Wednesday, December 7, 2011

THE MACHINE by Jon konrath

We watched the room melt into slag, the furniture crystallizing into nothingness, the sound waves of the ambient noise converting to raw electrons and neutrons of particle energy, flowing through our cells and cutting everything apart like x-rays slicing through flesh to bounce off a broken bone. The world outside sped up, slowed down, the structure of the false machines falling apart and disintegrating.

“I think it works,” he said. Ricky ran outside, into the street, picked up an abandoned taxi cab and threw it into low earth orbit, shuttling past communications satellites and passing space stations. I took a Polaroid picture for possible inclusion in a future JC Penny holiday catalog, but don’t keep your fingers crossed. 

“Everything is blue,” he said. “Everything is blue in this world.” I borrowed a french fry machine from a Burger Chef, a mobile fry daddy on a set of roller skate wheels, with a trailer hitch attachment. You could plug it into your cigarette lighter of your rental car and make a set of onion rings while you cruised at 65 on the open highway. Excuse me officer, but I have to flip these chicken tenders before they burn. I’m certain that aliens from another dimension taught Ray Kroc the secrets of fryer oil technology, in exchange for fattening up civilization for the apocalypse. When we hit eight million people, expect killer drones to fall from the sky and take out the most succulent cuts of human butchery for their own drive-through meal deals. I’ll have a #2 meal with a huge fat bastard with fries and a Coke, no pickles.

His lawyers later filed some trumped-up charges that he didn’t know the staple gun actually used staples, that the abortion clinic was for simulated use only. We took a long recess and went to Marilyn Manson’s house, because he’d recently married Carny Wilson and went on this Beach Boys rampage, mistakenly buying a billion dollars of Brian Wilson memorabilia on eBay and then finding out it was all stuff for the San Francisco Giants closing pitcher, stick-on beards and orange t-shirts. That’s why Manson looks like Fidel Castro on his new album. Smile!

CHILLED COFFEE by E. M. Jeanmougin

The coffee is too cold.

It's always too cold at Chomsky Coffee but this time he doesn’t ask for a fresh cup. It's not worth the scowl of the head waitress or the risk of his next cup being accompanied by spit.

Outside, the rain pelts rapidly down. The world is a dismal, wraith-like place, slated in shades of abysmal gray. Two narrow beams of alternating light (one of blue, the other of red) splash across the dreary boulevard. Though the sirens have long-since stopped, the police remain.

From the safety of the café, he's watched on-lookers come and go. They pause at the site of the accident, giving the morbid scene an ephemeral glance before moving on, like children passing exhibits in a museum. A few remain clustered in as close as the authorities will allow them, but with the increasing rain speed their numbers are fast diluting.

The driver of the ’97 Firebird has been arguing with the cops for almost ten minutes now. From his window seat, he can't actually hear the words, but the man’s violent hand gestures and facial expressions tell the tale. It was the pedestrian's fault, surely. He was the one who had walked in front of the car. 

He's not going to win. You don’t cream a pedestrian at 70 mph and then just stroll away without doing serious jail time.

As the ambulance wails up to the scene and the paramedics pile out, he turns away from the window, looks back at the cold cup of coffee, and wishes it were warmer. The extended sitting period has made it somewhat thick and soupy. He crinkles his nose distastefully.

“Shame about that,” comments a man from the table next to him. With alabaster white skin and bruise-like black sags under his eyes, the florescent lights make it almost painful to look at him. The pallid man holds out his cup and the waitress fills it with fresh, steaming coffee. Taking a sip, the man asks, “Guy was a regular, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” replies the waitress, picking up the chilled cup without a downward glance. “Bastard was always whining about the temperature of his coffee.”

IT TAKES A PILLAGE by John H. Dromey

Erik the Redneck spent his summer vacation “flipping Burghers.”

He hung around the village tavern waiting for gluttonous merchants to pass out after swilling too much lager.

Turning over the stupor-rich topers so he could cut their purses was hard work but highly rewarding.

When he wasn’t rolling drunks, Erik was a typical Viking teenager. He listened to the latest sagas, worried about his complexion, and complained loudly about doing homework—he despised chopping wood, fetching water, and picking up those rare table scraps that even the family dogs refused to eat.

Erik was well on his way to becoming a rich man himself when the source of his newfound wealth became an open secret. A barmaid blabbed.

