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Flash Fiction Friday: The Thinking Man’s Bicycle

by: Chris Meekings

It is barely coin o’clock in the morning,
and the bourbon has only just taken the taste of Pepsodent from my mouth
when she walks into my office.
She’s glass and alabaster,
with curves in all the right places,
liquorice nice.
She walks across the room, her heels clicking like a cricket on death row.
I listen.
She tells me she has a problem.
I tell her it will cost her a pretty penny,
She pulls out an ugly penny and I take that instead.
Beggars can’t be choosers, especially with the price of flutes these days.
She says her name is Gia,
which should have told me everything I needed to know about the case,
but I was broke and she was in trouble
and I’m a sucker for a dame.
I offer her a chair.
I pour a drink
even though the sun has barely spat over the horizon.
I try to split my face to hide who I am,
but it doesn’t come off,
and I end up looking like a game-show host with too much time on his hands.
I take out a ruler,
and crack it in two.
I put one half in my bourbon and stir.
Mmmmm, length.
She tells me her husband has vanished,
and her brother is in Sing Sing for a stretch
so she’s turned to me for help.
Lucky me.
Equations danced around her head,
and my abacus strikes attention.
I take her case,
and put it in the closet.
I tell her I’ll be in touch.
I’m a good guy to have around
when the chips go down and the tables go up.
A real white knight.
You shouldn’t drink hard on an empty stomach.
The bar is the kind of dive that charges you extra when the lights go down.
I go to the wood, and order a drink.
It comes with a shovel full of dirt, owl pellets and napkin to wipe the blood away.
I dip my other half of ruler in it,
and survey the scene.
The bar is dark and wearing sunglasses.
Midgets flit from table to table,
asking for green wine and molasses.
Nobody has any.
I crack an egg on the bar.
It sizzles to fried
sunny-side-up.
None of this makes the boot polish blacker,
so I ask some questions.
“How did you get here?”
“Which way to Amarillo?”
“Do you know where the Falcon is?”
The Nazis in the corner “Seig Heil”,
but no one else pays attention.
Outside the bicycle bell rings,
and De Bergerac sniffs the glue.
Of course, someone’s in the know.
I swallow my finger nails,
and wait patiently
for the case to unfold.
It doesn’t take long,
Gia knows who’s to blame,
I rip off my moustache and trench coat,
No one can say I didn’t try to get out.
The fire licks up the side of bar in salacious wafts,
and the bicycle bell rings again,
but the patrons pay it no mind.
They staple down the fire to stop it spreading.
I pull out my revolver
and point it at the drink.
It’s always the ones you suspect the least who hurt you the most.
The bourbon tries to make a break for it,
but my gun sings, and the bourbon has to listen.
It’s transfixed by the music,
distracted, it falls from the bar.
Clatter-tinkle on the floor.
Thank god, I’m wearing my galoshes.
The bicycle bell rings once more,
and I make notes on Mahatma Gandhi’s treatises.
Thank god, it was only a thinking man’s bicycle.

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Chris Meekings lives in the city of Gloucester in the UK. If you’d ever been to Gloucester you’d understand why he sits inside and makes things up. He’s the author of the bizarro novella Elephant Vice (Eraserhead Press) and the metaphysical fantasy novel Ravens and Writing Desks (Omnium Gatherum). He is still 58 weasels in a trench coat, just looking for love.

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Send your weird little stories to flashfictionfridaysubmissions@gmail.com.


Madeleine Swann & 4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House

by Lee Widener

Madeleine Swann entered the Bizarro realm with her debut novella “Rainbows Suck,” released through Eraserhead Press’ New Bizarro Author Series in 2015.  Now her second novella “4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House” is available from Strangehouse Books. I asked Maddy some questions and she answered them!

LEE:  Tell us about your new book.maddy

MADELEINE:  My new novella is about a girl, Aisha, who lives on a street where each room of each house leads to landscapes in an alternate dimension/the past/whichever you prefer. The front rooms lead to a cinema during the Depression, the bedrooms to a Parisian Salon, kitchens to a Georgian banquet hall in space and studies to a psychedelic book shop. Disturbing things take over the rooms and Aisha thinks a secret of hers might be the cause.

