Category Archives: FICTIONALS

Ash-Man

By Will Schmidt

I blew my nose today. Black shit came out. Not snot. More like – ash. I looked into the folds of that white tissue and was convinced. I am not human.
Or at least I’m turning from humanity. Becoming something else. Something elemental. Ash. Everything dies eventually, everything goes back to dust. Ash is just a different kind of dust.
Who knows what comes next.
Maybe I clip my toe nails and they crumble. Ash.
Brush my teeth. Pearly white fades into black ash.
If I wash my hands maybe they’ll wash away leaving trails. Smears of black.
I sneeze – no moisture escapes. Only ash spews forth.
When I blink, my eyes burn. Covered in ashes.
Every step I take dismantles my cartilage. Bones grinding each other into powder –
To ash.

When I become fully ashen, maybe my mind will still remain. No longer able to move myself, the wind becomes my legs. The rain becomes my sweat. The sun my heart beat. A state of nature. A state fueled by nature.

Maybe I should stop taking acid.
But who wants to wait around all day for the mailman?

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The Pain Begins In The Right Arm

By David Duenas

The pain begins in the right arm. It’s probably there for no reason. And even more likely, just a figment of his imagination. All things considered, it is as real as anything else. And, to be specific, it starts at his wrist. He thinks to himself that perhaps it has something to do with his pulse, which would imply that there is a problem with his artery, and thus his heart. If this is the case, he is dying.  He is sure of this by the time she arrives at the words he knew were coming.

The funny thing is that he hadn’t really heard a thing she had said at all. He looked up and saw that there were no stars on account of the clouds that had moved in so quickly, blown in by the Santa Ana winds. She’s gone but the feeling isn’t. And the feeling isn’t heartbreak. He’s convinced it’s more of a heart attack.

If the blood isn’t getting through, then more beer will help. He comes to this conclusion having heard once that alcohol thins the blood. In his mind he sees that there is a thick vein connected to his physical heart. He doesn’t know a thing about anatomy, but this vein must be important. And standing in the way of the blood that should be pumping blood through his heart, and then the rest of his body is a little man. He imagines that this little man is morbidly obese, bearing similar but not identical characteristics of himself.  By the third beer, the heart attack begins to subside. And by the glory of God, he will be able to see the night through.

He’s not drunk, but certainly not sober when he decides to drive to the bar. The bar is in Pomona, and that really isn’t too far if he’s careful and sticks to the side streets. At the bar he orders another. It’s the waitress he had hoped would be working the shift. In the back room a band is playing, but no one seems to be paying attention. He thinks about this and looks around. In fact, besides himself at the bar, there are only a handful of clientele, none of which, besides the two girls who are obviously romantically involved with the shitty folk musicians, give a damn about the music. At the end of the song, he applauds.

“Applauding from the bar, huh?”

“Sure,” he says. “It’s better than nothing. And I know what it’s like to be the opening act.”

“Are you playing tonight?” she asks.

“No. And I don’t think I would if I could get the gig.”

“Why is that?”

“Because all the interesting people are either drinking at the bar or serving them drinks.”

That had shut her up for a while. So she moves up and down and across the bar, which appears to be made of good wood if you knew anything about it. Normally they would share minor witticisms, but this was the first time he was so bold. The heart attack and the drinking had certainly done the trick.

And isn’t she beautiful. He could never quite make out her chest tattoo but this only excited him more. She never seemed to mind her hair as she served her drinks.  She was a dirty blond with green eyes. And today she’s wearing a man’s wife beater. It’s a bit big on her but looks good as it appears to flow with every turn she makes, from bar to liquor, from liquor to beer and then bar again. As the crowd thickens, so does his inebriation.

“Another,” he says. “The same.”

She hasn’t yet responded to his remark, but serves him his drinks. After the fourth drink he puts down two dollars beside his drink, which is his customary tip, despite the amount of drinks he has been served, and steps out for a smoke. Half way through the cigarette, and just as the rush at the bar ends, she finally works up the courage to give her number to a complete stranger. Something she has never done before. And just as she places it beside his customary two-dollar tip and his half-drunk beer, he decides that it was foolish to have been so bold, and what was more foolish was thinking he ever had a chance.

An hour passes before she finally allows an impatient patron to take his seat at the bar, where the two dollars and the number hastily written down on the back of a business card and the beer still remained. Finally, she empties the beer, pockets the two dollars and throws the number away. At the liquor store, no longer in Pomona, he purchases a six pack, considering it a preventative measure against  what he was sure are early signs of heart disease.

