• 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
    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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Places I Hang Out

Seven Breezes Blowin'

Cold, like the world done spun off into space. Cold, like the devil's black heart. Easterly gale so fierce the snow don't ever settle, 'cept in precipitous talus drifts on the east side of the squat, shivering huts we tried to call a homestead.

Can't even hear the cries of my children, the storm's so loud. Five small bleats under a bareback shriek atop a deeper howl 'cross the gray plains, bending poplar and cottonwood like matchsticks to breaking, killing most everything caught outdoors in its path, which is wide and righteous, a godlike halitosic roar in the face of our damnation.

Braced for hunger and cold. For the wages of sin and the invoices of death. Flour ruined by vermin, our old mare brought low by a malady in her veins. Ingredients of this matchless storm were prophesied.

And we all know the answer to it.

Martha my love. Her eyes, like jettisoned moons, won't find my own.

Most Sundays she still looks for a cross where I only see wood too cold to even rot. Literally petrified. And bless her cloudless soul, she still believes in friends. 

Distance between the house and the barn seems more of a hike each day. I'm a man. If I can't do the basics of a man's calling, whose wheels am I spinning and in what chill mud, what slush, do I churn? Place feels so dirgelike even the crows are gone, scattered on a high keening wind like shards of black ice.

The children so thin they could snap in such blasts. Their own eyes dim as lost meteors.

Memories of the road in summer—its battalion of mailboxes, its heart warmth and quiet fields dreaming their long afternoons, its lone vehicles following signs, some lost, some stubborn not to hurry—might as well be ancestral.

Place has two seasons: hot and cold; variations of beige and variations of gray.

But seven shotgun shells—eight or nine for insurance—are inarguable, untenable.

The coyote tonight is alone, a single ululating cry, a reminder of solitude, a clear song of frost.

Truth is, I'd consider it a happy endin' if seven new people didn't never get born.


Anyone who listens to the music of Bob Dylan will recognize the debt I owe in this short tale to his 1964 song, "Ballad of Hollis Brown." The image is an edited version of a photo I took in South Dakota in 2011.


God's Honest Truth

It isn't the first time I've listened to the ranting of a dying man. I've heard rage. I've heard regret. I've heard terror. I have to say, this time feels like something different.

A neon urban orange sodium night, tailing off into indigo then black. Like a deep sea coral reef right before the squid attack.

Back then, when I told her the big ferry was in town she thought I'd said the big fairy was in town. And she laughed. I laughed too, but I meant the ferry. Someone said there were orcas in the water as it drifted into dock. White and kinda white and black, and rounded, like weird soap. I wanted, still want, to believe in them.

A clownish man approached me and began to punch me hard in the face, over and over, and I staggered back behind my own face, blood like a full-on tap. For some reason I remembered the carved Sasquatch sculpture to your left when you enter the town of Harrison, a hirsute giant ready to hurl a rock. And I wanted to inhabit that thing, feel it come alive, wear its flyblown skin and fur and deep wood stench, and tear my assailant's face into dripping ribbons.

Yet the silent empty ferry. Monolithic. Strange. I tried to ignore your homophobia, but the ferry had docked.

Dissociative dreams of how we are. Castoffs and cormorants and catatonia. Analog orcas and burned corneas.

What is this? You shrug. This might not even be happening. 

Will you come with me to buy a breakfast, a bagel, with lox, with cream cheese, with capers? Prettiest damn server ever. Engineered. Abutted hips and cantilever eyebrows. A living boast. You, hypervigilant. Let her fill your cup, one eye on the clock, with the darkest of roasts.

"More coffee?"


"New in town?"

"How'd you tell?"

"Your pointless fucking tears."

Get help. Sympathy? Dying is now only one tendril. Pain is pain is pain. Is pain. We can bury it and exhume its dry crust, its sticklike legs, its sheer wings, all desiccated. A dusty attic of mostly nothing.

Dreary gossamer. Benadryl. Wormwood. Go deep into the green. Drive for eight hours and park beside a wild creek, step out, listen to the waters, the breeze stirring the tops of the conifers, the ravens collaring their own echoes, the complete absorption of our tale, our blunted, airless psychodrama.

Back in the ambulance, the man snags my gaze. I don't want him to. He speaks in some other tongue, gags like an accidental witness to history, offers his throat to some alien wolf, spits poisoned absinthe at our door.

"I came back with a skin yet more dark. You still didn't get it. Last time you drove nails through my wrists and suspended me on two great pieces of wood. It took me hours, days, to die. In unspeakable pain. I believed my own tale and thought that would end it. Not true. Centuries earlier and later, millennia even, I've continued to return. My skin has been brown, olive, tawny, like tea, like coffee, like cola. None of which matters. Here I am, dark as a walnut and dying in the back of this medical wagon. Why is that? Well, new and completely beguiled by this bright embryonic world, I smiled and said hello to a white man dressed in blue. He told me to back away and hold my hands in the air, which I did. But he saw something in my hand that frightened him. A leather-bound book. Just a story, one more tale. Panicked, he sent his hot zygotes of death my way and now, instead of air, pink foam bubbles from my chest and my head grows light and lost, like melting taffy, and I don't know what more I can do … Will you hear me, my ambulance girl? Pass this on? This hurts, but you are a good woman. Attentive. My sweat is like wishful sacs filled with acid, or hope. You are nobody. But neither was Mary or Judas or Peter once. I'm only one of many, and yet you listened to none. If I come back at all, should I come as a rat, a gator, or a whore? A tumour or a field of stalks? Will you even notice? To tell you the god's honest truth, you haven't yet."


The Stalactites and the Love

She was instructed to go in there, to slip behind the curtain and give comfort, since the time for medicine had passed.

"Hold his hand," the matron had urged. "Let him talk. He's an officer, so listen to him. But show no distress."

The sounds—the moans and clacking of heels on tile—seemed to recede as she parted the curtain and entered the partitioned space. Where everything reduced to the leaking devastation of the man's skull. Her urge to weep was immediate and vast, but she kept those tears for the sleepless nights ahead.

How is he even alive? she thought, and she took his cool, rough hands in hers. She marvelled at the sheer human will, or perhaps at the dogged obstinacy of habit.

He was guttering like a votive in some drafty corner of an abandoned church. A flickering torch in a dimming cave.

"When I climbed the hill," he said, fixing her with one eye while the other seemed to look past her, at something awful, "I found the pure white sheets flapping against the brightness of the bluest skies. They were so clean, so fresh, I wanted to cry, but of course I didn't. I thought I might find the women who had hung them there and perhaps marry one if she were so inclined, and had there been time, but all I saw were shadowy lost things drifting between those vast invigorating sails that flapped and billowed like the lungs of God.

"But now it's me who's lost. I tried to follow my mother into the building, but the doors were locked, and when I cleared the dust and grease from a window pane a great dog with a bone-and-gristle head leapt up and frightened me away."

His one good eye kept wandering, as if searching slyly for an exit, only to return and fix on her again, guiltily. The light in the other appeared to have drained entirely away. She made a great effort to quiet the tremors she felt just beneath her skin. She gripped his cool dry hands, half as large again as hers, and forced a smile.

"Did you see my mommy?" he asked, leaning slightly forward.

"No. I didn't see her. I'm sorry."

"Oh." He let the pillows stacked behind his upper torso receive his weight again.

She knew she lacked the words for something like this, so she let them drip unspoken from the ceiling of her mind, form something mineral-hard over eons.

He smiled and something shifted in his head—audibly—and his smile turned briefly to woe.

"I have a feeling my head is such a terrible mess." He whispered this, as if ashamed, as if his presence was an unconscionable cruelty to the attentive young nurse forced to bear witness.

"Perhaps try to recall a quiet time from your home."

"Once, Dorothy and I had an appalling fight and somewhere in Nova Scotia, by the spiteful ocean, I wandered. I found an old chapel. Tiny, it was. And empty, but for a small bent woman hunched over an old pump organ. It was bright in there; all the walls between the icons and crosses were a pleasant summer white and all the wood—frames, trinkets, crosses, pews—was pine blond. I could see the woman was blonde, too, although she wore a loose shawl. The music she played felt incomplete, as if quoting shorter phrases from a longer work. I liked it up to a point, but I could hear the ellipses, the gaps, and I ached to hear the full piece.

"Frustrated, I left, but outside it had grown dark and the landscape seemed to have changed, for I now walked beside the edge of a gloomy wood. Soon the animals came, three, four, five deep, clambering over each other at the forest's margin: raccoons, skunk, foxes, deer, weasels, possum, coyotes, all watching me as if waiting for something…"

"Is this a dream, sir?"

"No, I don't think it is. May I continue?"

"Yes, my apologies."

"So I began to speak to them. I don't think it's all been worth it, I said. All this beauty, all the wonders we've seen and built and worshipped, the taming of the wild places, which will only get worse, all the astounding things we've forged and formed, brought to nothing by our impulse to war on our own kind, and to win those wars at any cost. What an experiment it has been, sublime at its apex but reprehensible at its nadir. Not something necessary and bad, a mere shadow behind the wonders. No, it's all-consuming and there is nothing noble beyond it or behind it, no redemption and no hope.

"Those animals listened to my every word, and when it was clear I was done, some nodded their thanks and they melted back into the gloom of the cedars and the pines, and I heard no more sound from them."

Her own head felt like a doomed airship. She still clasped his hands but had not imparted much warmth to them.

He began to sob quietly and she sat with him in silence. Between sobs he spoke small sad things.

"I wish my mother had never gone into that house, or that she'd looked back at least … one time, I peed off of the side of a dock into a boat and no one saw me, ha-ha … do you love the sounds of a radio, in between the stations? Sounds like planets whispering … you are nice. Will you be able to play with me? I have two toy cars, one a racing car, which I'll let you have, the other a London bus, and we could race them on the sand … the sun is growing in the sky every minute and it's coming for me very soon … how sad, I would have loved to hear more Mozart … I once stood on a glacier the colour of a husky's eyes and heard it cracking under me, miles deep … another time I dreamed I was a poet, but all the words got tangled like kite string and I lost them … did you ever hear the dive of a Stuka? It paralyzes you. It sounds like a demon, an airborne demon, coming for you at last … although the sun, the sun in the end is scarier … did you ever lie on a carpet of bluebells and breathe in spring? If not, you should, and then sing about it to a lover … please tell Mommy I looked for her, will you? Yes, you will, I know. You are kind … the sun is huge now and I can feel it on my skin … I hope it won't hurt too much. Tell her I loved her, tell her about the stalactites and the love, all of it, tell her every…"

He talked and his voice faded slowly, like a lost broadcast. She sat with him a while longer until his cool, rough hands—mechanic's hands, kohl-dark at the creases and the cuticles—finally went cold and stiff. Then she left to find the matron and the doctor.


Faraway Thunder

There were no signs. You got there via a rutted overgrown track between the corn brake and the slough. Once you did, you'd be hard put to know which was the more broken down: the shack or the old man who lived in it.

She knew he never spoke of the very war she figured was what ruined him. She made these visits not to hear about napalm or agent orange or Bell Hueys but simply to keep him company. She felt badly for him, all on his lonesome an' all, no family she knew of, friends likely dead, unbidden memories shuffling out of the corn. 

Sometimes he'd be sitting on his canted porch in a reeking bathrobe that might once have been white cotton flannel but now appeared as if assembled from filthy slaughterhouse mops, and stank that way. Mayhap she'd hunt down that old washboard and coax him out of his robe and try to launder it best she could. He never hid his nakedness, and after a while it stopped bothering her too. Other times she'd dig up a greenish potato in the weed patch that dreamed of being a vegetable garden and add it to the chitlins she'd brung, along with a couple eggs from the coop if the broody old hens had deigned to lay that day.

Neither of them said much, all told. She might sit beside him on the stoop—though he'd never offer up his rickety chair—and watch as the sun spread like a broken yolk and dripped below the rim of the world and the lightning bugs briefly outshone the few pale stars. Occasionally he'd go fill a mason jar with moonshine and share it with her, and smoke while they listened to the antic coyote chorus, after which she'd sway a little on her hike back in near blackness, half-afraid she'd fall in the slough, a small dutiful woman in a large world of night.

He did tell of his brother once. Another time of his mama. Both long dead, as she'd thought. Rare times he talked, she mostly listened; the smallest creek needs no impediment. He never once mentioned his pa.

The most he ever talked was after a big storm had passed, one that still sounded in the gloomy hills to the east, like the ghosts of old battles.

"Had to kill me one a' them hens," he said into the clear mercury air.

"How come?"

"Got a wound on her neck, so the others woulda slowly pecked her dead anyways."

"Which one?" she asked, but immediately felt foolish. "Though I s'pose you seen one dumb chicken you seen 'em all."

And that was the only time he spoke of the war.

"They used to say that about Charlie. They was wrong then, and you're jes' as wrong now."



Those arroyos outside town, so precious. Their red dirt. The way they breathe so slow, ignoring roads, evoking shadows like the last wispy creeds of dying cults.

"You got a better story?" she asks me.

She ain't never satisfied. I could tell her about Jesus, Beyoncé, and Saddam motherfucking Hussein pooling their resources to solve the murder of a sexually ambiguous alien-dwarf hybrid by a vengeful sixteenth-century teenage Moorish prince in some English stately home, and she'd still ask, "You got a better story?"

Sometimes feels like my life's a constant struggle to tell a better story. It surely can't be, but it might be, after all's said.

So a man was found dead 'neath the cliffs, but there were signs he'd tried to climb them before whatever killed him came along, and he'd gotten two-thirds the way up according to the gouges in the red clay many people attributed to the toes of his boots, which also had remnants of the same red clay stuck to them. Maybe not open and shut, but hardly fucking unfathomable neither.

Braless, she unpeels her shirt and flexes her dorsals, a cetacean back like something lithe and fluid and strenuous you'd only see once in a lifetime of diving in a world of deep. The pendulous hint of her breasts sidelines me, makes me salivate through my answer.

"Yeah, I got a better story." I taste salt, like blood, like tears.

"Tell me."

"You sure you're ready?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"A'right. This. Fuck you is a better story. How's that, goddamnit? Stop breaking my balls, will ya? Something's wrong here, and even if I only felt a surface ripple when there's maybe some kinda vortex, wait it out, let it fucking breathe, for chrissakes."

She won't challenge that. It's beneath her. I can't ordinarily find the words, but I pitch this just right. Like when you get absinthe just perfect, the thick green, the flame, the melted sugar, the voodoo, everything in its right place. Her name is every state we ever lived in, however brief. Right now, her name is Wyoming. Part of me wants her to stop changing her name and stay Wyoming. It suits her. It sounds like a query asked of a journey, which is everything we ever did.

She's a tall female with wide shoulders. Rangy, I suppose. Like her mount. She looks like someone can only be happy astride that wide-eyed stallion galloping on a spit of glimmering sand; her golden silt hair streaming like a raging creek; its nostrils gaping like cave mouths; her haunches splayed and fulcrumed western style; its shimmering, filmy, velvet skin a platonic dream of musculature; her sweet hive eyelids tight as honeytraps; its citrus-leaf ears backstraining; her lone wild heart one violent stormshadow. 

Wyoming knows more than twice what she lets on, and maybe half of what she don't.

But we're here now. Devils Tower looming like a sly insult from a quiet ground. Striated and dreamlike. Look but keep going. Big Timber. The Crazy Mountains stark and barroom blue against a lemon-apricot sky, cheap real estate, torn pleather booths, the interstate, power cables, smokestacks, the bright rails straight like arrows pointing someplace, some other place.

So, the dead man, right? I truly want to honor his memory, find his killer, but my girl Montana insists we keep moving west.