percy said. No, not really. So, gonna pick up your reading speed? Are you gonna read everything in the whole damn library? Percy chuckled. I’ll tell you what. You get old, your eyes don’t work as good as they used to. No kiddin. What’re you studying up on these days? Percy leaned closer. You ever heard about holograms? His words rushed a little in excitement. Yeah, but I don’t know anything about em. It’s amazing stuff, what they can do with lasers nowadays. Laser technology’s come a long way. Say, you check out that David Icke book I told you about? Yeah, I got a few, and one of the tape sets.


Percy got serious and he lowered his voice. See, it’s not just the United States. It’s also Great Britain, Israel. They’re all in on it, the World Government. You read up on all the Icke you can get a hold of. He tells all about it. Yeah, well the William Cooper stuff was amazing. Well, see, Bill Cooper, he saw the UFOs when he was in the Navy. He saw the saucers coming out of the water, they were doing something under the ocean, and his commanding officer told him he better not say anything. But, he knew lotsa insiders, see, and he got all them classified documents. He shows it all right in that book. And they killed him, you know that doncha? The FBI got him. (his eyes got big when he said this. Then, he suddenly thought of something) You got a scrap of paper? I got some more authors for ya. Great, said Daniel, putting a slip of paper and tiny pencil on the counter. Percy started scribbling names on the paper in long stiff old man handwriting. Daniel smiled at him. Here, said Percy when he’d finished. Alex Jones and Daniel Estulin. See if you have them in your computer there. Same as Icke, they talk about these reptiles. You know, George Bush, Tony Blair, the Royal Family, the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, all of them are actually reptilian aliens disguised as humans. It’s all right there in those books I told ya about. I’ll have to check them out, said Daniel, looking at the scrap of paper. Well, I better get going. I’m gonna go outside and have a smoke and be on my way. I got my break soon, so I’ll see ya out there.


Percy walked back to the other side of the counter with a little bounce in his step. He said to Gabriela, Young lady, watch out for this kid. He’s trouble waitin’ to happen! He’s a regular anarchist, this boy. They all laughed and Gabriela teased, You’re trouble, Mr. Percy! You have a nice day now. You too, darling, he said and headed for the door, saying goodbye to Russell as he went out. I love that man, said Daniel. He’s one of my favorites. He’s a sweet thing, said Gabriela. He’s had a rough life, you know. Yeah? Oh yeah. No family or nothing, no money. Old Percy used to be a hobo, added Russell. He was a drunk. Nearly died. Lucky to be alive. How does he live? Asked Daniel. He just scrapes by, said Russell. Gets a check every month. He was in the Navy a long time ago, I think. Daniel looked at the old man’s shadow against the window from outside. I’m gonna take my break, he said. When he went outside, Mr. Percy was standing at the top of the steps with a hand rolled smoke, leaning on the railing and looking out over the park. He acknowledged Daniel with a slight nod. Ah, fresh air, Daniel said. Sure. Percy’s fingers were nicotine-stained and as he smoked he occasionally spit loose tobacco off his lips.


They were quiet for a second, and then Percy said, It’s a global thing, you know. Not just here nor there. It’s happening. It’ll happen in your time. Aw, we had awful things when I was young. Wars, depression. But, it’s you all who’ll have to fight the real fight. He spit. Them reptiles, they been running the United States government for years and years. We got reptiles in every level of government and society. The army, the banks, the schools, the IRS. And there won’t be no countries no more. Just one government over all the world. Bush and them act like they don’t want the UN runnin’ things see, but they’ll foul it all up (Icke and them talk about this) they’ll foul it up, have a big preplanned catastrophe, another 9-11 only bigger, and won’t be no other way but to call in FEMA. Martial law, police state. So, the American people will beg to be saved. By who? The UN. The reptiles. Then, you got world government. Barcodes on everybody, GPS tracking so they know where you are, mandatory vaccinations on your kids, flu shots, what have you. Then, they got us where they want us. They’re everywhere, look just like you and me. After everything’s in place, why, they’ll come out of hiding, reveal their true form, show their lizard faces. And once that freedom’s gone and everybody’s tagged, why, the game is up. It’s up to you, Daniel, your generation. Percy flicked his cigarette and spit a little bit of tobacco. It’ll be a tough fight, Daniel said. Mr. Percy nodded, then hoisted his bag. Well, see ya young feller. ‘Spect I’ll be in again on Thursday. You be here? Yes I will. See you Mr. Percy.


