ID. by *********

MONDAY MORNING. A white apartment along I-95, a white boxy building encompassed by palm trees, a white sky of pure cloud overlooking that building, overlooking an overpass, in a suburban community, in Boca Raton.

You’ve earned this. This is what you get for your work, your trouble. (You could take this town, easily. Quite easily.)

You’re on the patio, listening to the radio, listening to the jerky drum beat of Radiohead’s Airbag, listening to your lover beckon for you to reenter the flat, listening attentively, listening and smiling at the sound of her voice, smiling at her pleading.

Back inside some low-fi VHS dream is playing on the TV, and she’s laying there on the carpeted floor, 145 pounds of Venezuelan ass and attitude, touching herself, watching you watching her from the other side of the patio’s sliding glass door. She reclines against the foot of the sofa and looks up at the ceiling. “Right here,” she says, “I want it right here.” She closes her eyes and bites her lip in anticipation of you, spreading her legs. And like any animal provided the right stimuli, you go. She gets on her knees, you loosen the shirt tie that you spent the last ten minutes doing up just right (fuck that) and G E T  T O  I T. Continue reading

“REAPER TAPS” by JOSEPH P. O’BRIEN

Ever since we were old enough to want to be cool, Pete and I wanted to be as cool as Trevor DeZuto. Trevor was the first boy in our grade to pierce his ear, the first to wear Reebok Pumps, the first to hear this awesome new band called Nirvana. He was a baseball, soccer, and basketball all-star. He pulled pranks on teachers and never got caught, like when he’d tie the art teacher’s shoelaces to her chair, or when he’d sprinkle crumbled eraser bits into the math teacher’s toupee. Sometimes we wondered if Trevor had the power to stop time, to get ahead of the curve, slip out of trouble, or simply narrate his super-cool life to an adoring audience beyond a fourth wall only he could see, like Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell. Then one Saturday afternoon, barely a month into middle school, some smegma-brained drunk driver manslaughtered Trevor as the poor kid was riding his bike to the park.

The following Tuesday, Students Against Drunk Driving became the most popular club at school. So many kids joined SADD that day they had to move the meeting from its usual classroom to the lecture hall. During the meeting someone mentioned how drunk driving accidents killed people like Trevor every 48 minutes, which got us brainstorming, until we’d hatched a plan to raise awareness of that tragic statistic so high and so hard that nobody at Deer Hollow Middle School would ever let themselves or their loved ones drive drunk as long as they lived. Continue reading

“WARVET” by GLAHN_

In a hospital there was a man.

“You be good, Kyle,” said a woman, leaving her four year old son there with the man.

The boy said nothing and his great-grandpa stared at him, saying nothing. The boy walked over and looked at the man’s face. The man turned his head and looked at the boy. His voice was ghostly and weak when he said:

“Clyde, you go sit down now.”

The boy made a face. He climbed up on the rail of the bed and looked down on the man.

“Get the hell down.”

The boy laughed and walked sideways on the rail. He pulled the corded control that lay beside the man and began turning the channels on the TV. The old man tried to raise his leg but he couldn’t. Only his foot moved. The boy stopped the TV on a channel with a person dressed in a bright pink, soft-looking hog suit who snorted and danced with a person dressed as, what looked to be, a deer. The boy laughed at it.

“You whistledick, give it—”

He reached out for the control and touched it with his callused fingers. The boy jerked it away. Continue reading

“I WAS 23 YEARS OLD WHEN I RETURNED HOME TO LANSING, MICHIGAN AFTER TWO TOURS OF DUTY IN AFGHANISTAN” by XIM XOM

I was 23 years old when I returned home to Lansing, Michigan after two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

I came back to find my wife was with another man. It had been over a year. Together they had spent all my savings.

He seemed to feel a little guilty about it when they broke the news to me at the doorstep – but she didn’t.

So I bought an ounce of weed off him and took my things to a motel on the other side of town. I played the classic rock station on my transistor radio and got as high as humanly possible for two weeks.

I thought about how the same 50 songs have been playing on repeat my entire life. Whenever I wanted to listen to them, they were playing already. They would probably be playing long after I was gone, maybe after everyone is gone. Continue reading

“ONLY BODIES” by BRADLEY SIDES

Silence haunted Eliza’s house each night. Gone was the clackety-clack of toys against the wooden floor. No more voices hollering down the hallways. No laughing. No crying. Nothing. She’d hadn’t seen a single other person since she’d arrived at the abandoned shack in the woods a couple of days ago. The emptiness suffocated her. But she dealt with it. This was how it was.

She’d experienced life—real life—before. Two sons and a husband. He’d been good once. The times they’d had. Parties. Game nights. Conversations about the future.

Eliza often wondered if she should try to forget these memories—if the glimpses into her past might halt the beckoning of her future. She sat in bed with the soft glow of lamplight against her face. The deserted covers messily piled on top of her. The corners untucked and loose. A memory of her boys ran through her mind. Her two sons, with their round faces, running shirtless in a summer rainstorm. Their legs barely strong enough to hold their rollicking bodies. Their voices still unhurt. Their small bellies pudgy and soft. Continue reading

“MOJITOS & SUSHI” and “JOHN TESH AT THE BOLIVIAN RESTAURANT” BY NICK KATSAFANAS

Mojitos & Sushi

 

I don’t need alcohol, I need alcohol to be around people— I thought this for perhaps the first time while blackout drunk with Ethel, drinking Mojitos and eating sushi, things, to that point, I’d never really experienced so fluidly with a female, but perhaps, I’m thinking now, I actually thought this sentence for the first time this morning, jotted it down while half asleep, and I’m now shamelessly superimposing the thought onto a night where I was allegedly blackout drunk with Ethel, drinking Mojitos and eating sushi.