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Safe No More

By Karlie Massie

You told me on the cold, stone bench we had claimed our own. I think you felt safe there amidst the jagged rocks that divided us from the ripples of the sand. But your honest words were my demise, and they ruined our place. They sliced and struck the safety net we had carefully constructed together. I sat and watched it fall while you sat and thought of her.

And then, I saw you with her. I felt myself break. Is that possible? I wanted to ask you, but instead I endured. My hands were clasped together with knuckles a smooth, stark white. Urgently, I held them to my chest trying desperately to keep everything inside. But I failed myself. My eyes burned and my limbs shook. Even my teeth radiated with rage. And as each part of my body dissolved and slid towards the dirty ground, your lips held firmly onto hers.

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Marie Says

By David Duenas

Some girl says to me, “I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.” People pretend to listen. Music plays loudly in another room; it is an excuse at best. The women parade big ass and men only talk over beer and smoke. There is candlelight… and walls saturated with conversation, music. Always there is the music playing loudly in another room. An excuse. To forget. A man, forgetting, and she is left only with the music. But it doesn’t care enough to really listen.

I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.

And to be honest, she has been practicing the line for days now. Keeping it secret and close for the moment she thought it would really matter. And perhaps it is too soon. She allows the words to slip. And hope, for a moment, dances. It crosses the floor hand in hand with the smoke of drunken men and careless women.

I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.

Marie says she cannot love. And just stares off distantly, withdrawn.

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Today I Am So Joyful

By Rocio Anica

Today I am so joyful
that it’s numbing. I went to the store, bought nothing,
but I walked around and touched and tried shoes
and flowy dresses. I tied a scarf around
my neck and pulled it too tight,
reminding me that I’ve yet still to die,

so I walked across the street to sit and get a Thai
iced tea. When I got there I watched a joyous
girl amble in, and I forgot about how tight
to feel I pull my scarves, admiring instead how nothing
of her seemed unmusical: the silk of her skirt, her curls, the inches around
her tiny fancy waist, and the needle heels of her patent shoes,

so when I got my iced tea, I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted Jimmy Choos
and some Manolos. I threw my tea in the trash, remembering my diet,
and returned to hunting around
for berry lipstick, sequined slacks, a box clutch. The salesgirl was overjoyed
when I flashed my AmEx. But I tired of glaring back at the little girl saying nothing
in the mirror, and I left. I went home. I lay around the house in skin-tight

lingerie watching television of lights and women dancing in tights, tidings
over vacant, truant eyes, which made me feel warm inside, so I put my shoes
back on, remembering that Christmas is coming and nothing
beats that. I made my way downtown where racks of woven, dyed
cloths—cotton, rayon, and blends, more blends—were waiting for the joy
of the holidays to give to them tribute and reverence, which we did and paid around.

Because we were hungry. And hungry still, I hung around
longer, matching premium denim with cashmere and wool. I tithed
on a pair of good names. There were camisoles in crimson and I rejoiced
when I found couture sheath dresses in my size to choose
from, with beadwork and electric colors to die
for. There is nothing

I won’t wear. Ruby-colored pants, lavender gloves, Lucite wedges. Not a thing
looks bad when I wear around
my neck and fingers precious metals and stones that some people, I heard, die
from mining, but, then, as I was buying a tight
well-tailored blouse and a pair of satin shoes
I caught a glimpse of a homeless woman outside watching me enjoy

my treats and new things, so I turned away, smiling tightly
then snuck around the back to avoid shooing
her away from my car where, dying to be home, I gas—my vacuum of comfort and joy.

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Sometime Passed The Time That Should Have Mattered

By David Duenas

Sometime passed the time that should have mattered, it doesn’t anymore. Nor the drink or the door that closes behind her. At some point everything has to break. For the sake of sanity and anything that’s real, there needs to be a great crashing, an orchestration of real chaos and destruction to let everyone know that things do end.

Perhaps then it does make sense that the finality of what we hold dear is also the beginning of that which forces us to begin. Around the end of spring Danny realizes this. But it’s too late. There’s been damage. And for a moment, it feels like the rest of life will be recovery.

He notices the moon has a slight limp as it moves along the long since midnight sky. He lights a cigarette. The burning end flares like all memories that will be lost, though the more important ones are those that never were. Things do end. She leaves. Besides the light of the cigarette, he notices the growing flame of the sun rising in the east. The black of night becomes violet, and then blue. And the fool half expects it to stay that way, if the sun matters anything to his heart or mind.

