The Weekenders Magazine pinups edition
featuring: bud smith
including: allie m. batts philip vermaas ian holmes chuck howe kent L johnson kenneth radu neila mezynski philip simondet james lawless molly bond mr. e simon molloy catfish mcdaris +more!
CONTENTS POETRY: 3 God in the Crystal by James Lawless: 4 Echos by Anthony Ward: 6 Angels Don’t Eat Bacon by Catfish McDaris: 7 Her Intentions Are by Allie Marini Batts: 8 Flashback by Neil Ellman: 11 Sleep by Simon Molloy: 13 Kits Blues by Ian Holmes: 14 There is no Bridge..of Cheap Cider by Philip Vermaas: 15 Homo Homocidensis by Constantine Mountrakis: 18 Roamer, Wanderer by Ryan Swofford: 19 An Evening Ride at Ritchie’s by Jake Russell: 20 Muted Daddy by Molly Bond: 24
PROSE: 26 Mistress by Chuck Howe: 27 Dysfunctional Beat by Kent L Johnson: 29 Sight by Tracey Lander-Garrett: 36 Mother’s Love by Kenneth Radu: 39 Black on White & Heaping by Neila Mezynski: 44 Growing Up by Wayne Scheer: 45 Arcata, California by Philip Simondet: 48 John by Mr. E: 53 5 Writing Tips by Ryan Swofford: 57
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Bud Smith: 59 Interview with Bud Smith: 76
SUPPORT THE WEEKENDERS: 82
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Thank God; we made it through two whole issues together, Weekenders. This is something worth celebrating, of course—and what better way to celebrate it than with beautiful women in scantily-trimmed outfits? That’s right—you’ve just opened up the Pinups edition, and I hope you enjoy the show. We’ve got some great poetry, great prose, and, most importantly, bombshell betties that’ll knock your pretty pink socks off your pretty pink toes. I chose Pinups as the theme because, well, I like classy women. That’s all there is to it. Let me explain: I don’t like chicks with a ton of tattoos (although the right amount is okay…), and I definitely don’t dig chicks who go to such extremities that their freaking lips are turned inside out with piercings. That sort of crap grosses me out—there are certain Suicide Girls that I just can’t stand, so I couldn’t include them in an issue. Then, there are the chicks that are just so skinny it’s disgusting. Like, you could throw a freaking Fruit Loop on them and they’d say it fits, wow, let’s make this a trend. Or the girls that wear so much makeup you could wipe your butt with their face and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But then there are the classics—they’ve got classy built-into their names. They’re the ones that don’t need to show off too much, but aren’t afraid of show a little. They’re the ones that actually have hips, thighs, legs, butts—not twigs, or miserable excuses for such features. Those girls, Weekenders, are the girls I’m in love with, and I think they fit perfectly with the way good literature should be—sexy, flaunting, superficial, and daring—but not boastful or proud. Kind of like us, right? Enjoy the issue. Ryan Swofford, Editor The Weekenders Magazine http://theweekendersmagazine.blogspot.com/ Page | 2
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GOD IN THE CRYSTAL By James Lawless When water freezes into ice crystal It has its own beauty and truth Could it be the word of God Made flesh? And if so, I wonder Which god is referred to here? The angry god of the Old Testament The god of the burning bush Who destroyed cities And turned people to stone? Or the loving god Of the New Testament Who gave us his cross of Suffering So we could be like him? Perhaps itâ€™s the god of The tundra Who turns vaginas into frozen caverns And clitorises into stumps Of permafrost And penises into ice-cycles? Now that I have brought the reader To the razor's edge Should I use that razor To amputate these Cold useless members? As I look down At these frozen parts Page | 4
In my mind's eye I realize it's not Necessary To cut them off Since they break off By themselves Into my cupped hand Turning to water Pooled in my palm In which I see my image Like Narcissus At the fountain Looking at my Castrated body The frost bites my toes Moving to my feet And up my legs Freezing solid The flesh and bone As it travels To my torso Freezing my heart And limbs and hands As well as The pool of water Where my image Is reflected Then going Up my spine With its hard cold And before it enters My brain A thought occurs In the form of a question: Was it god who created us In his image or us who Created him in ours Page | 5
ECHOES By Anthony Ward From the Black River To the muddy Mississippi The spirit of the blues blended With the Appalachian folk Their voices reverberating like echoes Preserved in vinyl, The past perseveringAn archive to the moment. Tracks swirling inwardly With mellifluous melancholy Hauled from humid southern streets To the cool Chicago night.
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ANGELS DONâ€™T EAT BACON By Catfish McDaris Mom was basting the chicken & squirted juice all over the oven The smoke alarm went off shrieking like the hogs my grandpa used to butcher The day I fell out of my tree house into the hog pen was almost a grim reaper fiasco Those big bastards were jumping all over each other ready to cannibalize me, I thought human pork chop time Our neighbor happened by with his shotgun, he blasted them snorters into hog heaven.
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HER INTENTIONS ARE By Allie Marini Batts "Something has tried to kill you, and failed." – Nicole Blackman What a pity, because your every clinging breath is futility, you are sunglassed and sleepless, on the stoop of this hotel in a city that is a stranger and passes you by, because you're just another sad girl crying in the street. Your tears are scented and boiling with the stink of desperation, men passing by smell it on you and the wolves come out. Nothing is sexier than your tears; it means you'll take anything. The cop waves your smoke out of his face: he's just calculating how stupid you really are, mathematically plotting out the trajectory of burns, bruises and breaks it'll take before you leave—if you leave—or if you'll go only by force zippered and bagged and cloaked in flashing lights. You stink like a perfume, rosewater and fuck me, carrier alcohols burnt away and leaving only the oils behind, jasmine, love me, it sends beacons to the bees with venom in their stingers, damaged men swarm to you like you're queen of this hive, you're the honeycomb dripping with misguided determination and their drone is like a mantra falling on your ears. There isn't room for you. You are better than he deserves and more pathetic than you ever dreamed possible ribbons of mascara cut muddy swaths down your slack cheeks Page | 8
the pretty you painted on hours ago long gone and washed away after twelve hours detailing your every fuck up, like you had never taken the tallies yourself. Women in battle armor and eye shadow pass you by and know they are superior because they are not you You are full of bullshit and broken things, you are shattered glass and mirrors, blue smoke and perfumed powdered and oiled like the corpse of a dying whore and your begging makes you both disgusting and desirable. Smoke takes away the hunger the way the tarry balls of anger fill the void and wash up shoreline thousands of dead fish litter the beach silver and glittering sunlight reflected in the mirrors of the shades that hide nothing Your eyes are bloated and dead and he likes you that way this brutal way of loving feeds the machine and lubes up the pistons like the wetness between your thighs every make-up fuck he throws you like a trail of gingerbread leading to the oven no need to trick you or push you You just jump hot coals burning away your eyelashes grinding bones into char pungent ash falling like tallow snowflakes a sheen of fiery skin and fat the gristle of your want Tragedy, really, the way you're still breathing Page | 9
mangled in the cogs of this killing machine that you call love, the triumph of your survival is pity at its finest corset laced up to the point of broken ribs and strangulation. Waspwaisted and toxic you have lived, again, wasted breath and pointless because your meat suit is dripping honey and the body is starting to stink. You are beautiful when you are made up right and you are a failure at being alive metal eyes heated by the coals of an oven you leap into like a witch with burning hair The pity being you rise like a zombie phoenix fisted and dead as you ever were but still drawing breath.
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FLASHBACK By Neil Ellman 1971 give or take a toke or two or ten maybe Sunday or is I don’t know Sundays are when I pray or did sometimes the birds pray in my place or to me or some other god they know blue and orange and red feathers crawling on my skin of oranges I am a crystal In a kaleidoscope I pray to green it’s nine o’clock am or pm Sunday perhaps somewhere in another time or now.
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SLEEP By Simon Molloy I could welcome death. At times like these, with sleep ever further away, and the night seemingly unending. The body knows it needs to rest. The mind, however, refuses its peace, with its whirlwind of thoughts and circling song lyrics. Eyes are closed against the dark. Yet the images shown, on oneâ€™s internal screen, are more vivid than any film. The beds landscape has changed. The pillow now flat and warm, the mattress hard and unyielding, the duvet cloying and suffocating. Dawn approaches all too soon. A panic of insufficient sleep, the countdown to days beginning, and the braying interruption of the alarm. Sleep should not be a challenge. It should not be fought for, nor wrestled into submission, by an ever tiring mind. To slip quietly into oblivion. Surely the right of every man, when reaching dayâ€™s end, and laying down to sleep.
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KITS BLUES By Ian Holmes "The three saddest things are the ill wanting to be well, the poor wanting to be rich, and the constant traveler saying 'anywhere but here.’" - e. e. cummings hungry ghosts and modeled minds muddledorzit just me? perhaps I’ve misunderstood the people too long and therefore misunderstood myself three and half days and four thousand km between my past (and I) driving airs of cynicism into this great grey cloud grey dog— growing growling growing driving me where? to the ocean? goddamn, to Aden? amorous eyes fall on every woman I see women of my past scrabbling at my door as I grind my axe, half chub jilted by the melancholy grays of the room to a reason—drunk! to a sweet reason I waste myself waste, sweet reason
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THERE IS NO BRIDGE AT THE RIVER OF CHEAP CIDER By Philip Vermaas L and I were not getting the fucking right. She'd spent her early childhood in perpetual relocation from American army base to army base, trailing, with her mother, the cloak and dagger career of her father the hard-drinking spy who used to punish her with a pillow over her face into which heâ€™d drive his fist. Too young to have a say, she was dumped, "for reasons of stability" with a relative in small-town England. Like her father the spy, she sussed her circumstance and, schooled in the lower rent parts of middle-class neighbourhoods, learnt to fit in with the band of sad young unmonieds, to sling cor-blimeys with the best of them, to flick a tit for speed and cheap cider from the regular boys with zealous glands. None of them could do more than hang out at the bus shelter on weekends in a town where the publicans knew everyone and everyone knew to keep an eye on these kids, the few, Page | 15
who needed distraction and carved angry or wishful words into the bench at the bus shelter. There were no turn-a-blind-eye pubs or clubs for these who were expected to remain unseen. You only hang out at the bus shelter if you like to think of leaving. I'd come from a different bed, didn't have to offer cheap cider to cop a feel. I'd come from the rolling around bed, the one in which is casually given or gotten more head in-between the next drink and another cigarette. L confused all men with cider touting louts, and came to believe her womanliness, her spy's outward construct turned inward like poisoned make-up, was only viewable if she was being banged like prime time TV for those who are enthralled by Plastic Surgery for the Stars. I felt unequal to this his and hers held high, this limitation of what makes for good fucking girls and guys; robbing us of the chance to bed like friends, sniff an armpit and pretend to listen, ear to muff, for the echo of the dirty blues you just sang straight up her cunt. Page | 16
L would not have understood that. But margarineâ€™s welcome when butterâ€™s out of stock. So I did what I could to make her come, expect push her up against the wall and invoke the hard ghost of a formative fist. Martyrs us, we did the missionary in a room with failing light. Not enough for either of us and I sat back and said, "open your legs". She bit her finger and asked what for. "I want to see you as a whole," I said, thinking we needed to catch the bus, cross the bridge at the river of cheap cider. L began to laugh before I realized what I'd said. I had to laugh, too. In that moment, she closed her legs. Except for one artful blowjob and the hours I watched her sleep on the couch, it never got better than that.