Magnus the Mariner had no difficulty in organizing a small raiding party to go after Erik.

“You won’t even have to get your feet wet,” Magnus told his recruits, “and you can be home by midnight.”

Of those invited, only Hrolf the Eveready—a specialist in assault and battery—begged off, citing chafed knuckles and a bruised ego (from not being the first ruffian asked to participate).

With vulpine cunning, Erik easily outwitted the first three attackers by placing a bearskin rug over an open trapdoor.

Knut the Rock Knee, so-called because he often bumped into boulders when going ashore on unfamiliar beaches, was the first to fall into the root cellar. He was followed close behind by Thorfinn the Complainer and Eystein the Insecure, who both leaned over the opening to see what had happened to their companion. They discovered that for themselves when Erik nudged them sequentially with just enough force to tip them past their centers of gravity.

Ivard the Intimidator was a different matter entirely. Erik knew he wasn’t strong enough to take the bully by the horns, but that thought gave him an idea.

“Are you wearing your wife’s helmet? Those look like cow horns to me,” Erik taunted.

Ivard was unable to reach up and check the calcified protrusions and swing a broadsword at the same time. Erik kicked him in a delicate part of his anatomy and then finished him off with a dagger. 

Having tippy toed into the tavern during the preceding commotion, Olaf the Obnoxious asked the sixty-four-Thaler question, just before he tapped Erik the Redneck on the back of the head with a war club: “Are you smarter than a fifth raider?”

ANGEL OF MERCY by Joseph J. Patchen

It was only after I pulled the trigger that I realized what I had done. Despite all the smoke and shouting and bodies, I could distinctly hear that hammer click into place. I could feel that chamber lock and that bullet whirl out through the barrel.

The steel vibrated and kicked and the powder burned, but all that concerned me was the lettering stamped on the bottom of that bullet. I could read it's markings over and over as it slowly turned and pulled away. At that moment, the battle ended - and so did my involvement in the war.         

I was firing in the face of a charge, standing shoulder to shoulder with like-minded men. Bayonets and swords in our faces, cannon balls past our ears - I never truly aimed at any particular one.

It was like shooting at the side of a barn. Our only aim was at the color. That’s what we were trained to do.  Never, ever have I recognized one - until, of course, today. With the bullet moving slowly, I was able to look up and catch a glimpse of his face.

He looked much older than he was supposed to be - more serious. Maybe because he realized the bullet’s path. I thought I could lean out and snatch it, or maybe swat it to another. But it was out of reach and I was out of time. I could hear his uniform rustle and see the bullet enter and split those fibers, with a little smoke and powder trail.

First he dropped his rifle. Then he clutched his chest before we locked eyes. And then I heard it crack bone. He laid still, his eyes wide, looking past me. We made promises on graves long ago that we would care for each other. I feel I’ve met my end of the bargain. After all, I’ve delivered him from this insanity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Sliding from one dimension to another willy-nilly can be dangerous for someone who doesn’t know the tropes. Phineas Pfefferkorn learned that lesson the hard way.

Expelled from his university computer class, when his eccentric attire and boredom-induced nonverbal sonic disruption of classroom decorum exceeded the intolerant professor’s quota of one “sigh per punk,” Phineas wandered aimlessly through the halls of the science building until he chanced upon a keypad-protected research laboratory.

Phineas hacked his way into the lab. He glanced at the labels on a variety of experimental gadgets before deciding to strap on a prototype time machine and trans-dimensional slider that consisted of a backpack and a utility belt with a control panel.

Although he had every intention of following the advice of Horace Greeley, “Go west, young man,” Phineas was thoroughly disoriented by having passed through a maze of hallways prior to his discovery of the windowless lab where the sun didn’t shine. He faced the nearest wall and pressed a button.

Phineas found himself a gandy dancer on a dilapidated railway line.

He pressed another button.

He found himself a Gandhi dancer in the chorus line of a Bollywood biopic.

Wherever he went, Phineas had trouble adjusting.

When in Rome he did as the Etruscans did

He was out of sync.

What could Phineas do when his experiences clashed with his expectations? He sought a palliative for cognitive dissonance. In other words, he changed his mind.

He decided to switch from the adventuresome, go-exploring philosophy of Horace Greely to the marginally more immediate mantra of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, also known as Horace: Carpe diem. Seize the day, or enjoy the day. Take advantage of the situation you find yourself in.