Finally, the cigarette goes out. The sun does not. And that’s how it would be for the rest of his life.

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Avoidance

By Karli Massie

Within the time Mike spent kneeling before the stone that depicted his mother’s name, a layer of clouds had slowly crept their way into the now muddled landscape. Mike focused on their formless shapes. He liked it this way, because with the sunlight hidden, he didn’t have to feel bad for his melancholic state. The wind kicked up and he felt a few drops of rain on his face. It would soon be time for him to go. Except that time finally wasn’t an issue for him. He could stare and admire and breathe as long as he wanted. No one would interrupt him. He thought about how he used to think this feeling would be freeing. How he used to believe that remaining detached meant less responsibility, and therefore an irrevocable sense of freedom.

The morning his father left them, his mother was scrubbing the cream-colored tiles that comprised the kitchen counter. Mike remembered watching her meticulously shift from one tile to the next, staring into their centers. She wanted each one completely cleansed, and she wanted to be the one that did it. And so, feeling useless and tired, Mike sat in the tall wicker chair that stood between the counter and the family room. His father’s dim form crowded the doorway as light squeezed itself in between the doorframe and his oversized limbs. His silhouette indicated he was holding two bags, one in each hand. Mike remembered wanting to change his mind, thinking that maybe one more unreciprocated hug would finally yield his father’s want to become a part of the family. But his father left without a word, and Michael Gene Forester became Michael Gene Walker.

This visit to his mother’s gravestone would be his first and his last. He never saw much reason in the act of visiting a grave more than once. He thought it was some sick ritual people performed, some pointless form of self-punishment. He knew she wouldn’t mind. She always understood his reasons, or pretended to for his sake. Mike stood up and brushed the earth from his jeans. The thought of his mother buried beneath him struck a particularly sensitive chord, a chord that vibrated and twitched with agitation. He left the crumpled flowers next to the gravestone. He left her there, trapped under the earth, and trailed off to continue his life.

The following week, the week after his mother had passed, Mike was back at work. He was a web developer for a prominent company in Seattle. He was always the first to come in and the last to leave, mostly because codes gave him an immense amount of comfort. There was something so perfectly logical in the way each specific code he entered, with its figures and symbols, transformed into exactly what he expected it to. After three years he scarcely made any mistakes, so he rarely had to deal with the surprise and frustration that comes with an inaccurately entered code. Order, in all of its trite perfection, was what Mike thrived on day after day. And it was that tantalizing order that drew him back to the office after he buried his mother.

The Wednesday of that week, Mike came into the office at eight. He settled into his desk and switched the monitor on. Taking a deep, satisfying breath he began working on his latest project, which was to create a site for a new high-class men’s magazine. He stole it from Gary, an unfortunate-looking colleague who spent more time playing World of Warcraft than actually working. Mike found him particularly pathetic and therefore took no issue with habitually bullying him into giving up all the good projects. He was feeling a bit playful today, so he hacked into Gary’s computer and wiped his World of Warcraft account clean. The last time he did this Gary fainted. This time, Mike was hoping for a waterworks show or at least a pathetic display of his upchuck reflex.

He had nearly finished sabotaging Gary’s account when other employees began to filter in. Lisa, the slightly attractive, slightly desperate secretary approached him.

“Hey Mike…” She softly said, with an air of uncertainty.
“Hey Lisa.” Sarcasm seeped through his tone.
“Um…are you planning on staying for the staff party today?”
Mike turned towards Lisa, unleashing a torturous glare. “What do you think.” His words dripped with disdain.

“Well, I kind of thought,” Lisa lowered her gaze as she said this, glancing around the room at others who had been intently listening to their conversation. She looked up and began again. “Lance says he wants everyone to stay, and we will be getting paid for it, and also, well, also Emma wants to talk to you.” She quickly turned on her heels and rushed off, not waiting to hear his response.

Four weeks before his mother died of lymphoma, Mike was particularly withdrawn at work. Her cancer was now stage four, and the doctors had given her two months to live. Since his optimism had left with his father, Mike had no issues accepting her death, but he was still a bit shaken up. This made him continuously uncomfortable, so he decided to take the new secretary for a spin to keep his mind off things. He noticed her the day she was hired: brunette, rail thin, legs for days. Just what he liked. He remembered thinking she must have been sent from the web developing gods. They had sensed his current lack of focus, and knew just what to do to get the job done. And boy, did he get the job done. On Monday he churned out three separate projects all before lunchtime, when he and Emma snuck up to the third floor to try out a storage closet they had just discovered. Tuesday and Wednesday were mostly the same, with only one exception, they set out to christen both bathrooms on the fifth floor.

