Scot Young, editor


Machado, Venus and Me by Mark James Andrews

Jorge Machado was inmate number 3861977 from the infirmary ward and was wheeled into the Wayne County Jail law library by Deputy Venus Spivey. Machado looked like he pumped iron. Little Venus had got herself a tit job. Both were short in the leg department.

Spivey pushed Machado at me announced that the attendance today was 12 inmates ETA 15 minutes and bounced herself out. Machado chose to be the strong silent type. So there I sat, civilian, good citizen and law librarian with time to knock off a bagel creamed and a tall double-double French Roast coffee.

The transport crew showed 2 minutes early pushed 11 bodies thru the cat-walk gate and I was swarmed before they turned the key. I was just a skosh from squaring up the crew with databases and legal forms to freedom when Machado wheeled up to me screaming. SICK!  GO HOME NOW! HEADACHE!  PUKE! The last one got my attention and cleared the decks for me to get Spivey on the phone to come get him. Machado then began openly weeping and moaning so I got Deputy Lucci in Master Control to remove him to a holding bullpen in the visitation area.

Within minutes Lucci calls me screaming Machado is running his wheelchair and his head into the bars and has opened up a bleeding gash. Lucci is bitching that it’s not his job to babysit the law library inmates and to never fucking call him again when he says OK Aphrodite just showed up and the psycho’s out of here.

Machado was transported back to the infirmary by Deputy Spivey without incident and Venus agreed to meet me at the Bulldog later for a drink.

Class Of 69 by Ed Markowski

Every time we skipped Mister Whitlock‘s geometry class, me and Lucy Rose practiced on the floor in Johnny  Munro’s  black  light  room  fallout  shelter  his old  man  dug  on  the  second  day  of  the  Cuban  Missile  Crisis,  between  and below  Jimi ‘s  thin  fingers  warping  and  sculpting  his  guitar  strings  into  napalm swans  that  screamed  in  the  night  halfway  through  if  6  was  9 ,  and  Grace  Slick oozing  sex  and  smirking  approvingly  above  us,  all  wrapped  up  in  a  cherry  red Girl  Scout  uniform .

When  May  became  June,  and  June  became  the  time  to  lay  our  cards  on  the table  me  and  Lucy  was  true  blue  bonafide  angle  wizards .  We  could  twist  and contort  our  bodies,  tongues,  lust,  and  desire  better  than  every  green  Gumby  inside  or  outside  of  every  dime  store  from  Daytona  to  Seattle,  from  San  Diego to  Philadelphia,  from  New  York  City  to  Tokyo,  and  from  Earth  to  Eternity .

Lucy  Rose  and  me  drove  each  other  way  up,  over,  above,  and  beyond  the peak of  Mount  Everest.  We  could  do  it  rolling  down  hills  crawling  stretching standing  sitting  dogging  walking  jogging  running  from  the  cops  blowing  bubbles  in  church in  the trunk of a  Corvair  at  the  Diamond  Drop  Drive – In  eating cheese  fries  on  a  toboggan  during  the  national  anthem  and  from  the  seventh inning  stretch  right  on  into  hockey  season .

We rocked  at  right  acute  obtuse  supplementary  interior  obscure  chartreuse  reflex rebound fringe  left  and  center  angles  in  boxes  cones  cubes  circles  ovals  squares rectangles  trapezoids  rapazoids  apazoids  pazoids  voids  oids  triangles  quadrangles pentangles and sextangles ,  but  Mister  Whitlock  flunked  us  anyway .

Ashes in the Urn by Luca Penne

When I picked up the urn from the mantel, Dad protested “Put me down or scatter me with your mother.” Dad had been a traveling salesman his whole life and had never been home for more than a few days at a time. He’d pass through the house like a big wind on weekends, the doors slamming, dishes breaking, knick knacks falling off the shelves onto the carpet. I placed him down. I didn’t want to engage in that conversation as Mom had floated away months ago, some of her ash and bone clinging to rock, some catching on the wings of the birds poking on the shore, some clinging to the scales of catfish that surfaced for only a moment and some determined to make New Orleans, where she might mingle with the molecules of Louis Armstrong. I cradled the porcelain teacup with little red and blue birds, the teacup that was my sister, and smelled the steam rising from the chamomile and lemon. “Dad needs to get out of the house,” she said. When I sat down on the red chair, Nasser, my brother, bellowed in pain as if I had hurt him terribly, so I jumped back up. “You’ve put on a good 20 pounds. Why don’t you get some exercise and stop eating all the desserts.”  I jumped back up. “Nellie’s right,” he said. “You can’t keep Dad in an urn. His real home is Memphis.” And then I walked back into the kitchen to get some agave for my tea and suddenly Mom was back, holding a bag of groceries. “Better get Dad. Somebody’s gotta pay the bills.” I ran outside with the urn, tossed the contents up in the air, and Dad showered over the herbs and flowers—dust, bone and light. When I returned, the teacup had a crack in it; my brother had broken a caster, and the grocery bags were still on the counter. And for once, the whole family was strangely silent.