Phineas wasn’t sure which one of the buttons turned the machine off, so he pushed all of them at once.

Chaos ensued.

A steam powered velocipede collided with a triceratops. A super tanker ran aground on Mars. A reality TV show made sense. A super collider produced a particle that weighed less than the fart of an anorexic quark.  

What had gone wrong? The answer was simple.

Not realizing that he was in a no parallel (universe) parking zone, Phineas had caused a temporal traffic jam at the intersection of Then and Now by breaking the cardinal rule for amateur time travelers: “Don’t change Horaces while in the middle of a slipstream.”

AT SUNSET by Ken Goldman

“North . . . East . . . South . . . West . . .” Jimmy pointed to the sky as he spoke, his face beaming with pride.

“What you doing, sport?” his father asked.

“Pointing to where the four winds blow, like Miss Daniels taught us today.”

“Impressive. And what else did Miss Daniels teach you today?”

“That the sun sets . . . right there!” Jimmy pointed northward.

The father knitted one eyebrow. “Not quite, sport. Tell Miss Daniels the sun sets in the West. That way.”

Something seemed strange. Together both looked toward the sunset. The father stopped smiling. 

The sun was setting in the North.

And it seemed to be getting closer.

C.S.I. #3 by Kyle Hemmings

We scoured the neighborhood for clues. Who could have murdered a shy reclusive teacher of post-structuralist phonetics, named Hermaine Zedt? God, it was getting so hot and ugly-humid downtown by The Kick. Little kids played dropball, catching the sun in the slit between their runny lips, their noise, all high-wing vowel and soft plosive. We spoke to Hermaine's landlord, an old woman who had trouble hearing and remembering the last significant question. Finally, she admitted to Hermaine keeping a huge red sheepdog with eyes so human they could see through you.

Oh yeah?” said my partner, J.T., who lit his cigarette, some brand with a German name.

She rambled on about a man who came to visit Hermaine. She spun a finger next to her head. “The guy had problems. After awhile he only barked or whined behind closed doors. Had my suspicions about her too but she paid the rent. I remember the young woman yelling the night of her death,down, Wanton, down.’” Wanton, she then explained in a voice reminding me of damp basements, was the name of Hermaine’s dog that she put to sleep. “Is there anything else?” said the old woman in a voice reminding me of birds in the attic.

Yes,” said my partner who never slept on his beats, “you mean her dog was already dead when she said this?”

“Yes, said the old woman in a voice reminding me of the spaces between my dubious parents without prints.

 Later, in the car I asked J.T. what he made of it.

“Simple,” he said, “the phrenic is schizophrenic. Wanton was the name Hermaine gave to her boyfriend because she loved the dog she had to put down and this was her way of keeping him forever. The boyfriend came to believe he was a dog. When you act the part, you become the part. I mean look at the leash marks around her throat and the smile that is still there.

“You're right, Einstein,” I said. Now tell me another one. Like the dog that once dialed 911 just to get its fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube. The owner never found and the mutt is still a suspect.”

“Remember it well,” said J.T. in a voice of absent minds as he closed file keepers, “I was the one assigned to the case.

REGULAR by Jeffrey S. Callico

Martin finished with his dump then ventured back outside where everyone waited. They weren’t waiting for him, he knew that, but he pretended they were. He walked up to Ronnie, who always wore a red-and-white baseball cap backwards.

“What’s happening,” said Martin.

Ronnie turned. “Nothing, why?”

Everyone else was there, along with Ronnie and now Martin, who had taken his dump and showed up with the others. No one had been waiting for him, but he pretended they were. He looked at Martin.

“I don’t know about you but I’m starved. What’s to eat?”

Ronnie stared a moment.

Martin smiled and stared back.

“Do I know you?” said Ronnie.

Martin looked at the others, who hadn’t heard anything. He said, “I don’t know you, that’s for sure, but who says I have to.”

Ronnie lowered his gaze. “Tell me this is a joke.”

“It is,” Martin said. “It’s all a big joke and you caught on just fine. I took a dump a few minutes ago and saw you all over here and thought I would make my way, what with the smell of the food and all. What’s your name again?”

“I never gave it to you,” said Ronnie, his gaze still lowered and forming into a frown.

