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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 America (6)

Friday
Mar032017

Some Dire Indian

Stillness. A lime-green-and-cream fifties model Buick by a lake. Backdropped by a silent bank of conifers, half-lit by a quarter moon. A woman in a headscarf stepping gracefully into a boat. A shadow man taking her hand.

You think you know what's happening here? Well, you don't. 

Back then, we summoned from nothing the possible. We dreamed up heists in our methamphetamine haze and enacted them. Constantly amazed they worked. Purloined heat from frigid matrons. Took what was undoubtedly ours. Dropped slack dumbass bodies into lakes. 

Once, we stopped in the desert, a trunkful of bills, stopped and took off hurtling like gazelles. She was a vision. Her flower print dress clinging to her damp curves, riding high, her thigh sweat like raindrops lashing from a clothesline as she pistoned across the scrub, heedless of snake or cactus or ankle-trap burrow. My crazy mother. High-strung, they said, betraying both their bloodlust and their envy. 

"This isn't the place," I said, once I found my breath.

"Sure it's the place."

"You will get us caught."

"Stop worrying, my sweet, sweet boy. Life is so short. None of this matters. Dance with me here."

So I did. Under a splayed galactic sky, serenaded by the wild desert dogs, amid pinpoints of virescent treachery, I danced with my half-mad mother and felt her core try to scorch the fulsome night.

***

Another customer, another delayed minute before I can cash out and go home. 

We got ourselves a menagerie tonight. Three college boys celebrating somethin' I never figured out, a couple on the verge of breakup or proposal, ain't sure which, two women in them headscarves worn by A-rabs, a goddamned family of six here way past their kids' bedtime. Some dire Indian veteran alone at the bar. Two off-duty cops, a man and a woman (can always smell five-o). A black drifter, the one just came in. The one that spoke right after the bell above the door finished jingling.

"Better ignore me or shoot me, but I got a bad tale to relate." 

***

Here we are. No longer able to tell sadness from meanness. No longer caring to. It might even have mattered once. Remember that visit when you drove from your family's home and one of their tiny marmalade kittens had crawled unbeknownst into your wheel well? Bones no thicker than a quail's. How quickly and immediately it died, a smear on a swatch of the slow-turning world. Ten weeks' worth of wide-eyed warmth cooled in an instant. Yet even thwarted, life won't relent.

***

These eyes have watched a half century of things: melodrama, atrocities, gelato, acceptance, secrets, luminosity, triumph, toxins. No wonder they look weary, weighty as grey velvet curtains draped behind a crime scene.

Why not come to something new with curiosity instead of suspicion? You think jaded is a good look? Sure, have it your way. But only if dead is too. 

***

"Here's my tale. My momma was a good woman. Sure, all a y'all would say the same 'bout your mommas. But mine was 'specially good. Why? Simple. Because she held off a full invasion while being tormented, just to let her kids escape. Ten of us made it, including me ... obviously. Five of them died. Which is why I'm here."

I weren't impressed. Be the first to call myself impatient. "That's it? The whole tale? I cain't even do the doggone math."

"Hell, it ain't ended yet, girl. Open that door. Go take a look outside. You think there's the silent desert out there?"

"Well, sure ain't the Big Apple, if that's what you mean."

Can't explain this, but I wanted to smile right then, like I quit, like I was cryin' uncle, though it gets harder for your face to change as you age. Something about how the muscles lose their pliancy. And I ain't even old. But we all watched as the Indian, who maybe ain't ever smiled, not once, made his slow way to the door, opened it, shrugged, and disappeared into the night. And I mean disappeared. It wasn't just night out there; there was no "out there" out there. Pitch-black; an absence. Don't hardly have the words. Read it in a National Geographic once, about space: the heat death of everything. 

The drifter looked me dead in the eye and then everyone else in the diner: the frat boys, the sand niggers, the lovebirds, the breeders, the law. "Y'all ain't gonna like how this story goes, I'm afraid…"

***

"Quick, tell me a cliché."

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

"You need to listen to the right songs."

Words spit from the void. We leave our eventual faces as fossils half-gathered by beachcombers distracted by showers of glittering meteors. I loved you from the start, just came to say hello, but now I'm the brokenhearted. Dreaming of escape, pretending you're not a rat and this is no damn sewer. 