He nodded once more and walked down the steps. Daniel stood and watched the old man make his way along the park. A couple playing Frisbee stopped as the old man walked between them, oblivious to their game. He watched the tall figure with the old fishing hat, slouching with the big backpack, until he disappeared at the edge of the park where it joins 29th Ave.


ce! Prin Beatles! Beefheart!

The Kinks!

The clash!

Marvin Gaye!

MF Doom! -WU Janis Joplin!

Nick Cave! Stones! The Who! Roots!


The delivery came in and a lot of the boxes had defrosted… Billy, the driver, was going on about how he had been caught in traffic and the refrigeration in the van wasn’t up to full speed…but he didn’t start with ‘You should have seen…’ like you should have seen this lassie I rattled last night or you should have seen this cunt I knocked oot at the weekend… so, basically because he didn’t start with a ‘you should have seen’ the credence of what he said went up tenfold… to about 10%. Because of the delivery though it was a funny night… well not a normal night anyway… funny probably isn’t the right word… I try not to use words with more than one connotation when it comes to describing this place. Christ, what am I spraffing about… don’t mean to keep going off in tangents… it was odd because we couldn’t put out partially defrosted produce… well we could have, most of us didn’t give a shit either way and, to be honest, the kind of folk that shopped in this shithole aren’t exactly renowned for their delicate palate… or their fastidiousness of quality while we’re at it… no, we didn’t care and neither would the shoppers… but Anne, that’s a different kettle of kippers… the thing is it’s not as if she’s even the boss. Christ, she’s not even in charge when the assistant manager isn’t around but, as anyone who has ever worked in a place where there is no acting head, no designated leader, when your organisation, a misnomer if ever there was one, is basically a headless chicken flapping about in the dark…. as anyone in this situation would know it only takes one… one dissenter and the game is up… one word from Anne and we knew we’d all get it in the neck… and believe me, she is the type… so we had to do the proper thing and report it to the… fuck, I don’t even know what you’d call him… area manager? Some shit like that.


So that was it, that was my night set ahead of me… and, well, nah, doesn’t matter… off track again, sorry I… but the thing was that even though I knew that I would have to work late… more time in the white-washed-breezeblock-poorly-waxed-linoleumrefrigeration-shithole that is more than half my life… despite all that I was happy… maybe not exactly happy, but… well, yeah excited… maybe the most obvious reason would be that I didn’t have to do the unload, which was a fucking nightmare. Let me set the scene a little for you… this shop’s delivery door was on the floor above the actual shop floor with a very crudely made chute system with rollers on the flats which folded down from one side of the narrow stairs… now, besides the fire hazard of not being able to walk up or down the stair when the chute was lowered this was a very strenuous activity… the boxes were heavy… a dozen frozen chickens were the worst, but you couldn’t just place them on the chute for them to slide down… no no no… that would take some degree of engineering skill and foresight… no you had to fling them down with all your might to get them past the middle section on the rollers and down to the second and final chute where your right hand man… the one who drew the long straw on that particular evening would receive and stack. Receive, ha!… if you didn’t give it enough oomph then you would have to slide down on your 101% polyester trousers and kick it down the rest of the way… so I’m sure you can appreciate that not having to do this for once made me feel pretty fucking good… but I think more than that it was that what we were doing was different… that’s all you need really, isn’t it? To do something a wee bit different to keep things interesting. Anyway, where were we… I keep doing this… and I don’t just mean here I mean generally, I keeping getting knocked off course with the tiniest whisper of a wind… Right, yeah okay so we were having this crisis as Anne called it… christ, where did they dig her up from anyway?


