by Jeff Burk
I believe in the dog.
“Brutus is still out there. He won’t come in. I shook his food bowl but the little guy wasn’t interested.”
Arthur stood up and walked across the kitchen to join his wife, Dorothy. They both looked out the window over the sink to their dog, Brutus, in the back yard.
Brutus was a west highland terrier. A small white dog with pointed ears that weighed, while wet, fifteen pounds. He was what some would call an “ankle biter.”
He was sitting in the center of the backyard staring straight up into the sky.
“What do you think he’s looking at?” asked Arthur.
“I don’t know.”
Arthur went out the back door and into the yard. They lived in the woods, so the yard was just a large grass clearing surrounded by dense trees.
Arthur clapped his hands, “Brute. Hey, Brute.”
The dog ignored him.
He clapped and called again but the dog paid no attention. He walked over to Brutus and stood next to the dog, looking down. Brutus stared up into the sky, right past Arthur.
Arthur turned and looked up. Where the dog was looking there was nothing but clear blue sky. He wasn’t looking at some squirrel high up in a tree or a bird in its nest.
“Hey, come on,” Arthur patted the dog on the head. “It’s time for dinner.”
Brutus still ignored him.
Arthur shrugged and went back inside.
“He wants to stay out, I guess,” Arthur said to Dorothy. “He’s got a dog door. He’ll come in when he’s hungry.”
“He’s still out there,” said Dorothy.
Arthur and Dorothy were standing at the kitchen window the next morning. They were both in robes, holding their cups of coffee.
Brutus had been outside all night instead of in his normal place at the foot of their bed. He was still in the same spot outside, sitting and staring.
“What is he doing . . .” Dorothy wondered out loud.
“I don’t know,” said Arthur. “But I have to get ready for work.”
“What’s with your dog?”
“Huh?” Arthur looked up from the engine. It was Friday and Arthur’s buddy, Brad, had come over to take a look at the latest improvements to Arthur’s 1950 Chevy Club Coupe. The two were going to take it out for a drive later.
“He’s just been sitting there . . . staring,” said Brad.
“Yeah, he’s been doing that lately.”
“Why do you think? It’s kinda . . . weird.”
“He’s a dog. Here, take a look at this.”
Brad didn’t respond. Arthur looked over and saw his friend staring at Brutus.
“Hey,” Arthur shouted. “Can you take a look at this?”
Brad shook his head like he was coming out of a daze. “Yeah. Sure. Sorry.”
“I didn’t know your friends were coming over today.”
Dorothy motioned towards their backyard. “Brad, John, Frank, and Stan are out back. They’ve been here for at least an hour.”
“Really?” asked Arthur. He had made no plans with them.
He went out into the backyard and his friends really were out there. They were sitting in lawn-chairs around Brutus, who was still staring into the sky. His four friends had a cooler of beer and they were slowly sipping on drinks, silently watching the dog.
“Ummm . . . hey guys,” said Arthur. “What’s up?”
Brad looked at him but the rest of his friends didn’t respond at all.
“Hey man,” said Brad. “I just told the guys about Brutus and they all wanted to come over and take a look.”
Arthur looked them over and asked, “Why?”
Brad shrugged. “Dunno. Seemed interesting.”
When Arthur and Dorothy got back from work the next day there were two dozen people in their backyard. Some they recognized—there was Gary from the post office and some teenage girl from the grocery store. The crowd was mostly standing. Some people sat on folding chairs. Everyone was facing Brutus.
Arthur pushed through the crowd to Brad, who was still sitting in his chair in the front row.
“What the Hell is going on?” demanded Arthur.
“Some people wanted to have a look.” Brad replied, never looking up from Brutus.
Arthur, frustrated, made his way back to Dorothy.
“What do they want?” she asked.
“They just want to have a look.”
“Well . . . they’re being quiet.”
Arthur and Dorothy went inside and watched TV.
“How many people do you think are out there?” asked Dorothy.
Arthur shook his head. “At least a hundred is my guess.”
Dorothy pointed. “They have a hot-dog stand.”
Over the past few days, more and more people had been showing up in their backyard. They joined those already gathered in watching Brutus.
