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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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Entries in Abandonment (2)

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.

Friday
Mar102017

Back Story in Green

“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

***

You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally. 

I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own. 

Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind. 

The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos. 

Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left. 

Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock. 

Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need. 

***

When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life. 

*

Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian