A BETTER LAY - elizabeth ellen

A Better Lay

elizabeth ellen

I drive a baby blue Celica and don't do acid or smoke weed and Paul and Domino suspect me of being an undercover cop. This is what they tell Gage when I'm not around. They can't understand what I'm doing here if I'm not.

"Are you a cop?" Paul asks as I make my way to the bathroom in a t-shirt and underwear and nothing else.

"Funny," I say.

"No, seriously," he says. "You have to answer. If someone asks you if you're a cop and you are, you have to answer, you have to say yes."

"I'm not a cop," I say. "Now can I go to the bathroom?"

Two nights later I take my first hit of acid, partly because I'm curious, partly to get Paul and Domino off my back. I sit in the living room between Gage and Paul and watch The Wall and drink piss-colored Gatorade straight from the bottle. It's seven o'clock and no one else is here yet. By eleven the living room is full of spilt beer and cigarette butts and underage bodies. This apartment is a haven for runaways. I'm twenty-five. I'm the oldest one here. Gage and Paul are each eighteen, most of the girls still in high school; I end up making out with one of them in the backroom on the waterbed.

"I used to fuck Gage," she tells me, twirling her matted hair, flicking her ash into an empty beer can on the floor. "Until you came along. Now I'm with Domino. I think he's a better lay anyway."

I don't answer her. I'm not here to listen to her talk.

I push her back down onto the bed hard and the water slaps the headboard. I spread her thighs with my elbows and hike her skirt up over her hips.

Someone knocks on the door and I yell for them to go away.



Certain Facts About Squirrels, Brown, Black, or Otherwise

barry graham

It was my understanding that squirrels hibernate for the winter. But here we are - February. I have only encountered two types of squirrels - those that run when you get too close, and those that notice you approaching and begin taking advanced measures long before any plan is devised pertaining to their capture. Cars park along the street in no parking zones. If I park in a no parking zone my car would be towed away, never to be seen again. Here, cars run stop signs at intersections, run over squirrels trying to cross the road, then illegally park beside the fire hydrant in front of the Post Office. If squirrels can see a person coming from one hundred yards away, why can't they see oncoming traffic? Suppose they could, and car dodging is an unconscious mating ritual where only the bravest car dodging squirrels are chosen to reproduce. If that were the case natural selection would leave only brave squirrels who would not run when they see people coming from one hundred yards away. Blissfield is the only place I've ever seen a black squirrel. I have never seen a black squirrel run across the road into oncoming traffic. I have not seen a black squirrel since winter has arrived, just regular squirrels, only fatter. Regular squirrels, black squirrels, no flying squirrels.


Burning Through It

j.a. tyler

Crossed ankles impaled one against another he reaches into pages. Orange light blares and there is cold concrete. And there is a fire. And he holds it between two knuckles. Two fingers cupped and curved to accept and match and meet. And it burns like light or wind or thunder or rain when the burning is so much that he needs a break. So he reads slower. Word by word. And his attention is drawn to her death. When she leapt from it. When she stepped in front of it. When she stabbed downward then up again pulling through tendons and meat like butter knives through cupcake frosting. And it still burns there. Between his first and his middle. Train smoke curling upward in visions of ghosts and people. Passing. Like other shades. Like other beings. Like cars counting one two one two three blue red red blue. White. Green. Orange. And it's coming down to the filter. The lines. The circles of gold. So he chains another one from the first and he reads on. About a boy who leaves and then comes back again and is changed somewhere in between. About a kid who doesn't know anything to begin with and is now kept from knowing. Held out. Trapped beneath layers of tobacco smoke and night. Reading on a pedestal of cement. Burning through it.

Among fifty or so other publications, J. A. Tyler has work recently with or appearing soon in The Feathertale Review, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, & Word Riot. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious. Check out more at www.aboutjatyler.com


Meta - Castellamare - Sorrento (via Pozzano)

jan windle

Mutton dressed as lamb, I exited the subway at Meta station. Binario 2 was deserted and hot as hell. Sweat pooled in my navel.

"Signora!" The ticket clerk was waving from Binario 1. I got the gist – something like "Over here, you fool!"

I made "Oh silly me" signs (finger to straw hat, rotating), and rushed back into the subway. "Piano, piano" slowed me down.

The ticket clerk hurried me into his office, introduced me to his colleague and interrogated me about my mission in Castellamare. Buying paints? He shared a name with Van Gogh. Conversation blossomed. When the train drew in they waved me goodbye like Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Returning through Castellamare was a Through the Looking Glass moment. With a friendly roar Vincenzo appeared in this ticket office too. Questioned closely, I accounted for my movements.

I ended up in Pozzano. Pozzano was a cold dark tunnel with only graffiti to remind me the rest of humanity existed, until a harmless looking young man in red trousers appeared. Semaphore was our common tongue.

I looked for Vincenzo when I got off at Sorrento but he'd given up on me. I hoped it wasn't the straw hat.

CIRCLE - bill barr


bill barr

'Propagation of the species' is an unusual term for me to dream about as a four year old. I'm thirty-five. Why dream that I'm four, and think thoughts that a kid shouldn't? Am I attempting to aggrandize my decelerated circumstances, or populate an acceleration? It's all just about tits.

Steve slipped into his son's room. Little Stevie was sitting up in the crib, rubbing his eyes. "ah'm 'tempin 'gran sir cuss tans, Daaad, antits," he drawled with his sleepy four year old mouth. He dropped his head back onto the pillow. His father admired for a moment how big his son was for his age. Stevie yawned into his father's face and jumped up, suddenly hungry. He vaulted over the short rail and sped past his father, out the door, down the stairs and leapt into his mother's arms. He buried his face under her chin, into the crook of her neck. She squeezed him tight.