Anyway, we had this wee situation about the partially defrosted food and we, to all intents and purposes were blackmailed to do the proper fucking thing… Anne, the brownnosing suck-up phoned the manager who, in turn, phoned the area manager… some fucking bigwig in the Fife area of Scotland’s second largest frozen food chain… big fish small pond doesn’t quite do it justice... justice! During all this the shop’s still open, mind… Natalie, the shop totty, was due to finish in five minutes so one of us had to go on the till… aye that gives you a good idea of the size of this abomination that we only need one fucking till on about 90% of the time… so I volunteered to go on. Usually I wouldn’t dream of volunteering for anything here you understand but in these times of despair you’ve got to at least look like your busy and taking the bull by the bawsack… So I go up to Natalie to tell her the situation and to relieve her. Now, I say that she’s the shop totty, which is true but when you look at the competition, the other three Anne, Hazel and Fionna with faces like the proverbial bag of spanners, melted welly and painter’s radio respectively… well, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to be crowned stig of the dump… but she was genuinely hot… nothing doing as far as me and her mind, she was a wee bit older than me and was always with someone at least five years older than her… and let’s be honest, how could a pastey wee shite like me compete with a Vauxhall Corsa? So that’s me on the till, just in time to see a wee lassie in a miniskirt squat down between the window and the wall of the bus station to take a piss… granted, it’s fairly hidden away from the bus station punters but how she didn’t notice the fully lit shop window I’ll never know… by her get-up she was obviously on her way to the under 16’s disco and no doubt she’d just spun-drunk a half bottle of 20/20 in the park… even the worst dirts round here don’t to stuff like that sober…


Now, I’m not proud of what I did next… it was more of an impulse than anything else, but I ran straight up to the back and tell hunter… Oi shunter, there’s a lassie taking a piss by the windy ...How old?... Young, maybe fif… and he was there like a fucking bat out of a bell… So there’s the pair of us, crouched down behind the freezer by the window watching her and Hunter jumps up and bangs on the window with both fists… Mon hen, spread them wider… The lassie pure shites it and falls on her arse right on to the flow of her self created wee river… jumps up again just as quick and gets on her metaphorical bike… Haw Haw, see that, fucking brilliant… Granted, I’m pishing myself laughing but Hunter’s taking a real sadistic kind of pleasure in it and when I see him bearing his teeth like a primate I really didn’t want to laugh anymore… but you know what it’s like, you’ve got to, to stop laughing and look down your nose is just not the done thing… and he’d probably accuse me of being gay to boot. I might have known not to tell him, you see Andrew Hunter… aka Shunter Hunter… aka Shunter… has a penchant for the under 15’s you see… problem is, Shunter works here too so he cannae afford a Corsa. Right, so I’m back on the till while everyone else is trying to make space in the back up freezers for the problem stock… Anne’s walking about the fucking place like a blue arsed headless chicken and Shunter’s doing his usual with the tall tales… fuck know what pish he was spewing, nobody was listening as usual, mind… Natalie has changed out her work clothes which, by the way, she miraculously manages to make look sexy… fucking below the knee length blue polyester skirt, flesh coloured tights and a stripy blouse… but that’s nothing compared to what she’s wearing now, a sight for sair een as my auld Gran would say: tight as fuck jeans, a wee pair of trainers and a fitted shirt, hair up and a wee bit of make-up, not too much, mind… I mean don’t get me wrong I’d shag a barber’s floor but she looked special…


aye, special. She says cheerio, a wee bit cheeky like… flirting? Aye, maybe but she’ll just be cock-teasing… doesnae do it wi Shunter but… Right, now that that’s her away I can be completely miserable in my work with absolutely nothing to help me get through the rest of the night… supposed to be finishing at nine but it’s already… what? Seven and your man the big wig is still making no sign of an appearance… that’s what Shunter’s spraffing on about now, White… Mr White he calls him… Mr? what the fuck? He’s only saying that because he doesn’t ken his first name… but to listen to him he’s on intimate terms with the cunt… aye you should see his house, fucking huge, it’s like a mansion… you ken Fresh Prince of Bel Air?… well it’s like the house that looks like the White house in that… smaller but… in Dalgety Bay… How you seen it? This is Anne… But he’s too canny for that… No, I’ve no seen it but Frankie was telling me about it and I ken the area, that lassie I was rattling was from round there… ach and all that pish… then, speak of the devil, he’s on the phone… aye, the devil… the devil. Then Anne was giving it ‘Make me a tea, Si’… that was me by the way, Si… still is, I suppose. I fucking hate that though, there’s no reason for me to make her tea… she’s not my superior by any lengthening of the imagination… people do that though, don’t they but? Ask you to do something that they could quite easily do themselves but if you make a thing of it or refuse it’s you that looks the arse… drives me mental, so it does… Fuckit though, anything for an easy life… I’ll make sure it’s the worst cup of tea I’ve ever made though… small victories. Your man was due to arrive in the next half hour and we were instructed to hold the fort until then and not do anything with the delivery… Just about time to shut shop… two minutes… I’ll pull the shutter… There’s still a few minutes left… Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll take my time walking there…