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HOMO HOMICIDENSIS By Constantine Mountrakis If anthropology has taught me one thing worth passing on, then know that it is this: We are born to fuck, to murder, and to die. Such is our history, as it is written through the dead. We are a loose confederation Of societies of killers, Murders of parliaments of rooks Each in a different state of dissolution; The failed, The latent, The soon-to-be, The lazy, The cold-blooded. The asphalt throws the sun back at me For a moment at a stoplight. I am uncomfortable just then, But it passes. A Central Asian man whose dignity Is picked off, meat from a carcass, on the street corner Passes as well. I leave him to the asphalt, The latent The lazy And the cold-blooded. Page | 18
ROAMER, WANDERER By Ryan Swofford Past streetcars parked in sun-lit alleyways, through China Town restaurants, digging with joint-lit mouth beneath terrace-freckled cities filled with filing cabinets falling from the sky of office buildings denying manuscripts on charges of obscenity, words too violent for the masses who also would like tea weed chronic Buddha tree grass to be available to men who can handle smoke in their lungs, laughs on their lips, decisions impaired (supposedly) but not a simple word concerning fornication laughter hysteria Sex in socks, naked except socks, behind angel-lit bars in the town and what have we become except sleaze and trash with written-on napkins and torn up hearts? Roaming through rich neighborhoods filled with girls in silk scarves, French-made, hand-made with rolled-up cigarettes of weed, but not trashy weed, the classy kind for girls in rich neighborhoods with rich parents with education at their doorstep with full potential plopped down on their pretty skin-clad laps of money and cell-phones and pop music Roaming through the slums with women on the front porch with angry men in the house in their socks, naked except their socks screaming at the woman on the porch, smoking a cigarette looking for a few moments of peace and quiet and leave me alone to come inside and fix him something to eat and her name is Vanessa and sheâ€™s a pretty girl tonight
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AN EVENING RIDE AT RITCHIE’S By Jake Russell An Evening Ride at Ritchie’s The regulars arrive to Ritchie’s at 9:15 to nurse beers or doctor sodas sipped through straws like hospital patients connected to intravenous lines. One of the men — Tucker or Vince, I’m not sure which — takes a dollar bill as though in the aftermath of covered insurance premiums and puts it in the jukebox the way a burned-out Chevrolet sits in a Cadillac ranch. The Boss has the jukebox and the bar dissolves into an evening ride. Vince is a vintage 1923 Ford T Bucket talking to James — a ’98 Wrangler, Sarah edition — about the ’79 football state championship. “They used to call me Flyin’ V,” he says and sips his Crown and Coke like an I.V. He’s lived here his whole life, but spends most his time reminiscing about high school and how he almost had Christina, but she married her sweetheart. The “almost” gets a little closer each ensuing year the way markers indicating 40 remaining miles on a 430-mile journey Page | 20
are reassuring. But his destination has no stopping point. I sit closest to Tucker — a ’98 Harley Davidson Sportster Hugger — and we swap stories of our most recent travels. Tucker spent some days at a job downstate, driving back and forth throughout the week. “Deer country,” I say, bringing up how James gave me whistles for this very reason. “They’re inaudible to human ears.” “Sounds like a scam,” Tucker says. “I haven’t hit a deer.” “Maybe you have deer telepathy.” Meanwhile, “I live comfortably,” James tells Vince. “Modestly, sure. But it’s also paycheck by paycheck.” If it were his decision, he’d be an American Expedition with a Hemi v8 and one-ton axle. He’d have the assurance of handling off-road boulders under a full moon with no anxiety of unforeseen payments. But getting stuck in the mud is a task ill-suited for a man with no passengers. My last lengthy time in the car, I thought about how these trips Page | 21
waned in frequency like a slowing metabolism, the way each year finishes a little faster than the one before. “Seven-hour drive — a pack of smokes and new music; that’s how I do it,” I tell Tucker, though I’d listened to portions of the Bible for guidance intermittently from a cell phone app. “Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called” — an unsettling exhortation. When Tucker first took his job five years ago, he thought he’d make more of a name for himself than he has so far. “It’s funny how 50 doesn’t pan out the way you envision it when you’re younger,” Vince says. “I’d do it differently if I had the chance to do it again.” The meaning of the ride for James lies in landmarks of “when.” “…when I start my own business” “…when I ease all my debts” “…when I sell my Jeep for the Expedition” And she, she is the deer that will keep me stationary in the midst of late-night tired drive when lines blur on the road and vision is already compromised. She could be the cardiac nurse to identify symptoms and diagnose my heart defect — Page | 22
coronary, rheumatic, cerebrovascular. “Cars are like people,” said the mechanic during my last stop at his shop because of a failed water pump. “If they don’t eat healthy, they get sick.” He recommended a weekly checklist — tire pressure, brake fluid, coolant levels — lest I need an engine revamp or transmission overhaul. It is tonight’s company — the empathy between Vince, James, Tucker and myself — that breathes life to broken spirits and keeps meager lives functional. All the while, the bartender listens, a police officer in Impala resting with lights off along silent interstate, an authority not to be reckoned. In this moment, our journey has no end — only pit stops we find suitable — but then it’s the final five-one cadence and the time is 9:19 at Ritchie’s.
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MUTED DADDY By Molly Bond Some nights the city is clear twisted metal fences glint in headlights the fog thick and rainbow in the lights of the Castro cars seem more like animals than machines taillights pressed to the ground quivering when the wind rushes It’s nights like these, sitting in the car I’ll look next to me and see Dad, one hand on the wheel bald head gleaming like a street-light “Nice pooch!” he’ll say while pointing at a fat mastiff or shaggy Irish setter He’ll play classical music on the radio “Do you know what composer this is?” He’ll ask excitedly eager to correct me when I guess Beethoven and the answer is Bach I will look out the window when he rambles about his music watch the neighborhoods blend into each other tiny barred apartments bordering green mansions until finally we arrive back at the house And Dad will listen to the music Page | 24
until the symphony ends the cymbals tinny in our speakers the violins whining and the flutes yawning He’ll open the door slowly making sure to greet the dog who will lick his shoes wag his tail the only one who still sees him as an alpha “I’m the man, and you’re the dog!” Dad will say and he will nod Dad will walk down the hallway into his bedroom where Mom will peck him with accusations crack him open with her beak and Dad, so small by now will just smile and fall, exhausted, to sleep while his house lies leaking around him and his family lies awake in their beds.
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MISTRESS By Chuck Howe The eyes of his new mistress burned into him. He almost couldn't stand it. He could not wait for his mother to leave the room so he could go over and stroke her lovely porcelain face. His Mistress was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. His hard on was so big that he was afraid it would break free of his skin. He shifted it around to try to hide it, but his mother wouldn't have noticed. Mother started to slowly spin around with a high whine of the electric motor in her wheel chair. “Now don't forget Rafael, you have an appointment with the dermatologist tomorrow, so come right home after school.” His acne had gotten really bad, even for a thirteen year-old. At least that's what his mother told him over and over. Sure he might get a monster zit every now and then, but there were kids with much worse acne at school. “We will get you nice and handsome. The girls will be lined up around the ...” Her words trailed of with the wheeze of her wheelchair as she made her way to the kitchen. The TV turned on. It was the CBS evening news. He knew that mother never left the TV until after Edward J. Murrow gave his final word. Even if his mother did come back for something, she would have to make it through the narrow kitchen door, and then come back down the long narrow hallway. He would hear the wheelchair long before she actually made it into the living room. But the girl was still staring at him, seducing him. He turned the picture of Jesus that sat on the coffee table so that it was looking at the window and not at the couch. He got up and ran to the mantel. Took her down and brought her back to the couch with him. His oily finger rubbed across her pale face with it painted rose cheeks, and down the rigged curves of her long, white porcelain robes. He touched her tiny out stretched hand while he rubbed her tiny toes peeking out from under her robe
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with his thumb. He pretended to brush her curly brown painted on hair out of her face, as if a strand had fallen free. Most kids his age were just starting to jerk off to pictures of Jayne Mansfield and Brigitte Bardot, but they missed out on the full 3 dimensional experience. Rafael held the beautiful and enchanting statue of the the Madonna in his left hand and started to touch himself with his right.
