May 16, 2016 Comments Off on Chutneynomics By Kit Maude
X. stands over a large pot on the stove. X. has made chutney.
Thought bubbles float up above X.’s head. Inside one of them, X. is holding a jar. Arrows spring out from this jar towards a number of other people depicted in a similar way to X. Some of the people are alone; some are in pairs. X. plans to foist his chutney on several friends.
X. is on the telephone (still stirring his pot of chutney). This time, the thought bubble contains a man and woman with a broken heart in between them. Two of X.’s friends have broken up after a ten-year relationship. They are heart-stricken.
X. is then joined by Y., who is joined in turn by the heart-stricken C., Y.’s sister.
The real X. looks puzzled. He has a problem.
X.’s thought bubble now shows the same chutney distribution as before, only this time with crosses over several of the arrows and each recipient marked ‘A.’, ‘B.’, ‘C.’, etc.
X. cannot distribute his chutney to his friends ‘A.’, ‘B.’ or ‘D.’ because he only knows them through ‘F.’, the male member of the heart-stricken couple, whom he will no longer be seeing for political reasons.
X.’s bubbles play out different scenarios. The first depicts X. trying to give a large jar to the heart-stricken C. and F. only to be impeded by a cross through the distribution line. X. cannot give a large jar to the couple, because the term ‘couple’ no longer exists. In the second bubble, two smaller jars are being given to both C. and F., but the distribution lines are similarly broken. X. cannot give a jar to each of them because they will still be living together for the short term – separate bedrooms, but not separate refrigerators. The third shows a jar not going to C. X. cannot simply give chutney to ‘C.’, because it would be seen as a petty act.
X. bears an expression of worry and alarm. He will surely be stuck with a glut of chutney.
© 2016 Kit Maude
Kit Maude is a translator based in Buenos Aires.
May 12, 2016 Comments Off on Perceive, Progress By David S. Golding
A robot floated across a vast extra-stellar construct.
Red rectangles jutted towards the stars and stretched a ways ahead, rows of smaller green squares to the right. The flat surface that connected it all was a single unerring gray. Its perfection concealing any indication of age or material.
At either side of a tapered torso, arms threaded with oily tubes and tangled wires dangled, energy indicator light blinking steadily as the robot hovered past a matrix of purple triangles, through which, a line of tall red columns were visible.
After a short time, it was undeniable: The layout of this station or vessel was meticulous. The groups of shapes, the juxtaposition of colors, and the carefully planned openings between them all indicated that some project had reached its inevitable manifestation. The vacuum of indefinite space above was witness to its completion.
The robot pivoted its head downwards slowly to minimize friction. Joints trembled with wear. These arms, these articulated extremities . . . something was wrong. Its neck jerked back to focus its lens on a short passageway of tapering yellow walls. To the right, two dark trapezoids stood guard.
Energy swiveled the robot slightly higher off the surface. It darted, frantically, past irregular grids of prisms, through arches in open space, over spherical mounds that encapsulated nothing. As the robot searched faster, its energy light blinked dimmer, but the blur of variations in the architecture began to suggest logic.
The robot dropped to the gray surface and tumbled. Arm tubes tightened for control but snapped. Its torn body was the only aberration amidst the expanse of motionless forms.
© 2016 David S. Golding
David S. Golding teaches peace studies and international development in Sri Lanka. After teaching, he takes a crowded night train out to the coastal fishing village where he lives. http://www.dsgolding.com
May 9, 2016 Comments Off on I am Lazarus By Christina Dalcher
We are born of woman; I am born of you.
I am suppressed, ill-formed, Nature’s cruel trick. With three limbs to your four, I am greater than appendage, less than man. My grotesqueness emerges from your loins, miniature replicas of your head, arms, and sinister leg, yet my manhood remains imprisoned. With webbed hands, I crawl and clamber, struggling to become more than a parasitic protrusion.
I am a failure, a half-born.
You are Lazarus; I am Other.