Mike continued to sleep with Emma, the girl who would later abort his child, up until his mother’s funeral. Those three weeks did nothing in the way of heeling him, but they did distract him. And so, the day of his mother’s death, he solidified Emma’s role as his disposable crutch. Just before lunchtime she briskly passed by his desk, threw a covert nod in his direction and left the office through the main entrance. He remembered watching her as she left, her right leg teasing him as it slipped behind the door and out of sight. He never followed her that day, and she never asked why. He knew she would catch on, knew that she would realize he had gotten exactly what he needed from her – and she did.

Thirty minutes into the staff party, Gary finally realized the death of his WoW account. Mike was huddled in front of his monitor, thinking of the many ways he could blow off Emma while still allowing the prospect of future storage room sex when he heard someone ask Gary if he was okay. Here we go, Mike thought, a wide grin spreading across his face as he leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. At that moment a figure intercepted his view, standing inches from his face, hands on hips. His eyes journeyed up the sleek legs he had once caressed on a daily basis, and settled on Emma’s disapproving expression.

“Can I speak with you in the hallway.” Her tone didn’t infer a question, and conveniently Mike wasn’t ready to give any answers, so he quietly followed her down the hall.

She stopped abruptly in front of the conference room and his thoughts quickly trailed off. He imagined her strewn across the smooth lacquered wood of the conference table, happily submitting to his advances. And as he enjoyed her limb by limb, taking pleasure in her excitement, he would momentarily forget that he had no excitement of his own.

“Mike…” He loved the way she pronounced his name, breathy and concerned. “I need to tell you something.” She lifted her right hand to one of the buttons on his shirt, fingering the edges and twisting it around. It was as if she craved contact but was too afraid to commit, so she went halfway, settling on an extraneous item attached to his clothes.

As she fidgeted with his button, he admired the way a few strands of hair fell across her face, and thought about how he had missed her. Never before had he become attached in such an unpredictable way. He surprised even himself with these sudden, simple urges to touch her face and feel her pressed against him. But she had something to say to him, so he kept his arms firmly crossed against his chest.

“I wasn’t going to say anything at all, because I know this is the last thing you want to be dealing with.” She looked up at him, tears threatening to cascade down her cheeks at the slightest disruption. “Mike I was pregnant.”

He didn’t miss a beat, and firmly rooted his feet to the ground as he asked her why she was using the past tense. She explained to him the decision she made about their child, one that she supposedly regretted now. But he had left the hallway soon after she began her explanation.

Emma wasn’t at work the following week, or any week after that one. Mike never asked about her, or tried to figure out where she had gone. He needed to be unconcerned. He invested his time in developing websites and would soon become co-president of the company. Sometimes, when he had had too much too drink or was up late working on a project at the office, he thought about her. But he stifled these thoughts as soon as they surfaced, and continued with his work.

 

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Why Surfers Get Staph

By Ryan Coghill

There is a hole
in the bank of the bluff, that lies dead,
down,
underneath the boardwalk
spitting out the piss
I pushed on the curb last night.

It’s not often I suspect
while I’m lying in the sand,
by the drain,
that my urine drifts by me
from another, larger
hole.

I wonder how Kelly Slater would feel
if I told him
I just pissed on your toes
up to your face.
Only I managed to do it eight hours prior to this present encounter.

 

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Grown Men

By Ryan Coghill

In one room, with soft lighting, a man
hunched over a woman.
Separated by a heavy door
four men stood down the hall,
palms jammed in their eyes.

I approached them stiffly.

I hugged my uncle.
Then, I turned left
and hugged my uncle.
After this, I moved forward,
and hugged my uncle.
Finally, my father fell into my arms
and we slowly slumped
to our begging knees.

The man walked out of the room
only to continue down the hall
without a
word.

Grown men cry
but my Grandfather does so
alone.

 

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As Last Night Passes My Eye

By David Duenas

As last night passes my eye
I recall that
you were there too,
Suspended
In the center of the room
So all
eyes
were on
you

But when I forced
you down to
Return my stare
There was only the weightlessness

And wasn’t that what had always
held
you up, glittering so
fancifully on the wet skin
of so many men, up there
Beyond us, such a sad
And empty oblivion

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