And for a second or two, it works.

You walk beneath the land bridge at the shore—a small and timid biped framed by an arch of granite and greenery, half-dreamed into reality by heartache and salt. 

Friday
Jan272017

Earthbound

That was the day I woke up tired. 

A sepia dream 'bout trains fading like a station abandoned.

"You okay, homeboy?"

"Nah."

"What's up?"

"Usual."

Didn't know it was possible to be so bone-worn drained. Didn't want to keep talking about it, though, so I grabbed a lukewarm coffee Estelle made earlier, poured some of that hazelnut creme shit all poor people seem to like better'n milk, and drank it in one, for the caffeine, the sugar, and nothin' else. Tasted like scorched ass with an undertone of litter tray. 

Got up to go.

"Where you goin'?"

"No place."

"Always a place."

Heard the trains still in my head, mourning each other, chasing each other's tails across the plains, through the Appalachians to the Rockies. Needy fucking earthbound dragons.

"Always a place."

"You be here later?"

"Yeah."

"Ever stop dreaming, black?"

"Prolly not. Listen. I tell you somethin'?"

"I know you will anyway."

"You funny girl. A'ight. When I sleep, I got this place. A city. Some old parts, some new. A old station. College kids. Antiques. Overpasses. Some kinda boat place—whatchoo call it?—a marina, that's it. Glitterin' in sunlight. Impressive fan of steps at the corner of a mall. East of downtown, a dark wooded place filled with wasps and nettles. Suburbs, vacation homes, a regular hood, weedy abandoned lots, you know?"

"For real?"

"Well, no, exact opposite of fucking real, matter of fact."

"A'ight. Sorry. Sounds kinda dope."

"Kinda is. Sometimes I can fly, like I'm watching from some drone, an' I fly north over downtown with its seawall glass, and northwest past the glittering waves and the boats, and over this island that feels like it's made outta moors or some kinda lowlands. All heather and weak fall colors, like a smile on a face that forgot itself."

"You always bin special wit' words, boo."

"Ain't like that."

"Sure it is."

Ain't fuckin' special. Ain't ever rode the short bus. I wanted to hurt her for just a part of a second, but it was enough to alert me to the badness inside-a me. Somethin' crawled from my left nostril and I swiped at it before she could see, and I saw it was black as crude. Thought at first it was old blood, but it was worse. Things're always worse. We gonna choke ourselves, ain't we? Ever ran a hunnerd-ton engine into a moose? Me neither, but I talked to a train man from Saskatchewan once, up in Canada someplace. Fuckers stand there like nothin' can take 'em out. Moose, I mean, not Canadians. Idea they can be killed by somethin' bigger than they is outside their wheelhouse, their motherfucking domain. But everthin' comes in mist form, even moose.

Know what? Before we found all that black shit in the earth—hard, soft, wet, grainy, cloudy, don't matter—we built all this on fuckin' whales. Ain't even lyin'. You think them whales thought they could be reduced to fuel, to lantern oil, to women's fucking corsets? Nah, dawg. They's the biggest things ever lived on this sweet dark earth, far's we know. Lucky for them enough of us still like 'em. Even more lucky for us this loco space-pinball had motherfuckin' whales, though, feel me?

Whatever. There's a kinda yearnin' the world won't get behind. As well as a kinda grief.

Friday
Jul082016

Only Points of Light

She was window shopping. Except she wasn't.

She seemed almost to glide down the wide street with its mid twentieth century storefronts and angled parking on both sides. You could almost imagine Gene Vincent blaring from one of those convertibles, though Chuck Berry might have been a bridge too far.

It was a small southern town preserved in amber.

Her gaze was downcast but occasionally flickered upward, from demure to shrewd in an instant. She was using the windows as mirrors, vigilant as a Serengeti ungulate. Somewhere in the great unfurled blanket of America her foes made headway, through fields of corn, along dusty back roads, cold and relentless in the mountain passes, their gait steady and their footfalls unbroken, their antennae quivering like seismic needles.

Eyes on the glass where her own reflection lay superimposed on a naked pink mannequin, she collided with someone. A kid.