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DYSFUNCTIONAL BEAT By Kent L Johnson Smoke swirls upward from the tip of Julio's cigarette that rests between his lips as he smoothly moves his pool cue forward and hits the white ball. The cue ball hits the table cushion at the right angle and with the right spin to bounce around my three ball and knock the eight ball into the corner pocket. “Good game,” Julio says. “Another?” “Sure,” I say. It's Tuesday night. Playin' pool on Tuesday night has been part of my routine for about six months now. Something to do, something to stay in touch with the neighborhood. I'm lookin' for someone more my skill level to play with, but it's slow tonight, so I play a game or two with Back English Julio. Julio's a hustler, a shark. One time I watched him sink nine consecutive racks in a row, in order, without ever missin' a shot. He plays me tonight for two reasons: just to stay in practice, and to let me win if he sees a mark, someone to hustle, someone to make a dime from. I finish the rack and pull the triangle off, hang it on a wooden peg stickin' out of the wall. I sip a beer as Back English Julio lights another cigarette. The cigarette hangs from the corner of his mouth as he breaks the rack, smoke hittin' his right eye, makin' him squint. The thirteen ball falls into the corner pocket. Julio's lookin' at a kid shootin' pool with a friend two tables down. Kid's good and Julio wants a shot at him. He purposely misses a shot, then walks to the Kid's table while I take my turn. I sink two balls, then miss. I lean on a stool and wait for Julio to return. I look up and see Crackerhead Chuck walk into the pool hall. His name used to be just Chuck when I was a kid, but he turned into a real Crackerhead. I knew his little sister, Gracie; she was my first crush in middle school. Puppy love so bad, I needed to be house broke all over again. I think back to the flat-chested girl with braces and pig tails and a smile full of metal. It didn't dawn on me then, but Chuck was destined to be a Crackerhead. Page | 29
Julio returns to the table, makes two shots, then misses again. He steps back and looks at the table. I see he's watchin' the Kid out of the corner of his eye. I'm thinkin' about Gracie as I take my next shot. We went out lots of times before she moved out of here. It's like every year we would date serious for a month or two before we split. I sink two more then miss again. “Hey, what's up,” Crackerhead Chuck says to us as he approaches the pool table. “Chuck,” I say. Julio nods in Chuck's direction, as he crushes his cigarette out in an ash tray. “Can anyone spare some?”Crackerhead Chuck asks. “I need to eat.” Everyone who runs the neighborhood knows Crackerhead Chuck lives at home. He's Mama's boy, and Mama would never let him go hungry. He's hungry for that fix. That fix that take him away from being right and perfect all the time to just bein' normal. “Maybe you can play me next game Chuck,” Julio says, nodding to the Kid's table. “If you do right, I give you a cut.” Julio and Chuck done this setup before, I can tell. Settin' the Kid up two tables down to cough up some cash on a bet. A bet that Julio knows he's gonna win. “Okay,” Crackerhead says. He sits on a stool by the racks of cue sticks. I can see his hands shake a little. He wants that fix. Julio clears the table but he makes it look hard. The rest of his balls don't go smooth into the pockets, but bounce a bit. He's so good he can make it look hard. The Kid's watchin' too. I see a grin on the Kid's face. He's already been suckered. Kid's followin' the bait, waitin' to take a bite. I sit on a stool and watch Crackerhead Chuck rack the balls. I think of his sister, of her family. She turned into a fine lady, one of the lucky ones that's out of here now. Her Mama was the strong one of the family and her firstborn, Charles, was her whole life. Her Daddy didn't do much 'cept work and watch TV. He lost his will under the constant nagging of the Misses. Page | 30
"I don't know what's wrong with you Gracie," her Mama would yell at her, in front of me as we was 'bout to go on a date. "I told you I didn't want to see you wear those pants out, they're all faded." "But Mom," Gracie says, "that's the style now." "Why can't you be more like your brother. Charles wouldn't do that. Now go put on a respectable pair of slacks or even a nice dress." Gracie got better lookin' every year. Every year I'd go to her house and hear her Momma beratin' her. I ask her once, "Why your Momma on you like that?" "I don't know Gracie says. She always liked Chuck better. I get a job and work hard and Momma just tells me that the job is dead end, I need to find a man, marry and get out of the house. Chuck gets fired from his last job, and Momma says it's the Manager's fault, not Chucks. Manager had it out for him." "That's not right I say." "It's been that way forever. In school Mamma called me dumb, but Chuck wasn't being taught right. The teacher had something against him. Anyway, letâ€™s go see a movie and have a soda," she says. Crackerhead Chuck don't play a bad game of pool. He looks convincing as he beats Julio. I wave off playin' another game with them, Julio and Chuck, they're working. I drain the last of my beer and just wait. I'm not leavin' until the coup de grace. Julio lights another cigarette. He hands an unlit one to Crackerhead. I'm still thinkin' of Gracie. She turns sixteen. She's workin' in a restaurant waitin' tables after school. A local beer distributor sees her and asks if she wants to be one of his calendar girls, no nudes, just costumes. I still got the calendar. Gracie's dressed in short shorts, a tight halter with fringe and cowboy boots. She's ridin' a beer keg, her left hand holding onto a leather strap and her right holding a cowboy hat in the air, like she's on a buckin' bronc. She's sexy and I swear, she's the best looking of all the calendar girls. Real photogenic, like she was born to be in pictures. Page | 31
Julio racks the balls and Chuck breaks. Julio ups his game a little. He's sinkin' more balls this time. He wanders over to the Kid's table and they talk. I see the Kid and Julio shake hands. Julio walks back to the pool table and continues to play with Crackerhead Chuck. A modeling agency sees Gracie's calendar shoot and looks her up. A local department store wants her in their holiday catalog. She told me her father signs a release while her Mamma's out playin' cards with the neighborhood ladies. Her Mamma doesn't find out she's bein' a model until she sees Gracie in the catalog. Her Mamma's hot, maybe jealous. She starts chargin' Gracie rent at seventeen. Crackerhead Chuck's now over twenty-seven and still don't pay rent. Julio beats Chuck in the game of pool and the next game is Julio and the Kid. Julio racks and the Kid breaks. The Kid's good, but I watch and know he's no match for Julio. Julio plays his fake bad game. There's a Grant riding on the match. I loved datin' Gracie back then. First, she's nice, I mean real nice. Number two, she's pretty, and I get this complex about havin' the hottest babe in the city on my arm. She's wearin' the latest fashion, cause they give them to her after a photo shoot. Gracie's paid real good from the pictures, better than waitin' tables. I take her to shows, amusement parks, out for a soda. I take her to those places a respectable lady should be, not the places I normally hang out. Julio loses the game to the Kid and asks for Double or Nothing comeback. He produces another Grant, then racks the balls. The Kid gets to break. It's another game of playing bad for Julio. Julio buys Chuck a beer and I see him do the hand off when he gives the beer to Chuck. He just slipped him money on the sly, the money that the Kid will get suckered in on. Pay Day money. Gracie turns eighteen during one of our off dating periods. She's half seeing someone else, but no one in particular. She gives me a call out of the blue. She wants me to help her find an apartment. I ask her why and she tells me her Momma's kicked her out. Page | 32
I say, "Gracie, you never did nothin' to her. Why she treat you so bad?" "She's placed all her faith in Charles for all these years and he's no closer to becoming the Boy Wonder she hoped than the day they cut his umbilical cord.” "So she's mad at herself? Takin' it out on you?" "That's the only reason I can see,” she says. “What about your old man? Can't he help?” “He's no help. Lately, he comes home and drinks himself to sleep. Doesn't want nothing to do with any of us. He's a beaten man I think. I feel sorry for him. I want to move out anyway. It'll be nice to spend a night someplace without being told how worthless you are.” “Gracie, I'm so sorry,” I say.“I wish...” I stop. I really don't know what I wish. I'm too young. I want to give her a big hug tell her I'm here to help, she'll be okay, I'll protect her or something, but I don't. For a moment I feel scared, butterflies in my stomach. I want to do something. I stay silent for a bit. “Okay, Gracie, I'll help you find a place.” Julio loses the game to the Kid. He looks down. “One more time. All I've got left is this hundred.” Julio holds up a Franklin. “That is unless I can borrow some from a friend.” He looks at the Kid. Julio walks over to me and asks for money. I shake my head. “All I got is a twenty and I still got to pay my bill.” He walks over to Crackerhead Chuck and asks. Crackerhead pulls out three C-notes. “What do you think,” Julio asks the Kid. “I want to win my money back plus be able to say I made a buck tonight. Want to go two hundred or three hundred?” They agree on three hundred. It's time for me to leave. Julio just made his paycheck tonight. The Kid don't stand a chance now. Kid's been hustled. I walk home thinking about Gracie. I saw her picture on a magazine cover a month or so back. She looks good, a little too skinny now, but good. I scan the magazine and find out she's in Page | 33
Milan, Italy. She walks the runway with other super models, gets paid incredible sums of money, 'cause she looks so good. I buy the magazine. I tear the cover off and place Gracie's picture on my refrigerator with little magnets. Gracie radiates from the photo as she peers across the dingy insides of a rundown apartment a world away. I wake the next morning and I can smell cigarette smoke on my clothes from the night before. I take a shower and put on clean duds. I leave for work and walk out onto the sidewalk. It's just dawn, a gray background with silhouettes of dark buildings running down the street and even darker alley's piercing into the core. I walk past the tenements with tall walls and many windows. I walk past the billiard hall and by chance look into the alley next to it. Somethin' in the alley looks out of place but familiar at the same time. I got time before work. I take a walk into the alley and see a person layin' there, their back perched against the wall of the billiard hall. I recognize the clothes before I even see the face: Crackerhead Chuck. Chuck's eyes are wide open and his face is pale. He's got a strap wrapped around his right arm, just below the bicep. A needle still in place in the vein of the inner elbow, coagulated blood around the pierce point. The syringe hangs off his arm, the needle pullin' up on the elasticity of his skin makin' a little point. He's had it. I leave the alley and walk to the corner. A cafe is open. I tell the waitress what 's going on and to let the police know I'll wait for them to arrive. I go back and stand next to the alleyway, lean against the wall and watch for cops. I'm thinkin' about Gracie. If she comes home for her brothers funeral, maybe I can beg her to take me with her to Milan. I'll do anything for her, just get me out of this burgh. Let me see the sights of Italy and let me hold you once again. My chest is tight and I'm anxious for somethin', I just can't say it... I miss Gracie. I see flashing red and blue lights coming up the street. The cops are here and I'll be on my way to work. Chuck will get a ride to the morgue. Page | 34
Why would Gracie come home though? Her Mamma would probably blame her for Crackerhead's death. Chuck's death is probably the only thing he did that was actually another personâ€™s fault: Charles never did learn to be a man, never took responsibility for his actions, 'cause he was never allowed.
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SIGHT By Tracey Lander-Garrett You asked me if I’d rather be blind or deaf. Blind, I said. I’ve been asked before. Blind, I always say. Blindness could teach me things. To listen. To feel, to touch. Blindness would teach me to see with something other than sight. Teach me how not to look at people . . . to see more. To see past appearances. We are all beautiful. But the eyes teach us not to look for beauty that can’t be seen. You couldn’t accept my answer. You told me that you would rather be deaf. That I would miss my sight. Miss sunsets, miss television, miss the expressions on faces. You’ll miss your paintings, you said. I have a vivid imagination, I returned. And I hate television. Expressions are merely that, and we express ourselves in countless ways beyond the face. Tone, volume, breath. Little sounds that mean nothing to those who see. Weight shifts. Feet tap. A sigh. A swallow. My prints of paintings. I gave you that. I would miss Waterhouse, Sargent. But having seen them, I can remember their beauty. A picture is worth a thousand words, you reminded. I became annoyed with you. A thousand words can convey what a picture cannot, I said. If I were deaf, I couldn't hear words. Words and phrases and sentences I'd never hear spoken. Music would never sing me to sleep again. I would miss music. Poetry would be lost to me. I would miss the sound of words blending ideas in my ears. I look at these words as I type to you, wondering what words sound like to the deaf as they read. Do they hear in their minds? Those born deaf? Can they know the tongue curl of the letter D that begins the word that defines their particular challenge? The way the tongue meets the roof of the mouth behind the teeth, before the soft breath presses it outward, sounding the beginnings of delight, daring, disgust?
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How could I hear your sighs to know when you are angry? I asked. You would see my face, you said. I don’t need to see your face, I told you. You seemed hurt. If I were blind, you said, I’d miss seeing your face. I said nothing, watching you. I saw your eyebrows draw together as a frown tugged at the corner of your mouth. I do love watching your face. You pride yourself on your youthful appearance, past thirty, but looking younger than twenty-five. Before going out at night, you shave and arrange every curl with comb and gel, smiling at your achievement. I watch with approval as I dust my eyelids with light blue powder that shimmers silver in the light. I coat my lashes in black, batting them like butterfly wings. When we return, no matter how tired, you go into your routine. Every night before bed you push-up and crunch your torso into shape. I go through my own rituals of washing and moisturizing, using the creams and oils which glitter from their bottles above the bathroom sink. Staring into the mirror, I demand beauty stare back, like a wicked queen. I wouldn’t miss your face, I said. You are beautiful to watch, even angry. You turned away, but not before I caught that flash I love in your eyes. I tried to keep from laughing as you rose to the bait, but failed. In the other room now, I hear you sigh. You hate what you call my arrogance. And so I sit here, typing. I see the words, so clear in black and white, without emotion. Would I have you read them, stale and unmoving beneath your eye? You could ignore the page, put it down. If I were deaf, I could see to read. But I could not hear, and the emotion of every word would lay flat on the page. It is voice that brings words to life. I would have you hear me. I don’t know why I have never told you that you are beautiful. You think that I care about the size of your nose or your biceps or your waistline. I do, of course. I have been conditioned with sight. I am not proud of this. That I see eyes too close together, freckles, an upturned nose, or a weak chin as flaws. I see a receding hairline or love handles as defects. Page | 37
You worry over exercise, eating right. Tonight you will go through your bedtime ritual, then ask me if I will love you when you are old and fat and gray. Another ritual, but I see myself refusing to take part tonight, not telling you, Of course, as I brush my teeth and hit the sheets. Will I? I wonder. Will I love you despite it? We will lie together in the dark, and I will love listening to the sound of your breath rising and falling. I will listen to the sound of your heart beating. The sound of your sighs when we make love. I will love the way your breath climbs mountains, inhaling deeply, the short breaths that come quick and quicker and give way to those electric impulses that transport you from the jagged peaks back into my arms. And I will love you, not for sight or flashing eyes, but the way you love me when you sigh.
