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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Saturday
Dec022017

Rhymes With Bitch

Once we include all the things we think, it will be so much bigger than a novel. 

Everything grows then dies. Which itch do we deign to scratch?

Them charcoal peaks off a ways. Daubed like watery oils on horizons, come eve, come dawn. You feel you could ride out to meet them and never reach 'em, even if you rode a hunnerd years straight. Our place is flat. This land is flat. Flat's pretty much everthin' we see. Yet we see those peaks like hunched gray notions or long-abandoned questions. And we keep on dreaming up brand new strife. 

She woke and could barely see, let alone summon answers. She tried to squint and found her left eye a tad more operational. She lay still and breathed her own damp flannel funk while taking visual inventory.

She was lucky because she liked herself.

Had I been there, I might even have loved her right there and then. Loved her and hoped she'd love me back.

But that ain't the story, and the folks that rode into town, made their sly inquiries, then made a beeline for her place, had no such sentiments. 

She never brushed her teeth that morning 'cause she had no reason to believe it was any special kind of morning. She woke to the taste of pepper chicken and sickly gin-based sediment. Had she brushed her teeth the night before, in accordance with habit? Maybe. She thought so, but she had to admit she was doubtful. 

She did swallow a skinful of water, though, this bright morn. Head back, gullet tight, abandoned. 

A bovine pelvic hitch.

You think you know rape. Well, you don't. You don't. Ain't about bitterness or poontang or power, none of that. You can't reduce it to a single component, and you can't raise it on some pedestal it don't merit. It's a weak fist and a standup flinch, brutal and unblessed. It's near as bad as it ever gets, cocksure and cuntstruck, but it ain't no singular evil. It screams endless, chews up multitudes, rends tenets, tears ardor.

It's a tear in the fabric of us.

The air in a room is more spray, fine unholy beads coughed scarlet from these ruined pneumatic plights.

Bless this mist. Preach it. Senseless conflict governs and defines our species. 

The aspen shudders like the northern nightscape quakes—green, yellow, gold, ochre, blazes, rage—our dear, demented earth pitching fits. 

Something familiar, rhymes with "I'll kill ya," it ain't just the night but the day of the hunter. Who sure ain't right no more. 

Hear this. Speak this. Hurry. The quailing breath of some tracked, exhausted quarry. The peripheral ticking of a vehicle claimed by a ditch. 

Humans. Each of you ask, am I hunter or prey? Unclasped, I want your tusks. Your horns. Your sultry pelt. Your soft underbelly. Your goddamned humidity. What about you do I relinquish now? What about me do you wreck?

"What are you? What do you relish?"

"I'm a girl."

"What's your goal?"

"Don't matter." 

"I disagree." 

"Yeah, you would. Play a song for us. Walk on two strong legs and shriek at the heavens." 

"You ain't right in the head, bitch."

"Uh-huh. Pay it back. Pay it all back, you terrible, terrible motherfucker."

Friday
Nov242017

Trespass Agin Us

We thought we'd finished the job. Ten of us, all from town, got liquored up one night and headed out to the Donnelly farm, while the wind bayed like a pack of coonhounds and covered for our graceless staggerings. 

We took out the two elder Donnellys easily, with quick machete flurries in their foul bed, but in that ruckus we alerted the eldest of their brood after Ma wouldn't stop gurgling like a butchered hog while she drowned in her own blood, and Pa managed to squawk out something akin to a "help" 'fore I cleaved his malformed skull once and for all, sending them squinty eyes even further apart.

The rest was a scarlet mist, some kinda abstract rendition of blood, stink, shrieks, and motion. The pursuit of the doomed under filthy ceilings and cast-iron skies. We almost literally chased them across hell's half acre. We lost Jody but put an end to those hellbound twins, Danny and Donnie; their half-faced freak of a sister, Janey-Jean; and at least two more of that infernal spawn. Yeah, not much more than toddlers, those last two, but in any war mercy's for chuckleheads.

The screams of the damned still echoing, we buried their pieces in crates within graves we dug ourselves in the soft earth of their own field, under a waning moon oft cloaked by fast rags of cloud, and we brought Jody home.

You no doubt judge us as monsters at this point. But wait a goddamn second. Y'all seen them chainsaw massacre films, slashers and the like? Well, these folks was long overdue. More'n rumors told how they'd been doin' hellacious things to mostly strangers but also some townsfolk—burying them who still breathed, tearing out pieces of their bodies while keeping 'em alive for weeks, and worse. For too long we'd lived with their predacious ways. 