Anne was driving us all more mental than usual… the excitement was getting to here… there were still a couple of folk in the shop… two old ladies, some fat bint and a mum with her pram… none of whom looking like hurrying up… do they think we live here? Do they think we choose to be here?... can’t blame them if they did, I suppose. I’m shutting the shutter half way so no-one can come in and I’ll just raise it enough for anyone who’s leaving. Shunter shouts up to me to put a can under that one… lazy cunt. Every night we had to empty a couple of freezers on rotation, defrost them and hoover up all the shit and give them a clean… he’d emptied one and was taking the stuff up to the back… you were supposed to unplug it and put a tin under it to tilt it and allow the water to flow to one side… takes all of three fucking second to do it but he’s pulling the same trick as Anne with the tea… am I just an easy target? Do I have that kind of face that says people can walk all over me?... Fucksake. Like I say, takes all of three seconds… went for a tall tin of peas… look up and see that mum was at the till… usual shit, frozen fish, cans of coke and Christ know what else… no fucking barcode system in this antiquated shithole, nah, you have to put each price in individually… bearing in mind it’s a fucking frozen food store so half the price tags fall off with the melted ice so you have to memorize the prices… there are thirty freezers, each containing anything between three and eight products, not to mention the ‘dry’ which is the cans, drinks and all that shit so I’d guess there’s over 500 products in all with prices changing with special offers and all that… ‘Bread’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Drink’, ‘Confect’ and ‘Can’… you had to press one of those buttons before the price… not exactly specific for the customer and their receipt which caused no end of fucking problems when they queried the total… which happened a lot… especially when I was on the till… for once I won’t chalk that up to bad luck and just come clean and admit that it was due to sheer incompetence on my part…


the special ingredient in my failure was lack of interest… Anyway, this mum gets her stuff pays up without any complaints thank Christ and I raise the shutter for her to get out… some old biddy outside tries to make eye contact with me to let her in… she opens her mouth and I know what she’s going to say… can I just get in for a wee minute son, just to get my bread… but I’ve heard it all before and I step inside and lower my barrier before she even gets the chance… fool me once shame on you, fool me a couple of dozen times then I’m a fucking mug… Boohoom! Then one of the old biddies gives it OH MY! OH MY GOD!... What fucking now… What could this be?... Oh shite, she’s at the freezer I just tilted… it hasn’t? It has… fuck… That feeling at the pit of your stomach. Churning. Pure raw guilt with a touch of the shites… What happened?... even though I know fine well what happened… That thing is a death trap… That can just flipped up from under thon freezer and hit me here… her thigh… She must have hit it with her trolly… Did you knock it with your trolly?.. No I did not! I wasn’t anywhere near it… Her pal pipes in… Do you need a doctor? Maybe you should phone an ambulance… Christ, this is all I fucking need… She looks alright to me… but do you want a sit down? I’ll get you a cup of tea?... She might look alright but then you’re not a doctor are you sonny?... I look down at my navy blue slacks, shoes that I’ve had since school and turquoise polo shirt covered in little trails of Christ knows what but looks like little snail trail… No, I’m not a doctor … Well she might have internal injuries… Internal? Christ almighty, what’s this auld boot after? Internal injuries my arse, a fucking tin of peas skelping her leg… You should make a complaint Aggy… Aye, that was an accident waiting to… I’ll get my boss… Anne!