"Whoa, sorry, ma'am," he said. A polite kid. Twelve or so.

"It's okay, son," she mumbled and went to pass him.

"You ain't from here, are you?"

"No, I ain't. But I must be going on my way, young man. Please let me by."

"I know about you. I hear the same sounds you do."

Her dark skin rippled with ice. Her scalp crawled with invisible ants. It felt to her as if she'd woken from a nightmare, only to find the neighbour was a Klansman while all the time she'd been wary of the parade of furtive strangers who passed her home. No, worse. She had no idea which one of those things was true.

***

They found the body of the young boy out in the desert. Shallow was too kind a word for the rudimentary grave. Facile would be more the truth. He had been strangled to death and before the authorities could perform their cleanup the turkey buzzards had dined on parts of him.

Only the coyotes had watched his killer dispose of him, and their stories that night danced with horror and glee, carried on a slight breeze to the ears of nearby farmers but never rendered into any human tongue.

***

There came the sound of distant marching from across the plain. Surefooted, purposeful. The sun had slid below the far off hills and the overhead blackness met the opalescence of an oyster sky through varying shades of blue. The evening was so still and quiet that the marching seemed amplified, as if a great army was striding at impossible speeds, a renegade army intent on something appalling, for when does an army ever intend otherwise?

***

"The arc of history makes this a momentous time. The predators just became prey and they will be more angry now, not less. They will place the blame on their prey. In the parlance of our times, they will double down. Be vigilant, my sisters and my brothers. Do not allow them to pervert the tale, as it's a tale of hard truth and deep pain like no other. Now go, and hear my words echo in your hearts as you walk the sorrowful roads of this vast land."

The people gathered in the park left in small groups. Something about the old man felt right. Some said he was a prophet. Some had yet wilder theories. Some scratched their heads and abandoned conjecture in favour of beer and music and the loving warm arms of their companions.

Only the stars and the fireflies knew for sure, and neither was telling.

Friday
May132016

Goodnight, Crazy Horse

No matter the setting, this is a world in which people cry all the time. You can walk along a fifties street, between barber poles and angle-parked lime-green Buicks, and everyone you meet is bawling. A man passes you and you notice an eye inside his eye, a full blinking eye nestled in his iris, and it too is crying.

You pass a clothing store and watch as women brush each others' hair, unmindful of the handfuls that come unmoored. A hotbed of scalpings. The idea it might be a front for a murder room occurs to you late on. Someone screams in back, a torn sheet of bright, eventful metal.

You keep on walking, as if the bomb had never dropped. Like Hiroshima in its shadow realm still emits light.

The street reflects shards of partial smiles.

Interlude: there was a Daft Punk instrumental early in the gray-dawn millennium playing somewhere, from the album Discovery, I think—I didn't see a jukebox, but maybe I was missing something, as I often lose track the later the day gets, and this was early evening and a sun was setting, not a sun but the sun, which only meant that our planet was positioning itself so that the horizon, from this perspective, was painstakingly rolling upward relative to the massive gas giant over ninety million miles away that we could nonetheless see and feel warmth from, which always stuns me when I remember to dwell on it, which isn't that often given the distractions of life down here, all around us, all the drugs and fucking and melody and screens and words and fights and sadness and rage and oddness. Wait. Where was I at? Oh, the Daft Punk music. It was great, it worked so well with the streaky sky and the sudden onslaught of birds, the tiny iron flocks, the gunning of gleeful engines, the lovely open conduit above the mundane, the relentless chatter and the awful quiet. Beauty doesn't always steal in on especially acceptable feet.

Also, remember this: take the weapons of your enemy and make them your tools.

We're going to walk along the pier, and as we go we'll feel the splinters beneath the soles of our feet while herring gulls cull sounds from the air, sucking in the caws and squeals as the fishermen move slowly alongside the shore, all the while backgrounding the sheer insanity of a body transfixed and transformed and dangling like the ripest of fruits above the great headland over a happy valley, in turn above the massive swoosh of the Victorian bay.

O Snowdonia. My cherished Cascadia.

The great tragedy of life is this: by the time you've lived long enough to figure something pertinent, nobody's interested because you're suddenly irrelevant.