Anyways. After the dust settled, we waited to hear if some bigger shoe would drop, but nothing. Local law knew already, but not a peep from out of town. Certainly no feds, but not even state police. We felt we might could breathe again.

Then one night soon after, my wife went missing. Sweet Willa Jane was gentle as they come; she'd even tried to talk us out of our fool scheme in the first place. I knew right away I'd never hear that voice again, the one that sang like a spring crick. Somehow the Donnelly's had gotten to her. I never stopped to wonder how, just jumped in my truck and hightailed it back to that wretched place like green grass through a goose.

I pulled up beside the field, fixing to cut across it. Before I reached the house, I stumbled on a patch of softer ground. One of the makeshift graves we'd dug. Under the earth were muffled cries, the strident music of suffering. I coulda dug away that dirt with my bare hands—it were loose enough and I were batshit enough—but bawling like an abandoned child, flingin' ropes of snot and the good lord's best curse words in his ongoing brawl with the devil his ownself, I returned to my truck and grabbed a shovel.

"Hold up there, Willa, my love! I'm here now!" I repeated, crazier than an outhouse fly. I dug like a demon and soon exposed the lid of a crate. "Gonna git you out!"

Using the blade of the shovel, I jimmied the lid, ready to embrace my love, ready to spit one final curse at the ill-starred farmstead that loomed like some massive indulged simpleton over us. Something small and female leaped from the hole and tore the shovel from out my hands. Before I could even blink in surprise, she swung that thing and I felt the blade bite deep through my damn fool skull. 

"You missed one!" she screamed and laughed like a coyote. She swung again. 

It was only then that I recalled they'd had not one but two sets of twins: two boys and two girls. Not Janey-Jean, but Janey and Jean. My ma always said I was so dumb I could throw myself on the ground and miss. Chalk one up for Ma. 

On my knees, bits of my head falling like frosting from a busted cake, my vision wavering like a TV dream, I looked up at the house, and the last thing I saw was my dear wife at the window, bleeding dark heart's blood from her shoulder stumps, screaming silently through the ruined hole of her throat.

Friday
Nov172017

In Transit

"I was afraid you wouldn't come," she said.

The man didn't answer but sat in the chair across from her, at the outdoor table she had already propped with a matchbook to prevent it from tottering.

They watched the sparrows hop among the sunlit cobblestones, flit between the legs of the tourists. Light and shade.

"So…" she said. Her voice sounded distant even to her. Less a whisper than the passage of a ghost. "You came."

He smiled with little warmth, leaned back, closed his eyes. "Indeed."

"I'm glad." She fumbled in her purse for cigarettes, found them, lit one.

"You smoke." Too incurious to be a question; even his indifference stung.

She waved a dismissive hand that only made her feel matronly. Or worse, like a girl feigning womanhood. 

Christ, how does he do it? Make me feel this way?

She smoked her cigarette greedily, lustily even, like someone trying to ignore the firing squad as it gathered in the yard.

The man sighed, wafted away the grey swirl between them, looked at her for the first time.

"So why? Why are we here?" he asked.

"Very philosophical of you."

"Funny."

"Because we didn't finish the conversation."

"That was a long time ago. I don't even remember the first part of—"

"Oh, I think you do."

Something transited his face, something elusive and brief, a rogue orbit. As if a decision had happened behind some locked door. A bad one. A cataract. A shadow on an X-ray. 

"Go ahead, then. Talk."

"How does someone pick up a sentence they started writing ten years ago?"

"Look. I don't have time for this. What is it? Money? I can—"

She gasped. "Fuck you."

"Yeah. Allegedly you already did."

He stood. Looked at her briefly. Mumbled something.

"What? What did you say?"

"I said, I never knew what you wanted from me." And he walked away, into the milling sightseers.

She watched the people through a film of tears and then the tiny sparrows that hopped like popcorn on a griddle. 

"Just your apology, Daddy. That's all," she whispered.

Friday
Nov102017

Grandmother Weighs the Water

The storm came and we weathered it. But we knew there would be more storms. 

And there were. It's how we lived.

Some of our children made a show where they used shadows to tell a story. Silhouette horses rearing against salmon skies. Hands reaching to clasp other hands. Hummingbirds and leaping fish. I sat and watched their shows and cried each time without shame.

But they—the others, not the children—sought our shame, pursued it with their ghost hounds: bible verses, uniforms, corrective lenses unsolicited, soap inside our mouths or worse, fingers in our pants, worse, the eradication of our language, the cultivation of our unwanted chastening. They enclosed us in brick, touched our secret places, and claimed we'd asked them to. Insisted on our gratitude and compliance then made of that compliance a defense, a vindication. They were sly, shrouding their dark urges with blame, concealing their culpability inside deviant retellings.  

That dark is still deep and lonely, but there are shafts of light now.

The baritone tattoo of a hundred hooves on pliant grassland, hollow and dogged and fierce, the sudden calliope of pollen burst afar and spiraling, bone ridge fingers through chainlink seeking a home, palpating the unquiet hearts of a thousand surplus tales.

Suicide is water. It cools your hurt and finds the channels, drains the great wild weighty hope of a fearsome distant peak to some quiet nearby delta. It is female. Yet it isn't. Because female is strong, not weak. We've forgotten how to think about this. Forgotten that woman is robust, that love itself is sturdy. That fierce is good and ironclad severity not so much. The human spine will twist and flex and carry monstrous burdens. Yet an iron rod encumbered incrementally will ultimately break. Suicide is neither female nor male, neither weak nor strong. We think in polarities. Suicide is the water on the lip of the falls, a precipice in our thoughts, propelled by doubt and certitude. Doubt we can go on, and certainty we're saved. On such fulcrums, where the present balances the past and the future, bury our hearts and cry hoarse and wounded and brave enough to waken hope across all this great Turtle Island. 

Cry for me. Grieve. Then honor me, revere me. And all my relations.

Friday
Nov032017

Fender

Last night in my dreams I revisited my unearthly city.

Things were getting active, a thin carnival air afloat like a banner between the college and the station.

Busy congregants, rainbow flags, milling and dispersing, froth drawn in lattes. 

Long-haired white boy with a battered Jag, southpaw girl in black, fingerpicking. Some unruffled breed of left coast mood.

A few blocks west, in the heart of the old city, place is older than the pope—leaden roofs, water spots on the ceilings, stone and brick facades begrimed, soot and mildew conspiracies lined up to dare to undermine us.

Forever betrayed by AWOL landlords.

Christ. We stopped in the road before we got here, stock still in a surge of brown sludge while we blinked and tuned our instruments. A cloud of wasps swirled overhead until they selected leniency. Moved on. We both did, all did. Found our niche, learned our secret selves, cried witless sidewinder love amid indica dreams, released livewire doves above a field of cranes, serial killers, statistical umbrellas, effluent, cupping in our stigmatic palms our entire reassembled DNA. 

"I love you, material girl."

"You total sap, ethereal boy."

Make a well with your hands and hold the liquid sun. Dispense its dewy gold in ways you see fit. I will swallow what you offer, nod when you make demands, bow to you. To it. You are my receptacle, and I am now your spout; clasp this sacrifice and erase all doubt. That which unfolds within is doubled without. It's lucid, doxxed, subservient, a shaky route running beside the oxen, battling chromosomes, rewriting countless pages, horns… flippant, ardent, genetic, recurrent. 

The library in Swift Current. Remember that? A late Saskatchewan afternoon in fall. The sun dipping low, no phone, no laptop, a need to communicate. Our poet of the prairies gone, will anyone remember this if I forget to draft it?

He killed the living fuck out of himself, didn't he? Long before discarding him, I envied him.

But yes. Things got tense, went south-southwest. We found a cabin deep in the trees, a dubious escape hatch. You laughed when I said I'd keep us warm, but I kept us warm, foraging for kindling, sparking a flint, building a fire from twig to branch to trunk. The bullet in your midriff worked its way inside, and however much you tried to laugh, I saw the panic in your eyes, the blunt and obtuse dimming of your light. 

Without you, I am nothing. Don't die. Please don't die.

You died.

Love and disappointment, fond planetary light and its chill shadow, will stalk us to our last reluctant breaths.

I swept the parchment monarchs and the fallen hummingbirds, built of them the driest pyre. Alone, I found the edges of my city once again. Staggered into an urban patch, a battalion of grime, a place where grunge once thrived that now approximated ruined, tearless hives. Designated merciless, a spice-bound nest. What and where are you? By whom are you condemned or damned or blessed? The place you lived has been abandoned, echoless, and always I must clarify your plans and glean your schemes, and come at last to rest.