“Oh,” Martin said, “you’re right, absolutely right. I’m Martin.” He extended his hand to Ronnie who stood motionless, his frowning gaze unfaltering.

“You should go,” said Ronnie.

Martin diminished his smile and returned his unshaken hand to his side. “Right. Absolutely I should.”

Martin retreated from Ronnie and the others, still smelling the food, which made his stomach growl. It would be a long time before he’d take another dump.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

11:11 IN SKINHEAD CITY by Dustin Reade

So I am running full bore and I get right up there and jam my knee into the crotch of the grand wizard of the KKK. The world applauds, I bow, and now I am a reality TV star. The whole thing is caught on national television and now there are two thousand angry skinheads pounding at my door. All of them throwing little "Heil Hitlers" into the air. Some of them are wearing t-shirts with a skinhead on the cross. The skinhead on the t-shirt has no face.

I look around and realize that none of the skinheads have faces.

There is no way of describing the terror I feel.

So I grab my broom and I throw open the door and I start swinging the broom to the left and to the right like I am trying to scare raccoons away from my garbage

The skinheads retreat and most of them look scared even though some of them have weapons. Weapons like: a Q-ball in a sock, a lock on a chain, half a pool stick, etc.

I start to worry they might kill me for thud-crotching the wizard on national television so I try to act crazy. I grab one by the neck, and start whipping him around in the air like a towel in the wind, all the while flailing the broom to the left and to the right in my other hand. I let go of the limp skinhead and he crumbles like a pile of laundry to the ground. I grab another one by the arm and start screaming in his face about "borrowing my last pencil". I want them to think I am crazy, dig?

They get the message and they scatter.

I look around at the carnage left behind. It is massive.

I notice a brown patch on the lawn where several skins have urinated against the side of my house.

"Jerks," I say.

I go inside and catch the tail end of "Oprah". It’s an episode with Dr. Oz.

I like him.

DEAD END by Jake Johnson

The signs jut up from the hot sand.

They beckon me closer with their disarming faces. When I get close I see the blood dripping from their teeth.

I run. They say to me,



and I think about it and then I don’t.

I’m not in the desert anymore. I’m in a metal room with a doorway and a sign that says,


“But-?” I begin.


“You think I’m right?” I ask, honored.


it rushes me. I nod and run through the doorway.


Witchery is a weird, yet wondrous pursuit. How do I know? Well, for the past few years I’ve been closely associated with an adept practitioner of the arcane arts, both as a helpmate and an observer.

Wanda even taught me to speak, as much as that was possible with my rather limited capability in that department. Mostly I rely on thought projection like I’m doing right now. I hope somebody out there somewhere shares my neurological wavelength. Are you listening? I thought you were.

With my unique perspective, perhaps I can shed some light on Wanda’s eccentric activities. (I’m rather good at shedding, if I do say so myself.) Now, where should I begin? Well, first of all, she’s...

Oh, darn! There goes that annoying whistle again. You didn’t hear it? I’m not surprised; the frequency is so high-pitched not everybody does. I wonder what Old Snaggletooth wants me to fetch for her this time—her slippers, the TV remote, her magic wand? She’d better be careful about letting me sink my fangs into that last item. I may be mostly Scottie and Irish setter, but I’m also part Pointer.

CONFESSIONS by Cheryl Anne Gardner

"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," replied Satan as he leaned in to place the angel atop the tree. Its wings were made of tin foil, and they crinkled in the hot breeze, so he reached out a little farther. The ladder teetered slightly, swayed slightly more, one hoofed foot thrown out to gaiety the other navigating the flaming abyss below via the uppermost step. You wanted to say something, anything at all, but the small hairy midgets kept handing you martini glasses full of tomato juice and black olives. You see, that hotel room had become a prison cell, and Elvis your Rabbi, reciting the last rights in a white leisure suit, all swinging hips and patent leather shoes. You had gone there alone, a tramp, hitchhiking the desert roads drawn like a firefly to the hypnotizing twinkle of oppression. Had gone to shake your moneymaker for any lunatic with a nickel, but your box wasn't a jewel box and the shiv in your hand was nothing more than a shattered piece of glass wrapped in a bit of tin.