Brutus, who was normally a very excitable and friendly dog, paid no attention to the people. Arthur and Dorothy had been growing concerned with how long he’d been outside and without food or water—both his bowls remained untouched since the day he started staring. But he seemed no worse for wear and he still ignored their calls.
“I’ve had enough, let’s get going,” said Arthur.
Arthur and Dorothy had gotten tired of the craziness that was now their backyard. They had decided on a weekend getaway camping outside of town. Their bags were packed and in the car. They could deal with all of this later.
Three days later, they had almost forgotten the insanity in their back yard until they turned onto the narrow dirt road that led to their house.
The street ended only a few hundred yards after the turn-off to their home and it began only a half-mile before. In total, there were only seven homes on the road. Normally it was very quiet and they rarely saw their neighbors.
But today, there were scores of cars and hordes of people. Rides, carnival games, and food carts were set-up.
Arthur pulled over and parked the car next to a Ferris wheel.
“What is this all about?” asked Dorothy as they got out of the car.
“I have no . . . oh, God . . .” Arthur lost the sentence when he saw the T-shirt vendor. A line of people waited to buy screen printed shirts with the image of two intense staring eyes and the slogan: I KNOW WHAT THE DOG SEES!
It was impossible. There was no way all these people were here because of their dog—because of Brutus. But as Arthur and Dorothy made their way through the masses of people and got closer to their house, the crowd just grew thicker. All attention was directed towards their house.
There was no denying it. All these people were here because of Brutus.
When they reached the backyard, people were taking pictures of Brutus, cheering him on, and waving signs that read: STARE, DOG, STARE. NEVER GIVE UP. I BELIEVE IN THE DOG.
Arthur stumbled out of the crowd of people, finally finding himself in open space. He turned around to see his dog, still in the same position. Staring. His four friends still sat in lawn chairs, sipping their beer, and watching Brutus.
“Hey man, nice to see you again,” said Brad raising a beer.
“What is going on? Where did all these people come from?” shouted Arthur, struggling to be heard over the noise of the crowd.
Brad shrugged. “Dunno. Guess they wanted to see your dog.”
A man can only take so much before he finally breaks and this was Arthur’s breaking moment. He moved in front of Brutus and turned to the crowd, waving his arms in the air. “You people are insane! Why are you here? It’s just a fucking stupid dog for God sake!”
The crowd immediately went silent and for one brief, wonderful moment, Arthur thought he had gotten through to them. But he quickly realized that the crowd was not paying attention to him but to Brutus. He looked down at Brutus and saw that the dog had moved aside. He was no longer sitting and staring but hopping around and wagging his little white tale.
The crowd was watching Brutus with fascination. They turned as one to look up the sky behind Arthur, the exact same place Brutus had been staring.
Arthur slowly turned around and looked up. The sky was a clear pristine blue with not a cloud to be seen. But there was a fiery ball hurtling straight towards him.
He had no chance to register the oncoming object. The soccer ball-sized meteor hit him in the chest and tore straight through his body, splattering blood and organs onto Brad and his three other friends.
The meteor hit the ground and bounced over Brad. The crowd parted for the extraterrestrial object in hushed reverence. The meteor bounced two more times and Brutus tore off after it. Bouncing along and barking and throwing his paws into the air, Brutus had finally gotten his new toy.
Jeff Burk is the author of Shatnerquake, Super Giant Monster Time, and Cripple Wolf. He is also the head editor of Deadite Press. You can stalk him on the internet here.
by Kevin Shamel
I jumped my motorcycle over twenty-three flaming buses full of children. And landed it. I lept into a cannon and was shot out alongside a rocket, which I rode to a Vietnam dog-fight in the air. I blew up a commie plane with the rocket and somersaulted out of the explosion to land on a burning jet where I fought off and killed five ninjas, an alligator and two kung-fu guys.