I made myself scarce up the stair… made myself a cup of tea and went for a shit while it was brewing… There’s probably no more depressing place on earth than this toilet… yet, it’s the place I feel the most comfortable and the most secure at work… maybe it’s the lock… because nobody can walk in on you. Maybe it’s just the fact that everybody enjoys a good shit and you can take off any face you’re having to wear on the outside… but what does that say about me? That this place, of all places is where I feel at peace… If it was both affordable or culturally acceptable I’d get myself to a shrink to find out was up with me… but LA this ain’t… the kingdom of Fife. I’m not one to read a lot on the can… prefer to wallow in my own thoughts as well as my own stench… One of them downstairs has left a paper but… I don’t know who. Don’t want to think about it cause I don’t want to think about any of them taking a shite… too late. If you don’t want to think of something then you think it… the mind is an amazing thing… what it’s capable of doing… but just as much as what it’s capable of not doing… you can’t switch it off. Woman hails “miracle after fish supper nearly kills her. A West Fife woman Christ, what now… only in this fucking rag would you get this kind of pish… who cheated death by five minutes after suffering an allergic reaction to a fish I could go a fish supper myself… look at the state of that picture, like she’s supper has described her harrowing escape as ‘a miracle’. A day out to celebrate gone through an ordeal… harrowing? Harrowing my arse… everyone is a the longest day on Sunday turned into a nightmare for Anne McDonald (55), of fucking drama queen these days, I’m telling you… fifty-five? Christ, you’d The Byres, Rosyth. Her husband Colin had gone to the famous Anstruther Fish Think she’d be old enough to know better… Anstruther’s good for fish, mind… Bar on Sunday night-but things started to go wrong when they tucked into Think Natalie used to live there…oh aye, ‘think’… I know she did...


Even their meal. She told the Press, ‘We sat in the car to eat our fish and chips and fucking lying to myself… of course I know she’s from there… there’s are the while eating I felt my hands start to itch but I didn’t think anything about it. I only two things I know about the place… fish and Natalie… itch? My hands have had fish before and I have been fine. ‘When my husband went back into feel itchy now… funny how that happens… shit, now my crack’s feeling itchy.. the shop to get us ice-cream, my glands started to swell and I started to feel a . In the best place for it, mind…swell? Aye one of my glands starts to swell bit unwell. But I thought it would just pass and when I had the ice-cream it sometimes… fuck, Natalie was looking great tonight… always is but especially would cool me down. I just had no idea. The couple then headed home but tonight. Nah, it’s always especially the last time I see her... not even reading this decided to turn right onto a B-road heading towards Crail rather than left pish… who the fuck cares what route you took home?! I’m sure it’ll be pertinent to heading towards Dunfermline. Anne continued, ‘We were only a few minutes the end of the story… Her name’s Anne too, she looks a hell of a lot better than the into the road when my tongue swelled up and I couldn’t breather and I one I have to work with… oh naw, Anne’s tongue… couldn’t think of anything worse thought, I am in absolute serious trouble. It had never happened to me before than that being shoved down your gub… serious trouble is right, hen… fuck this… and as we were … it’s just fate. I am lucky to be were today. I never got a chance to skip to the end… fate? Is that what is? Well there you go… fate indeed… I’m sure the thank the ambulance guys. They do an amazing job.


Masters of fate are looking down on you and thinking that they did a good job with you, your fish supper and the B road… fate my arse…Speaking of which I wipe up, get the breeks up and head back out for my cup of tea already feeling refreshed and a pound or two lighter. Out at the staff room… stinks of… it just reeks if staff rooms. Tea’s had time to cool down, looks strong as fuck, an extra bit of sugar than usual… one and a half… milk. So that was me back down the stair… passing the chute on the way then at the bottom the mops, buckets, brush and the buffer… the tools of my trade. The only reason we kept the buckets there was due to lack of space because, you see some fuckwit had designed this place with plumbing only on the first floor so if you wanted to fill the bucket you’d have to take it up the stair, fill it, take it back down, mop the floor, take it back up, empty it in the toilet and then take it back down again because, like I say, there was not any space on the first floor… bearing in mind your boss was expecting you to freshen up the water at least once… seriously, it just made you want to pack it in... Not an option…. The sweeping and the buffering were great though… something dead therapeutic about those things. The silent sweep of the brush or the dull whirr of the buffer over the linoleum… and you can see it get better, the floor I mean… oh man, it shone… eat your dinner off it stuff… there aren’t many things that you do where you can see an improvement like that, you know like an instant result… suppose that’s why some people like doing the dishes and stuff like that… but at work? There’s hardly anything you can do that will show a result… I mean you can serve customers until the heelan’ coos come in but you’re not counting the money and there’ll always be more customers waiting just behind the last one… ach, I don’t know I’m talking a load of pish I suppose… but it does, it makes you feel alright when you’re doing the floor.