"What did you expect, girl?" Satan asked of you again, his voice cocooned in nectar. "Did you think you'd like it better here? I read your diary, so I know. I know you. Nothing makes any sense to you anymore, not like it did when you were in France, when you kissed that woman twice your age. She barely had a pulse, and you, a loaded rifle and a cheering crowd. So hand me the tinsel ... and have another drink. ‘Tis the season's eternal down here."

Friday, September 23, 2011

ADULT ONSET by Acquanetta M. Sproule

Lancey started developing food allergies at age 33.

First was shell fish, then tree nuts and then legumes.

Then dairy.

Fruit, veggies, cereals.


Animal products.

Lastly, food made from artificial ingredients.

Lancey didn't starve to death.

He got really hungry and made himself a binge-feast.

He didn't finish it.

BREACH BIRTH by Ken Goldman

The woman’s screams reverberated along Bloom Memorial’s corridors.“…M’face to yo’ ass... M’face to yo’ ass…”

“What’s she saying?” Nurse Hatcher asked.

Dr. Keller shook his head. “A chant? My face to your ass? Whatever that means.”

Suckling her newborn, the young Haitian mother turned her attention to the pair who had delivered him.

Keller’s patient repeated the obscene epiphany, the woman throwing hand to mouth like a little girl uttering a bad word.

She whispered to the newborn, mother and child together sharing a furtive secret. Rubbing the soft horns that only she saw, she whispered, “Mephisto, you is…”


JACKPOT by Eric Suhem

Henrik lived on the outskirts of Las Vegas. He spent a large part of his conscious life experiencing a vision of a jack-in-the box melting in flames, whether he was at work, or sitting at the breakfast table reading the morning paper with his wife Myrna. The vision of the jack-in-the-box melting in flames dominated Henrik’s life, but he got used to it, shrugging it off as ‘one of those things’.

“Henrik, maybe a hobby will take your mind off these visions,” suggested Myrna. Henrik agreed, and took a painting class at the community center, eventually attaining some modest success at local exhibitions. On his days off, he painted colorful, vivid abstracts, but was recently feeling blocked, most colors not flowing through him, except yellow and orange. Henrik also got repeated phone calls from his brother Ted.

“Hello Henrik, I’ve had a bad run at the slot machines…can you loan me some more money?” Ted was standing next to his favorite slot machine with a bag of lemons. He chewed feverishly on the bitter fruit, trying to visualize three yellow lemons in a slot machine jackpot, but instead he could conjure nothing but bitter, harsh white light.

“All right, Ted” said Henrik, staring at the jack-in-the-box melting in flames. “Myrna and I are going to Lake Mead tomorrow for a picnic, why don’t you join us and we’ll discuss it.”

At the lake, as afternoon passed into evening, Henrik and Ted got into a rowboat. While Henrik rowed, he glanced at his brother’s orange hair and round bulbous nose. Ted was perched at the bow, staring straight ahead at a shimmering white light on the opposite shore. “Now, about that money,” began Ted, standing up to loom over Henrik, as he’d done all his life, but suddenly losing balance, his feet slipping on some lemons in the boat. He hit his head on the oarlock, and passed out.

At that precise moment, Ted’s favorite slot machine in Las Vegas displayed 3 lemons…Jackpot!

Henrik continued to row methodically, blood pouring from Ted’s bobbing orange-haired head into the bottom of the boat. The bright white light filled Ted, while the lemons rolled around in the boat. As Henrik stared at the blood, the jack-in-the-box visions disappeared, and the strange reddish hue freed something within him, soon to be seen as vivid images of maroon in his abstract paintings.


I saw him today, as I have seen him before. The car is always different, but it's always a luxury car, like a Mercedes or a Jaguar, and it's always a dark silver.

You can see him yourself, if you live in a large enough city, like Los Angeles or London, even someplace like Madrid or Glasgow.

The Devil always sits in the back seat, directly behind his driver. The first few times I saw him, here in LA, he was an elderly white man, with no hair that I could see, not even eyebrows. He wore a dark suit, a black cowboy hat, and dark red sunglasses. The shades should have looked ridiculous, but they didn't. The way he carried himself in that car was nothing less than sinister.

Since then, I've seen him twice in LA again, once in London, and again in New York. I travel a lot for business, and if I'm ever in a Metropolitan area, I make sure to look. Except for the first few times, he has always been a different person, but for those sunglasses. They stay.