In an old church, they name me for a headless saint, but I am unforgiving of the sin that created me. While you wail at the affusion of oils, I hang from your belly, screaming silent objections at Nature’s unholiness. I am the secondary, the half-life no one speaks for. Priests mutter meaningless Latin at my upside-down face.
They do this out of custom, for I am nothing.
You speak for me because I am dumb. But I am not deaf.
I listen as you learn, my eyes closed in the semi-sleep of semi-being. I hear you at supper, fattening us on meat while I sputter under the table. Girlish giggles reach my ears when you carry me, hidden, through town. You grow clever and strong; I remain stunted in mind and body.
I am your unwanted, ever-present, brother-child.
You wish me away while you sire a son. I cannot leave.
I lie between sweat-beaded breasts, stomachs, groins, forced to listen to marital pleasures without feeling them. Condemned to wait out the months as you watch the child swell inside your wife. Our wife.
I am your first-born, yet you pay me no heed.
You carry me to kings, dangling me before them in exchange for gold. I am the showpiece, the silent partner in your Continental success.
I am Strasbourg’s omphalopage in Strasbourg, London’s child-parasite, Vienna’s Unmensch. I am the frightening freak of Nature to many, the glorious gift of God to few.
When you wish me gone, you cover me with cloth, suffocating me on your strolls through Columbus’ city. You keep me unseen, yet I am why kings see you.
Without me, you are nothing.
You are no more my brother.
As you sleep, I reach with three-fingered hands to the woman beside us. She goes easily, taking the child inside her to the dark place. You protest with soft words when you feel my hands at your throat, smothering you as you have smothered me. Your last breath flutters in the cavity where the rest of me has lived for thirty years. I suck the breath in, eat away at the flesh that binds us, and pull withered, atrophied parts from the depths of you. I am complete; you depart life with a hole in your side where I once was.
My birth accomplished, I live—if only for moments.
You are not Lazarus. I am Lazarus.
I am the one who rises from the dead.
© 2016 Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher was born when Sinclair, Steinbeck, and Kerouac still walked the earth. She drinks Glenmorangie neat — just like that highlander dude.
May 5, 2016 Comments Off on Eleven Cigarettes By Chloe Wicklund
Evan Candor met time on a Saturday morning.
That was the way they’d said it; that was the way he’d heard it.
It took him eleven cigarettes, not that he was counting.
He puffed on another one as he looked out into the distance. Not at anything. There ain’t shit out there. Some great dark expanse with nothing but a couple of paisley handkerchiefs dropped by second-rate hippies been smoking too much dope.
Damn, that’s not good enough. Nothing’s good enough.
“He’s looking for Nietzsche,” one of them says. Not the cigarettes. The cigarettes don’t talk shit.
One of them.
“Niche,” one of them corrects. “Nietzsche’s old hat. The mine’s dead there, dried up and shriveled. That’s what you get when you don’t think nothing means shit.”
“What’s with the cigarettes?”
Even Candor didn’t know.
Time is a call girl.
You get what you pay for.
You keep on looking and you still can’t see.
That’s what they say.
“He’s meeting her?” one of them says. They call this one the Double-D, because she’s bigger than the rest.
What they say, what they say.
The cigarettes used to help.
“You’re wasting your time,” one of them says, a hand on Candor’s shoulder, pious-like with a hint of contempt. Like a father. “Keep on looking, and looking, and looking.”
You’ll never really see what you’re looking for.
Just look at the cigarettes.
Cigarettes don’t talk.
“Time is a bitch, and you ain’t getting shit,” Double-D rings, because she’s the backbone and the bulldozer and the glutton. Come to rip the boy to shreds, for all his eleven cigarettes.
Not true, not true.
Take that in the solar plexus with the ashes you’ve been dropping.
“Time is lovely if you get it right,” the father one says. The father one is a wise man. Too bad he’s long dead, beaten with the horse that Nietzsche loved.
“The boy’s running. He’s afraid of something. When you can’t pay the bitch, the pimp catches up.”