I dove from the spinning F-15 at 36,000 feet, landing on a blimp thirty thousand feet down. I bounced off the blimp while connecting a bungee cord to my ankles and fighting an eagle, and dropped another three thousand feet. After bouncing back, I released the cord to dive into Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on Earth. I flew down the cliff, showered with high-mountain mist, and used my wing-suit to skim just above the rushing rocks, where I plucked a dozen rare blue orchids. I pulled my chute at about two hundred feet and just before I landed my harness caught in the branches of a macadamia tree. I fought six chimpanzees and a snake on the way down, rolled on my landing, punched a Nazi, made out with a Penthouse Pet, and gave her the flowers.
Then I had a smoke and ate half a cow. My name is Rock Hard. I’m a professional stunt man. Give me some weed.
Really, break it out or I’ll break your nose. Yes I’m fucking serious. I’m a stuntman. I do that all the time. You better hope I don’t want some cocaine after you get me high because you don’t look like you can afford it.
Ah, yeah, that’s better. Watch this. I’m gonna take this joint you rolled and light it in that fucking volcano over there. Just hang on, I have to take off my shoes and make out with that Pet one more time. Just for about ten minutes.
I should actually take off my shirt, too, because the last time I lit a joint with bubbling magma my shirt caught on fire and I had to put it out with spit. And that wasn’t all that easy, because I was hanging from a hot rock by my steel-toed boots and bracing myself against the wall of the vent with my fingertips so I had the joint in my mouth the whole time. I had to wait for a big blast of gas afterward too, so that I could do a backflip out of there, because by the time I put my shirt out, I was only hanging on by one toe. My boots had melted and my socks turned instantly to ash. So, I’ll be right back.
Hi, I’m back. Have you seen that Penthouse Pet? Sorry, but I didn’t smoke that whole joint by myself. I shared it with the chief of this cannibal tribe because he showed me how to avoid the fire ants on the way back. That volcano was pretty far away. I ended up walking into the world’s largest nest of fire ants. At first it was okay, because I just dared them to try and bite my stuntman feet, but then about six million actually did. I started getting a little dizzy and since they had crawled all over me and were biting everything, even my eyeballs, it became annoying.
I ran really fast for about three miles, but couldn’t shake the ants. So, using my quick thinking, I remembered that wasps and ants hate each other. I started beating on every wasp nest I could see. Luckily, thousands of wasps came out in a cloud to find out what was going on and started stinging the shit out of me. But they were also stinging ants. And some ants were jumping off of me to attack the wasps. I stripped off all my clothes so the wasps could get the ants. Don’t worry, I kept the joint between my lips. And didn’t even get it too wet.
When all the ants were finally dead, I noticed I was right beside an ancient stone pyramid. I couldn’t see a door and the trees were really tall all around it. The wasps were stinging the shit out of me, so I just punched through the granite. The tunnel I made was pretty small and as I was sliding into the pyramid, the wasps got scraped off me and some were smashed or choked on rock dust. In about ten minutes, I had punched my way through the whole pyramid. I was a little dusty and naked, but nothing was stinging me.
Some idiot had crashed his hang-glider into a tree and it was just sorta hanging up there with his rotting body. I kicked down a different tree and chewed the wood into a folding extension ladder. Then I climbed up and snagged that hang-glider.
I had to improvise a launching device, so I wrestled a hippo and fed it poison berries. When the corpse bloated up in the sun, I used it like a trampoline and launched myself into the air. I flew all the way to the volcano, and ditched the hang-glider.
I threw a vine that I’d attached to my ankle after I made the ladder and fought an acid-spitting-leopard, and hooked it around a rock so I could swing down into the caldera and light the doobie.
And that worked great. But when I swung out toking, those cannibals were there, and I had to prove my manhood by beating twenty of them in a dick-wrestling competition. After that we were buds, and the chief told me how to get back while we finished your doobie.
Well, it’s been fun, but I gotta go rescue some kids from some burning buses. You haven’t seen that Pet, huh? I’ll find her. Got any cocaine?
Kevin Shamel works for Eraserhead Press. He is the author of Rotten Little Animals, Island of the Super People, and Porn Land (forthcoming). He studied the art of stunt with Grant Page, star of the early 80s Australian blockbuster film: Stunt Rock.
by Garrett Cook
Hey guys, sorry about the lack of flash fiction last week. To make it up to you, I’m offering you this super great portrait of Garrett Cook I drew, in addition to his amazing flash piece, “All About the Sheriff”.