But it’s the driver who interests me. He wears a cheap suit, no hat, and is kind of a swarthy fellow. Maybe half-Indian, I've begun to think. He doesn't change like the Devil does. He changes like a regular person, ages. The last few times I've seen him, he almost seemed sick, weak. Cancerous. A harrowed look in his eye, one palm smearing the sweat from his face. I'm sure the Devil likes his car well heated, after all.

Today was the worst, though. He looked...awful. On death's door. I was right next to them, at a stoplight, and I couldn't help but stare at him, watch him, and think how sick he looked. And wonder how he had even gotten the gig in the first place.
Just as the light turned green, I couldn't resist, and glanced in the backseat.

The Devil was looking at me.

He was a younger man this time, still white, dark haired, and there was a smile on his face that could cut diamonds.

As his car started to pass mine, he saw me watching the driver, and there was something in his smile that knew what I was thinking. He brought his hand to his face, lowered the glasses, and gave me a wink. His eyes were neither the red of hellfire or the black of coal, but there was something hideously inhuman about their brown tint, and it made me shiver.

He raised the glasses, still smiling, and drove off. But I don't like the way he singled me out. I've seen him so many times now, it doesn't feel like coincidence, and the thought of seeing him again makes me sick all over.

Makes me sicker, because I got a letter in the mail.

A job offer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

COFFEE ON HIS PANTS by William J Fedigan

It’s good to be alive, she thinks, and the more he bleeds the better life gets.

She’s enjoying herself, watching him bleed on the sidewalk, coffee on his pants, steam coming up. She steps out of her shoes and splashes blood around. Life is good.

He saw her. He turned around and he saw her. She wanted it that way. Look at me, motherfucker.

He came out the deli, coffee in a paper bag. Look at me, motherfucker. She squeezed twice. The noise scared her but his head split like a watermelon and she felt good. His brains came out the back of his head and she felt better. It’s good to be alive, motherfucker.

He went down, coffee spilling on his pants. The coffee smelled fresh. The blood made puddles on the sidewalk. She splashed blood around. Life is good, she thought, knowing it was true.

She should leave, maybe run, but she won’t. She’s enjoying herself, watching him bleed, splashing blood around, thinking happy thoughts.

I won’t leave, she thinks, he’s still bleeding and the more he bleeds the better life gets.

SLAGPEG by Danica Green

I found myself wondering just how deadly the seven sins are, so I slept all morning in a tub of rice pudding before calling my friend Danny to send his girlfriend over. She was a fine looking woman and I'd always been jealous of Danny. When she said his name while we were fucking on a bacon mattress, I got pretty angry and punched her in the boob. I felt a little better when she went to shower and I used her credit card to order a hooker while doing origami with a wad of twenties I stole from her purse. When she came back, me and the hooker were sitting in the pudding playing with little green boats made of dollar bills. She started to cry. I flipped her off, slapped the hooker with my junk and went back to sleep. All in all, I was pretty damn proud of myself.



The story that originally appeared here, “Kranlin Thistlenut Adds Mustard to His Colostrum-Meconium Milkshake: A Sonnet-Fable” by Joe Jablonski, was removed as a result of and in compliance with a recently made Citizen’s Rejection.  (The filer of the rejection is one Mr. Douglas Hackle.)

Similar by analogy to the concept of a citizen’s arrest, a Citizen’s Rejection can occur when an editor publishes one of his/her own stories at his/her own online publication, thereby leaving the piece vulnerable to public rejection. A properly filed Citizen’s Rejection can only be made in the Comments section underneath the targeted self-published story.
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, but hope that you enjoy the other stories included in the present issue.


The Editorial Staff of three minute plastic (i.e. the rejected party)


As a sincere apology for the afore-mentioned discrepancy, three minute plastic will now make up for it by publishing a lesser known piece by the late Ernest Hemingway; a sunny, feel good haiku, entitled 'ANAL MENSTRUATION.'

Laying in your arms
The sun warms my cockles
I poop a little


“It's called roadcraft, Mr Thomas, bit old-fashioned, you know, they don't teach it much these days.”

“Yes, I understand that: it's complicated, isn't it?”

“Not at all, not at all.  It's just learning to read the road, that's all. How far back the verges are cut, whether the shrubbery is cut down, that kind of thing. You can read the road, with practice.”

“Well, how did I do?”

