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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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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. 

Friday
Oct272017

Despicable Men

I'm the second best person you never heard of.

Me, your goddamn guts. I'm walking now, dragged strenuous, passing beyond the biting, random glare of your accountants.

That riff you play is like your stomach flipped then dreamed something up you never even knew existed. It's tight and warm, like intimacy, like pimps turned nice. Like you found your old friends gathered outside a barbershop in the tangerine light, toe ended your kickstand, and rode like nothing else mattered on crumbling tarmac, veering into the dunes and driving those piston legs toward the tide, all of y'all hollerin madcap charms, antic conjurations, before embracing the waters under an astonished sky.

***

Conversation with a despicable man.

"So you liked her?"

"Like? Don't know how that's relevant."

"I mean was there anything about her that you responded to, not in a sexual or murderous way, but on a human level, if you will?"

"…"

"What's that look mean?"

"You ask a good question. It's kind of blowing my mind right now, to be honest."

"Can you elaborate?"

"Well, you say 'human level.' And I think I know what you're alluding to, but isn't it also human to want to destroy, to ruin? I can't answer your question until I know where you stand on that."

***

The air has a death tinge out here on the prairie. To the west, above the defining wall of mountains, the sky is umber and coral and rust, and from the stench it seems great fires burn. The old house groans at its buffeting by the charnel winds. 

Cassady told me everything west of Canmore is burned. If our prairie grasses catch enough sparks, the blaze will race itself all the way to Manitoba, and south to Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, if it ain't already. 

We did this. You. Me. All of us. With our terrible thirst, our dragon breath. Crime ain't the word. Sin ain't the word. Wrongdoing ain't the word. This was unmitigated evil. The only world we know of that has such treasures as the wild headstrong ponies of the plain and the butterfly clouds in their migrant tides and the colours of fall and the sheets of green that dance in the northern skies and we've done killed it. Maybe not full dead, but what rises from these ashes henceforth some pale morn won't be the like of what's passed. I gotta hope it will be better, but will this world's waters ever again swell with the breaching whale? Will its forests echo again with the howls of the pack, the raven's dispatch, the loon's ambushed ghost? 

My heart says no. Like a deep bell says no.

Once it might've said otherwise, but my childish hopes ran headlong into the slaughter reek of a dying world.

***

"Shouldn't it go without saying that destruction and ruin are bad?"

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?"

"But…?

"But yeah. The world. Not so simple as we once thought. Powerful men have greater urges than the weak. They must be filled."

"That's monstrous."

"So says one of the weak, I'm afraid."

"If that's the case, why are you the one sitting here in manacles and I'm going home to take my wonderful wife to dinner tonight?"

He grinned the odious amygdala grin of something that scuttled in the skull's own basement and held up the unclasped cuffs. After the first shriek, his expertise was such that the guards were still too late.

***

There was one day that felt different. When everything worked. I reserve that day forever. 

Friday
Oct202017

Contaminant, USA

Place ain't much. Somewheres to be born, is all.

Three main streets like a Y and a couple swingin' lights, a barbershop, a diner'n a convenience store. Feedlots. Plenty farmers with not much to farm. Passers through on the interstate. A school bus stop, a part-time sheriff, a scowling cliff top.

Pickup trucks. A whole mess of dusty pickups.

Grew up here, then some of you came by.

Hear tell they talkin 'bout dreamers in the govermint. Way I see it, we're all dreamers now. A foot in here and a great loss there. Sure, I stutter. Th-thought I'd grasped it all once, b-but now I don't even f-fake it: I cain't learn no more here, no more'n a rattler can hush its dry clatter once it done bin bothered.

*** 

Confronted by the holiest of ghosts, we crumble like pies. 

Claim me, sister. Make me one of your own. Your nighttime entreaties galvanize me. You are a river, I tumble like waters, my destiny your delta. Your splayed, glorious wetlands.

I am the spray inside the bowling shoe, the bogus peppermint breath pledging our allegiance—you sanitize the world, you decontaminate it all, even the things we'd rather defile. 

The juniper reek when you piss in the street one feral August night. You stringent tomcat fuck.

"You got stories to tell."

"Sure. I got stories to tell. When I get a minute to tell 'em. Or when the Lexapro kicks in. Might take weeks. Ain't none of it come easy no more."

Clamber aboard this clumsy vessel, tune those strings, find your sea legs, drift by the cliffs, sing your heart out, endure the tireless mockery of gulls. We die bereft of love. Die without our allotment of love. Fall before we even dream of love. Stumble on love's doomed highway. Shot across the bows. Holed beneath the waterline. Dance irrelevant as our kindly ardor allows. 

"Just start."

"I can't."

Visit this. And detonate. Disintegrate.

"Yeah? A'right. How about this. Left my girl when I found out she was cheatin'. Walked straight the fuck away. Sold my ride for a couple hundred plus memories and trod the bleakest of streets, some wide meridian thoroughfare lined with gas bars named from lunatic tales, like Love's and Flying J, edged with landscaped evergreen forecourts blurting mammoth names—Target, Costco, Walmart—amid lawns and hardy desert flora, cardboard pleas held high by the penniless elect, bona fide scenes in an unwatched film. More. Cracked open fourscore beer in homespun bars, scowled at the haters, spit at the dreamers, howled with the lovers. Fascination Street. Angel squalls. American honeys. Vindictive, tender, whatever, this just the motherloving start."

"Pretty words, and I like 'em, but still ain't no story, only the germs of stories."

"Huh. Well, don't tempt me. I got stories could keep you up a stack of nights, stories could hug the whole world. Slip between your waking and your sleeping, yarns you ain't never gonna dislodge. Kurt Cobain, Kurt Weill, Kurt Vile. Drunk and violent girl on a train. That goddamned maniac sundial. Bless us. Defile us. Obsess us. I don't know why we ever choose to stay or choose to go away."

Grip it. Track it. Ragged golden clouds spill across our flyblown sky, drop below the collagen lip of the world, partway ashamed, most ways stunned. Gather the light of evening, cup it, feel it spill across your fingers, and make of it a gift to someone treasured. Then sleep. Then wake to the shudder of morning and arpeggiate this.

O my quaking, mislaid heart. Love abhors its own purity.