"Pa'cakes? Saa'sages?"

"Just for you, honey. Get a plate and the syrup. I'll bring it to you." She kissed him.

Stevie followed his mother's directions. He kneeled onto a seat at the breakfast table, then grabbed silverware and rolled the knife between his fingers, eyeing his father coming through the door. He plopped his hand onto the table and played mumbly peg, tapping the knife on the table in the spaces between his fingers as fast as he could.

"That's pretty good. Stevie, where'd you learn to do that?" His father asked as he slipped into the seat beside him.

"I've known it mah whole life," Stevie smiled. He leaned over and slammed the knife down between his father's legs, skewering him to the chair. "Mother dear, no pancakes, just coffee, please."

Bill has various persona that he keeps in a box on the bureau, removing to dust occasionally. Last year, he appeared in The 50/50, he won five awards: for a column and for vacuuming and he placed fifth in a dance contest in front of over 500 people. Next year he plans to only associate with the number six.


HOLINESS - shaindel beers


shaindel beers

Lise wonders how many of the women who lie naked on her fur throws wonder how many other women have lain there. Are they thinking about anything other than themselves when she captures them, making the present eternal? Yesterday was a girl who had just found out she was pregnant and scheduled nudes immediately, paranoid that her body would never look the same. Today, it's a brunette who has a theory that cigarettes will become illegal during her lifetime and smoking photos will be a black-market fetish item. So far, she has reclined on the white bearskin, a pearl necklace and cigarette as her only props; now she is in black leather thigh boots, leaning over a chair, gazing into the distance. The smoke follows her around the room like a spirit, and Lise realizes this is what she's capturing for these women—a palpable boldness that emanates from them throughout the shoot. She's still waiting for someone to choose the tiny glass butterflies she picked up at State Street Market last weekend. Then, she will affix the ornaments to the body one by one, letting the lights shine through them like stained glass, the body as temple, literally.

Shaindel Beers' poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry Miscellany, Minnesota Review, and The New Verse News. She is currently a professor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon's high desert and also serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary, and as a Poetry Reviewer for Bookslut. Recent work can be found online at damselflypress.net, www.projectedletters.com, and www.ignaviapress.com.


A Baby In The Belly Of A Prostitute

justin blackburn

The cool midnight air building an easy bridge between here and there, between the world you know and the world you can't even imagine.

"Before Adam I did exist as the servant of God" She mutters."Before Adam." Her father says. "That is a good one." He takes a deep breath of solace, pretending to himself he can resist all signs of nature's purity, "Are you ready to kill that thing?"

"He has wings, you know, he has wings!" Tears shooting every which way, the air ducking to miss the pain of the beautiful woman.

"Well good for him!" The man screams, not really making any sense at all while the moonlight pours in like a doctor.

Author of two books, Gifted Disabilities, a book of poetry, and "It's Hard To Get There When You Are Already There"

INSIDE/OUT - david byron and jane timm baxter


david byron and jane timm baxter

I was born ugly. My mother told me that when I was born. I had some kind of rare skin disease, like leprosy. The doctors told her it was a severe form of eczema vaccinatum, but it just affected my face, and my mother couldn't afford the treatments. She told me it would get worse before it got better, which was putting it mildly. It would, in fact, never get better. It might even be fatal, she said. But, I was still pretty on the inside.

My mama had been a whore; a pretty whore that sold her ass on the street for a few bucks, gave blow-jobs under highway overpasses. But I didn't fault her for that; it wasn't what she'd done, but how she'd done it. She'd make me wear a Halloween mask so nobody could see my face, then make me watch her put their dicks in her mouth. After they left, she told me I'd better pay close attention to what she'd just done, because that is how I would make my living someday. My lawyer asked me why mama made me watch, and I told him because she was crazy, strung out. That's how she died; an overdose. I was there. I couldn't help laughing as she choked on her own vomit and blood. She didn't look so pretty then.

MARKS - claudia smith


claudia smith

They have sex without asking, no words. His belly is soft, he's gained weight; her breasts are sore. Their baby has been suckling, kneading, asking for them. Once, when she swam into a man 'o war, he'd pulled her from the water and got the tentacle out with meat tenderizer, then kissed the wound. He was thin, thinner than she was, even; he could wear her jeans. Sometimes he did. There is a strawberry mark behind his left shoulder. When she traces it, he stands up and goes to lie down in the bathroom. When he falls asleep, she leaves and looks in on their child. Transparent hair and blue eyes; perhaps his eyes, his hair. She would like to touch the whorl but it would wake him.

Claudia Smith's collection of short-shorts, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts, is available from Rose Metal Press and Powell's. More of her work may be found at www.claudiaweb.net

WINTER - zachary c. bush


zachary c. bush

Ester's parents are in Paris over Christmas break. Twelve naked bodies pack the downstairs living room, playing Santa Claus, fucking to Christmas carols and vanilla scented candles. Ester and I are upstairs in her parent's sleigh bed. I don't remember what all I took tonight, but I feel just right. Ester's got a glittery leather belt wrapped around my bicep. She pops the skin of a blue vein running up my forearm with the small spike tip. I feel the warmed wave. I look up, blink my eyes, and everything in the room is moving towards me. Ester whispers something into my ear and the rest is a blur.

Zachary C. Bush, 24, is a writer and a co-editor of poetry for Thieves Jargon. In 2007, ZCB authored three chapbooks of poetry: Outside the Halfway House (Scintillating Publications), We Swallow(ed) Spiders in our Sleep (Pudding House Publications), and co-authored NEXT EXIT: FOUR with Brad Kohler (Kendra Steiner Editions). ZCB is a member of the Guerilla Poetics Project. Check us out: www.guerillapoetics.org.