There is nothing to be known in this donut shop. But every day he comes in with his questions and his pliers and his high beaver count ten gallon hat. And he comes around and keeps on asking questions and twisting the fingers of local low-lives until everything they know comes pouring out. It’s inconsequential that it’s never what he needs. What’s he supposed to do? He’s the sheriff.
There was a time when this city was just a bare whitewashed wall that walked around with him, interposing itself between him and those he loved, in particular this one woman whose name he has forgotten, but if you ask the wall, it will tell you. You just have to know which wall to ask. And that information doesn’t come cheap.
In the beginning, she could sneak behind the wall, trick it into looking away, pole vault over it or approach him from the sides. It was just one wall and she was brave and beautiful and optimistic and used to men and their sad, secret places. Every man has them, after all. They could carry on their life and love almost as if it wasn’t there. But it was.
The first wall attracted a second wall, as walls often do. While it is hard to get around a wall that doesn’t want you getting past it, it’s twice as difficult getting around two of them. Physical contact becomes exhausting, lovemaking virtually impossible. That’s what the walls tell me at least. And I have no reason to believe they didn’t perform their tasks admirably.
Though the man who would be sheriff wasn’t getting any, the walls found time to breed and gave birth to twins. Walls grow up quickly. It was only a matter of days before the man who would be sheriff found himself in a box. The box had almost no cellphone reception, just enough to hear her pick up the phone, say his name, a name he has since forgotten and ask “is that you?” and God help the poor bastard, by the end of the week, he wasn’t sure. A week in a box that you know you’re responsible for does that to a man. Had he not known from the cellphone calls that there was a girl out there somewhere, there would have been nothing left of him.
At last, a door appeared in one wall. Was it the will of the man who would be sheriff? It’s difficult to say. What the man who would be sheriff knew was that he was grateful for it. He opened the door and walked out into a snowbound city, born during his seclusion. There was a cowboy standing in the street, face wet with tears red as a stoplight from misery.
The cowboy hugged the man who would be sheriff. He placed his cowboy hat on the man who would be sheriff’s head and a tin star on the man who would be sheriff’s chest. The cowboy turned, took a few steps, put his sixgun up to his head and blew his brains out. I meet a lot of people here in this donut shop and I haven’t met a single one that knew who this cowboy was or where he came from. There are some folks who are adamant that the cowboy doesn’t exist and others who will scream out “by the cowboy!” as an oath.
The man who would be sheriff found himself wearing a tin star and a high beaver count hat and wandering the streets of the city that grew around him during his time in the box. Petty crimes stopped at the sight of the desperate tinstarred gentleman whose loneliness was poison and whose fear turned quickly into a rain of lead that would cleanse the criminal souls of their impurities. And it wasn’t long before his loneliness and fear spread across this whole damn city.
There is nothing to be learned at this donut shop, although he comes here often enough. The criminal types that congregate here only know about crime. It’s what they do. They’re criminals after all. There is nothing that can be learned in this donut shop. I make sure of that and he could twist my fingers off and not hear a word he doesn’t already know.
I’ve seen her a couple times. Late at night when the criminals have left and the sheriff has already made his rounds. Yeah. The one he built the wall to protect himself from, the one he built the city to avoid, the one he’s still trying to find. She gets a lowfat muffin and a coffee and she tells me “don’t tell him that I came.” And I never do.
Garrett Cook is the author of the Murderland Series, Archelon Ranch and Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective. Find out more about him: http://thegarrettcook.blogspot.com
by S.T. Cartledge
There is a man who lives on a hill in a village not far from where I live, and he lives in a house that is shaped like John Hurt. It doesn’t look intentional (the design) but that’s the way it turned out. He sits out the front of his John Hurt house, and he’s got a banjo and a harmonica and from the moment the sun comes up, he is playing and singing songs about John Hurt. Because living in the John Hurt house has shaped him that way.
