Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Got Me a Date with an Uptown Girl by Douglas Hackle

After owning a beeper for decades and not receiving a single page on the damn thing, I concluded there must be something wrong with the number. So I called my service provider to change it. As a consequence, I also had to order a new batch of social calling cards, ones that displayed my new beeper number. I placed a bulk order online, got a pretty good deal for 5,000 cards. After the weighty box arrived in the mail a few days later, I got into my car and drove all over town to place the cards; to let people know I was out there in the world, that I existed, that I was a person in need of social interaction.

I left my calling cards on tables and chairs in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, dental practices, psychiatry practices, and law firms. I left them on the sinks in public bathrooms—men’s and ladies’ rooms alike—in movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, and gas stations. On park benches, in bus stops, on the seats of subway cars. I tacked them to utility poles underneath garage sale fliers, above notices for missing cats and dogs. I left them strewn about on the floors and shelves at discount retail stores and supermarkets. I slipped them into the mailboxes of houses, apartments, businesses, and places of worship.

I left my calling cards all over downtown. I left them all over uptown. Three days it took me to get rid of them.

Several months passed before my beeper finally went BEEP, BEEP, BEEP… I was at home in my trailer when it happened, relaxing in my recliner, playing Atari 2600, and smoking a fat, clown tear-laced primo. That my beeper had finally beeped was exciting enough, but I also noticed the number flashing on the device had an uptown area code, which was cause for even more excitement. See, in depositing my calling cards all over my city and its environs, I sought acquaintanceship, friendship, romance, meaningless sex, and anything and everything in between. But the ultimate payoff of this practice was to land a date with an uptown girl. At least that had always been the dream of this downtown man.

“Hello,” a young woman’s voice picked up when I called the number.

“Uh, hi. I’m Kranlin Kristofferson VIII. Did you, like, just page me?”

“Yes. Hi, I’m Juliet. I found one of your calling cards in the tomato bin at the grocery store.”

“Oh, cool. So, are you like a real uptown girl?”

“Yes, I am. I’m beautiful, blonde, rich, classy, cultured—the whole nine yards. Did you just call me on your cell phone?”

“Yeah.”

“Then why didn’t you just put your cell phone number on your calling cards instead of your beeper number? I didn’t even know what a beeper was until I googled ‘beeper’ after I found your card. You’re probably like the last person on Earth who still uses one of those things.”

“I suppose I could’ve put my cell number on the cards instead.”

“And what’s with this whole calling card thing to begin with? Who even does that? It’s weird. And creepy. I mean, has anyone ever passed out social calling cards like this?”

“Uh, yeah. I mean, I think so. I think people did it back in the olden days sometimes.”

“Is it still the olden days?”

“Are you always this sarcastic?”

“Yes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

“Hey, would you like to maybe—you know—go out on, like, a date with, uh, like, me sometime, maybe?”

“Pick me up at seven,” Juliet said before she hung up.

***

I used the last of my life savings to rent a stretch limo for the date. Unfortunately, I could only afford the limo and not a driver to drive it. Looks like I’d have to be my own chauffer. After I picked up the wheels, I purchased a James Bond costume from the bargain bin at the Halloween store. See, I wanted to impress Juliet by wearing a tuxedo, but I didn’t even own a suit, let alone a tux. I sure as shit couldn’t afford to rent one after shelling out the dough for the limo. The James Bond Halloween costume was essentially a fake tuxedo, so it would just have to do. Back at my trailer, I shat, showered, shaved, and doused myself in Axe body spray. On my way out the door I grabbed a CD I’d created earlier in the day that consisted solely of the song “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel played over and over again like a hundred times.

Somewhere along the highway during the ride from downtown to uptown, with “Uptown Girl” playing at a low, comfortable volume, I realized I didn’t know where the hell I was going. Juliet had never given me her address. So I called her on my cellie.

“Hello, Kristofferson,” my beeper’s unmistakable, tinny, babyish voice answered on the other end.

What the fuck! I thought as my right hand pulled off the steering wheel to grapple at my right hip, where my beeper should have been clipped to the elastic waistband of my fake tuxedo pants.

It wasn’t.

“Where the hell are you?” I barked.

“I’m at Juliet’s mansion. You know, uptown. I’m on a date with her. A fuck-first-eat-later kind of date, if you know what I mean. Heh-heh. Sorry, but I gotta go now.”

“Now just you hold on a minute you little shit. That’s MY uptown girl you’re with! You tell me where you are. Gimme her goddamn address—RIGHT NOW, ASSHOLE!”

“Sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t do that, Kristofferson. And by the way, I quit. Go find yourself a new beeper. Better yet, maybe it’s time you catch up to the twenty-first century and stop using beepers and those ridiculous calling cards and that terrible Axe body spray.”

“Why you motherfuck—”

“Don’t be cross, boss. Or ex-boss, I should say. Hey, I’m not such a bad beeper. In fact, I felt kinda bad about this whole business. So after I slipped away from you earlier today, I decided to hook you up, mofo! Press the button to lower the privacy partition in your limo, take a look in the back, and you’ll see just what I mean.”

Bristling with rage I pressed the button to lower the tinted sheet of glass that separated me from the passenger area. I glanced up at the rearview mirror to see a ripe corpse propped up all the way in the back. Despite the bloating and the liquefying stage of putrefaction, I recognized the body as belonging to a former neighbor of mine from the trailer park: Ol’ Man Jenkins, an elderly, morbidly obese man who had somehow managed to hang himself in his trailer not two weeks prior. Now this colossal stiff was in my limo, still wrapped up in his plus-size death-suit, only now he sported a wig of long, shiny platinum hair, and his thin, receding lips were all gooped-up with this garish, blood-red lipstick to create a grotesque, clownish effect. And that enormous belly of his looked like it might burst at any second under the mounting pressure of the corpse gases brewing within.

“Ta-da!” my beeper said. “I made you your very own uptown girl!”

“I’m gonna find you, you obsolete little shit,” I said, my voice shaky with angry. “You hear me, you sonofabitch? And when I do, I’m gonna spike you down at the ground and stomp you into a million bits and pieces!”

“Hey, good talk, bro, good talk. But I gotta go, yo. Juliet’s about to give me an A+, uptown blowjob.” To my chagrin, I heard Juliet giggling in the background. “Sorry you don’t appreciate the parting gift that took me so much trouble to acquire and prepare for you. So see ya never again, dickface. Ah-hahahaha…”

My former beeper then hung up on me.

I glanced back at the grisly thing in the backseat. Shuddering, I slapped the button to raise the tinted glass so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore. Not sure what to do next, I turned up the volume of “Uptown Girl” a few notches and just kept driving, eventually getting off the exit ramp to uptown. As I navigated the mansion-lined avenues of the uptown hills, I couldn’t help glancing in the rearview mirror at that tinted glass barrier, a pit of dread ballooning in my guts. At some point the intercom beeped, startling me.

“Taaaake meeee back to the cemeteeery,” Ol’ Man Jenkins croaked through the speaker. “Lower me back into my graaaaave. Then stay down there with meeeeeee. We can play Empire Strikes Back down there. You can be Luke Skywalker, and I’ll be that tauntaun that froze to death on Hoth. You can cut open my gas-filled belly and then climb inside. It will smell bad, but it’ll keep you warm and protect you from the frigid Hoth niiiiiiiiiiiiight.”

Fuck.

Shit.

But sadly enough, it appeared I didn’t have anything better to do.

“Okay, Ol’ Man Jenkins,” I said, defeated. “I guess we can go play Empire Strikes Back in your grave.” I paused. “Hey, you know what?”

“Whaaaaaat?” the horrifying, undead voice rasped through the intercom.

“You’re my uptown girl.”

“And youuuu, you are my downtown maaaaaaan.”

I smiled and frowned at the exact same time, blinked away boiling hot, chimpanzee-semen tears from my crispy tater tot eyes, and took a big, apple-like bite out of a Rubik’s cube that I’d brought along for a snack.

“That’s what I am,” I said, grinding colorful plastic between my molars.

The Scab-Begger by Zoltan Komor

The scab-beggar steps to me on the street and asks for some dry wounds. He can see that my arm is full of crusty layers and he's already eyeing a big wound on my elbow, the one I wanted to buy a pack of smoke with. It's such a long time since I’ve smoked—the overhead charges take away all of my wounds and I can't torchure myself forever.

I look the scab-beggar up and down. What a miserable little fellow. Since scabs became the new currency only weak-kneed, spineless people who haven't got the balls to bruise themselves become poor.

"Grow your own!" I growl at him, covering the wound on my elbow with my bruised hand.

"Please, mister, I'm anemic, my blood...my blood doesn't clot correctly..." he snivels, then he adds: "I've got a family to take care of!"