Alcohol had undoubtedly contributed as much if not more to my deterioration as an artist, to my deterioration as a human being, as any of my friends, as any of my debt.

Abusing alcohol to make myself semi-functional in social settings, in many ways, killed me—it killed the “real” me (which was admittedly a me probably equally steeped in lies and denial) in favor of constructing a “socially palatable” me, or at least it made others seem “socially palatable” to me, even if I was incoherent, or perhaps because I was incoherent.

But, looking back, what choice does a person really have—assuming you always find yourself extremely socially anxious, possibly to a paralyzing degree?

Is being a drunken fool worse than any of the immediate, plausible alternatives?

At the time I didn’t think so—being a drunken fool was perfectly fine. Continue reading

“ASCENDENCY” by __________

‘I think ill go w/ the boneless’

Brendan let out his characteristic half-ironically forced mirthful/spoiled child smile. ben was livid. Buffalo wild wings offers its wings in two forms: boneless and ‘normal’(?), the ‘boneless wings’ being basically nuggs. Ben thought the normal wings were clearly the correct choice, chicken is pretty gross in general, what with being selectively bred to be unable to walk/experience lifelong inflammatory rotator cuff agony via outsized pectoral hypertrophy, processed in rural Mississippi by a 5’1 honduran man of deep mayan peasant extraction, a mammalian maize weevil with repetitive stress injuries, but nuggs are so obviously un-’food’ like, almost deliberately nostalgic in their artificiality, their very ‘extrudedness’ harkening back to a golden age of junkfood when ‘better living through plastics’ wasnt yet a cliched dystop-ism. Ben thought about saying something like that to his friend but instead he decided to call him a fucking faggot.

Brendan’s aforementioned smile morphed into an exaggerated grimace, losing none of its strained smugness. The fine lines on his forehead became more obvious. Brendan was severely balding – nw3 with definite crown thinning. A few grey hairs sprouted conspicuously from his unkempt ‘side burns’ (if you could call them that). Nasiolabal folds were becoming noticeable in even flattering lighting, and his undereyes were baggy and weathered. Norwoodcel, facecel, telomereshorteningcel – he was 23 years old. The rest of his friends laughed. A few of them also called brendan a faggot. Another couple defended the boneless wings. Continue reading

“MALFORM” by EVAN STORMO

At the onset, Elyse’s mother had no visible symptoms, but she was conscious enough to describe a “mild head-sickness” before retiring to bed for the month.  Elyse had to deal with its malformation, which appeared around the same time her mother awoke in the night screaming Hail Marys.

Malforms were known to hang around parkway forests.  Elyse first met her mother’s malform on I-55.  She was on her way to the pharmacy for extra-strength aspirin, but pulled over to investigate what looked like an injured animal.  She approached it with the same caution she used when she tip-toed around her mother’s bedside, changing the pan without a clang and sweeping the floor just as noiselessly.  If the malform was anything like her mother, it would appreciate her cautiousness at least on a subconscious level.  Instead it used the interstate dell as a stage of mockery.  Lying in the pathetic pose from home.  Dry heaves and fake vomit.  A garbled sound from one of its holes which could only be classified as “motherly.” Continue reading

“LIFE STORY” by BENJAMIN DREVLOW

I’d finally finished it that year. All nine hundred pages of it.

What was it about?

It was the story of how my mother’d always wanted me to be a writer but never wanted me to write about any of the bad stuff, the sad stuff, anything worth writing about in the first place. How messed up our family was. How messed up I was. She was. How she never wanted me to tell the story of my big brother who’d killed himself and why-all he’d done it.

Why I’d never had the balls to follow in his shoes. Waah, waah, waah.

The final chapter’d concluded with me finishing my big book about my dead brother and showing it to my mother the little-kids book writer, the one who’d pushed me to be a writer my whole life. To make something good out of all this sad stuff.

It’d ended with how my mother’d died of cancer before she’d ever got around to finishing her protégé’s nine-hundred page pièce de résistance.

Ass cancer.

I’d meant it to be both figurative and crude and a cruel joke on the narrator’s entire pitiful  existence, which is to say my own entire pitiful existence. Continue reading

“HUNTED SOLDIER” by HUWYTE SCRIBE

The hunted Soldier stumbled out of the thorny underbrush into a clearing in the forest; sweat and blood commingling and trickling down his brow blurring his vision. The wound in his side pulsed with pain and he wasn’t certain if his pursuers were off his trail. How long he’d been running he couldn’t say. The war was lost that was sure. He had been a ranger in the vanguard of a Counter-Revolution, but now everyone he ever knew or loved was gone. Memories of hearth and home, kith and kin, fallen brothers-in-arms, and a vanquished ideal flooded his mind as he sank down onto the ground and lost consciousness.

The Soldier awoke to the knelling of bells and the faint smell of incense. The first thing his eyes lit upon was a beeswax candle burning before a Hieronymus Bosch-inspired icon of a rugged-looking youth in camouflage, tangled-up in razor-wire, with a mangled comrade slung over his shoulder. On the image’s direful horizon, neo-brutalist temples, squatting like black toads in poisoned gunge, gaped open while scads of wretched mooncalfs were herded by bugmen into the shul’s blood-bearded maws. The martial Saint’s head was haloed with his fierce eyes turned to heaven while one of his combat boots was stamped down on the fat neck of a banker sporting side-locks and a Mason’s apron. Continue reading