Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out
Friday
Feb092018

Push Bar To Open

This is not a story.

***

After cancer took him the same year Elvis died, when I was young, I've seen the face of my grandfather most days since, in my dreams or projected onto my inner eyelids when I stop for a moment and rest and allow memory's fluid, capillary reach breach the dam of me.

***

This child: "I made a snowman today."

"It isn't snowing." 

"Snow is just extra cold water, and it's raining."

"But—"

"It's there. You just can't see it. The rain keeps washing it away. If the rain would stop, you'd see it."

***

I was in the office that day when they brought the five children in, spanning age two to age fifteen. Even the administrative staff were vibrating with empathy and sorrow, while the three social workers called on all their training to help pacify the kids, whose shrieks and wails once they'd gleaned how fractured their family now was echoed like waves of cetacean grief.

But who was I?

*** 

Have you ever risked anything? 

No. Never.

Why the fuck not?

***

"The appaloosa is sometimes called the damnation horse. Beware, cowgirl." 

"Sir? I think you got your words mixed up."

"Yeah. Probably. But truthfully, death ain't so bad. Although dying sure is."

***

First day of school, I made a puzzle. Black-and-white cows and a barnyard. Summer blue sky and verdant grass. I sat beside a boy, John Simpson, as anodyne a name as possible in central England in the nineteen sixties. And his dad was a fireman, and I wide-eyed believed him—because why wouldn't I? In that classroom I was completely happy. The middle of England in the middle of a decade. I have no memory of the teacher. Or the other kids. Just a puzzle and a boy, and both were good. I didn't miss anyone. 

***

Her fingers were spatulate;

I asked, "You gonna capture that?"

My heart went all Montague and Capulet.

***

He was one of those sports bros, those hockey dudes, who only articulate the last syllable of a name, as if begrudging full agency: the 'Nucks, the 'Lanche, the 'Gers. We got in a bar fight once when I called him a 'licker. He had no sense of humour. Not much of a fighter either. Shame. I liked that bar.

***

Neon is the shout in the throat of the street. It hollers "Vogue!" and coughs "Orpheum!" into the smeared wet night, and our quailing hearts respond by shrinking. We are impostors, thirsty for sound. This is a broken boulevard jerry-rigged from busted dreams and only for monarchs, and we are pretenders, inadequates, vulgarians, slipping away in the sudden carpal reach of fog from the inlet. This is an ending we'll never get back, grey and mute and dead of eye. You blink, you fucking miss it all. 

***

Are you holy? For now I am winter. So lonely. Such fury. Would I sacrifice twenty more solitary years for a single year's touch of a woman's silk, of the tips of her spiderleg fingers? Yes. Probably yes.

Roll down your windows and crank up the songs. 

You ask why I never ran. It's complicated. How about this? Watch the lynx stalk a snowshoe hare and maybe you'll have an inkling, and then maybe we can talk. 

Or answer this: Chandler or Bergman? The Big Sleep or Winter Light? Do you actually think we are the good guys?

I bring comfort, a soft accommodating blanket drenched in smallpox. Nighttime, driving down to Memphis with you, all foolish pride and futile trepidation. Let the morning break like a bloody egg, the best girl I ever had lying by the quiet roadside, waiting in the muffled grey silence for the sirens and the ghouls in their important livery. And I still can't remember anything at all. Not one single thing. 

Goddammit, yeah. You can look. 

Just don't touch me.

I said don't.

Friday
Jan122018

Openings

I knew I was going to kill him the moment he walked into my kitchen.

 ***

"Is it weird for you?"

"Is what weird?"

"That your abductor loves you more than anyone else in your life?"

"It isn't so strong. She has Gothenburg Syndrome."

"Ha."

The echo: I stand and face the waterfront and behold the absence of gulls and ponder the silent lapping of tethered boats, until a siren blares like the sudden shout of Satan, and not a single one of us has any inkling what comes next, as we dim with a fallen sun, pay endless respects to the spasming of a planet contemplating its own eradication.

***

It's a castle. The whole place is a castle. Music blares from speakers strung along its ramparts. "Lullaby," by Low. Turn it up. Place the speakers strategically. Untangle the fallout harmonies, adopt a male stance to blare, take a neutral line, assume a female posture to hear. The way of a world, probably our world, but not of all worlds.

