Tuesday, March 5, 2019

BACON-TASTIC by Paul Mooney

"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? Okay, have you tried plugging it into a different outlet? I see. Let me put you through to the customer service department and they'll set you up with a new power cord lickety-split. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."


"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? Broken how? Wow, snapped completely in half, stainless steel casing and all. Damn. And how long have you owned your 64000? First time you used it, huh? No, no I believe you. It's a problem we've seen more than a few times with the recent models. Some sort of corrosive chemical in the new paint. Just leave it where it is and I'll put you through to our replacement department. No, literally leave it exactly where it is. The paint . . . yes, highly corrosive. The replacement department will provide you with proper HAZMAT disposal instructions. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."


"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? Goodness, was anyone injured? That is a relief. Was the cause of the fire determined to be the electrical system or the grease? Okay, well we need to know which in order to properly assess liability and your eligibility for a replacement. Bureaucratic stuff, you understand. Yes, ha-ha. I bet, I bet. So, once the Fire Marshall conducts his report please call back and we can sort this out. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."


"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? Yes, that's a common issue and an official recall is forthcoming. What degree burns did the prolonged spout of burning cooking oil cause? Hmm, yes, it'll do that. Ouch. If you give me your contact info, I'll forward your complaint to our compensation department, but I must tell you that they rarely pay out for anything lower than third degree. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."


"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? I'm sorry; I'm having trouble hearing you, sir or ma'am. Do you have the television or radio on? Oh, that's the 64000 making those noises? They're a chorus of hushed, echoing voices speaking in a language you can't understand but know in your heart has not been uttered aloud on this Earth in over three thousand years and their hissed words are filled with hate and tones of doom? Okay, is it doing it all the time or just when it's plugged in? All right so unplug it. Still with the voices? No, I hear them too. Please hold while I transfer you to our exorcism department. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."


"Hello, thanks for calling the Baconator 64000 Technical Support Hotline. My name's Carl, how can I help you? Your device was struck by lightning at midnight on a forsaken pagan holiday causing it to gain sentience and begin murdering your friends and loved ones on behalf of an ancient, unspeakable evil force? I'm sorry; lightning is considered an Act of God and not covered under the warranty. Thanks for calling. Have a bacon-tastic day."

SPACE SALOON by Daniel Hampton

I was sittin’ on a three-legged stool at the bar. The bartender was wiping the counter with a white cloth. I was sippin’ on my favorite beverage, Photon Burst. It’s basically space Kool-Aid. With copious amounts of mind-altering substances mixed in. Hey, it’s
legal here.

“You gonna sit there all night?” The bartender asked.

“Hey, I’m paying you, ain’t I?”

“Who even says ‘ain’t’ anymore? What are you, a cow?”

“What? Since when do cows say ain’t?”

“Isn’t that what they were called? Cows? They’re in West movies.”

“Cowboys? In Westerns?”

“Yeah, sure, that.”

“And you were the one criticizing my vocabulary?”

“You mean vocab?”

“What dialect is this? Where are you from?”

“Exgalon 4.”

“My readership isn’t going to know where that is.”

I was working on a manuscript, not this one, openly on the counter. Due to brain chemical imbalance, it didn’t end up being remotely legible.

“Are you writing down everything I’m saying?”


“Young single ladies, my number is 547-”

“You gotta pay for ads.”

“Don’t you need to pay to use my words?”

“I have plausible deniability.”

“You’re awful.”

It was at that point that the saloon doors burst open. Into a million pieces.

“OW, THE SPLINTERS!” I yelled.

“Why did you say ‘the splinters’? I’m right here. I have them too. Are you providing exposition for your story?”


“I enjoy long walks on the-”

“Cliff, got it. Thanks. Now, who blew up the door?”

“That would me.” A gruff voice bellowed from behind me. I turned around. The guy was massive, probably a half ton. He was covered in scales all over.

“Are you naked?” I asked.

“Huh!? These scales are my clothes!”

“How’re scales different than skin?”

“…Shut up! You wanna fight or something!?”

“Ew, I don’t want to fight some naked guy.”

“Wha- I’m not naked!”

“Sir,” The bartender said, “We don’t serve naked people here. You need to go to one of those nudist bars. There’s one next door.”

“There’s a nudist bar next door?” I asked.

“No, but there is a hair salon. Hehehe.”

“You’re cruel.”

“I HEARD ALL THAT!” The scaly naked man yelled.

“Whatchoo gonna do about it, punk?”

“You, me, outside. We’re gonna handle this like adults.”

“Naked adults, apparently.”

I got up and walked out to the front of the saloon. It was a large, open road. There were various shops on both sides of the road, but the place was pretty well deserted.

“So, is this a duel or something?” I asked.

“You can still avoid it if you apologize!”

“Apologize for what?”

“Calling me naked! That hurt my feelings…”

“…But you are naked, though.”

“That’s it, take your paces! Let’s settle this!”

The scaly man turned around and began walking away from me. I took out my laser pistol and shot him in the back.

“That hurt! Why’d you do that!?”

“That didn’t kill you!?”

“Huh, this wasn’t a duel to the death! You crazy?”

“That shot would’ve killed me!”

“Oh, really?”

“Don’t ‘oh, really’ me!”

“Well, you shot me too early, cheater!”

“Who would actually play fair in this situation! I like living, thank you very much!”

“I like living too!”

“Why did you say that like you have something unique in common with me? Are you actually braindead?”

“Stop calling me names!”

“Look, this seems like it was all some big misunderstanding. How about we head back in the saloon, and permanently damage our gray matter with Photon Burst?”

“Woah, I thought you said you liked living. That stuff’ll kill you.”

“Yeah, thanks, mom. Now, shall we?”

“Yeah, ok. As long as you don’t call me naked again.”

“We’ll, uh, let’s agree to disagree.”

With that, we both walked back to the saloon. Sadly, they kicked the scaly guy out for public nudity. Well, that’s life. I drank until my mind oozed out of my ears, and thoroughly annoyed the bartender. Really, all in all, it wasn’t a bad night, for what I remember.

WITH A WINK AND A NOD by Paul Beckman

It was four days before my fifty-eighth birthday when my body started to fall apart. I was taking a late morning walk in the park when I felt a strangeness after stepping down on my right foot. I hobbled to a park bench, took off my sneaker and shook it, thinking there was a pebble but there wasn’t, so off came the sock and I checked out my foot. A toe was missing—my pinky toe. I stuck my hand in the sock and found it. A pinky toe’s nothing to throw away so I put it in my pants pocket until I got home and then put it in the small canister from our unused canister set.

A few mornings later after my shower I was looking in the bathroom mirror and saw a black hair sticking out from my earlobe. I tugged it several times and my right earlobe popped off and was dangling from the hair. I put it in the canister with the pinky toe.

Last week I was on the turnpike, trying to move over to the right lane for my exit and a guy in a guard’s uniform driving a large SUV wouldn’t let me cross in front of him so I slowed down to go behind. He slowed down too, looked over at me and smirked. I flipped him the bird and my middle finger on my right hand went flying and bounced off the windshield onto the passenger seat floor. The guy gave me the finger back then sped off leaving me to barely make my exit. Once home, I washed my finger, then dried it with a kitchen towel, and into the canister it went.

Next my left heel came off while I was in a shoe store trying on a pair of wingtips and that was followed by the bridge of my nose which came off in my index finger and thumb when I squeezed it while trying to remember something. Following that was my left eyelid from winking and the eyebrow above when I made a surprise face due to my eyelid. Then my mustache and upper lip came off while trimming my mustache. My chin dropped off as I bit into a Tootsie Pop and that filled up the canister.

I still went to work but had to have new ID badges made. My wife, Madge, decided I wasn’t the same man she married some thirty-five years ago so she left and moved into our summer home on the lake. I got thinking about her one night and got hard, so I did what guys always do but I pulled my penis out by its roots and for some reason it stayed hard and I was able to finish what I started. I wrapped it in a handkerchief and put it into canister number two, still hard, only to be taken out and used at will.

