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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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Thursday
Dec152016

Red White Bitch

CanLit is short for Canadian literature. Geist is a Vancouver literary magazine. Over the years, it's featured some excellent writing challenges. The idea of this particular contest (the Can't Lit Without It CanLit Short Story Contest) was to grab a randomly generated Canadian premise from the canlitgenerator.com and create a piece of fiction no longer than five hundred words.

Anyway, they received around two hundred entries, and though my story didn't win it did manage to get itself shortlisted, for which I'm proud.

So here was my premise: "A family and their dog struggle with what it means to be Canadian. To each other, they say nothing."

___________________________________________________________

The world is filled with things. Lodgepole bark, cribbage boards, a softening of the eyes.

But the world in this moment is filled with two things: red and white, blood and snow.

Five beings in a cabin trapped by a blizzard don’t tend to open themselves to the lone canine, and I must accept that.

***

“If someone doesn't shut that fucking mutt up, I swear I’ll carry it outside and turn it into a dogsicle.”

“Leonard, that dog isn’t an it. She’s a genuine hero. She once saved an entire SAR team somewhere west of Tumbler Ridge. Long story, but trust me.”

***

Did one of them just speak up for me? I’m impressed. If I end up going rogue, perhaps I’ll spare her, let her be the one to lead us back to the bright lights and the furry microphones. We all love a survivor tale.

***

Grandpa decided it was time. “I ate many a critter I was once partial to.”

No one knew what to say to that. Grandpa claimed to be Métis. Most thought of him as a wily grey fox who’d seen better years.

***

Marie-Louise said, “What say we turn on the TV?”

Snow punctuated the windows in grainy tattoos.

***

“Before we return to Peter Mansbridge, we would like to express our condolences to all Canadians who have erred in some way, to those who left it late in October to buy a snow shovel after they disappeared from the shelves, who belatedly learned about block heaters that first winter after moving to the Prairies, who assumed milk in a bag was a prank, dismissed Bubbles as a retarded kitty-loving Rush stan and nothing more, barely registered Sidney’s goal in Vancouver in 2010, looked blank at the mention of Christine Sinclair or Hayley Wickenheiser, remained unmoved by the quietly revelatory stories of Alice Munro, or unimpressed by Tekahionwake’s gentle retellings of Coast Salish stories, or perplexed by phrases like bunny hug or gonch launch. Please try to be better at this Canadian thing, okay?”

***

For fuck’s sake. To you folks, Drake is a male duck.

I yelled and rapped (yapped) into the night, Leonard be damned. And no one stopped me.

***

“Morning’s coming.”

“I’d never have guessed, given the steady increase in light from the east.”

“You’re a good girl, Lorena. Sarcastic and filled with love for the finest things. Let us smudge.”

“You mean ash on the forehead or burning a sage stick in an abalone shell?”

“Does it matter?”

***

It might. Crossing the border for a gallon of milk and a block of American cheese the size of a shoebox, alongside a tankful of cheap gasoline, you remember those days? Red and white doesn’t only refer to wine.

***

“Me, I don’t ever forget.”

“Yeah. Right. That old Trudeau, though? One mean, contrary sonofabitch.”

***

It’s morning. I need to pee. All I see now is red and I itch. Okay. Let me out of here. Please.

Friday
Dec092016

Sister Dakota

You love someone, so you leave scented candles out (pomegranate, grapefruit), which you might never light.

Flaxen wicks. Burgundy wax. Everything a stageset waiting on your stagecraft.

Enemies? Perhaps. Pop the cork on a malbec, watch your little sister roll her eyes. What is that? No matter. She's beautiful regardless.

Cedar posts and railings redolent of lanolin. Look west tonight at sunset, see the bright handwritten skies choked by gunsmoke and devotion.

Someone spoofed your iTunes, left it channeling. Kicking off the night are Gucci Mane, Destiny's Child, Iggy and the Stooges, Miles Davis, Yeezy, Nina Simone, Sinéad, and Kings of Leon. The good, the raw, the bad, the wired, the ruined, the ugly, the damaged, the misunderstood. Some reassembly required. 

Reminds me. Looking for parts in the auto junkyard, clear-oiled bearings, virgin gravy, constant velocity boots, y'all still slay me. The rains won't likely ever stop, 's crazy. Deep within the dark green wood a cabin, quiet and locked, a woman tied to a chair and recently shot, gouting red on kitchen linoleum while a policeman squints through glass, misses her, moves on. Takes days to die. Has to be cut from her own congealed blood. Happens or not.

Happens. My hands are free right now. Feel them cup your gracile face, lift your caramel eyes to meet my own, see the peaks that haunt my horizons beyond the gentle plains.

I need a passenger like you are craving salvage.

We all here now? Siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts? I'm mostly looking down through black arachnid lashes, so I usually look askance.

I don't even know if I'm a girl or a boy, or even whether that affects our plans. Most likely not; I'm lazy.

