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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
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.

Friday
Sep222017

Emptied

Is this at all ghostable? Let's see.

We came here after fighting through a swarm of mouths.

I met you in the parking lot of a Walmart. Saw you struggling and offered to help and of course you were suspicious and declined.

"I just have to do two things and get home," you said.

"Let me help you," I said.

Here is where our edges fray.

Here, in this time and in this place, you are a mother, and you are good at mothering. Your Ozark eyes are always tired, your lashes worn, your oily hair tied in whorls. You think you are ordinary, but I know you're special. I also know I won't ever convince you of that, so I don't try. You rarely blink. Our lives are bracketed by the opening and closing of a blink. Who ever tells us these things?

"A'right." You almost growl this, but dispassionately. "But then you leave us alone, yes?"

"Of course." I'm not even sure you see me, sticklike, streaming beams of amber and amethyst light against the evening, a distant star lensing light still farther out in space.

I helped you and then you told me an awful tale. This is what you told…

"So back then, when I was just a wain—my gramps and his gramps was Scots-Irish—I used to cry each morning, knowing I had to endure school and hear the taunts and feel the sudden shoves and the pinching fingers of the other children. Every day was another torment. They called me godawful names and hurt me bad and I kept going back 'cause I had to. One day I left school and walked the long miles home, all my bruises both inside and out a reminder I was alive and alone, and I saw my house, where I lived, and it always looked so mean, far meaner than the kids who tortured me, and I opened the unoiled gate, heard its tiny rodent shriek, limped up the short path to the door. They never even gave me keys, so I had to knock, so I knocked. And knocked. And no one came. I went around back and knocked there too. And nobody came. I sat for an hour or more on the front step, wondering why everything was so silent. Then the pale mountain light began to fade and I got scared, so I found a rock and broke a pane in the door and scrambled my way into the house. It was empty. Cleared out. Like no one had lived there for years. I sat on the cracked linoleum floor and cried into my skinny arms for days till someone from the school or a neighbor or some duty-bound citizen alerted the relevant authority and they took me to a foster home and that was that."

Hate is not the opposite of love; abandonment is. Indifference is.

I wake molded to your body from behind with your upper arm clamping my forearm tightly. You are still dreaming, so I lie immobile and allow my arm to be held in your hot, moist armpit. All that day I bring my forearm to my face to inhale your sleep musk.

Each house has its weather. This place, whose weedy, mossy lawn is more rural than suburban, more pasture than posture, also has its weather. This morning's kitchen and dining area is mostly mist lit with a pale apricot glow from a low sun. This is our place.

You, your arachnid fingers, their tips searching my unshaven face, barely touching. You, the warm light to my dust. You, my oxygen.

For you I fashioned and baked home-kilned pizza, piled with artichokes and sundried tomato and feta and spinach, also baked garlic and molten mozzarella, just to watch your jaw cantilever, a tireless gracile thing hinged and vulpine and completely unselfconscious. Sometimes, aghast, I dreamed of you eating the world.

"How'd this happen?" you ask. We're listening to Ray Charles and watching some Olympics with the sound off.

"How did what happen?"

"Us," you say, and your surprised face is comical, and I smile.

"Just be glad," I say, but I catch the redrawn woe on your face the moment you avert it. The first cloud in endless blue. The silent drawback of a tide before the cataclysm.  

What is love, you ask? We all ask. Last week I saw you at the farmers' market, and you handed me a huge yellow tomato. Organic, you said. Smell it, you said. And I smelled it and it was alive in my hand, reeking and brimming with the spoor of life. You told me to wait a couple days, and I did, and the tomato slowly blushed to a deep orange, a tight amber, a shimmering bittersweet heart. I sliced it and ate it, and it was the best tomato I'd ever seen or smelled or tasted in my life. I cried for two whole days. Is this love?

See that candle? Pour its wax into your cupped palm, let it settle, let it cool. Now peel it from the well of your hand. You have made a coin in our only currency. Now pay me.

An hourglass is two versions of sand. You watch through the window as the blown rain hits it in pulsating gusts of flung grain, the pane a flattened hourglass, transparent sand—salt-tears inside; sky tears without—measuring the pace of our gradual uncoupling.

The moon averts her gaze, prays for clouds.

Things come apart. Leaves don't grow back in spring. Rooms are emptied. I've forgotten the sound of your voice. Even the ghosts become silent.