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MOTHER’S LOVE By Kenneth Radu A bad habit, viewing so early in the morning. Logging off, forgetting to renew her membership, Daphne quickly gathered her things and left the apartment. Driving over the bridge, she gripped the steering wheel to keep her little energy-saving car from veering into the wrong lane and a head-on collision. Conceivably, a hurricane-force wind could tumble her car over the parapet and into the rocky waters below. In her college office, the window rattled as the wind moaned and whistled. Simmering still after a sudden argument in the corridor, Daphne worked on her charts and diagrams with arrows pointing to indisputable conclusions she wanted her students to reach. Andrew had accused her of relying upon “simplistic categories which only a teacher of literature would make.” Of course he mocked her theories because his own hadn’t evolved since the Jurassic age. He dismissed background as mere sociology, as if the slave trade hadn’t supported Jane Austen and the slaughter of whales hadn’t created Herman Melville! Speedily word-processing on her office computer, Daphne summarized ideas in columns: authors of the forties depicted women this way; that way because they wrote in the sixties. Pictures of her son crowding her thoughts, she reminded herself to pay the fee as soon as possible. Her class enjoyed discussions about sex and portrayals of women by writers unaware of the misogynistic, racist, homophobic or capitalist subtexts implicit in their metaphors. Andrew was a lumbering brontosaurus, clumsily pulling his redundant weight on land, indifferent to winds of change as he munched vegetable matter while archaeopteryx flapped over his tiny head, doomed to extinction. Daphne finished charting the major changes in western culture since the World War II. “Mass media was contemporary history,” she wrote in a side bar. For her students born in the cyber generation, all news and currents events were virtual and Page | 39
not real. If her own generation had been journalistically labelled baby boomers, she defined her students as cyber babies. She disliked the term millennials because it gave young people too much significance and had about it an eschatological whiff like the scent of pig manure from a distant farm carried through an open window by a strong wind. Wind splattered her ill-fitting window with dust and dead leaves. A strong draft blew into the cubicle administration was pleased to call an office. Daphne wondered if unrelenting wind could drive a sane person mad like lovers demented by passion in literature. Her concentration scattered, she typed an entire entry about the 90’s on the wrong row of keys, rendering her message gobbledygook. After printing out forty copies of neatly organized exercises, Daphne stepped out of her office and bumped into one of the new teachers, a young man who wore black T-shirts to display his biceps. Much closer in age to her cyber babies than she, no more than a few years younger than her own son Noah, his face as smooth as an avatar, Emile had incorporated blogging and You Tube in his introductory literature course. “Hey, good morning, Daphne. Strong wind today. A hurricane off the eastern sea coast hammering Myrtle Beach this very minute.” “Perhaps it will die down by the afternoon. I have to rush to class, I’m late.” She always found an excuse not to talk long with Emile because his youth reminded her too much of her own aging and her son whom she hadn’t seen off a computer screen in five years. She had tried to steer Noah in the right direction: all those extracurricular classes in music and art, the sports, the discussions over supper about law or medicine, the extra French lessons. Every day she had hugged him at the door before he left the house, pressing him close as if not to let go, but when he entered high school, Noah resisted her affection. He exploited his muscular body for quick and easy profit. Telling her colleagues and friends that her son worked in the technical end of the Quebec movie industry, Daphne failed to Page | 40
divulge that he produced and participated in a pornographic website. The first shock of watching her son have sex on the world wide web pierced like a nail hammered right through the brain. She had remained fixated in front of the monitor and couldn’t press the exit key until the streaming video stopped. Whether any of her colleagues and friends or students ever saw randy Noah in the buff, she didn’t care to know. Some among them must have. Perhaps Emile himself was a secret aficionado of porn streaming on his computer. Perhaps he performed or posed for profit as well. Ah, the seductions of filthy lucre. Being a teacher guaranteed neither unsullied morality nor exemption from hypocrisy. Although pornography didn’t feature in her columns of culture, smut and repressed desires surely had influenced how her students saw the world and infiltrated their psychology. Didn’t they spend countless hours surfing the Net? She had even come across students performing oral sex in the library study carrels and, after watching unobserved for a few seconds, preferred to leave them to their sucking pleasures rather than object to inappropriate conduct. Daphne scrawled a few key words on the white board. She promised herself to avoid Emile as much as possible, just as Noah had succeeded in avoiding his own mother. At least his father wasn’t alive to see what had become of his only child. The class went well, the students attentive. She ignored several yawns and two or three sleeping heads in the back row. Unable to suppress unsavoury thoughts, she dismissed the class early. Once inside her office again, she retrieved her personal lap top from her satchel after locking the door, and logged on to the website which featured her son in several videos. She had fallen into the habit of holding her breath before his first appearance. Ah, there he was in vivid motion: her darling, beautiful Noah with a splendidly developed body, naked as the day he had told her not to bathe him anymore. He was old enough to do it himself, and demanded that she leave the washroom. She had waited outside the door, digging the finger nails of one hand so hard into an upper arm that they split the skin. Noah talked to himself and Page | 41
splashed in the tub, the thrill of soaping his perfect arms and legs, his smooth back no longer hers. No, his body was equal to Emile’s, perhaps more muscular: oh, she had always adored his black curly hair, admired the glistening hard lines of his arms, legs and torso, and glowed with pride as she watched him eat dinner, raise a fork to his fine and lovely lips, or lift weights in the basement. “Leave me alone,” he had shouted the day he moved out, as if expressing her love and protesting against his bad choices had somehow put her in the wrong. When she tried to embrace him, hoping he’d see reason, Noah had shaken her off, a frightening glare in his eyes. Watching him get into his car, she had stood in the doorway, unable to scream out her despair, shivering in the chilly breeze long after her son disappeared. Perhaps this was the pornographic decade, except every decade had been since the beginning of time; her son could well have been depicted on a classical Greek urn. She could look at nymphs and satyrs disporting themselves in the static beauty of a vase without so much as flinching, not even a slight coloring of her cheeks. There was nothing static about Noah and his buxomly nymph grunting on the screen, although she had been careful to turn down the volume. The nymph climbed on top of her son whose cock, achingly prominent, demanding and fierce, disappeared in her body. Noah redoubled his efforts with an unsmiling, sweaty, stunning face. She had given birth to beauty. Touching her cheeks, Daphne felt burning on her finger tips, her heart picking up speed as Noah’s electronic body bucked vigorously for several minutes. When the camera zoomed in on the demigoddess shaking her head like a pony, keeping rhythm with Noah’s near-frantic heaving, Daphne looked up. She heard the wind which had not died down. A calendar depicting the ruins of Athens caught her attention and she reminded herself to renew her $29.95 monthly subscription fee to the website. Usually she viewed the website at night in the privacy of her own home, but lately the desire for her son’s company had intensified. Every day Daphne wanted to spend more and more time with Noah because she didn’t know when she would ever see Page | 42
him again in the flesh. “Noah, Noah, my beloved son,” she whispered. The burning increased. Just as she reached out to caress her son’s body, the camera jumped to focus on Noah’s contorted face as both he and his mother cried out together.
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BLACK ON WHITE By Neila Mezynski In a corner against chairs in center. Watch out that leg donâ€™t stick into, careful it donâ€™t turn gray, that black. White. Confusion reign if there is blur. Maybe thing or chair become one that white on black. Think. Loud quiet.
HEAPING By Neila Mezynski Pink blue green, soft. Plenty of that. To the ceiling with billow no brillo. Arms legs come later for hard. Grimace too. A ladder with cake on top might work. Tall. Enough.
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GROWING UP By Wayne Scheer Two years ago, when I was thirteen, I got myself into some serious trouble. It started when my mom and dad were fighting all the time. Or maybe it started before that, I really don't know. Mr. Shankowski says I shouldn't blame Mom and Dad for everything, but I don't think he understands what it's like to be a kid. I guess my trouble began with the stories I made up. Sometimes they were just for fun. Like telling my friend, Joey, that Kathryn Neeson liked him and then telling Kathryn that Joey liked her. Then I'd watch show they'd act funny whenever they were around each other. It was really cool. And then there was the time I made up this story about how I was riding my bike and I saw this little kid playing behind a car and I saw the car rolling back. I told how I jumped off my bike and opened the car door and pulled the emergency brake just before the car hit the kid. I repeated that story all around school and Theresa Hutchins thought I was awesome and she kissed me and called me a hero. So I didn't really see anything so wrong. But then the adults got into it. Somehow, my mom found out about the story and she made me look into her eyes and tell her if all that stuff really happened. I tried to lie, but she told me my upper lip curled when I lied and I finally had to admit that I made it up. Then she told my dad and we had all these long talks and they made me stand up in front of my homeroom class, the one with Theresa in it, and tell my friends that I made up the story. That's when I knew I could never tell my parents the truth again. So from then on, I only told them things that made them happy, like about me joining the science club. I figured they didn't need to know about my music or about how me and my friends started smoking the pot Paulie's sister hid in her underwear drawer. Or about the money that the older kids gave Page | 45
me to watch for cops when they went into that abandoned house on Manton Avenue to make out and smoke dope and stuff. Then the adults messed things up again. Paulie's mother caught us sneaking into his sister's underwear drawer and she told my mother. That was really embarrassing. I mean, I couldn't tell her the truth about the pot so I had to tell her I just wanted to touch girl's underwear. That's when my parents decided to send me to this shrink. Actually, they couldn't afford a real one so they had me talk to this old guy, Mr. Shankowski. I think he used to be a high school guidance counselor or school psychologist or something. And I had to lie to him and tell him all kinds of crazy sex stuff because I sure wasn't going to tell him the truth and get Paulie and me in trouble and get the older kids after me. So for more than a year I kept telling lies to keep Mr. S. happy and then I'd tell other stories to my mom and dad to keep them happy. And last week Mr. S. asked me what I learned from all this. I was able to look him in the eye and tell him I learned that I shouldn't keep things to myself and that I should trust adults who care about me. And my top lip didn't curl up the way it used to. Now I don't have to see him anymore. He says I've learned what it means to be an adult.