The sun is edging toward down, but still a ways from doing so, and the dogs in the 'hood are surly and loud for minutes on end, and a neighbor fires up his Harley for a second or two, seeming to enjoy the clamor for clamor's sake, and then is gone down the exurban trail, coughing and roaring, while the dogs complain. Soon, one of the gods approaches and asks if we are okay with sundry horrors and scares and we say, "Sure, fine, let's do it"; and the very ends of the trees are swole-green, just the ends, like candlefire lime dripped in gold, and we lie back thinking of low gravity viables, dreaming of something rare; a warm squiggle within a lost icicle.

And I crawl home, gang-raped by grief.

It's the time of the women, the rise of the kohl eyes, the whole ascendancy of the sweet holes, the swing and arrest of the breast, the estrofest of the crest of a third or even a fourth wave, a celebration of something "knock-kneed and all-bright," of desire, bridal murmurs in a secular church, of something inside and shifting, the uterine lurch and lifting of our hopes...

It's now quite possible I don't know what I am.

I begin to run through the alley, or is this a canyon, or maybe a bayou, and at first it hurts, with my lame thighs dragging so slowly behind where my mind has aimed, but as the muscles twitch in their slow taffy environs, nevertheless, I roll into the Iowa detour, beam at the measureless fields of nodding yellow heads, read dubious quotes by Crazy Horse, bow to the buffalo, buy-in to America's dreamlife, gyrate to Kind of Blue, plot intricate vengeance for the Clutters in Kansas, stop off for a gas station hoagie, blurt my own god's honest truth, meet and half-love the devil at the wharf, burn all my Santeria-meets-zydeco Bourbon Street trinkets. The Big Easy. You fuckers are lazy. You did a heck of a job, Brownie. Mission fucking accomplished. Memories of east Texas. Truck stop waitress. Fuck right off, all a y'all. And truly goodnight, alligators.

Friday
Jul312015

Turbine Love

Bruised Sky Junction — Michael O'Toole"How did this happen? How did you end up nearly dead on a cold slab, bleeding out hope?"

"You watch her walking away into that mercury heat shimmer, and you start to lose her outline, her hip sway, and you see your heart abandon your chest forever."

The scream of a jet in a cathedral dome. Frozen outposts dreaming of mammalian warmth. The quiet sanctuary of a woman's breasts. The rise and fall of her breath. Boys running on rooftops. A dark ocean gone silent. Desolate acres of shallow graves: the aftermath of massacre. The brief smile of a refugee. Someone waiting for news. What comfort lies in such imaginings?

We enter this room, thrown awry by the greenery alongside the cold, diagrammatic walls, annotated accounts of serial murders, bad dreams curling at their corners, pinpricked, while yellow drafts press their round flesh like thick, dewy petals.

Breathe. Again. You'll need it.

There's a ceiling fan spinning like a galaxy over my head—gut check, head check, jumbo jet—and I await today's first customer in the paltry shade of a giant cactus and a joshua tree while silver orbs dart across the horizon, feigning alienation, dreaming of escape from the sizzling planetary heat, futile, and the surpassingly cool demeanour of a woman throwing shade in a clean white shirt and crow-black pencil skirt and sheer assassin heels who steps poised into the growling lowslung roadster while dry electric arpeggios repeat along street vision fantasies of idealized love, greedy with ancient holes and sucking choirs of lupine need and sound into sandstorm cradles all incensed and drowned by wrath, as those compelled seek skittering arachnid lairs black and glossy as shoes shined by nineteen fifties negro boys, struggling in nests, squirming in holes, while caucasian voices tell one grey slanted side of a tedious and endless tale, clutching authenticity as if entitled, sucking pearl mists of motel ozone from superheated air both blessed and tainted by secret refinery cravings and deep essential sin, grasped by the emerald stem of a sunflower or a late August cornstalk, a harrowing green both yearning and sheathing yellow as it ought to, and we see this and follow it, seeking a trail, while orange detour signs coax us blinking and brokenhearted and sobbing from the interstate through dark unraveling rural tales all hazed with sundown rays and aglow with glimpses of our own possible ruin, take me, feel me, don't lose the spinning thread of our black, shining wreckage, our blighted horror, our love, our hankering, don't you fucking ever.