Born in the USA by Alan Catlin

“Clancy and I were out deer hunting up in the hills, North of Berne, minding our own business, doing what millions of hard working, honest, taxpaying, licensed to hunt, citizens do every day. Unlike many of these so called ‘red blooded’ Americans, we were well into our third joint of excellent Colombian grass, still, we were washing it down with Coors Light, so everything was A OKAY.

We hadn’t bothered a single soul, living or otherwise, when all of a sudden, we’re assaulted by a troop of crazy, wide-eyed antihunter types, stomping through the woods and carrying on, like a rogue boy scout troop zeroing in on some Brownies.  I never saw so many certifiable lunatics carrying air horns before in my life, making more noise than a home crowd of Dallas Cowboy fans in a sudden death overtime game against the 49ers.

I suggested to this guy, who looked as if he might harbor some latent leadership tendencies, if he thought he was more than a little crazy making all that noise in amongst all those trees, crawling with heavily armed, extremely serious, dedicated sharp shooting, good ole boy hunters.  He gave me his best “No comprende?” look so I decided to explain the facts of life to him in simple English:
You know, accidents happen all the time in the woods.  Sometimes even mass accidents. What with all these inexperienced geeks coming up from the City, shooting anything that moves, anything could happen.
Now, take my partner over there, he’d be more than happy to blow your brains out.  Not that he’d actually do it. On purpose, that is.

Actually, only facing ten to twenty is stopping him right now.  Personally, ten to twenty, doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m not married and I don’t have two kids like he does.  All, I’ve got going for me is a dead end job I hate, a couple of car payments and an itchy trigger finger.  You know, I’ve even been told that I have severe antisocial tendencies.  At least, that’s what the last company shrink said before I scared her three shades of white with some really serious shit.”
Well, that sucker turned real pale in a hurry.  Maybe, it was something I said.  I don’t know, I’m told I have that effect on people sometimes.  Nothing personal, a man’s just got to do what he’s got to do. I always pride myself on being a real straight shooter, you know what I mean?

It turned out to be a real nice day for hunting in the long run, after our little story telling session with the antihunter types.  We didn’t see a whole lotta of game but it sure was nice and quiet.”

Tuesdays with Mimsey by Wayne Scheer

Mimsey Sue Mathers always had peculiar ways about her.

And in Flippen, Georgia folks cotton to peculiar about as much as they take to a rattlesnake in the schoolyard.  Or a woman preacher.

Blame her daddy, Parnell. He was always writing his crazy ideas in the town newspaper, which he published.  Like when the Methodist church burned, he thought the Methodists and the Baptists should pray together since they worshipped the same God.  And when the government closed the old colored school, Parnell said it was a good idea for the children to be together.

It’s no wonder Mimsey’s head overflowed with foolishness, growing up in a home like that.

Even though her mama died when she was a baby, Mimsey always loved to sing and tell stories.  Too happy, is the way most folks described her, believing something was wrong in her head.

But she took care of her daddy, who grew more cantankerous with each new wrinkle on his craggy face.  He made her promise to keep up his work–whatever that was.  He even wrote about it in his last column in the newspaper where he quoted a poem by some colored man named Langston Hughes.  He called the column, “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” or some foolishness like that.  I remember the poem ended this way:

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

None of us had any idea what he meant, but Mimsey kept right on smiling at everyone, even at her daddy’s funeral.

And she got more and more peculiar, wearing big floppy hats and pants with glittery stuff on them.  She worked in our town’s library where she read books to the children and told them stories.  Their parents would stick around to make sure Mimsey wasn’t spouting the nonsense her daddy used to.