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ARCATA, CALIFORNIA Philip Simondet Jerry settled in and watched TV in the motel to wait, but I wanted to see the town, so I took Abe for a walk. It was only starting to get dark and parents were walking their kids along businesses on main street, trick-or-treating. All the activity put Abe on edge, and he jerked on his leash, but I was in high spirits. I was having exactly the type of adventure I'd hoped I would have. I'd hit the road without a plan so that I could go wherever there was excitement, but I'd hustled to the coast so I could head south before winter came. I'd met almost no one along the way, and had found little reason to stray from the interstate. But this morning I'd picked up a hitchhiker first thing, and he led me to adventure. I was Jack Kerouac and had just arrived after crossing America to meet up with Neal Cassidy and party with his Denver Gang. My dream was coming true. Little Spidermen and princesses and even a tiny OompaLoompa ran up the storefront's open doorways and hopped alongside their parents, who were also costumed, witches and Shakespearean bards. There was a young purple dinosaur in a wheelchair who had a grin to rival mine. There were a lot of bums in town, and most of them had face paint on as well. I walked among them, loving everything. I sat on the edge of a park, right in the center of town, which was swarming with teenage potheads in gothy wizard costumes. They clustered in the gazebo like it was a beehive. One or two would stray from the group, but never make it past the edge of the park before darting back to safety. I wondered who the queen was. A guy with both arms covered in tattoos, and an awardwinning smoker's rasp came over to rub Abe's ears. In between complimenting Abe, he told me his story. He was from New Orleans and lost just about everything in Katrina. He gathered up everything that was left and got a ride west from a woman he knew, and her twins. They went north first, to avoid Texas, and Page | 48
ended up in Wyoming where they had a tire blow out in the middle of nowhere. I had driven through that same stretch of nowhere a week earlier. I tried to tell him so, but he went on with his story. She dropped him off at a friend's house in California, but drove away with all his stuff in the trunk. “Luckily I grabbed my backpack. I mean, I got my weed in here. I also got my ID in here ... my social security card... high school diploma... a few shirts. Oh, do you want to buy any weed, man? I need some cash.” I told him no. “Well, do you have any booze on you?” I didn't. “How about you, Abe? You have any booze hidden in your fur?” A cop walked over to tell me dogs weren't allowed in the park, so I walked back to the motel. Jerry was still watching TV. He'd called his fire buddies, but they'd been celebrating the end of fire season the whole five days he'd been in jail and were too exhausted for another night. We watched History Channel specials about Halloween and exorcism for a couple of hours and started drinking. I had a pair of blue coveralls in the van, and was going out as a mechanic. Jerry was unprepared and was just going to tell everyone he was a serial killer, because they look like regular people. We started with beer, then tequila and Jag. Before heading out, we went next door and bought a couple of burritos for later. The bar was a mad scene. Everyone was in costume. There was a Cat Woman, Laura Croft the tomb raider, giant beer cans, Aunt Jemima and a stack of pancakes. The bartenders were a Megadeth metal-head and a Saint Pauli Girl. I was drunk and yelled my praises to all of the costumes I adored. There was a guy at the bar wearing a pair of blue coveralls just like me. I tapped him on the shoulder and when he turned around and saw me, it was all high-fives and yelling. Jerry and I got beers and watched the pool tables. A short Mexican greaser was hitting on Pippy Longstockings while she tried to play. She made eye contact with me while she bent over to line up a shot. The greaser was standing inappropriately close Page | 49
behind her. She mouthed, “help me, please.” I couldn't help but intervene. I walked right between the pair and said, what's going on? Pippy wrapped her arms around me like I was her boyfriend. The greaser looked us up and down and just walked away, swearing under his breath. Pippy thanked me, and I told her it was nothing. I went back to Jerry. “She was pretty good looking. And she looked really into you. Why are you talking to me?” We got Captain and Cokes. I watched Megadeth make them. It was a glass full of Captain Morgan and a splash of Coke. Jerry said the bar was known for making them strong. We stood at a table near the door to watch for Mad Mike, who was supposedly smashed drunk, flying down the mountains on his motorcycle to meet us anyway. It was a great spot to watch all the new freaks come in. I watched the bouncer checking IDs. He had to match the old photo to the face in front of him, covered with makeup and paint and wigs and God knows what else. What a ridiculous holiday. If you showed up in a mask any other night he'd just toss you out on your ass, but tonight he had to shine his flashlight from ID to monster back to ID and make his best guess. I felt truly sorry for him and wanted to tell him so, but I got lost in all the new costumes coming in and shouting my approval. Our table had a rail across the bottom to rest your feet on. We stood on this and raised ourselves a full foot over the crowd, a perfect vantage point for watching the freaks. We rose above the masses like gods. We stood above our minions and shouted our judgments. Our judgments were all praise, so no one questioned our rule, and there was no mutiny. A girl with horns coming out of her forehead joined us as a goddess. Her name was Rose. I asked her what she was dressed as. “Myself. For one night a year I get to dress as myself.” Right on. Perfect. I introduced her to Jerry, my Sherpa who had guided me down through the danger of the wild mountains to this haunted Mecca. Jerry told her about me, the mysterious rider Page | 50
who had emerged from the morning fog in a golden chariot to deliver him from bondage. She followed us for the rest of the night. Sometime later I was talking to Cinderella about her boyfriend who had just cheated on her. I was all sympathy, shouting, fuck guys, that guy's an asshole, I hate guys, and meaning every word of it, when a guy with a football for a head starting pushing me. I was so drunk it took me five pushes to realize he was doing it on purpose. Even then I just stood there confused as he continued doing it. I asked Cinderella why a football was mad at me. She told me he was a bouncer at this bar, but tonight he was too drunk. She pulled him aside and they got into a heated argument. I wondered if football head was pals with her boyfriend. I couldn't find Jerry or Rose. I hoped he'd taken her back to the motel, seeing as how he'd been trapped up in the mountains for six months. Pippy Longstockings found me on her way out to thank me again. Jerry may have been right about her, but I was too far gone to know what was happening, and she left. Mad Mike never showed. I made a round through the bar and had already seen all the costumes. I stumbled back to the van. I'd never been so happy to eat a cold burrito. I finished a quarter of it before realizing it was still wrapped in paper. I threw up leaning out the van's side door, a thick orange Halloween puke, like pumpkin guts, and fell asleep. I woke up with a terrible headache and drove off without saying goodbye. I hoped Jerry and Rose were inside, and I didn't want to bother them. I also had the feeling that the day before was perfect, and all I could do now was ruin it, so it was best left alone.
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JOHN By Mr. E John is a simple average man. He went to a simple average school for a simple average amount of time. He looks average and he acts simple and he has a rather modest tone of emotions which one might call simple or even perhaps average. John’s favorite color is clear, which some people might claim is a unique choice but to John seems the only rational one. John has lived a simple life and has a rather average job. He works in an average office building where he sits in front of a simple computer and he presses buttons according to what the computer screen tells him to press. John is for all intent and purposes a perfectly average and simple human being. There is very little change in his day to day life. He would wake up, go to work, and go back home and sleep, with very little variation. John’s life continued this way for much of his adult life with almost no difference from day to day. That is, until a very odd thing happened to John. The day started off as any other in John’s adult life. He woke up, got dressed and went to work. He took the elevator to his floor and moved over toward his cubicle. He sat down at his computer and started it up. All up until this point everything seemed perfectly normal, until the computer actually started up. Normally when John starts up his computer he is greeted with his desktop of a young kitten holding on to a branch with the caption, “Hang in there” with three icons, one for the internet, a trash can symbol, and a folder for his work files. But today there was another icon. An icon that appeared to be some sort of word processor but it was called “John.” John looked at the icon for a few moments before his curiosity got the better of him and he clicked on the unknown icon. Upon clicking the document a story appeared before John on his computer screen. The story was called “John”, and the author Mr. E. The story was about a man named John, who lived a boring life who one day clicked on an unknown word document on his work computer. For you see, John, it would appear that you have stumbled upon your very own story. Page | 53
Well needless to say John was extremely surprised, as anybody would be. He continued to read the story all the way up to this point. And then he stopped… …Just for a little bit anyway. John continued to sit at his desk and stare into his computer screen reading every single word of this story, curious about what it all means. At first he thought that perhaps this was an extremely elaborate prank put on by one of his colleagues. But after some thought he realized that he wasn’t close enough to anybody to be pranked. And then he thought, “Perhaps a relative of some kind has sent this to my computer as some form of joke.” Then a cold chill crawled down John’s spine. As he realized that those were the exact words that he thought while reading this story. John’s shaking lips tried to verbalize a response out loud, “m…maybe…” He stopped as he heard his shaking voice just as he read that last sentence. With all other possibilities gone John thought of the only way this could be possible, he’s a character in a story. This last thought of his is actually true. John is just a character, in a strange story. John wanted to close the document but couldn’t, instead he continued to read word after word all while struggling in vain to close the document. John slowly realized that he wasn’t in control of the story, the story was controlling him. If the story told John to jump, John would be forced to jump, if the story told John to read, John would be forced to read. John tried to break this power that this strange story held over him, he reached out toward his mouse to close the document and pray that the story allowed him to live, but he couldn’t close it. Forced to read, John sat in his chair and squirmed around reading his fate as it slowly passes over him. Then John noticed something. John noticed that the blinking vertical line was in the middle of the page that he was reading. Perhaps, John thought, if I could just reach the keyboard I could disrupt the story and create my own fate. Page | 54
This is a good thought for John, but one that will ultimately be futile. For you see John, you are a character in my story. And I don’t intend for you to just walk away so easily. You are a very good character in my own opinion. I just wanted to let you know what’s in store for you. You see, I find it rather rude when a character is forced to do things that he or she doesn’t want to go through. I mean, look at poor Hamlet. Do you think that Shakespeare once told that poor soul what was going to happen to him? I don’t think so. Or what about Oedipus? But don’t worry John, your story isn’t going to be nearly as awful as theirs. What I have in planned for you is much more simple, something more of an existentialistic crisis. You see I just read some of Hemingway’s short stories and I feel like I could make something even better than that overrated hack. I think I’m going to have you fall in love with a noisy woman who throws you out of your normal routine. Then, she’s going to get hit by a garbage truck (I think that’s some sort of symbolism) which means that then you have to revert back to your normal life. And then, because these stories can’t have happy endings, you’re going to kill yourself…or something like that. And there you have it, a Nobel Prize worthy novel all about you John. I just thought it would be a nice gesture of me to at least give you a heads up on what’s about to happen to you. Oh, and before I forget I’m going to apologize about the food poisoning in chapter 23, it’s my critique on American fast food consumerism…I think. John what are you doing? Stop trying to touch your keyboard. Are you not happy with what your destiny is? At least I told you about yours. Do you know how rarely a writer actually tells his character what’s going on? I already explained poor Hamlet to you didn’t I? John stopped reaching for the keyboard because he realized it was an extremely stupid and rude thing to do. He then sat in his desk quietly and crossed his arms. See, isn’t that nice? You are going to be famous I hope you know, your tragic love story will be very popular. They’ll make a movie out of it, because who reads now days, and then they’ll Page | 55
make a video game out of it and you’ll be the hero of all of them, isn’t that going to be nice? John…John I said stop it. And John again stopped reaching for the keyboard. In fact he pulled the plug from the keyboard out of the computer so the keyboard isn’t even hooked up anymore. I said he pulled the plug from the keyboard…John…John! Pull the plug John. You know John, I could just make you die. It would be really simple. All I would have to do is write a few simple words. (and then John died) see not that tough at all for me. Next time I won’t have those parentheses around it so you will really die. I don’t want to kill you, you are such a nice guy, that’s why I choose you as my hero. Now just stop trying to type on the keyboard and pull the plug. John. John stop it. I SAID STOP IA;LKDJF N;JAD. A;ldkjf aoisu faknbfd ;lajlf. ;alieru ;nbvkjha fja ;ljaf oiaehf;nvja U53i6sdy7utfyguiohipjkglhdnb [alsudkjhgvbjaergsdfiv7ucx trfyjdgcwvs986745986ea sdfoukhaw4er73ituGAWEHF. And after the valiant struggle John regained control of the keyboard and began to take control of his life. Just then a troupe of super models came in through the door and gave John five billion dollars. John gladly accepted but only on the condition that I, or he, date every single one of them. They agreed to that. Oh and also, John is an astronaut and is going to the moon tomorrow, but only after he pitches a perfect game in game seven of the World Series. And John lived very happily for the rest of eternity, because he then found the fountain of youth and became immortal. The end.
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5 WRITING TIPS By Ryan Swofford Some things would be easier if they were put into plain easy-to-break-down steps. For example, if you were to ask a girl out on a date, you might not want to have a bunch of things running through your mind at once. Instead of worrying about what to do first, wouldn’t it be easier to just have a step-by-step list to go off of? Or better yet—a list without steps, so you can just pick whichever tip is most appealing? (As in, what if she’s a flower-lover? You should probably stick with the tip that has something to do with which flowers girls like…or something like that. You get the point, I hope). Here are 5 easy, no-brainer writing tips that I cooked up all by myself (well—and with the help of my good friend Jack Kerouac). I hope you enjoy and implement these steps in your writing, whether your write poetry, prose, or something incredible like prose-poetry or jazz sheet music. Whatever you write, these tips have helped me a ton during my short-lived writing life, and I hope they’re of merit. 1. Blow as deep as you want. 2. Pause after description. 3. Recite your dialogue aloud. 4. Don’t ever write tired. 5. Be a gracious writer. So, let’s examine some of these tips. The first tip, “blow as deep as you want” is the one I stole from our good friend Jack Kerouac. By “blow,” I mean ramble on and on about the beautify of life and any salient Page | 57
thoughts that might occur to you at any given time. As a big believer in Beat writing, I think that writers shouldn’t be concerned with making something sound good; if your mind wills something to sound “good,” then it will do so. Otherwise, you just have to stay open to any writing noises your mind makes. Write down what your brain says. Do not write down what you think it says. The next tip—and sorry I’m going through these tips so quickly, I’m just really tired and have to wake up in the morning but I want to finish this thing—“pause after description” basically means don’t “blow” and then forget to use punctuation. If your writing doesn’t sound natural, then it will throw the reader off and he or she will burn your book at the annual Book Burning Party. For example: let’s say you just finished blowing about the Golden Gate Bridge. Great. Now, you need to get back on track and remember to use commas, hard dashes, and periods. Please: there was, is, and always will be one Joyce. Don’t try to be unique, because it’s already been done before. I promise. Tip number 3: “recite your dialogue aloud.” Dialogue sounds most natural when you can see yourself saying what you’ve written in everyday conversation (unless, of course, your character is nothing like you). I recommend only doing this during your revision process, because oftentimes when we’re writing, we’re captured by our own voices and it’s hard for us to think straight about what’s being said by a character, let alone the context it’s in. Let your writing cool before doing this; it’ll save you from confusion and frustration. Number 4: “don’t ever write tired.” I should probably take my own advice. Enough said. Just read this article and tell me the quality. Crap. The last tip—tip number 5: “be a gracious writer.” This one is specifically for those in the publishing world. Just remember: you are not the king of the world. It’ll get you far in life, people will like you more, and you might even get something published by The Weekenders. You dig? Page | 58
INTRODUCING: BUD SMITH By Ryan Swofford Bud Smith. If you haven’t heard his name before, then shame on you—but don’t feel too bad, because I’ve got tons of good writing by him after this little piece. But don’t skip ahead. Or, if you do skip ahead, come back and read this, because he’s an author that deserves to be praised. And he deserves to have his books bought (I’ll get to that in a second). I met Bud awhile ago, online. We started talking. He gave me some great advice; I told him that I was writing a novel and, like it was an instinct, he gave me some great advice. I learned not to beat myself up as a writer—and it’s been an extremely valuable tool for me to have. Otherwise, I would have a lot more bruises than I already do (not just ego-wise, either). Bud and I work on a very personal level together; in that, I do not mean that we sit around eating French fries, French kissing, wearing French silk. No. Rather, we are close in the sense that we genuinely care about each other’s writing. We farm each other’s abilities, making sure only the crème of the crop rises to the top. Bud Smith is a pro at doing this—at picking out the best parts of a story (parts that deserve attention) and making them better than we could have possibly imagined. What we desire in the depths of our minds, Bud brings to the forefront of his work. He does not hide anything. He does not sugarcoat anything. Bud’s work is bold, brave, and beautiful. I never told Bud this, but I feel like he writes “men’s” fiction. By this, I mean many of his subjects and themes seem to have a foreground that men find appealing—whether it’s sex, drinking, or desperately searching for masculinity in one’s psyche. Now, this is certainly not a bad thing—in fact, he’s one of the best at this technique, aside from a few others (dare I say Ernest Hemingway?) I dare. I’m honored to feature Bud in this issue, and hope you like what you read, too. Page | 59
WATCHING ALLISON LEWIS PLAY BASKETBALL By Bud Smith Seventh Period. Gym Class. I‘m on the top row of the bleachers, leaning back, looking out across the gym. I watch Allison Lewis run up and down the basketball court for most of class. She is working up a sweat, you can see it on the small of her back where her blue shirt has become darkened. I watch her perfect breasts. Her perfect legs. Her blonde ponytail, swinging and swaying. Bobbing and bouncing. I watch her cut. I watch her move so easily and perfectly. My electric wheel chair can’t move like that, boy. Allison Lewis. Allison Lewis. I can’t help but think that she is too beautiful to be a real girl. Maybe Allison Lewis is as beautiful as the ocean stretching out far past the cliffs of everyone’s blown out of proportion what life could be. Maybe as beautiful as the sunset in one of those sunset paintings those painters over-exaggerate. It’s hard to say. Wait, look at this, Tom Frick is trying to steal the ball from her, but she dribbles it between her legs, pivots and passes it to Mary. That is how beautiful Alison Lewis can be, she is a heartbreaking sunset without even being a ball hog. Mary tries to shoot but the ball gets swatted down, mid-air. Bouncing and bouncing. The ball smacks into the base of the bleachers below me and momentarily, everyone is looking up at me. "Rejected!" Tom Frick yells. That was uncalled for. Alison thinks so too, she flips Tom the bird, and then he chases after her, tackles her to the ground and commits what looks like a series of welcome fouls while she laughs about it, them rolling around while we all watch. They are going to be prom King and Queen; it’s three years away but even as freshmen we all can see it coming. Mr. Keiser isn’t even out in the gym to blow his whistle. He’s down on the track with some kids who need to make up time trials in the mile Page | 60
run. We are lawless. Just like in real life we watch the two of them roll around on the hardwood floor. We can’t do anything to stop them. Those of us on the bleachers, those of us on the courts. They’ll do whatever they want, whenever they want. We are being trusted not to fight or fuck, or in my case just get stoned on the top of the bleachers. As I haven’t ever had the opportunity to fight or fuck. I bide my time between sunup and sunset with Led Zeppelin, with weed, with X-Men comics. You can guess why the boy without working legs can relate to Professor Xavier. Tom and Alison eventually get off of the ground, and it’s clear to everybody why they are class couple. The rest of us are devastating losers in living in their mighty shadows, and we will be the rest of our lives. Populating the gym class with our envy, our jealousy and in my case a hard on. They start shooting hoops again. Still boys verses girls, which is the stupidest idea anybody ever thought of. Boys verses girls? Why not get me down on the court, and have it be crippled kid verses everyone. I’ll even give them a ten point lead. I don’t have to come to the gym. They don’t make kids in wheelchairs participate in gym class if they don’t want to participate. To be honest with you, I’d like the opportunity to feel like a normal person, to be able to come to class and play basketball like everyone else. To join in during anything other than the ping pong games. However, I usually don’t even dress. Why don’t I dress? I don’t dress because Mr. Keiser told me I didn’t have to do anything in class if I didn’t want to. I could sit up in the bleachers and do nothing and I would still get an A. What kind of asshole would play basketball when he could be up here with a perfect view of Allison Lewis’s tits and ass? The only problem with my wonderful gawking, if that the social deviants who sit in the bleachers with me all think it’s high time for conversation, as if I’d like to interrupt my vivid "fucking Allison Lewis in a hot tub" fantasy to talk to the non-wheelchair bound kids that are strewn about like sacks of potatoes (a term my mother loves). Page | 61
Even worse I suppose are the ones who failed ninth grade multiple times and live up here on the bleachers most of the day, drunk or high or just plain ignorant. For instance, Kevin Daniels thinks I want to not only watch him carve a swastika in the bleacher below us, but that I’ll want to talk about why it is so cool for him to be carving a swastika in the bleacher below us. "Too bad Keiser can’t be thrown into an oven with all of the other dirty Jews,” he says. Initially I ignore the comment, because really, stupid comments like that aren’t headed anywhere, but of course Kevin has so much more to say on the matter. “I’ve been in Keiser’s Jew gym class for the last three years and the motherfucker keeps failing me because I got a confederate flag flying from the back of my pick up.” Kevin Daniels was supposed to graduate high school three years ago, but instead he is a fourth year freshman. A true imbecile. "Sneaky Jew,” he says. "Conniving money grubbing Jew. Jew,” he says. "Jew,” he says. "It’s funny how Jews all stick together too. Jews suck. Dumb Jews." Finally I can’t take it anymore. "Not that it matters, but I’m Jewish. So don’t sit here and talk crap about Jews." "You’re a fucking Jew?" "My last name is Goldstein," I say. "I’ve heard of ignorant people before but…” "Fuck you, you stupid crippled Jew." "Are you done yet?" I ask. "You done being a filthy money grubbing filthy Jew?" he asks me. "Yeah," I say. "Sure. I’m done. I quit. Never mind. Never mind the whole deal. Poof just like that, not Jewish. You see me right now, no longer a Jew. What would you rather I be?" Then luckily Kevin Daniels decides to spit on the bleacher and walk off to the locker room, where I am sure he is robbing the lockers once again. Taking wallets and chains and whatever else is strewn about by these careless gym participants. Then she comes slowly dribbling up the court, her golden hair flowing behind her, and I see the whole thing in super slow Page | 62
motion. She fakes out Eddie Wake, and he didn’t see this at all, it’s Allison Lewis putting the moves on, coming up on a breakaway pass, catching the basketball mid-stride (in my mind she is moving so fluidly that her shoes slip off, her socks slip off). She dribbles gracefully past Henry Tai (her shorts slide down), the other girls calling from behind cheering for Allison. Where has this sudden burst of competition come from? This is gym class not a playoff game. Allison is point guard on the team (her blue shirt slips off and now she is in a pink bra and matching panties), the only freshmen to ever play Varsity. Allison Lewis is amazing. My mouth drops, hangs there, I want to drool, need to drool, but can’t. Tom Frick steps up, the last man between her and the hoop, and he is all grins, (her bra unclips itself and falls onto the gym floor), she cross-dribbles and he reaches in for the ball, finds only air, loses his balance. She is air born, soaring over the freshly waxed floor (her ponytail comes undone), her arm extends, the ball in fingertip (her panties slip off) and Allison Lewis is naked, hanging from the rim of the basketball net. Unwavering calm on her face. My eyes transfixed on her.