We hug the sides of the canyon and walk on, tongues awake to the mineral drip. We battle zero gravity, backlit by black and bathed in frontal sunglow. Before the aurora starts and we emerge from airlocks, exit doorways, tent flaps, orbital suspended slumber.

Myriad gods congratulate us. Replenish our rehearsal with fireflies.

I see you. I know all a y'all. Visitors. Hummingbirds. Vampires. Butterflies.

We come in peace. Receptive. Nothing alien, not even bees. Don't bat your eyes.

My stepmom touched me. I let her. We ossified. Long before we bled we crumbled.

The electric sky dreams color while my bandwidth tunes itself some damn place other, someplace else. We pull over on the shoulder. Watch a coyote slip out on the road and dither, lift its muzzle, catch our mismatched drift, a far-off purple coaldust range proclaiming its own locus beyond our troubled selves.

Dawn still struggles. Bleeds tourist real. Humble. Drums and regalia paint with smoke, smudge a hope, trace an asphalt splash, we stumble.

Pine Ridge. Oka. Standing Rock.

What do I find? This Glastonbury campfire, this huddle. And when? I awake in the backseat, your droll mouth working me, and I stay still. Letting you. Enjoying you. Enjoying you enjoying me. Enjoying me ironically. Consent some dream, some luxury. But I watch the coyote watching us. Dry lightning X-rays distant peaks. Immaculate Coachella. Our kind. We're all so faraway and road blind. Ciao bella, Mariela, we on fleek. You love most of this and so do we. So do all of us, and so iconically.

We're almost perfect till the haters find us, slam into our matchless dry-run moment from behind.

Friday
Dec022016

Reprisals

I began as someone else and now I'm here at this place.

Christ, you'd think with time I might learn a few things. Most of those we've loved are gone. I walk beneath the great curving highways, marveling at this nowhere world, this umbral city, where forgotten people languish on palettes and gaunt and puckish coyotes prowl. What are we to each other? Why does caring entail such paucity? Do my memories of strolling with you, hands clasped palmward, through streets of antique brickwork and abundant baskets of green, mean anything now?

I want to return to all the sacred places. You know the ones. You know I know you know them.

"When you loved me, did you love me for me or for you?"

My first thought is "Both," but I end up choosing silence.

Although I have a question too. Did you stop and get out, that time you hit something out in the hills? In a chinook, in the Santa Ana winds, wherever? Did you stand helpless as you watched it, this possum, this raccoon, this nameless broken thing, watched it spin slowly clockwise on the asphalt, pinwheeled and bewildered by its own inexplicable ruin? Did you dare kill it?

For that is love. Killing is sometimes love.

Also love is the long road coming to a point someplace far. Pale lavender smudges of sagebrush on either side, mesas and buttes, distant mountain ranges, a sky that feels like the time you fell as a child into a bright cerulean pool and lost all sense of up or down. Panicked, resplendent, surrendered.

Trace the flow of clouds over an afternoon. How did we not know all our changes would come via such quiet events? That our careful attention would matter this much? They say Van Gogh saw the secret patterns of clouds and starfields only when he was suffering, that psychosis is one of just a few ways to see it all. What an atrocious, outrageous price.

One I can't afford yet might still pay.

Wet sand between your toes, the exhaled tide. Starfish clutching rocks. The hectoring cries of seabirds. Sweat beading on your glistening, unsolved haunches.

Grieve with me now, girl. Won't any one of us escape.

There's a moment that feels eternal. It begins with something in the ground trying to squirm free. First, my shelves topple in great cascades of media, and my TV screen breaks. Fine, I clung to those things too long. But it continues. Windows shatter, plaster and drywall rain in squalls, and I leave my building and stand in the street and watch great flocks of birds gather, herons and pelicans and ravens, and the trees are swaying, palms and conifers, and all the neighborhood dogs are chorusing their terror and dismay. Power lines snap and whip like vipers. Glass crashes like tuneless bells. I hear sirens. I hear the sound of many things fracturing, coming loose, pissing on us. Reprisals. Redress. I'm forced to confront my neighbors, their half-undressed wide-eyed monstrous neediness. I choose kindness. I ask each person if they're okay, take their trembling hands in mine. I don't listen to their replies; there is nothing I can do for them in this world. I love them and I hate them. This feeling alone becomes the eternal one. I hate whatever made us love.

I hate whatever makes us love.

Friday
Nov252016

Matinee

Geneva's a small woman in a small town at the quiet end of a quiet life.

Union Street is straight and plenty wider than it needs to be, and the bakeries and thrift stores and credit unions and jewelers and coffee shops are comforting, like old photos in sepia. It's only partway through November, but the seasonal lights are already up. She doesn't mind. She finds it safe, like when she used to lie beneath the towering fragrant spruce as a little girl, her eyes filled with color and love.

This is her routine on a weekend. Since her Stanley up and died a decade ago now, she's discovered a love of film, so she attends at least one matinee a week, usually on a Saturday, which leaves Sunday open for when she gets the comparatively less frequent urge for Jesus. Fact is, Jesus ain't really cutting it all that much of late.