LEE:  I know you have a particular interest in avant-garde cinema and also the psychedelic experience. From the trailer for this book it seems these interests play a large part in the story. Is this true, and if so, what other interests of yours show up in this book?

MADELEINE: Avant-garde films and books are a huge inspiration to me. Also I love Pre-Code films, vintage cinemas and vaudeville so I set an area in the early thirties. I also enjoy writers and artists of the twenties, in New York and the expats in Paris mainly, so they’re in the bedroom. The Georgian period is an era I find fascinating, partly because of the lawlessness but also because they were getting to grips with science and life post-religion (mostly). Plus I love all the frills, they were so flouncy. Finally there’s a psychedelic book shop because I felt like I joined the hippie movement in spirit from the age of about 16. Not so much now but I was really into it.

LEE: Can you tell us something about how this book came to be? What was the spark that got you thinking about what came to be this book?

MADELEINE: I genuinely think it just came to me while I was watching Regular Show. It’s taken a lot of work from three editors to get it to a place where I’m really happy with it, but the idea itself just sort of popped in my head. I wanted to write a story involving different periods of history and something involving a street, and there it was!

LEE: I find your talk about using three editors fascinating. I have a piece I’m working on that I’ve sent to two editors and I still don’t know what to do with it. What was it like working with multiple editors? Did you pick and chose which feedback seemed more apt, or did you do a rewrite, felt like it still wasn’t right, so you sent it to another, or what?

4rooms

MADELEINE: Well, it’s a bit complicated. First off I sent it as a novelette to an anthology but nothing came of that. Then I asked Garrett (Cook) if he’d edit it, I got his notes back and worked on them. Then I asked the publisher if he’d consider releasing it as a novella, he said yes and ended up giving me notes too. I worked on those and then was told Rooster Republic didn’t have room that year but StrangeHouse did, and then they edited it too. I didn’t use every single note but I did most of them.

LEE: Let’s talk about Bizarro Fiction. Do you consider yourself primarily a Bizarro writer, or do you work in other genres as well?

MADELEINE: I think of myself more as a weird writer, but I suppose that fits under the blanket of bizarro. I just like exploring weird, dark things and wherever that takes me is fine.

LEE: What would make a good soundtrack while reading this book?

MADELEINE: Well, if I told you that Miley Cyrus’ Dead Petz was the actual soundtrack to my writing, it would probably put you off. I think anything jaunty and odd, like Mike and Rich or Tobacco.

LEE: You do a lot of outreach to your readers: blog posts, Twitter, youtube videos, personal appearances at festivals and such. What works best for you, and which do you most enjoy?

MADELEINE: I genuinely enjoy all of it. Probably Twitter and blogging the most because I blog about things I enjoy more than myself, and I like sharing the weird arty things I find. I’m very nervous about meeting and talking to people but I’ll certainly be working on that this year! I’m trying to get more used to it by reading my favourite stories to camera and talking on YouTube and it’s getting easier.

LEE: What’s up next for the Evil Pixie?

MADELEINE: Well, I’ve got a few short stories coming out at some point this year, and I’ve just finished a new novella/connected short story thing which is inspired by a section of The Red Tower by Thomas Ligotti, though it’s very different in tone. Also I’m reading from 4 Rooms at the Brighton Fringe Festival, The Big Green Book Shop with Laura Lee Bahr and others and I’ll be at Bizarrocon. See you there!

Trailer for 4 Rooms in a Semi-Detached House:

You can find out more about Maddy and her work, complete with links to buy her books at her website:

MadeleineSwann.com

Read her weekly column at CLASH Media:

Memoirs of a Professional Weirdo

Read her blog here:

Madeleine Swann Blog

Follow her on Twitter: @MadeleineSwann

Subscribe to her Youtube channel:

Madeleine Swann on Youtube


Lee Widener is the author of “David Bowie is Trying to Kill Me!” and “Rock N Roll Head Case” published in October 2015 by Eraserhead Press. His collection “Under the Shanghai Tunnel & Other Weird Tales” will be published in 2017.