Time speaks for itself.
“Aye, he knows what it is. Stag-nation.”
“Eleven cigarettes?” Right.
The problem is stagnation. Evan Candor can look into that damn cigarette, but what can he see, really? He ain’t gonna see shit ‘till he quits trying to find something.
“He’s breaking down. Screaming to the world.”
Don’t you get it?
Don’t you listen?
“Don’t listen. Hear it, boy.”
I quit puffing the damn things long ago. That’s when they started to whisper … speak to me in poetry. Warped my brain. Like it’ll do to Evan Candor, but I let it go.
Don’t let it go to your head.
Eleven cigarettes is all it takes to pay back time.
© 2016 Chloe Wicklund
Chloe Wicklund is ordinary. She hates Jon Bon Jovi. She likes absurdist fiction. She’s searching for the platonic form of a cardboard box, but who isn’t these days?
May 5, 2016 Comments Off on The Emperor of Women By Brian Wright
I want to become a colonial power, but I need a woman. If I had a woman, I could plant my flag on her body. Then I would be a colonial power. First, I need a flag. I don’t like flags with stripes, but I like flags with symbols. Before I become a colonial power, I need a flag with a symbol that I can plant on a woman’s body. Gandhi used a spinning wheel, so I can’t use that. Actually, I shouldn’t mention Gandhi at all. He was an anti-colonial power. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t colonize women. Just not with his flag. I don’t need to colonize women anyway. I just need to colonize a woman. Than I could start my own empire. My empire might have more than one woman though. I would also like lots of coastline. If my empire had lots of coastline then the beaches would attract women that I could colonize. Here’s a problem. I want a woman to colonize but I keep thinking in terms of women. Are many women better than one woman? If I colonize a woman, I have a household. If I colonize women, I have an empire. What kind of emperor would I be? Would I be kind to my minions? Is minion the right word? What do you call the people in an empire? I will call my people women. After all, I am the emperor. I can call them anything I want, but will my women love me? Probably not. I can’t even get it together enough to come up with a flag to plant on them, but they do like powerful men, so I better get cracking. Okay. First task of the assembly: Design a flag I can plant on the woman (women?) I am going to colonize. I want to see it on my desk in the morning. I don’t care if you have to work all night. Are there any women working with you who are on all night? Would they like something to eat? Here is twenty bucks. Why don’t you go out and get some pizza, but be sure to bring me a receipt. I can put in for reimbursement from the state treasury. If I am to be a colonial power, I must keep the accounts straight. Which brings me to the subject of taxation. Everyone who has a piece of pizza will be taxed one dollar. Please leave your money in the cup on the table. I am a kind colonial power, but I am not stupid. I don’t want to get ripped off by a bunch of pizza eating women. I know your kind. You move in. Hang out on the beaches. Eat lots of pizza and go home without designing anything. That way you get fed and I don’t get a flag. Without a flag, I don’t become a colonial power. Without a flag, you all get a free ride. I haven’t even become a colonial power yet and already there is a revolution. I need secret police. With enough secret police, I could be a great colonial power. There is a piece of paper hanging on the wall near the door. If you want to join my secret police, don’t put your name on it.
© 2016 Brian Wright
Brian lives in Ireland with his wife and two sleepy Pit Bulls who were rescued from a dog pound. All four moved to Ireland from New York about six months ago. Brian was an advertising executive but found the purposeful deceit and long hours disheartening. He walked out of what had become a trap and hasn’t looked back.
May 2, 2016 Comments Off on Smoke and Kiss By J. W. Kash
While reading and drinking on a patio outside a bar, I saw a couple take a break from smoking and start kissing passionately on the sidewalk. Then a garbage truck pulled up next to them and made a loud, grating, breaking noise. A bald and bulky man jumped off the back of the truck and began heaving black bags of trash from the street into the truck. The couple continued to kiss and smile and sigh. The kissing man embraced the woman tighter around the waist, holding her close, and the garbage man grunted as he threw the last bag of trash into the back of the truck. Then the vehicle drove away, spewing smoky exhaust out of the top from a thin, metal pipe. The couple stopped kissing and went back to their seats next to mine and vehemently began complaining to the waitress that their drinks were bourbon and coke and not rum and coke like they had ordered. They said they could tell the difference.