So I open the door to be confronted with what I can only describe as a babble of old hens… those two old wifies looking even more indignant than before… in hindsight, passing the buck to Anne was probably not the best move… all the diplomacy of a shoe bomber that one. Nibble the bullet time… up I go and Anne gives me a look like where the fuck have I been… I muster up as much sincerity as I can and ask how she is feeling… she’s sitting down, leg out, leaning back as if about to faint… really hamming it up big licks. Her pal’s talking about how they’ll be able to get compensation and all that shite… my neighbour’s son’s a lawyer and he’s always doing cases just like this… my blood is beginning to boil, the red mist is descending… hands in pockets, fists, digging nails into palms… knuckles cooling and going white… it takes all I can muster not to lose the head… I can feel the red mist descending and the monster coming to the surface… they’re all looking at me… I feel my face redden… turn on my heel and run up the stair… that’s it I’ve had enough. Fuckit. Fuckem. Fuck everyone. Fucking fucks… The staff room. Polo shirt off, thrown in the corner. T-shirt on. Kick my shoes off then the trousers which are so synthetic that every hair on my puny legs stand on end. Jeans on. Trainers. Jacket. Push the bar on the fire door to my freedom. It swings open and hits the wall giving a couple on the street a fright… step out. If I shut it there’s no going back. The only other way in is through the front. If I shut the door it’s finished… I look back into the staff room from the civilian side… the fluorescent lighting, the whitewashed marked walls, the old kettle and mismatched mugs, the bag of sugar with golden lumps with all the wet spoons out in it, hooks holding clothes for people that I spend half, or probably more, my life … but it’s all nothing… should I stay or …? Strummer. Do I have a choice? Yes. Yes, always have a choice… I can go if want to… ha, want to!


I imagine her mouth tasting like a graveyard for cigarette butts . I turn on my glasses and catch that neon lipstick glitter reflected on the lens and she’s Deaths’ half-sister in lab coat and hair curlers drunk on peach schnapps, ether, and dish water, A tall white man in a long white coat falls over and sucks her down like menthol studded cancer lifting her blouse above the belly and the words become clear to me: “WILL-FUCK-FOR-DNA!” It’s stitched above the navel cord and he rubs her magic away from me, pulls down her uniform exposing the boney flesh under a hot lamp and I feel like throwing up but I order another drink instead. It’s two for Tuesday at midnight on Monday and I’m pretending that’s me over there sucking down that filtered pink lipped dizzy face of pastel sex and experimental glitter, but that wouldn’t be Constitutional, glitter isn’t something I’d find even moderately appealing as a mixture with whiskey and the sound of nova coming on at the base of my onion. Patronizing lies to myself work best in this situation so I order up another while hoping for an ashtray to appear in the seat next to me but the law says NO and the bartender says NO and the women they always say NO everything a big fuckin’ NO I have to go outside…“Take your selfish slow suicide out of here!” “No need to put that on parade around this joint, respectable people come here!” And as the streetlights pass out one by one a car staggers across the boulevard reeking of death metal anti-freeze with diesel on its grill and the clicking heels of thin smooth legs cut my earlobes with each tender step and the sound of her voice leaves a lump in my throat my cigarette burns, burns burn but it’s only a flashlight to someone else’s sheltered heaven where the flowers smell like pigeon shit cooked on the sidewalk at 98.6. I go back inside put a quarter in the noise box where screeching dying birds and teen love songs go to die through the speakers over


my head it burns the scalp makes my brain monkey jump around screaming for release and a nibble of laudanum but I drown him in juice from the tap the tall man leaves with his new assistant white coat stained and lonely on the floor the ether has finally worn itself away and she whispers a curse on my kind as they pass there’s glitter on the table where the operation took place the liver and the lab coat is all that’s left of their patience so I take them both I can use another liver and the coat will give me a modicum of importance, their ambulance slams into the night like acid.