I fell apart in Sacramento. Victim of those shibboleths. If my mercy overwhelms my wrath, this brass, your American face is bleeding, your underbite ascribed, your downturned mouth some emblem of your endless loss. Make the call quickly, and choose northward.

He walked into my kitchen. We were reduced. Me, my sister, my two brothers, and a cousin. They were sleeping. Here was I. There was he, and my eyes slid left to avoid seeing something appalling.

***

Want to meet love halfway? Simple. Add "my huckleberry friend" to everything you say. You will be inconsolable.

***

Across from us, wan dishrags of cloud drag across the tops of the dense conifers; ahead of us the road.

Oh god, that road. Oh god, that road. An unspooling charcoal ribbon curling between our splayed legs and the endless banks of trees.

***

An arrow into an abyss. It's hectic, corrosive, you pull into a federal monument.

Ten islands, four pumps each. Forty gasoline teats awaiting our unquenchable thirst. Outside just desert, a monotone of beige and fawn, of sands and scrub. This is where the action's at: microwaved hoagies and bitter scalding coffee.

Remember Scandella? The investigator? You thought of him as a good man, some kinda sleuth. And maybe that's right. But did it occur to you he mighta bin a she? Private dick, my irreverent ass.

Hunkered down, we hunch our impudent shoulders, lower our frozen gaze. The winds howl and whistle, keep on howling and whistling, and a fleet of corvids raids the back side of the ridge, dive-bombs this place, mocks this shelter, and we laugh, somehow vindicated.

***

Squeeze your eyes tight and let the tears fall; we can all see the humanity wrung from your dried apple face.

***

We fell through the long slow cracks. Made our way to minimum security. 

Carnock told us an ice storm was coming, so that night we took our chance during the first outage. 

A lurking, sporadic gale, teasing the world with sly offers of sanctuary. There's this moment when we both think we're free. Under scudding clouds of burnt umber traversing an orange night, a full quarter of the sky to the east flares sudden electric blue. Once. Twice. Transformers blown. Again. Four times. Her and me, we grab each other's hands as if the violence of the night might sunder us. Gaze at the antic incendiary sky. Then jack a Dodge pickup already warmed and readied by its hapless owner.

The roads are the shameful aftermath of genocidal lumber wars: miles of scattered limbs and even entire torsos of cedar and hemlock, fir and spruce, death-gripped by the cold embrace of their mutual hissing antagonist: the freezing rain. It paints you over many hours in layers of ice until its cumulate weight takes you down. All around, limbs groan and fracture, detonating, falling muffled and unmourned. Power line viscera curled every which way. We pick our careful course between these hazards, see orange lights in all directions flashing road closure warnings. Orange until they're suddenly red and blue and there's no escaping any of this. No way out. Now that's some rich and lavish fucking irony, right there.

***

Don't pay me any mind. No, wait. Blame my sorry ass for everything. You will anyway.

Friday
Dec152017

Glorious Things

Have I got a half-baked story for you. Turn your pretty head. 

I sit at a corner table where I can see the main doorway and the windows, keep myself mindful amid warm, oblivious goldfish trapped in a frozen hell. 

Karla is the recently Sharpie'd name on the left breast of her waitress smock. She asks me if I would like to order, and I tell her I was supposed to meet someone a good thirty minutes ago, and will wait, see if they're the belated kind or the bailing kind. 

"Would you like to order a drink while you wait?" she asks.

"Sure. Coffee. Dark roast. Cream."

She brings a porcelain mug and a delicate matching jug on a tray. White with a subcutaneous shadow. It feels French. Or Elvish. Or English from some other time and place. My hands are large and clumsy.

Her eyebrow is an arch, an irony, a bow flexed by a squire. I try to stop myself, but I fail: I laugh out loud.

"What is it, sir?" 

She is so fine. My heart pumps extra blood.

"You. Just you. You're priceless."

"All respect, mister, I ain't, and nobody is. We all got a price."

"All right. Look. Yes. I didn't want to say this, but I'm dying. Does that change anything?"