I finished my drink, closed the book, and left the lovers to remedy their predicament.
© 2016 J. W. Kash
J. W. Kash labors in restaurants during the day and grapples with the pen at night. By “grapple with the pen” he means that he likes to juggle. By “likes to juggle” he means that he practices trickery. By “practices trickery” he means that he doesn’t labor in restaurants and his bio is a joke.
April 28, 2016 Comments Off on In a Lightning Storm, Sheep Run through Barbed Wire By Cheryl Anne Gardner
I used to fear things. The lonesome wind come through the clapboards. Dry hillsides rustling. My own skin in the summer heat.
Abandoned coal pits.
Pa said I was afraid of desolation. I didn’t know what he meant by that. How can you be afraid of something all around you been there since the day you were born? I used to. Fear. Hard. But hard is what we had … and the stink of sheep, goats, some cattle and horses. I’ve seen my sister kicked, bucked, and bloodied more often than I care to remember. Mud in her hair. Booze on her breath. Blue-blackened skin. Used. Useless. Pa used to do the castrations himself. He learned the old-time way and used to use these fucking rubber bands, but he eventually said that the old-time way wasn’t the right way anymore, that it took too long, would oftentimes get infected. He feared infections, like the one he said my sister had, so he set about teaching me the right way. I didn’t understand why we had to do it at all. It was bloody, and sometimes, the gonads were small, slippery like marbles, and you had to dig around in the sack with your fingers until you found the sinewy cord. Pa would say, “Keep digging,” and I’d cry and cry and cry because there was so much blood and I was afraid I’d never get it out from under my fingernails, but Pa would shush me and tell me that it’s good for them, and I’d ask why through a dirty fistful of tears while waiting for him to spit into the chicory and rub his chin for a spell before explaining, the way he does, that boys need it, makes them more polite. Something about hormones, he said. Maybe I was afraid of them, so I asked Ma about it while she was fixing the fried gonads for my supper plate, but she just shushed me too, wiped the grease on her apron, and said I was too young for talk about such things. I’m not too young. My breasts are coming in and I feel all funny. My sister said it’s normal.
Used to it.
I go to high school next year. My sister talks about it all the time. Says high school boys have the hormones too. I asked my sister if boys were like the horses and the cattle. She said no. That they were like the mules. I wondered if they stunk like them. She smiled at me and scratched at her crotch, so I told her I was afraid of getting kicked, like she always did, but she shushed me too and said not to worry …
Pa was teaching me the right way.
© 2014 Cheryl Anne Gardner – Previously Published @ Revolution John, December 2014.
Cheryl Anne Gardner is a hopeless dark romantic, lives in a haunted house, and often channels the spirits of Poe, Kafka, and de Sade. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. Her writing has been described as “beautifully grotesque,” her characters “deliciously disturbed.” Her short fiction has been published in dozens of journals including Dustbin, Hobo Pancakes, Metazen, Pure Slush, Synaesthesia, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others, and she is currently Head Fiction Editor here at A&A. http://twistedknickerspublications.wordpress,com
April 25, 2016 Comments Off on Festivity By Veronica McDonald
Mama said not to bite the ornament, but I bit it anyway. I liked the way it flashed under the warm white lights like a sparkling, red jewel. I didn’t want to eat it, or even taste it. I only wanted the beauty of it inside me, where no one could get at it. It crunched under my teeth, shattering into a million glittering jewels, falling down my chin with splatters of drool and droplets of mouth-blood. I tried to spit it out, but it was too late; it was in between my teeth, carved into my gums, glitter spread all along my tongue. Shards of red and silver covered the fibers of my sweater, weaving themselves into the wool. Shining glass stuck into the skin of my cheeks and chin. I tried to get Mama’s attention as she fussed with the tinsel, but my speech was lost in a cloud of red sparkles bursting out of my mouth and floating around me. I got lost in the halo of my words, touchable, and full of Christmas, until Pop walked in and handed me a gold ornament without looking my way and told me to “Keep it out yer mouth,” as he walked over to fuss at the tinsel with Mama. I watched the gold glisten under those white lights and didn’t want to taste it, but felt the shards explode around me and in me, my body pulsing and shredding with beauty.