Saturday
Sep162017

Cassini's Gone to Heaven

Why is it this way not the other way and what are you expecting of us here in this vile tunnel beneath an umbra of skyblown corpses and silent terrified monkeys in space noted and glimpsed by spiders who exude sharp patience and spin diaphanous tapestries of memory all the while relating such gleaming campfire tales of stick figure ghosts silhouetted against scenes of war and pictures of torment and dioramas of loathing some marijuana if you got some and don't let's forget our tiny vanguard our sharp fearless scout plunging its lionheart its holy goddamn fingers into the multi-ringed rind of our spectacular haloed cousin only to stutter scorch a dying bright fragmenting limb across that alien sky and what is all this with everyone crying back here dreading and dreaming and texting and hoping on our choked and likely waning earth and is there any word more lovely than enceladus or any vista more dreamlike than the sweep and plunge amid the rings slingshot around the planet's churning hexagonal polestorm before the virtuoso suicide before the last cascading image cast and hurtled back toward a darling bluish marble dancing with the one that brung us twirling among the glitterati and the astonishment of worlds and the eternal itch of this heartworn impossible family?

Saturday
Sep092017

A World Abandoned

Everything inside my head is small and enclosed and everything outside is huge and muffled. There are sounds within the woods at night, terrible sourceless sounds, screeches from unseen throats, and we awake to a sun like a penny glued to a fawn-gray board. A coin fixed to a sand-dusted slate. Brassy light falls amid the shadows all day.

Things are going wrong, have gone wrong. I wonder if I mean within or without, and discover I can't answer either way.

Gerhardt left three days ago and hasn't returned. 

I clutch our old retriever Lola at night, my arms encircling the pitiful trellis of her ribs, and she whines quietly at the shrieks from the woods. Come daylight she doesn't investigate.

And come daylight I pull up the ghosts of carrots and beets, translucent things like alien pods spawned in our friable dirt. Dirt that looks and feels but will never taste like the crumble topping my Aunt Caterina used to bake over Tuscan apples and sweet red grapes.

Must stop remembering. Too dry. Too drained of faith. Even yesterday is beyond the pale now.

Gerhardt took the crossbow; I have the old Winchester pump-action and the last two shells. 

I can't help myself. I think back to a time when the worst thing I thought could happen was losing my children. Laughter now would be legitimate, yet I don't laugh. Irony is as stupid as nostalgia.

Right before he left, Gerhardt laughed.

"What is funny?" I asked him.

"Nothing, my dear."

"Fine."

"Not fine. Not funny. And yet…"

"What?" I could never resist his artful pauses.

"A dream is an unfinished life, so maybe they were all dreams."

"The children?"

"All of them. Taken before their time. Maybe the life they're meant to live hasn't yet begun."

"But how is that funny?"

"Oh, outside of the cosmic scale, it isn't."

"And also, what then are we?"

"Midwives, perhaps? Or morticians."

His fragile smile left the cartography of his face like a misremembered shallows and he winked and kissed the air by my cheeks and he shouldered the crossbow over his day pack and stepped on the loose boards as if to release a pent and groaning sendoff—secretly ordained by impish music-loving satirists—and he never turned his unkempt head the whole time his wiry frame hitched itself down the long gravel lane.

Irked as I was by his cryptic foolishness then, how I miss him now. Stabbed by loneliness, I call Lola, who happens like a specter out of the strange quiet air. I bury my sorrowing face in her patchy fur, but when I pull away, her fur is dry. Perhaps I am the wraith, not her.

Perhaps my grief leaves no stain on this world.

Gerhardt and I once spoke of Christ and redemption. He was once a Lutheran and I a Catholic. We might as well have conjured Anubis or Krishna. Kali or the Morrigan. Cthulhu. Isis. A thousand echoing rooms and hallways spiral beyond the vacant futile atrium of unanswered human prayer. 

The night is too generic for copyright, and as it passes once more, stamped by the usual screams of the arrested trees, by the endless moonless hours, my insomniac eyes become the only things in this world that are large. They keep growing—while morning enters like an intruder pissing weakly in a corner—expanding like fungus or a thing far worse, daring the fawn-gray sky to blink in toxic fellowship, tempting the universe to tremble in abject defeat.

What is this now? Men? With guns and lust and deadened eyes?

O woe.

When Gerhardt returns, our last shells will be spent, I will be a strand of spider silk shimmering with rosy dewdrops and stretched between splintered fenceposts, and holy Lola's howls will fill the whole valley.