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THE BOMBSHELL By Bud Smith One of them was an artist. Terry. He painted three of the M43 bombs with “knock you dead” burlesque girls. Two of the 1000 pound bombs—Sadie and Holly—were lost in bridge-busting missions over Luzon. The remaining bomb put the other two to shame. Her name was Claudine—and she was all Joe Barre could think about as he let loose a wall of .50 caliber rounds from the heavy guns, swiveling in his rear ball turret. They took heavy fire. Japan burned. Their B-32 Dominator got all shot up. Terry never made it to the ground alive. But Claudine did. And Joe Barre did. While no one was looking, the war ended and Joe went back to his family’s farm in Nebraska. Fields of wheat, swaying in the spring—a pickup truck, sagging very low. A young man returning from conflict. With a girl. He put Claudine in the barn. This caused him some pain— he’d have preferred for her to be able to stay with him in the house. His mother and father were very strict Lutherans and insisted on marriage before “bunking” together. Joe also had to find another place for the pigs. It was judged that if Claudine accidentally went off, she would level the barn, surely … and she would take the pigs, the chickens and the tractor with her. His mother said to his Father: “I’m just so happy that our boy is home from the war, safe and sound.” “And that he’s over the cow.” “Yes, that was a sad thing.” “Not natural.” Joe spent a lot of time with Claudine. She was a very sexy woman. There was no denying it. He’d sit in a pile of hay and just work himself up into frenzy gazing at her perfectly painted tits spilling out of her tight lingerie, pink nipples poking out, like prizes. He drooled gazing at her thick thighs and the curve of her Page | 64
ass—how Claudine arched her back and begged for him to climb on top and yank on her long auburn hair. He just couldn’t deal with it. He had to be with her. He took her around, proudly. He liked to show her off. Take her dancing especially. This concerned a lot of the tamer people in town. They cleared the dance floor immediately and went home. They didn’t like the idea of someone cutting the rug with a 1000 pound artillery shell. The dance floor for Joe and Claudine was lonely, but he liked wheeling her around on her cart, spinning her romantically. Sometimes even grabbing a handful as he leaned her low in a dip. Also, Joe liked to take Claudine to the drive-in movie theater to see the black and white pictures underneath the stars. He’d buy them both ice cream cones and corn dogs at the Dairy Queen stand, smear them all over her. They cuddled in the bed of the pickup, making the truck rock—to the dismay of some of the others, who’d generally go and ask the cashbox-girl for their money back. Back at the farm, Joe took great pride in hosing down Claudine. Soaping her up into a fierce lather. Scrubbing her until she gleamed diabolically in the moonlight. They were married that fall. Halloween 1948. Claudine and Joe moved into a house on a plot behind the family farm. Their new privacy opened up much with their lovelife. Joe strutted around town even prouder now. Feeling like a true stud. He had the most beautiful girl. No one could top him. And she was an absolute vixen. Yes, and his touch made the vixen hum. He could hear it, the humming of her metal casing as he rubbed his body against it. What an utterly satisfying thrill. For two years the happy couple tried for a child. It was discouraging, though, because nothing seemed to work. To look at her plump curvy body, one would assume that she was as ready as the Fertile Crescent from which civilization itself had sprung. Joe made grander attempts in his love making. Pulling out all of the stops. All the moves that he knew. Nothing seemed to work. Page | 65
He began to feel colder towards Claudine. How would the family farm survive if she couldn’t provide him with children? Who would help with the harvests? His father was too old now to run the tractor and it wouldn’t be much longer … Joe rode her even more frequently. But eventually, he realized that perhaps she couldn’t provide him with what he needed. He went and saw Becky. She was the pigtailed daughter of the farmer down the road. “My daddy warned me about you,” she cooed. “I’m harmless.” “Anybody shacked up with a bomb’s gotta be dangerous.” “Claudine’s a dud, apparently.” “Shhhhh … don’t say her name. Just say mine.” Becky had a welcoming body and a much more warm and responsive element to her screwing. Joe enjoyed stripping off her coveralls and laying her down in the green grass behind the woodshed, making her whole body turn pink. Becky seemed to be even more turned on by Joe’s wedding ring. She liked to feel it run down her smooth body … sometime making it disappear inside of her. All it took was that one “stray.” When Joe came back to his farmhouse, all one thousand pounds of Claudine was gone. She hadn’t even left a note. She’d just gone. Joe was hurt. He knew that he’d made a mistake, but he couldn’t dwell on it long. Becky was pregnant. She moved into Joe Barre’s little farmhouse and the two of them did the best that they could despite the strange situation. The harvest came in. Joe went down into town and picked some workers to help. They’d heard of him too. Were leery. He said, “Don’t worry, my bomb is gone. She left me.” The baby came. They named him Charlie. He liked to laugh. He rolled around on the carpet. His joy was contagious. Joe forgot all about Claudine. Until Halloween of 1952. Page | 66
When Claudine showed up on the doorstep of the farmhouse, knocking. Becky answered the door, dressed as a witch. There was a sudden white light that pierced through everything, the air ripping, the molecules shredding as Claudine detonated. Vaporizing the farm and everyone there. Shrapnel and debris flew for miles. Some of it even embedding into the screen at the drive-thru movie theater. Military officials responded, “So that’s what happened to our bomb!”
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AT THE SUPPER CLUB By Bud Smith There was a supper club right on the ocean. The kind of place that we would never be able to get into on our own. What happened was, we found some very fancy evening attire while dumpster diving behind the TGI Fridays. “Look at this gown!" she said. It was emerald green and only partially slathered with spinach dip, so you couldn't even tell. "Wow, what a fine tuxedo!" I said. The seat of the pants was plastered with baby back ribs and barbecue sauce, but the front looked perfect. "Holy smokes!" I said, inspecting the pockets. "Traveler’s checks! A VIP car wash card with nine punch holes in it (one more and you get a free wash) and two tickets to Jim Mcmoone's supper club for tonight!" Since we now had travelers checks and fine evening wear and nothing to do on a Saturday night, it was easily resolved that we were going to a fancy ass dinner on the ocean…in a freshly washed Pontiac Sunfire no less. We showed up and the valet refused to take our car. He said he didn't want to get barbecue sauce all over his white pants by sitting in my seat. I told him rather cordially that I would park the car myself and then I was going to gently cave the side of his head in with a marble ashtray. I pointed at the marble ashtray which we had also found in the TGI Fridays dumpster. Our guess was it weighted about fifteen pounds and was worth anywhere from five to seven dollars on EBay. He nodded gravely understanding the seriousness of the situation and came back with a drop cloth, draped it over the seat, sat down and drove the car five feet to it’s parking spot next to the fountain. Inside, we were the best dressed people there. Covered in garbage residue, sure, but still the best dressed. Most of the other slouches didn't even have jackets that matched their pants. Page | 68
The women? I saw one in a fucking sundress. My girl was in a full regalia ballroom gown. Beat that. We presented our tickets to the hostess who seemed reluctant to seat us (jealous). We were led to a table near the front of the restaurant but jammed all the way to the side. Right next to a tall amplifier cabinet. That was the other thing about the supper club, they usually brought in entertainment. There was a stage complete with high tech lighting and sound equipment. We sat down at our table, soaking in the scenery. I was worried about our position in such direct line of fire from the massive amplifier cabinet. I looked from her to the amplifier cabinet from her to the amplifier cabinet. Her head was right next to it. "We better hope Megadeath isn't playing the supper club,” I said nervously. "Why?" She had such a pretty head. A pretty face. I pointed behind her at the speaker cabinet. She hadn't noticed it, now she was concerned. "That thing will blow my head right apart!" I flagged down our waiter, a horrible puke of a boy. Soft as they come. I first asked if we could have a different table but he pointed out that the other tables were full, and scanning around, it was true, they were—they were really packing them in. "It's a big night," he said, "Mr. Mcmoone is coming here to play." Mcmoone. The owner. Supper club owner/ jazz scumbag, god knows what else. "Play?" "Yes. Jazz Clarinet." "Oh, fuck. Good. So just some light jazz? No Megadeath?" "No Megadeath,” he assured me. Light Jazz, how much damage could that do to her beautiful skull? Not much I surmised. Then our lives changed. We ordered fancy cocktails concocted with liquids that I had never even considered. We pulled appetizers from the menu with relentless abandon, goat cheese and pear salad, raw bar spreads, oysters, mussels. Some kind of soup flown in from the Netherlands. Even the rolls were different. Page | 69
They didn't taste like rolls that could have been made by humans. Angels were back there. Making rolls. I unrolled my utensils and saw that there was five forks. I counted then twice. "Five forks?" I said. This is great! Do you know what this means?" "Nice place. Salad. Appetizers. Couple for the meal. Extra in case you drop one…" "Nice place, sure…we only need one fork. Our whole lives we've survived through meals with just one fork." They were very fancy forks. Embellishments galore all over them. Thick. Heavy. I left one fork on the table. I took four of them put them in my tuxedo pocket. "Give me your extra forks," I said to her. She handed them over. They were nice forks, would sell for easily a dollar a piece on eBay…and we had just scored eight of them. We devoured our salads and Norwegian soup and raw not even slimy seafood. Fresh seafood. We had never encountered it before. Often we had weighed the merits of not being human while still remaining on the top of the food chain. Considered how our lives would be better as wolves or lions or bald eagles. All the fun, all the security, none of the rent and car insurance. Eating this seafood It made being a shark seem even better. You're on the top of the food chain and you get to eat this delicious raw seafood all the time. Sign me up, being human doesn't seem so swell. I'd rather be a great white. She'd be a mako. Our puke softy waiter came by with new drinks. We placed our orders. Surf n’ turf for me. Bread crumb tilapia for her. Guys in suits were coming out onto the stage from behind the curtain, beginning to set up the instruments and microphone stands. The crowd in the restaurant mumbled amongst themselves. You could hear the din and chime of forks on plates and glasses against teeth. It was much more agreeable in there than Applebees or Burgerland. What this supper club lacked in a dollar menu, they more than compensated with atmosphere, lighting and sophisticated conversation. Page | 70
It was just then that a couple seated at the table next to us began to bother us with questions. Two drunken society women who found us amusing began to grill us. "I love your gown, where did you get it?" "I found it,â€? my girl said. "Found it?" "Where did you ever find a dress like that?" "Well my husband and I both work in the morgue and this couple came in. Murdered. Beheaded. They had on these great outfits. Now we've got them." "Someone was murdered in that dress?" "Jane Doe in the dress. Eddie Doe in the tux." "You mean John Doe?" "No, that's the funny thing. They were identified. Their real names were Jane and Eddie Doe." "Thatâ€™s funny." The women looked on the verge of vomit. Which was a shame. The food was far too good to just vomit back up. "Enjoy your dinner," I said. Then the drunken old ladies flagged down the waiter and asked to be moved. He pointed out that the place was full to capacity. Any second now the fire Marshall was gonna show up and pitch a goddamn fit. Just as our food arrived the band came out onto the stage. They all wore matching suits. A very professional group of jazz scumbags. "Which one do you think is Mcmoone?" I asked her. She pointed to the seven foot tall three hundred pound man with a neck as thick as the bass drum of the percussion kit. "That's definitely him," I said. It sure was, he stomped his way to the microphone and said, "Hello. I hope you are all having a wonderful evening. Thank you for joining us here." Then they unveiled their instruments. They did not look like your standard jazz horns. They more closely resembled weapons of mass destruction. WMDs. For instance, Mcmoone's fucking clarinet must have weighted about 150 pounds. The saxophone Page | 71
player had to have two people stand beside him and hold up his horn while he played. It was going to be ugly. My stomach felt hollow. I was very worried now looking from the stage with the massive instruments to the speaker cabinet located directly in front of usâ€Ślike a cannon. Enjoy your dinner while staring through this tunnel that a train may come through at any moment. Get the drift? "I'm full," I said. "You full?" We hadn't even started to eat our dinners. She nervously glanced back at the amplifier cabinet behind her head that was already sweating even though the band hadn't even played a note yet. She nodded sickly. "I'm full. Let's get outta here." I told the waiter that we would be at the bar in the back of the room and that we wanted our food wrapped to go. The crowd was standing room only and there wasn't very much room at the bar but we managed to get seats by simply sitting down on the edge of other people's bar stools and since they were polite well dressed people who didn't want to get barbecue sauce or spinach dip on themselves they quickly surrendered their seats with minimal complaints. We are what you call active aggressive. Up on stage the band was ready to kick things into gear. The drummer adjusted his seat and the stand up bass player cracked all his fingers. He was readying himself for quite a workout. The strings on his bass went from one inch thick at the lightest gauge to six inches thick at the heaviest. "This is gonna be much deadlier than Megadeath," I said. She nodded gravely. Swallowing in apprehension like a person led to the gallows. Just as they hit the first note something horrible happened. The bus boys had descended on our table to clear the plates. When the first pounding wave of doom shot through the speaker cabinets it leveled the bus boys knocking them over like bowling pins into the table of drunken society women. The table itself was completely blown apart, splintering and shattering. The remaining silverware shot into the far wall behind the bar, luckily missing Page | 72