TygerLily Ernst Wonch, originally from Illinois, has had a camera in her hand since elementary school. Like in her writing, photography serves as a way to express her feelings about the world around her. TygerLily's work is inspired by the simultaneous feeling of peace and loneliness in addition to the solitary pleasure captured in the people and events of everyday life. Her photography has been on exhibit in New Chemical History, featuredin 63 Channels.com and has appeared in F-Stop Magazine, FilteredMagazine, Phirebrush, Gapers Block and others. She is currently studying photography in Denver, CO. Her work can be found at nighthawkpostcards.deviantart.com and her blog can be found at tygerlilyernst.wordpress.com. Chad Knapp Born: Denver Colorado Lives: Phoenix Arizona 33 years old chad@theshizz.org Graduated 1999 University of Northern Arizona, Bachelors of Art and Education Chad Works in pen and ink as well as Oil paints and Water colors and is represented by Art One Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona http://www.artonegalleryinc.com/ William Tooker is from Marysville, OH. It's true what you've heard about Marysville. But William denies any allegations of wrong doing and maintains that the surveillance footage was doctored. He has also lived in San Francisco and Oakland California and seems to recall being in Clearwater, FL though currently he resides in Aurora Colorado. Do not attempt to feed William. Do not poke William with long sticks. Do not "Go All Bronte" on William's sweet, sweet ass. Do not lure William out of the house and then attempt to sacrifice him to your primordial fish god only to have him narrowly escape and then just show up the next day like nothing happened. That is all. Greg Scott grew up in Missouri but he usually tells people Denver. In addition to writing, he plays in several bands. He lives in Japan with his wife and daughter.


Gary Paton was born in Fife in 1982. He spends a lot more time thinking about writing than doing it, but is confident he can write the next great American novel, provided it is set in Scotland. He now lives in Glasgow. Samuel George is a graduate of CU, Boulder. A native of Louisiana, he now resides in Waveland, Mississippi. He currently has stories published at: http://slothjockey.com/evilmammoath.shtml Sloth Jockey http://www.short-humour.org.uk/3writersshowcase/whathappened.htm The Short Humour Site He has a previous publication under the pseudonym George LaMort, included in the compilationApocalypse Culture II; Feral House 2000. Lonnie Allen was born in South Korea in 1976, and lived in Okinawa, Utah, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, but never at the same time. He attended the University of Denver to study Fine Arts, which he now has no use for whatsoever. He spent a summer in Alaska working in fishing cannery which he has used to help pick out good Salmon at the supermarket. His father is American, his mother Thai, his wife Venezuelan, and his sons mixed, so he's hoping to become a poster boy for multiculturalism. He's been part of a Denver comic co-op, Squid Works, since 1999. He has self-published an assortment of mini-comics including: "The Cheerleader and Other Stories," "Tell Tale Signs,""GEN ERIC," and "Boxer." His short stories have appeared a number of comic anthologies such as: Mauled, EXPO 2005, and Potlatch. His current projects include a collaborative comic book titled, "Crazy Asian Girl" with John Peters of "Forty Winks," and the webcomics: "Delineate," and "The Navel Gazer" which are available online. He currently lives in Colorado and geeks out tweaking his bicycle. Shoun Otis: publisher and editor of Growing Strange holds up in Denver, CO, where he is currently writing what he’s calling a serial novella called Needles for Teeth which can be found at mightymercury.com (until they wise up and pull it before Parents groups gets involved).


GROWING STRANGE is an online art and photography magazine based in Denver, Colorado and we are working to test the limits of the written word and visual art to generate creativity in its purest forms. We are looking for contributors and supporters of this idea to help take online publishing to what we hope to be a new area of artistic creation. We are now accepting submissions for issue 6 to be produced in the spring. In addition to visual art we are now accommodating written work in the form of prose and poetry. Our word count for prose is 4000 words max, 500 minimum. Poetry submissions are 5 poems per sub. Photography and original art submissions can be up to 10 pieces per sub. Color or B&W is fine. The most important factor to consider is that whatever you submit, it must be compelling, original, and well written and something that you dig personally. If you’re unsure of your work, don’t send it. Only send what you are proud of, please. Experimentation is encouraged; romance, westerns, preteen wizard and teenage vampire based love stories are not (unless you can take these genres to a level never done before). We consider excerpts from novels already accepted for publication. Please provide publication info (publishing house, release date, etc) in a cover letter. The excerpt has to work as an independent short story. If a piece doesn’t come together in one way or another because it’s part of a larger narrative, its chances of succeeding as a short story is limited. The excerpt has to be titled and presented as a short story. With the exception of visual art submissions we do not accept file attachments unless we ask you specifically. All submissions should be sent in the body of your submission E-mail to growingstrange@gmail.com In the subject line please write your name and title of the piece Example: Attention editor: Julio Cortazar-“Hopscotch” We look forward to discovering and publishing new voices. Thanks for reading!! See you in 2010. Shoun Otis Publisher/Editor


Kilgore Used Books & Comics 624 E. 13th (next to Wax Trax) Denver, Colorado


Growing Strange  

Winter issue # 5

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