"No, sir. Not anything I said, if that's what you mean."

"Yeah. Yeah."

"Uh, if you don't mind me asking, you're a fairly young fella. What you dyin' of?"

"Well, Karla, you just asked the exact right question."

"Okay, and I'm glad…" Her pretty face is flushed. "But I'm too darned inquisitive, and I gotta get back to the kitchen."

"Yeah, sure. Go. Nothing says I should answer you, or you me. Even when you talk in poetry."

Three emotions run across her face, her eyes, her brows, and she retreats, sensibly. 

I pull out the nine millimeter, caress its cool barrel. A woman in a booth with two small kids clocks it and looks away, alarm on her handsome maternal face. She has that dry Christian denial in her glowing bones, which are also porcelain. Somehow, within a minute, she's signaled the waiter, corralled her children, paid her check, and left the diner before I can even register it. All I see is the caboose of her receding Cherokee, one child looking back, a girl, tiny face stricken, like she's always known, like she wishes she never did. 

So instead I stand and shoot the fat old white guy in a neighboring booth. Nothing personal, but I'm playing the percentages at this point. I damn well want him to be a bigot and a malignant human blemish. He doesn't immediately die, which upsets me. His wife tries to stanch the carmine gouts of arterial blood that ejaculate from his throat, and as he gurgles and drowns, I admit I laugh. Not out of cruelty but out of absurdity. Stupidly, I think his neck is orgasming. 

"There are glorious things in this world, but I can no longer find them." 

I think it is me who says that, but I also think it's someone else. I feel forked like a tongue and skewered like a heart.

"Tell me he hates niggers and faggots and cunts," I say gentle into her face, but she only looks blank and crosses herself.

A siren blooms from the landscape, like a blister aching to be burst. So I oblige. Step out into the gravel lot where the snow is falling like soft artillery and pop both uniformed men who alight so breezily and guilelessly from their cruiser. One is gone from the get go, and the other clutches his throat and grabs my ankle as I aim to walk on by. He can't speak, but his face can. It says: "I don't know you, and you have now become the second-most important person in my life, since you've done killed me. Please tell my gentle wife I died clean. That I didn't cry or beg. That I died well, uncomplaining, upholding my duty." 

I nod yes. I wish I could talk, but I feel all stoppered up. And I think we hear each other regardless. 

None of this is personal. Yet it's about as personal as it gets. Not all the bad guys hate niggers and faggots and cunts. (But all the guys who hate niggers and faggots and cunts are bad.) You see? 

This is the land of the locust, the rat, the serpent; the wounded and the livid. Violators of women; fondlers of children. The doltish and the dotard. Malevolence squats beneath the bleachers. Feigns piety while reconnoitering malls, noisome with loathing. 

This bleach is not to whiten but to clean.

Watch the steam unfurl from a grate. It strives to form a shape, like the birth of a ghost. Most times it's stillborn. But that one time, you know? That one time is a glory to behold. It's the silver tongue behind speech, delivering all that is lyrical, midwifing the honeycomb of words.

We're not bad but flawed. That distinction might not comfort those we fail, might even be a feint or dodge most times. Look. Some say we are fools to love what death can claim. But death can claim all things. Why would we withhold the last great fragile thing that renders us unimpeachable? 

In my mind's eye, I see the place again, and this time I sit still and wait, and Karla comes out from the kitchen as the man enters the diner at last, that icicle sound as the door opens and his brogues are the first part of him to cross the threshold. His rage enters next and is endless, even while quiet. Karla smiles at him and with a gesture of her head and eyes offers him a choice of seat. He smiles back, but it's a cold thing in a warm place, and it stops people dead. In the abrupt silence, I start to get up, but it's too late. He unsheathes a sword—a katana—and swings it toward the fat old white man, who sees it coming and grabs Karla by the waist and the katana slices into her instead. I howl like something raised in a hidden forest among a shock of echoes and the eternal creaking of a giant raven. I know I am too late. This is all wrong. I blink, and the picture changes to white noise and static, and all I can feel is relief. A lie. Resignation and relief. 

Glorious things. Her sapphire eyes. Wide salt lakes. Forever gone but not quite lost.

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.