“Very well, Mr Thomas, very well indeed. We'll make a fine driver out of you yet. Now, are you ready to move on?”

“I'm not...”

“Oh come on, you paid for the full course!”

“Yes, I know, but it's a bit...”

“Well, who knows what might happen?”

“True, true, but you know...”

“Backing out, are you? Going to let a couple of hundred pounds go to waste?

“If you put it like that...”

“Mr Thomas, I am putting it like that!”

“Well then, perhaps I...”

“Of course you should! Look, there's a nice convenient layby, let's stop there for a moment.  Let that patrol car go.”

“No witnesses, eh?”

“Something like that. Now, ready?”

“Well—all right, let's go for it!”

“Good man!  Do you would! Now, imagine you're in a battle zone, eh? Wrong side of the line in South London, okay? And this maniac cuts your foot off!”


“Come on, Mr Thomas, drive!”

“I can't, I've got no...”

“Come on! That's the point of the course! What do you do? Use the other foot across two pedals, come on! You don't want them to get you, do you! What would you do if they broke into the car, eh? Fine, fine, know you could do a destination point or right? Then come on then! Get some speed up! Brilliant!”

“Oh God it hurts...”

“Wimp! Here, let me tie a tourniquet round it, there, that stopped the blood flow. Bit of a bind, that, takes ages to get it off the carpet and we’re not done, not yet. You're doing fine, Mr Thomas, you're doing just fine. Now brake, yes, that’s it. See, you can drive with one foot. Now...”

“Do we have to do this? I mean, I'm in a bit of pain and...”

“If you've gone this far, why not go the rest of the way. I say.”

“Well, the missus won't be best pleased if I give up now so all right.”

“Fine, fine, you're captured by these bank robbers and they’ve...removed your hand!”


“Now drive, use your arm, lock it through the steering wheel, mind the blood! Fine, Mr Thomas, fine! Wavering a bit, trying to keep it straight down the middle of the lane or you’ll attract attention from the other drivers. Fine stuff, fine! Now pull over and we’ll tourniquet that one too.”

“Is there any more? I mean, I've lost a lot of blood and feel faint!”

“Well, Mr Thomas, how would you drive after a heart attack...”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

THE INCHWORM by Robert E. Petras

The few who knew him called him the Inchworm for his passion to go as near as possible to the fulcrum balancing creation and destruction.

He first neared perfection on a Saturday afternoon at a small airport during a stunt plane performance.  While Cessna planes moaned overhead, wheeling spirals and figure eights, he elbowed his friend Mackey, then pointed to a young woman standing within a packed crowed of spectators.  “See that girl in the purple sweater with the big boobs. I bet I can place both my hands on those babies without her or anyone else knowing it.”

“You’re on for fifty bucks,” Mackey replied.

eHHHHe watched the Inchworm wedge through the crowd, all heads tilted to the bright blue sky, riveted to the airplanes as the Inchworm positioned himself behind the woman, wrapped his arms around her and ever so slowly drew his splayed hands upon her breasts, exerting no more tactile force than a shadow.

The nearness of perfection intoxicated the Inchworm—attainment of the mastery of going ever so close.  But he was so cool.  He learned how breathing deeply and slowly could calm the nerves, giving him the steadiness of a surgeon, no an artist—an artist in the midst of creation.  The Inchworm also learned how this controlled breathing calmed his entire being, even his soul, by lowering his heart rate below 30 beats a minute. 

Achieving this rate while performing his art, time became still, sound the hollow ringing of a seashell, like riding his Suzuki near the edge of a cliff, inching closer and closer and closer until finally the wheels teetered along the edge, teasing gravity, time an eternity between two heartbeats.

He inched toward the limits of his subconscious while skydiving, bungee jumping and white water rafting, always shadow-caressing that final inch.

Only remaining now was the egoless I, the taste of cold steel from a .38 revolver inside the mouth, trigger cocked, squeezing as gently as an infant, a little more, a little more, a little…

ABSTRACT ART by Ken Goldman

“Your home is beautiful. Simply beautiful,” the Earthman informed his Beta-4 hostess. “The lines, the form. And what a spectrum of color! This is art!”

The female alien smiled. “Our culture recognizes genius. We employ artists in every aspect of everyday home design. May I show you the rest of our residence?”

“One moment,” the Earthman replied. “George, Mary, come look at this piece!”