Funny thing, the adults enjoyed her stories about as much as the children.  So she made Tuesday nights story time for the grown-ups.  Black folks would sit on one side, whites on the other, and she would stand in the middle, telling her stories and singing until both sides began whooping it up like they was all one family.

Mimsey always ended the festivities by singing, “Amazing Grace,” without music, but with the most tearful voice you ever heard.  More than once grown men would cry.  Then they’d eat the cakes brought by the women. And, later, the men, black and white, would put away the chairs and wish each other to drive home safe.

Mimsey would wait until the last person wrapped up the last piece of cake. Then she’d take her daddy’s picture out from her big handbag, and have herself a good cry.

Driving By Limerick by Joseph Farley

Passing the cooling towers, I ask the engineer riding shotgun, “Are we out of the kill zone yet?”

“The kill zone?” he asks.

“For the meltdown,” I say.

“Oh,” he says. “Let me tell you, if that goes, it will take the surrounding five counties with it. You’ve lived your whole life in the kill zone.”

Maybe it’s good to know this little fact, then again, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut while I was still dumb and innocent and lived in a house by a stream and not a wasteland in the far corner of the neighboring county.

SEX by F.N. Wright

He fucked her like she’d never been fucked before.
She finally cried out, “ENOUGH! ENOUGH! Jesus, that was great,” she sighed.
It wasn’t until he was dressed and standing beside the bed when she said, “Honey, you didn’t cum. Wasn’t I good enough? Can I give you a blowjob? God, I want to feel like I was worth it. Hell, no john’s ever made me cum. Not like that anyway.”
He picked up the hundred from the night stand then pulled out a Colt .45.
He shot her between the eyes and felt the stickiness of his sperm on his leg as it stained his levis.

Brautigan and the Plastic Buddha by Scot Young

We stumbled around the corner and found ourselves in Chinatown. This stretch of street was experimental poetry with Peking duck hanging in the window. The rain had stopped and the naïve world was washed clean by green tea and paper dragons.

We were on a mission for dim sum. We wandered down an alley with the sweet fragrance of opium hanging in the air. We settled in at Hang Ah, one of the oldest dim sum restaurants in the city. I pointed at the noodle rolls, tarts, and dumplings as the carts rolled by.

“Smell that coming in?” I asked.

“Opium. The Chinese smoke opium in their bathrooms,” Brautigan said.

“Put that on a postcard and send it home,” I said. “Hey, try this noodle roll.”

“The old people sit in the tub,” he said taking the last swallow of his beer.

“That’s just bizarre, man—the bathtub?”

When we got up to pay the ticket, Richard said something to the busboy in Chinese and we were nodded and motioned to the kitchen area. In a darkened storage room off the kitchen a clay pipe was passed around. It was a dream scene set in a Chinatown fog. Old Chinese were sitting in the tub and young children gathered around on the floor. Paper lanterns were stretched across the ceiling on fishing line and bobbed to the sound of an Erhu breeze coming from the alley. A plastic Buddha sat winking on the window sill. I listened to the ping, ting, sing, for minutes, hours or days. Time did not move when the Erhu played.

Finally, inching our way out of the alley, we saw a Chinese princesses riding a lotus flower to the sun weaving down Grant Street in a slow motion display of waving silk. This image stopped us along with a head of cabbage being yo-yo’d down on a string from a balcony above. Smiling elders grinned and waved at us on from above. It splattered at our feet and plastered bits of damp cabbage on our jeans. The old Chinese celebrated from their loft—smiling, nodding, and clapping.

“Ah, man–look at my jeans” I said. “Now what?”

“I need to find a paper, he said.”

Brautigan put the coin in my hand and disappeared behind the paper dragons.

Breaking Wood by Jenny Pinkas

I’m an episode of reality TV, audience one hundred strong.  Standing alone in the center of the gymnasium, feet bare, blue belt tight against my taekwondo uniform, I am ready to give evidence that aging has not diminished me.  With furrowed brow, I shape my foot into a knife’s blade and kick.  The block stubbornly remains whole.

The room is a gloomy chamber, burdened with the weight of my failure.  A moan breaks the silence.  It’s my young son, head buried in hands.  When I laugh out loud, I feel a new brand of strength emerging from my declining form.

Incredulous by Michael C. Keith

The woman struck by the speeding pickup truck while crossing Route 1 stared back at her severed legs as if looking in an aquarium filled with iridescent jellyfish.