everyone narrowly. The table linen floated in the air momentarily. Horribly wavering in the smoke and stink of gun powder. The crowd loved it. They thought it was really something else. "Now this is jazz…" "That Mcmoone is a hell of a clarinetist." They were riffing the living fuck out of "Sunny Side of the Street". I grabbed her by the arm, told her that we had better just hit the road. She agreed whole heartedly. On our way out, the hostess apologized for our table being exploded and our food being destroyed by the band. She gave us two complementary passes to dine again and told us if we would wait patiently at the bar we would be given new plates Fine. No problem. But it really wasn’t our scene so we told her we would wait outside We sat out by the fountain. It was a beautiful night. There was the occasional slight rumble of thunder and the apocalyptic rumble of Jim McMoones ensemble inside. They had transitioned into "He's Got the Whole World in his Hat.” It sounded like the Battle of the Bulge. After a little while our waiter appeared with our doggie bags. He apologized for us almost being vaporized and assured us that the next time we dined there, it wouldn't happen again. I flagged down the valet. It was a different valet. Not the one I had threatened with the marble ashtray. He seemed to know me well. Like an old friend. "One minute, sir!" Sir? Wow, that had never happened before. Then he whipped around the corner in a black Mercedes Benz SLK. The machine purred like an over sexed cougar. "Mary mother of God,” I said. "Everything OK?" the valet asked. "Everything’s fine." Show up with a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire that the junkyard wouldn't even take for scrap, leave with a $100,000+ Mercedes that could practically travel through time. I casually helped my girl into the vehicle. We pulled out of there just as the clouds opened up and the lighting slit through the sky attacking the ocean. Page | 73
I looked at her. She looked at me. Our luck had turned around. "Do you have any idea how much these doggie bag leftovers will sell for on EBay?" "A lot." she said. Then I hit the gas. Around 140 miles an hour I downshifted and the machine really took on a new life. Nothing could stop us at that velocity.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH BUD SMITH By Ryan Swofford 1. Talk a little bit about your short story collection, Or Something Like That. What were some challenges in putting it together? Does it have an overarching theme or idea you'd like the reader to take away? The book is mostly about average people who are at odds with the absurd. Your neighbors in some bizarre American small town. It's a slice of life really: a comedy in the sense that you have to laugh while your guts are getting ripped out. 2. What were some challenges you faced while writing the stories, and what advice would you give to someone who's wanting to put a similar collection together? The challenges are everywhere. You just gotta do what Ray Bradbury recommends: "Stay drunk on writing so the world won't destroy you." I just try to do that. For somebody trying to write something/anything, my advice is: don't be afraid of "the stupid idea.” Life is stupid. Life is ordinary. There [are] some strange things floating around in the ether of ordinary life. Also, don't take for granted your unique viewpoint and voice within a subject that's already been covered by others. Originality doesn't have so much to do with “the idea” as it has to do with you doing “your own thing” within the idea and either screaming as loud as you can while doing it, or whispering at such a low decibel that it causes all the noise of the world to hush the fuck up in order to hear what you have to say. Also, don't worry about how long it takes to finish your book/project. Nobody cares how long it takes you, as long as it’s worth their time to read/look/eat it, whatever. Just be working on "something" I don't care if it’s a papier-mâché volcano or a poem or a painting of a brick wall. Give them something.
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People who consume and don't create anything worry me. I avoid them. I am drawn magnetically towards people who create something. When putting together a collection of poems or stories, just make sure you write something you'd wanna read. Also: finish the damn thing. As long as it takes youâ€Śjust finish. 3. Give us an anecdote surrounding a past relationship. I once dated a girl for two years, I met her at a gothic industrial club (I don't know why either) in one of the murder famous ghettos of New Jersey. I was walking around, looking from girl to girl, when suddenly, one got my full and undivided attention. How did this happen? Well, she was sitting on a bench next to the ladies bathroom looking up at me as I passed, with full and undivided attention. I looked around, back over my shoulder. Nobody else around. She was looking at me, this beautiful blonde girl, was practically flagging me down to come over and sit with her. So I did the American thing and came right on over. We talked for about ten seconds and then on the beginning of the eleventh second we began to suck face, This went on for about thirty seconds and then it was back into forty seconds of very serious discussion followed by fifteen seconds of artless smooching and groping and all kinds of other wild maneuvers. Coming up for air, we found ourselves in the midst of a new and very serious bond. POOF, just like that! POOF! BOND! Then, two things happened, her friend Jane walked out of the bathroom, and the blonde started to have that dead look in her eyes, that very distant look in her eyes, far away land, sweaty mouth...green face... "Reena, are you OK?" Jane said. Jane was too skinny and mouse faced, She was brunette and big teethed. She was... oh fuck, there goes my beautiful blonde who I had made such a connection with, she was fleeing the scene, stumbling into the ladies bathroom. Jane shook her head, Page | 77
followed her friend into the bathroom. I sat there alone on the bench. The club all around me went, THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD... It was a very thuddy time in the world. 2001. I sat there on that bench for about five minutes and then, just when I was about to get up and walk away, back into the murder famous ghetto outside away from the thudding, here comes that little mouse head sticking it's head out of the bathroom... "She's sick," Jane said. "Oh..." "I'm sorry. I'm Jane," she said. I went with that too skinny, too tall, mousey, big toothed brunette for two whole years. We went cross country in her red pickup truck. She was a big reader. I remember once, driving cross country and she was reading On The Road as I drove. I got so annoyed by that, I ripped the book out of her hands and threw it out the window of the pickup. She started laughing. Later: We climbed up onto the roofs of houses in her neighborhood where we didn't live because they had better views of the moon than hers. We drank rum after rum after rum after rum on the ocean and in the backseats of cars and in the parking lot of an abandoned drive in movie theater. She was plain, borderline ugly and I got such a kick out of her, and I'm glad that her beautiful blonde friend had started to puke when she did, because I would have banged her beautiful blonde friend once and then that would have been that. I don't really drink rum anymore. When I do, I think about Jane, who wasn't ugly, just plain, and utterly surprising. Good luck scouting benches. 4. Who do you want to win the elections? Why? Page | 78
I'm an oblivious person when it comes to that kind of thing. Really. I'm just in my own little world of thinking of a new short story and thinking about the novel and thinking about beers tonight with my girl and which song is gonna come on the jukebox next…I mean, I'm rooting for Obama because I like him a lot. He's a cool guy, you can tell. He's got a big vision and he doesn't seem to me like a phony. He's human. I mean, I can picture sitting next to Obama in some dive bar, drinking some beers with him, I could see him wobbling over, picking good songs on the jukebox, I could even see him challenging me to a game of darts. Guy's a writer too. And I think he knows how to make fun of himself. So there you go. 5. What do you want the literary underground to look like, in all aspects of its nature? I want it to cover the walls of the average teenager. Bedroom walls just plastered with posters of the small press 'punk heroes'. I want college kids to sit around smoking small press zines. Adults, I want them to go out to fancy restaurants on their anniversaries and I'd like them to order fancy steak dinners and have the meals come out, just be a stack of underground poems that the couple eats happily. I'd like the elderly to be buried in caskets made with papier-mâché zines from the halls of small press history. 6. Do you write poetry? Why or why not? I do write poetry. It's such a raw random thing. You can go anywhere with it and it's by nature brief. Life is brevity. Anything attune with that is good. Poetry is strange unearthly gemstones buzzing with atomic energy jazz, it starts with a quick heave and it ceases up with a gear mashing crunch. I like that about it. I'm a pretty 'musical' person too. I play guitar and synth[esizer] and all that…and I'm a fan of programming drum beats, I used to make a bit of money on the side working in a recording studio, but I've abandoned music. I think it's great to Page | 79
have a lot of interests, but I don't want to be one of those guys that spreads his creative output out very thin. Poetry: you can go so many directions in it. I'm stupid, though, I love Twitter for the same reason I love poetry. It's all writing to me. You know, brief flashes of utter doom and beautiful light. Fuck it. 7. If you could change one thing about the literary scene, what would it be? I don't really have a problem with the literary scene, really. I mean, it is what it is. I'm not from academia—but I think that in life, really—whoever is where they are, did something to get there. In writing there's not really much fooling around. I mean, the proof is right there. You can see it on the page. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I think that hard work gets a person very far as it is. Really, I feel like no doors are closed for a writer if the writer is the kind of person who knows how to break out a window, or climb down a chimney or come up through the floor from the basement. There's always a way in. You've just got to keep looking and writing. 8. Leave us with some Zen: what's the best advice ever given to you? Well, I like this quote from the basketball coach in the 1985 film Teen Wolf, he gives these rules of life to Michael J. Fox: "…there are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.” I try to follow that. And also: There's a Calvin Coolidge quote (haha, fucking Calvin Coolidge, really?) about persistence that I like a lot. Page | 80
He said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I think of that all the time. You know, 'showing up' putting your time in. Really working on something consistently and with focus. That's what writing is to me. Nobody is gonna give you anything. You have to work for it. If you want to make it somewhere, it involves an incredible amount of patience and a dedication to doing it. Yeah. You gotta do the writing. You have to edit the hell out of it. There will still be mistakes. You gotta submit it, forever. Just keep sending it out. Persistence. It's like going up to a locked door and just knocking, knocking, knocking and when nobody answers, you start looking all around for the hidden spare key so you can just let yourself in. Bud Smith’s Website: http://budsmithwrites.com/ Or Something Like That (Print): http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15844032-or-somethinglike-that Or Something Like That (Digital): http://www.amazon.com/Or-Something-Like-Thatebook/dp/B008MICXMU
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SUPPORT THE WEEKENDERS If you would like to support The Weekenders, there are a few ways you can do so: By Submitting. The more submissions we receive, the more stuff we can put into issues. It also helps to expand our audience, as writers oftentimes have their own audiences, who then become ours because their work is in our magazine. See? Not to mention that we love reading good writing. Send your submissions to: email@example.com. By Buying the Anthology. Our first anthology, Desolation Blues (written in the style of the Beats) will soon be for sale. You may pre-order a copy (or 5!) at $3 by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, address, and “Desolation Blues” in the subject line. I’ll let you know any other information you should know before I send it to you. By Donating. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so! Just send me an e-mail at email@example.com, and I’ll tell you where to send your money. Most folks are reluctant to send their money to some place, and they don’t even understand what it’s for. Well, that makes sense. But I’ll try my best to clear some of the fog up: The Weekenders will only use donations and other monies towards the advancement of the magazine; this may be through paying contributors, printing future Weekenders projects, or buying software to help design the magazine. Donations will not be used to any other purpose. The Weekenders hereby will not release any personal information of the donator’s to third-party persons or companies. Page | 82