"Then why don't you beat them like every other decent person does?" I yell at him, suddenly remembering my father who beat the crap out of us every night when I was a kid so he could take us to the zoo on the weekend. He was a great man, but finally he took too much weight on his shoulders. He and my mother decided they should save some scabs for a new house. So they had a big fight every night and beat each other hard for the wound-coins. It wasn't easy for dad because he was also torchered in his workplace all day long. So the house... They couldn't save enough for the house because my father dropped dead after a few months. I think that's when I decided that I'd never get married and have children.

"Their blood doesn't clot either, ’cause they haven't eat for quite a long time!" the beggar cries. "You're not gonna leave me alone, are you?"

I sigh and pinch the crusty layer between my two fingers and I tear it up slowly. From behind the brown wound-coin transparent liquid and some blood oozes out. I drop the slimy clot-coin into the beggars palm, who slips it into his pocket thanking me.

I can almost see that he will step into a bar to buy some booze with it. But later I see him in front of a milk automat. He's pushing my wound into its coin slot and suddenly a really good feeling overwhelms me. Though, there's really no reason for me to be happy. After all, I didn't buy any smokes.

I go home. The sounds of infant crying and beating can be heard coming from the neighbour. Maybe a mother is kicking a newborn so she can buy more diapers for it. I'm cutting myself with a kitchen knife when an image pops into my mind from my childhood. I was seven, kneeling in the middle of the room, scratching up a dry wound from my knee that I'd got falling off my bycicle. I was saving my wound-coins in a porcelain piggy bank while a bald, chubby politician talked on the tv about how great an idea it was to make scabs the new currency after the usual money became worthless in the big economic crisis.

"The world will never run out of wounds!" He winked from the screen.

This was long ago. I go to bed. In my dream I see pigs with foaming mouths eating my wounds from a rusty trough. I wake up later with the dark suspicion that the politican in the tv was wrong, even the world can run out of wounds.

Houses of Paper by Nathan Wunner

Trevor’s nose is bleeding and his eyes are rolling back in his head. He feels the blistering black edges of death gripping him tightly and pulling him down. In his mind he pictures the whole universe coming undone, the distance between stars becoming infinite as all of creation’s desire to expand and multiply is tearing it apart from inside.

His body growing cold, and knowing that he has very little time before the lights go out on everything, forever, Trevor frantically recalls a happy memory and grabs hold of it like a life preserver.

There’s soft jazz playing in the next room. Trevor feels a cozy fire at his back and a warmth in his abdomen which could only come from a whiskey bottle. He feels silk clothes on his skin, wool socks on his feet. His vision is only slightly blurred because of the alcohol; just enough to give everything a vibrant, warm halo.

Trevor taps his fingers upon a black oak desk and hums along with the music, not caring if he misses a beat. He takes another sip of whiskey and holds it in his mouth, sloshing it back and forth across his tongue and letting it burn.

Across from him is a window, and through it he sees that the ground outside is covered in snow. Fat snowflakes leisurely drift down to the earth to mingle with others of their kind. The horizon is a dark and radiant blue.

Julie enters the room, wearing a tight skirt that clings to her hips and a top that reveals an acceptable amount of cleavage without looking slutty. Her curly red hair spills around her shoulders like the froth at the bottom of a waterfall. She holds a bottle of champagne in her right hand and her left hand rests upon her hip. In a blur of motion Trevor finds himself on his feet and tasting her lips. He buries his head in her flowing hair and his senses are overwhelmed by the scent of that wretched conditioner she’s been using for the last six years.

No, no. Stop. That’s not right.

Julie bought a new conditioner. New makeup. Dyed her hair black.

It’s my fucking consciousness, Trevor thinks. I’ll make this moment work if it’s the last thing I do.

Trevor and Julie awkwardly shrug off their clothes as they make their way upstairs. Julie’s nipples are wide and perky and her skin is soft, like a pillow that’s been left out in the sunlight. Her polished fingernails fumble with Trevor’s belt buckle, then his zipper, and finally, with his flaccid cock.

Shit, Trevor thinks. I can’t get it up. Everything can’t be perfect for the last time if I can’t get it up. He tries to back out of this moment, to recall another memory in his mind’s eye, but it’s too late. Everything is falling apart faster than he’d thought it would. He has to make do with what he has.

Trevor imagines himself taking viagra. His memories become so entwined with his fantasies of how he wishes things were that he can’t tell the two apart.

Julie is wearing leather and fishnet stockings, a whip in hand, rivulets of blood seeping from the corners of her mouth. She sits on the stairs with her legs spread wide; pale white thighs with a creamy pink center out in full view. Trevor, engorged, strokes himself furiously.