After work I stopped off for a couple of beers to wet my whistle and of course out popped the whistle. When I got home, Madge’s car was in the driveway and I rushed to get out of my car and banged my knee which popped off and rolled down to the curb. I got it and rinsed it off with the garden hose and went inside. Madge was in the kitchen wearing only an apron and setting the table with Chinese takeout. My thumb came off when I used the chop sticks to take some moo shoo pork and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind washing it and patting it dry and putting it in canister number two. She did and found my penis and hustled me up to the bedroom where we had a great session. In the morning I awoke, and Madge was gone and so was my penis. Frustrated for not thinking ahead, I slapped my forehead with my palm and both my palm and my forehead came off.

In despair, I shook my head.

INVICTUS , I SHOUT by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


In Highcastle Pharmacy, Tiffany meanders the aisles, always returning to the discount lipstick rack with its blurry mirror.


Eleven p.m. The promenade deck of this cruise ship is clear of passengers, except me, running sweaty laps, seeking release from America’s need for fun, captive of my wife’s need for entertainment.


Tiffany’s lips are dry from medication. They’re a rough, unpaved road, a two-track through pine woods.


Tiffany’s hands shake from medication.


There’s also a fat old man on the deck with an oxygen tank, and his large, red-haired, middle-age daughter.


If I’m not with her to blot the edges of her lips with a tissue, Tiffany ends up looking like a circus clown.


He’s got the plastic tube in his nose, but he’s singing tunes in a lusty voice, using up his dollars’ worth of air before he slings the green and silver tank overboard.


Tiffany’s attempts to restore her wounded beauty are always doomed to fail. They are never better than awkward approximations of what she once was:


His daughter watches the old man, having schooled herself to accept everything. She has large, fleshy arms.


A high school cheerleader, a beauty queen, a trophy wife.


Every lap a different song, delivering his repertoire unto me, preparatory to biting the dust and entrusting his ashes to the Neptune Society and the sea.


Tiffany’s getting her brains fucked out in the woods behind the old brick buildings that house mental patients.


I am his priest, and he trots out his sins in melodic forms.


Those buildings used to be full to bursting. I remember those days.


His daughter is proud of him. My last lap, I churn the air as the engines churn the stern water.


Tiffany also has a lesbian lover who is more tender with her than the psychotic men. Naturally.


He’s singing this: I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul.


The lesbian is a Hispanic from Unit 26 with veined hands, darting eyes and mysterious tattoos, who smells of lighter fluid and moth balls.


Invictus, I shout, loud as I can, as I fly by.


She’s probably manic-depressive, but has consistently been diagnosed as schizophrenic, misdiagnosis being all too common here.


I can see that the daughter wants me to stop and fuck her right there, as her father watches, which will give him verification that she is a real woman.


Our foreign doctors have huge caseloads, tenuous English, and disdain for our patients. They don’t want to be in the bughouse any more than the patients do.


I don’t even slow. There’s time for that after her father is dead.


When they go home at night, the shrinks take showers so lengthy that their wives feel compelled to go into the bathroom to check on them.


Few people know that these cruise ships carry a supply of five or six coffins in case it’s a voyage busy with death.


Invictus, I shout as I zoom past, sweat flying from my brow. He knows it, the man exults. I recited that poem at my father’s funeral. It was his favorite. Invictus is a poem of defeat. One only deludes oneself into thinking that one is the master of his fate, the captain of his soul, if he has signed on to be a slave, if he has wrapped his arms around servitude and the soul’s defeat.

GROWTH by Paul Beckman

Marty’s growth had a mind of its own. It grew from a freckle to a mole and from a mole to a sebaceous cyst. This was over the course of two years, Marty had gone to three dermatologists and they all said the same thing: “I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. I can send you to a plastic surgeon to take it out. But why? Vanity?”

Marty knew why. It was getting larger on his cheek and appeared heading for his right eye. So, Marty went to an ophthalmologist group and was told the same thing: “We wouldn’t worry about it if we were you. We can send you to a plastic surgeon to remove it. But why look for trouble?”

Marty, unsatisfied with the doctors he’d been seeing, made an appointment to go right to the top—the plastic surgeons. He Googled--Best Plastic Surgeon and called for an appointment.

“Why’d you wait so long to see me?” Doctor Plastic Surgeon asked. “I’m the best but I’m no Doctor House. This is too late. If you only came earlier. There’s nothing I can do. Go see a dermatologist or an ophthalmologist but don’t delay. Hurry. Go today. Go. Go. This can’t wait. And don’t forget to tell them I sent you.”