They’re not bad, his John Hurt songs, but every time he plays one, his wife gets a little bigger. Of course he didn’t realize right away. He only noticed when she was finally too big to fit through the front door. But the thing was, by this time, he couldn’t stop playing his John Hurt songs, and she kept getting bigger. The wind from his harmonica and the words from his mouth were inflating her like a balloon.
When she couldn’t fit through the door, she took to spending her time by the kitchen window. With a hose attached to the kitchen sink, she watered the grass where she could reach, and tended to her John Hurt garden of fruits and vegetables and roses.
Before long, her fingers became too inflated to turn the tap. By this time, the fruits and vegetables and roses were getting pretty massive themselves. With her forehead pressed against the kitchen ceiling, she asked her husband to put his banjo and harmonica and take all her John Hurt fruits and vegetables and roses to market.
This is when I meet the man from the John Hurt house. He sells all the fruit and vegetables and roses from his wife’s John Hurt garden, and he begins singing his John Hurt songs in town. His voice carries down the main street, where the village gathers around to listen and chomp down on his John Hurt apples and peaches and plums and carrots and potatoes and corn. The village, in turn, takes to building their own John Hurt homes. writing and playing their own John Hurt songs, and growing their own John Hurt gardens and
They don’t realize what they’re doing at first. They just look up on the hill and build what they see and sing what they hear and eat what they grow.
The men all play their banjos and harmonicas and the women all water their gardens from the kitchen as they gradually inflate. And then the woman on the hill bursts all over the John Hurt walls, and the man puts his banjo on the ground and puts his harmonica down beside it. The sun goes down and casts its shadows over the face of the John Hurt house and the man goes away and leaves the village singing and gardening and inflating.
He returns with a shovel and he digs into the hill, digging late into the night, the quiet night with the John Hurt moon gazing down at him. He takes off his shirt and wipes the sweat off his face and brushes the dirt off John Hurt’s shoulders.
In the morning, the village gathers around the hill and watches him dig. They have listened to his John Hurt songs for so long that his silence pulls them in. Before noon they are all digging with him. All the men out on the John Hurt hill digging while the inflated women sit in the kitchen in their quiet little John Hurt town. All morning the men are digging, and all afternoon the men are digging, and at the end of the day, the John Hurt house on the hill has been liberated.
At the end of the day — sitting in a wide, uneven field of dirt — is a giant John Hurt, naked as the day he was born. He stands up then kneels down to get a good look at everyone who has set him free. He wipes dirt from his body. The man slaps John Hurt on his bum with a shovel and sends him on his John Hurt way.
S.T. Cartledge is amazing.
by Gary Shipley
He said there were more of him than yesterday, more he’s to call brothers, more rivalrous burdens he’s to accept in the name of the family of himself, for his father that had the deatheyes he’d seen on all last year’s sisters, sisters he’d somehow forgotten till now as there was no profit in remembering – the broadcasts made that much clear – and a future only in knowing that all this is just objects misremembering themselves, their anatomies blowing about like weeds into each other, the whole world colorless Lego with no need for hands differencing themselves with illusions of control, and how mistrustful now of the ground they bury old ones, in-valids, their faces blotched like breath on dirty chrome, in cabinets and mirrored wardrobes, and without pause he tells how the water has a voice adapted from old books about fairies, angels and mathematical perversities, that drinking occurs only in circles of never less than ten and requires the full attention of all, illustrations of the proper technique absorbed noiselessly, spines kept rigid at right angles from the floor, and he stops, his yawns glazed white atomic with words his brow an expanse of freeze-framed worms until he chooses to start up again, his tongue a primitive tape reel of recorded correspondence between stray organs diseased into green deserts of consciousness, its margin for error a razor-cut manifested in the flew-like cascade of his bottom lip, and so he starts again, how he suffers accidents of direction, how his intentions have become superstitions of autonomy, over-produced and over-organized and interspersed somehow with ringtones seemingly servant to their own private ferments of joy, so that when the structure