© 2016 Veronica McDonald
Veronica McDonald lives in San Diego with her husband, two toddlers, and two black cats. She received her MA in Literature from American University. Her longer fiction can be found in Beorh Weekly and Scrutiny. Check her out on her website: http://veronicamcd.wix.com/veronicamcdonald
April 21, 2016 Comments Off on Unquiet Moonlight By Matt Thompson
A cactus had begun to push its way through the floorboards in my kitchen. I let it. It’s not my business to play God, to anoint myself the master of life and death. Even after I stepped on the thing and one of its spines punctured a medium-sized hole into the sole of my foot, I stuck to my guns, figuring that the accident had been my fault anyway. Should have looked where I was going, eh?
The wound began to fester. Before long, a bulbous, pustulent growth appeared midway between my arches and my toes that wept tangerine-yellow liquid onto my bedsheets at night. It hurt like a bastard, but somehow it would have seemed like a betrayal of my principles to seek treatment.
So I did my best to ignore it.
The cactus, meanwhile, grew so fast you could almost see it move. By the time it had become almost impossible for me to walk properly, it had managed to worm its way right through the floor, splintering the wooden slats as if they weren’t even there. I was forced to edge my way around it to get to the cooker. Soon I didn’t bother anymore and just ate cold baked beans straight from the tin. It didn’t seem to affect my pustule’s growth one way or the other, and the stodgy feel of the beans in my throat soothed the pain in my legs somewhat.
By then, the first spikes were protruding from my sole, more of them visible every time I remembered to look. Walking was out of the question, so I just sat in my chair all day, crawling out to the porch once a week to pick up the package left by the supermarket delivery guys. God knows what they thought as the cactus had worked its way through a few of the kitchen windows and had started to head streetwards, attracting bats on a nightly basis for, I supposed, the purposes of pollination.
Nowadays my feet and legs are more spine than skin. It’s not a problem. I don’t need to drink fluids any more, for one thing. I just take in moisture from the air and sit in my chair, dreaming of the prairie wind whistling through my arms as I suck in the light from the moon.
From my chair by the window I can see some of the other houses on my street. They all seem to have cacti poking out of their windows now, too. There’s only so much moonlight, and I’m not inclined to share it around if I can possibly help it. They can find their own sustenance, as far as I’m concerned.
© 2016 Matt Thompson
Matt Thompson is a London-based writer of oddball fantastical fiction: short stories, flash fiction, comics scripts, poetry, and the occasional novel. He has also, over the course of the last couple of decades, released a slew of records as a member of the musical acts Zoltan, Rashomon and Cremator. Nowadays he is endeavouring to follow Ray Bradbury’s advice of writing a story every week; to date, this has been adhered to in intention more than reality.
April 18, 2016 Comments Off on Avenue By Ray Scanlon
The city concrete curates an unremitting din:
At the plaza, I strain yet fail to hear a sibilant bicycle tire and the clicks of the ratcheting freewheel—drowned out. On the other hand, the canyons channel a changing wind. I absorb olfactory calories from pizza, tandoori, and Zagat-rated Thai one minute, ocean salt and low tide the next.
© 2016 Ray Scanlon
Ray Scanlon. Massachusetts boy. Lucky to be above ground, lucky to have grandchildren. No MFA. No novel. No extrovert. Not averse to litotes. Twitter: @oldmanscanlon. On the web: http://read.oldmanscanlon.com