Outside the sky is cracking in half. The snowflakes have all frozen in place in mid-air. Everything is frigid and iced over, even the interior of the house.

It's as though all of creation wants nothing more than to stifle Trevor’s erection.

Trevor’s hands find Julie’s throat as he thrusts inside of her. Julie squeezes her tits together with her biceps and licks her lips. Her vagina is the last light and heat left in the world.

Trevor squeezes her neck tighter and he thinks, “If it weren’t for you, I’d be perfect. I’d never feel inadequate. I’d be a God.”

In his death throes Trevor fails to realize that this is his own fantasy, a universe of his own creation; that he is Julie, fucking himself.

The walls of Trevor’s house are dripping with blood one second and on fire the next. Julie is lying dead face down on the floor, bleeding from the mouth, her feet still twitching as her brain tries to make sense of what’s happened. Then she’s on her feet, speaking in reverse, spreading her legs and crab-walking backwards up the stairs with a smile plastered to her face. The snow outside is falling upwards into the sky.

Trevor is trying to hold on just a little while longer.

Julie takes the first two fingers of her left hand and rubs her clit rapidly, reclining her neck, letting her hair fall backwards, feeling her spine tense. She speaks in that sultry voice she’d reserve for her most playfully flirtatious and private moments, and she says “This…” and as she speaks she looks down at her genitals and nods knowingly, “This is the whole of human history summed up into one moment. Cosmic amoeba with an uncontrollable desire to breed and multiply. This is the best you could do.” She reaches her fingers up into her vagina and pulls them out, and then thrusts them back up again.

Trevor feels a tug at the back of his skull pulling him away. He watches the orbits of a dozen planets decay, sending them plunging into their respective suns. He watches galaxies collide in reverse, while the stars that were born in the process collapse into themselves and disappear into the nothing that they originated from. He watches everything grow still and cold.

In the midst of all this, still desperately clutching his limp penis, he hears Julie’s voice. “Was it worth the suffering, and the pain, and the knowledge that you’ll never be alive again, just for this moment? Is this what you wanted?”

And Trevor answers like any true and knowing God would, by saying “I don’t know what I wanted.”

Silver Threads by Joseph J Patchen

“Officer all I was doing was trying to warn anyone who could hear me. All I was trying to do was to save the innocent.”

It was just a few minutes after dawn and the patrol officer questioning the disheveled elderly man was himself in a hurry. “Which is why you were running up and down the street at 5 a. m. screaming?”

“Yes.”

“And you threw pebbles and small stones at windows of the houses and automobiles?”

“Yes.”

“So, what is this terrible thing causing you to play Paul Revere?”

“Officer, you would expect fright to always stalk the night and to be the darker darkness in the black. I have seen it come as swirling mists of white oozing out of the vast quiet void. Just take a look at the light emanating in their eyes bright; in the yellow, red and white of their sockets wide; comprising hypersensitive sight. As they stalk the day bathed in rays of gold, slithering in plain sight, Hell bent to torment young and old; the silver worms of dread and rot whose green trails never clot, march forth.                                                                                                                                           

“They come for me. They want my thoughts. They crave my dreams and thirst for all of my ideas and theories that my intellect has wrought. They crawl into my ears, nose and mouth gnawing the grey until its brown; they creep in my head without a sound until I’m dead and my body is found empty like a husk.

“They will do the same to everyone in this neighborhood and the same to you.”

The police office pauses for a moment and composes himself. It has been a long shift. He has had to deal with drunkards, perverts, and an attempted armed robbery. “Listen buddy, I am off patrol in ten minutes and have a hot date, I mean a really hot date with a grateful coed I gave a warning to on Route 8. I don’t have time to bring you into a psyche ward or into lock up at the precinct. Understand? Why don’t we do this, you tell me where you live and I’ll give you a ride there. You take a nice hot shower, get a nice cold drink. Hell, have a shot or two with a beer chaser for all I care. Get some rest and just forget about all this worm stuff.”

‘I can’t, they’re here.”

“Where? Where? It’s broad daylight and all I see is me and you. Do I have to look into your ear to see them?”

‘No sir, I suggest you use a mirror.’

“Oh, I see you are a smart ass. You know I can take into the woods up Route 8 and leave you there. So cut the crap.”


‘Yes sir. But I suggest you do look in a mirror and question the thin trickles of blood emerging from your ears.”