of his hands seem in jeopardy, fingers bending and guttering in flexuous monkeyings at self-rule, none of us are taken in, but instead chew on the evening dimness, our jaws rocking-chairs flattening air, and wait for more to come out, more headaching images stinking of the sameness of past and future, more low-ceilinged cycles of melancholic valor, more unseens entering bodies and lighting up bones as if they were striplights, more young sisters decorated in stigmata of themselves, more mountains made from daughters and doors lined with opened animals, more incurables colored glowing nightscapes of Tokyo, and us remote wadding for it all, up inside the sudden solitude of animals sick in reverse, poisoned vortices flushed out and lurched free of madness, inhuman disciples of daylight filled of years of inches of word of spirit curiosities on the roadside, and still he keeps on wording the wordless, trickles of fables and long dreams sucked from his first father’s boat-like mistress who hadn’t floated when the time came, who’d lain submerged marmoreal in the green ice water of sub-marital exclusion, and how disowned by nature she’d birthed him through a straw, a baby boy constructed from the purest godwhite contagion, a ghosted burst through the habiliments of a synthetic familial skin, and him nodding down at the smartphone clasped in the claw of his right foot, his fingerish toes frantically pulling up images, having us stoop to see fresh sightings of those facesame bodies steaming with regrowths, of per-sons seemingly posed at angles, complexions greyed with fast food congruent with old-world machinery, of its de-sires clucking on outworn families captured screaming from the wing mirrors of a never-ending crawl of half-butchered cars
Gary J. Shipley is the author of Theoretical Animals (BlazeVOX). He is on the editorial board of the arts journal SCRIPT. More details can be found here.
by Andrew Wayne Adams
A hairless man wearing aviator sunglasses dives into a swimming pool full of submarine sandwiches. He swims from one end of the pool to the other, doing the breaststroke through meat and veggies. A piece of rotten cheese clings to his shaved head.
After thirty minutes he emerges from the pool and stretches out on a bear-skin rug. A large-breasted woman wearing a barbed-wire bikini brings him a drink. The drink has an umbrella in it.
“Darling,” says the woman, and she rubs his tan.
He lifts his aviator sunglasses. He smiles at her. He lowers the sunglasses back over his eyes and sips his drink.
There is a palm tree nearby. The sunshine is like something out of a music video. The man has music videos playing on the inside of his sunglasses, a different video on each lens. One of the music videos is highly pornographic.
“Son,” says the woman, and she begins to knit.
The man lifts his sunglasses. He didn’t notice before, but the large-breasted woman in the barbed-wire bikini is his mother.
His mother reaches over and peels the piece of cheese from his head.
He screams, jumps up from the bear-skin rug. He dives back into the pool full of submarine sandwiches and swims furiously to the other end, covering the entire distance of the pool in two seconds. He is still holding his drink with the umbrella in it.
His mother is waiting for him at the other end. She teleported there somehow. Perhaps knowing how to teleport is part of her maternal instinct. She stares down at him from poolside as he swims in place. He gazes up at her and wonders what to do.
An umbilical cord unravels from his mother’s abdomen. It snakes through the air and lashes his chest like an alien tail. Then it coils itself around his neck and squeezes.
“No,” the man gasps. His hands flail (the right hand still casually grips his drink). He tears open submarine sandwiches, looking for a weapon. In one sandwich he finds a long kitchen knife.
He swings the knife at the umbilical cord, severing it.
His first girlfriend steps out from behind his mother and approaches the edge of the pool. Her face has morphed into that of a cat.
“You stay away,” the man shouts, wiggling the kitchen knife at her. The man is crying now. Every inch of him is greasy. He suddenly feels old.
His first girlfriend extends a booted foot. She plants the foot on his head. He hacks at the foot with his knife. She presses down. He struggles to stay afloat but is still unwilling to relinquish his drink. His first girlfriend meows.
She pushes him beneath the surface. Her foot holds him there. He can’t breathe. The foot pushes him deeper. And deeper. He sinks through fathoms of meat and cheese.
Things become different. The sandwiches disappear, giving way to something dark and blue and cold. There are bubbles, tiny and everywhere.
It is raining fish.
The man removes the umbrella from his drink and holds it above him. Fish thud off the umbrella and he wonders when he’ll reach the bottom.
Andrew Wayne Adams is an American writer/artist. He does strange things in public toilets at 2:00 a.m. He currently lives nowhere.
by Alex M. Pruteanu
You pair tiramisu with a crayfish starter. Tender steak and homemade sorbet. Excellent ambiance, food, and service. Then go for the papers. For the papers. “Georgette lives in Alabama with her best friend and life partner, eight horses, fifteen chickens, one rabbit, five cats, and two dogs. ‘I blog, read blogs, and comment on blogs in spurts. Although I am not always consistent, here is a list of bloggers I think are pretty groovy.’” “The Real Sun Myung Moon: Is Barrack Obama Running a Cult?” More rubbish: “A Dollar a Day; Presidents and Prison” and “Emotions and Money” and “Who Is Ron Paul/How Can We Salvage The Economy?” and “Hermaphrodites for Clinton” and…
This is why I drink Cat Diesel. You think. This is why I drink Cat Diesel. He says.
He says: “To-day is HST Death Day. I still have that bottle of aged alcohol. We can kill it when you get to Silber-Spraings.”
I met Kissinger with Reagan when the Gipper was running for Prez in ’80. Shook hands with him in a fruit market just outside Cleveland. Kissinger’s hand. The Gip was too busy holding up babies and laying off traffic controllers. That came later, but it’s how memories work here. They get mashed up into a 12-quart pot. Carter had just cluster-fucked two helicopters on their way to pluck out the hostages from some abandoned kebab joint in Tehran. Operation Eagle Claw. Has landed. Harshly. Both of them. Also of note, the role Canada played in this debacle: Canadian Caper. Kudos to Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.
And so we sold fruit to Czechoslovaks and Poles (the curtain hadn’t fallen in ’80 so they were still called Czechoslovaks) and honed our English language skills while some grade B actor from Tinseltown moseyed around fishing for support.
Cent. Five Cent. Ten Cent. Dollah.
Cent. Five Cent. Ten Cent. Dollah.
Only by the time we blurted out “may I help you” (which, incidentally always came out as: MayaaahIhee…), customers had already moved on to the Kelbasa and Flaki wołowe stand. Bloody Poles and their Solidarity. I was eleven when I got hooked to grapefruit. Years later my dentist (a Chinese dwarf with a severe limp) chastised me for eating too much citrus (and ingesting massive amounts of wine). Said it was eroding my teeth. Had little holes in the bones which he drilled without anesthesia and filled with some clear compound/sealer. It was the first time I’d been told too much of a good thing is bad.
He was a tai-chi and feng-shui master.
And drilled without remorse.
Or numbing gels.
After the fruit stand I snagged a job cleaning out old warehouses downtown. Walked through a curtain of fiberglass every day. It’s when I started smoking. Twelve years old. The other boys did it so. So. You know. One of them, Terry, drove a shit Chevy Nova (350 with dual exhaust) and kept girlie mags in the boot. That’s the trunk. On lunch breaks he’d go into his car and do his business. Always he came out lighting up a stogie. The shit we cleared out of those warehouses was Eliot Ness junk. Bureaus and armoires and machines from that era. Al Capone times. That kind of rubbish. Ness was a pig, though. A drunkard full of braggadocio who read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a kid.
Amazing how Sherlock Holmes drives all of us to the sauce.
You pair tiramisu with a crayfish starter. Tender steak and homemade sorbet. Only my take on it is: chłodnik litewski, barszcz czerwony, rosół z kurczaka, and for a main you go with polędwiczki wołowe. Excellent ambiance, food, and service. (Bloody Poles and their Solidarność.)
–Hey, where’s my crabs ye fookin alien?
–Grab it, the bucket.
Since emigrating to the United States from Romania in 1980 Alex has worked as a day laborer, a film projectionist, a music store clerk, a journalist/news writer, a TV Director, and a freelance writer. Currently he is an editor at NC State University.
Alex has published fiction in Pank Magazine, Camroc Press Review, Specter Literary Magazine, Connotation Press, and others. He is author of the novella “Short Lean Cuts,” (Amazon Publishing) available as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in paperback at Amazon.