Ron McDonald manages the movie theater. Everyone forgets how plumb comical his name is now; given time, people get used to most everything. It's called The Empire, and though it mostly shows current films, Ron tries to host a classic or two during weekend matinees.

Geneva feels still as the eye of a thwarted storm, like the storefronts and sidewalk are moving past her and all she has to do is wait until Union and Wabash arrive and she can step off and walk right into the movie house to find her weekly measure of drama.

She knows she's old and unremarkable. She knows her place is set and her role defined. Unseen. If Stanley were still alive, perhaps they might drive to Echo Park, even take a real picnic like old times, red-and-white checkered cloth and everything, while the young folks stared, bemused. He would call her Eva and she would smile. But Stanley is gone, and her life as a wife, and as a waitress, then as a department store salesclerk, and then, briefly, as a student of art history in college before she realized she'd bitten off more—financially at least—than she could chew, is gone.

At the big department store she worked in when they moved to St. Louis for a year, she won Employee of the Month three months in a row. She would've won it four times if the other employees hadn't started to get antsy. Her boss told her he was sorry about that, but sometimes excellence goes plain unrewarded in this world, when the other crabs want to pull you back into the bucket. That's exactly how he said it, too. She still hung those awards on her wall, in the tiny apartment she shares with the odd roach, a colony of bedbugs (she suspects), and plenty of angry Spanish epithets from her florid neighbor.

This is her life. She wonders what would happen if she stripped naked as a jaybird and danced the can-can the length of Union Street. Would anyone even notice? Or care? People in movies do crazy stuff like that and everyone loves them. She sighs, buys her ticket, and finds a seat about ten rows up from the screen and central.

There are more colored folks here than usual (she knows she needs to say African American but her tongue can be obstinate when it comes to current ways), a couple families with kids even, and Geneva realizes why: this Saturday, they're showing To Kill A Mockingbird. Sure, a story still told by white folks, but one that at least looks at prejudice without blinking. She knows because she read the novel a few years back, and she loved Scout's raw, wide-eyed voice and Atticus's quiet nobility.

And whoever picked Gregory Peck must have had the same dreams as her.

While she's watching the show, she drifts and has a memory of when Stanley first hit her. The pure shock of it is like an ice bath. She remembers wanting to disappear, to be like mist, because mist can't be broken. She misses him but she doesn't miss his knobby fists, his sandpapery palms, and his random meanness. 

"Are you okay, ma'am?"

Geneva blinks and recognizes Susan, who takes her money most weeks in exchange for a ticket.

"I'm fine. I think I fell asleep and was dreaming. Thank you. And my name is Geneva."

And that's when a dark figure enters through the exit door by the screen and the horror show begins.

Geneva is sprayed by something warm and wet, which turns out to be Susan's blood. The sound of an automatic weapon is like God's rage: all-consuming and limitless. It's everywhere in her head, everywhere in the theater, everywhere in the world. She can sense people clambering over seats in the dark all around her, hear them screaming. To her shame, she is frozen; just as before, she has no fight or no flight in her. She closes her eyes and awaits the inevitable end. Which arrives with sudden silence as shocking in its way as the gunfire had been. But not perfect silence; she hears a man drowning in his own blood, a desolate gurgle, and a child crying. Then another burst and even those sounds are no more.

The man stalks the rows of seats for survivors; she watches him as he gets closer. His face is hidden by a ski mask, but she sees his eyes, wide and cold as sinkholes in ice. He is saying something quietly to himself. It sounds like "Heil Trump," but that seems nonsensical to her. He lingers over the black families, then nods as if some grim ledger has been balanced. Then he heads her way… and keeps on walking, toward another exit door in what was once a theater and is now an abattoir.

Geneva sits for a while, feeling the blood of others move in rivulets down her body. She can hear sirens and sounds of alarm outside. She eventually gets to her feet, shaky and sick deep down in her bones, and walks outside, into an evening smeared with fuchsia and ultramarine and filled with the sounds of human distress.

Not even the cops see her, so she goes home.

Saturday
Nov192016

Mediterranean Avenue

© Mike Osborne

Here in America, I'm shivering under the red light on Mediterranean Avenue. I'm waiting for my friend, and she's late. A constant rain fell this evening, which has only recently eased, and the road is slick, reflecting neon.

The deepening blue of a darkening sky and the off-kilter red lights smear on the asphalt in gentle tones of muted fuchsia and chambray, daubed with sporadic yellow and white. Yellow hydrant and the X-ray backdrops of winter trees. I might believe it a painting if it weren't for the water dripping from my umbrella down the back of my neck.

It's a place that absorbs all sound. A place where quiet storms rage.

"FML" by Kanye West is playing somewhere in the world or inside my head.

Somewhere looking to flood. Somewhere looking to scare you, with its ghosts of vehicles, its human absence.

I'm animal. I self-haunt. I sing to you, I'm hoarse, I don't understand my loss, I see a miniature horse on a fence line, happy, beside a solar panel.

Something big came through but we never even saw it.