My favorite BizarroCon images: a retrospective

When people say “my favorite time of the year,” I always think about BizarroCon. When it comes to fun, inspiration, friendship, learning, performances, booze, and love, nothing compares to that second week in November where weirdos from all over the world get together in Portland to ensure that bizarro literature and art keep taking over the world. In any case, now that November is almost here (and yes, I’m counting down the days to BizarroCon), I thought it’d be cool to revisit my favorite images from the past four years and share them with you. I’m a photographer, so I usually come home with about 500 pics from the con. These are not the best shots, just the ones that, for some reason, are closer to my heart or remind of some of the best moments from that year.

2012

This was the year of flying noodles and meeting Gutmouth for the first time. Also, with Shane McKenzie, Robert Devereaux, Carlton Mellick III, and Brian Keene around, to name a few, it was the year many folks realized that bizarro and horror walked hand in hand and, when together, couldn’t be beat.

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2013

This was the year that I kissed Steve Lowe, hung out with Rios de la Luz and J David Osborne, got some advice from Stephen Graham Jones, and  watched Karl Fisher, Jeremy Robert Johnson, and Bix Skahill make out. I also realized that bizarros are some of the prettiest people in the world.20131201322013320135201344

2014

This was the year Brian Allen Carr did a reading that changed the way I read in public forever. Also, Violeet LeVoit celebrating was awesome, and so jamming with Andrew Goldfarb, Michael Allen Rose, and John Skipp while Sauda Namir danced20141201422014320144

2015

This was the year the Bizarro Showdown broke down any remaining barriers of creativity, craziness, hilarity, and good taste. It was also another great year for Malort. I finally got to hang out with CV Hunt and Andersen Prunty, look up Christoph Paul’s skirt, and watched meu irmao Pedrinho Proenca work his weird magic on a crowd. Oh, and we all learned that electric shocks don’t affect Kevin Donihe. 2015120152201532015420155

2016

This is the year…that’s coming up. I’m fucking excited. See you there, sweet things!


Flash Fiction Friday: Brain Painter

by Madeleine Swann

Jesse lived a little way out of the city, so Ellen had told her husband that she was getting a pedicure. He would have denounced the whole thing and checked further into her spending.

The room was so ordinary that Ellen was disappointed. Jesse took her fur coat and mink hat and hung them up behind the door. He was a handsome young man in a long paisley jacket, a cliché of a painter were it not for the sharpness of his blue eyes. Ellen fluffed her white hair coquettishly.

“Okay, Mrs Henley, if you could sit.” He indicated a new-looking, grey armchair. “How long have you been having these nightmares?”

“Oh, gosh.” She thought back. “Since forever.” One of her friends had given her Jesse’s card last week, claiming she’d not had a nightmare since.

“OK,” Jesse fetched a paint pallet and sat on a stool opposite her. He dipped a brush in bright yellow and unlocked her forehead, “Lot of muddiness in there, I’ll start by brightening it.” He continued his unintentionally alluring mumbles for the next hour, and if Ellen was 20 years younger she would have pounced. Instead she sat while he dabbed and rinsed his brush again and again until finally he sat back and appraised the inside of her head. The intensity of his stare made Ellen look down. “It’s done,” he smiled.

He took the bills from her wrinkled fingers and stuffed them into his pocket. Another silly old bag with too much money and time to spend on trivial problems. She’d not felt the extra daub he’d left behind, same as his other clients hadn’t. Two more months and she’d be back. He waved her off and made a cup of tea.

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Madeleine Swann squeezes animals really hard in a misguided attempt to show love. Her short story collection, The Filing Cabinet of Doom, was published by Burning Bulb. Marvel at her brain words on her website. Her novella,  Rainbows Suck, a surreal journey through the dark side of fame, was released as part of the New Bizarro Author Series with Eraserhead Press.

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Want in on this? Submit up to three bizarro flash fiction stories at a time, pasted into the body of an email (no attachments) to FlashFictionFridaySubmissions@gmail.com and include a brief bio. Put the title of your submission in the subject line of the email.