His flight crew joined him.



“I must meet the sculptor.”

The hostess blushed green.

“Sirs . . .  Madam . . . I will gladly accommodate your request. I should inform you, though, that what you’re looking at is our toilet.”


The sanctuary's garden was virtual.
You sat in a stone chair and a holograph displayed.
Fifteen minutes absolute.
The rigidy of the stone was necessary
to keep your torso in movement.
Music was incidental Celine.
Peripherally, the waiting lines of escapists
were visible if you strained, which was not suggested.
You could see one of the eyes of each.
Eventually grayness framed the façade
and concentration payed off
in the form of pristine images.
Hobit shacks and festering brooks.
A button could be pressed on the chair's crotch.
A drawer delivered tepid tap water.
Humming was allowed.
When the 'ONE MINUTE TO NORMALITY' warning
sounded, it was best to prepare by twisting your head from
side to side and stretching arms and legs
in the opposite direction of which they were intended.
Celine's lovely euphony decreased to a barely audible whisper
and an escalator path caused the floor to move toward
a welcoming door. As soon as you consented you were replaced.

THE VISIT by Matthew Dexter

My son would come see me. He didn’t know about lung cancer, why I couldn’t come home to read stories anymore. He rubbed my head, bald from metastasis. We sang songs beneath blooming bougainvillea, strewn across the grass I smoked that killed me. He visits every other morning after breakfast. He stays with me for a few hours until his mother peels him out of my fingers. He smells like eggs and bacon. They may say that marijuana does not kill people, but it does, damn it, or maybe it was the crack? Horses were not meant to live forever.

Friday, August 12, 2011

IDENTIA by Wol-vriey

Your phone rings. It’s Herr Bormann.
“A job for you Identia,” he says in his Germanic tones.   

“What sort?” 

“A killing; make it look like an accident.”

“And my disguise?” you ask.

“The courier is outside your door now.” He hangs up.

You open the door and let the courier in. This time it’s a middle-aged man in red latex bondage gear. You take him upstairs and whip him for an hour as payment, then kick him out.

You now open the suitcase he brought. It contains a bloody severed Asian woman’s head, a pair of arms, two breast implants, a blue silk cheongsam dress and gold slippers, and a set of instructions.

You read your instructions. Today you are Shan Wu, wife of Dr. Fu-han Wu, the geneticist.  You are to kill your husband.

You head for the basement.

Switching heads is always painful. It’s like being raped: you know this from experience—you once arranged to be raped, just so you could compare notes.

Your doctor demon is however the best. It decapitates and repairs you in under a minute, so you don’t feel violated too long.

Soon you’re seeing through Shan Wu’s dead eyes. You admire the seamless join of your new head and neck.

Next the doctor demon chops your arms off at the shoulders and attaches Shan’s in their place.  Then it replaces your breast implants with her smaller ones. 

You head for the bathroom to wash the blood off.

Once cleaned up, you dress in the supplied cheongsam and pretty yourself up. 

It’s Shan Wu’s birthday today. Dr. Wu is treating his wife to a private celebratory dinner at Club Tang in Chinatown. 

You smile. You’re hungry now. Besides, murder always feels better on a full stomach.

FAT MAN PUNCH by Dustin Reade

I walk up and punch a fat man in the stomach. He coughs and sputters for a minute before looking at me with accusing eyes.

“What’d you do that for?” he asks.

“None of your business,” I say.

“I think it is.”

“How do you figure?”

“Well,” he begins, “it is my business inasmuch as your actions had a direct affect on my person. Had you not come along and punched me in the stomach, my business would have remained unchanged for an undeterminable period. However, as your actions involved me specifically, the nature of my previous business was changed, and I am now involved in this current business, into which your actions reluctantly drew me.”


I walk into the next room and see a group of teenagers smoking marijuana. I want them to think I am cool so I ask them for a hit. I have not smoked pot in years and the stinging smoke burns my lungs and I cough up blood and look like a fool. The teenagers all laugh at me so I leave. When I go into the other room the fat man I punched in the stomach smiles at me and laughs.

“What’s so funny?” I ask.

“None of your business,” he says sarcastically.

I immediately feel bad for having hit him earlier. I place my flattened hand on his enormous belly and take the punch back.

It hurts my knuckles, but it is the right thing to do.