Search
Browse
  • 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.

Networked Blogs

 

 

Tweets
Places I Hang Out

Entries in Death (5)

Saturday
Sep072019

Song in Neon

Alone now in a motel, sitting not so pretty.

How come all the girls I ever loved are named after cities?

 

Geneva, come back to me. Adelaide, are you there?

Madison and Phoenix, Savannah down in Georgia,

You ain’t so bothered now, but did you ever really care?

 

This animal in my throat, you better hope

It never breaks out. Go home, go home,

Go home now, dance and eat yourself sober. 

I ain’t guilty of this impending crime, I won’t

Admit that any damn thing is ever really over.

 

Things and people come, more often they go,

But all of that’s some half-digested ego. 

 

Red light through blinds like rays of blood,

Walls green with sixteen thousand hangovers.

Was anything we laughed or cried at ever any good?

Were we not even friends when I thought we were lovers?

 

A fool back then, more foolish now. I’ll leave in

The quiet hours under night’s impartial cover,

Slip away, not even someone’s memory or even

Credibly alive, though maybe I was never. 

Friday
Oct142016

Seven Breezes Blowin'

Cold, like the world done spun off into space. Cold, like the devil's black heart. Easterly gale so fierce the snow don't ever settle, 'cept in precipitous talus drifts on the east side of the squat, shivering huts we tried to call a homestead.

Can't even hear the cries of my children, the storm's so loud. Five small bleats under a bareback shriek atop a deeper howl 'cross the gray plains, bending poplar and cottonwood like matchsticks to breaking, killing most everything caught outdoors in its path, which is wide and righteous, a godlike halitosic roar in the face of our damnation.

Braced for hunger and cold. For the wages of sin and the invoices of death. Flour ruined by vermin, our old mare brought low by a malady in her veins. Ingredients of this matchless storm were prophesied.

And we all know the answer to it.

Martha my love. Her eyes, like jettisoned moons, won't find my own.

Most Sundays she still looks for a cross where I only see wood too cold to even rot. Literally petrified. And bless her cloudless soul, she still believes in friends. 

Distance between the house and the barn seems more of a hike each day. I'm a man. If I can't do the basics of a man's calling, whose wheels am I spinning and in what chill mud, what slush, do I churn? Place feels so dirgelike even the crows are gone, scattered on a high keening wind like shards of black ice.

The children so thin they could snap in such blasts. Their own eyes dim as lost meteors.

Memories of the road in summer—its battalion of mailboxes, its heart warmth and quiet fields dreaming their long afternoons, its lone vehicles following signs, some lost, some stubborn not to hurry—might as well be ancestral.

Place has two seasons: hot and cold; variations of beige and variations of gray.

But seven shotgun shells—eight or nine for insurance—are inarguable, untenable.

The coyote tonight is alone, a single ululating cry, a reminder of solitude, a clear song of frost.

Truth is, I'd consider it a happy endin' if seven new people didn't never get born.

_____________

Anyone who listens to the music of Bob Dylan will recognize the debt I owe in this short tale to his 1964 song, "Ballad of Hollis Brown." The image is an edited version of a photo I took in South Dakota in 2011.

Friday
Sep092016

The Stalactites and the Love

She was instructed to go in there, to slip behind the curtain and give comfort, since the time for medicine had passed.

"Hold his hand," the matron had urged. "Let him talk. He's an officer, so listen to him. But show no distress."

The sounds—the moans and clacking of heels on tile—seemed to recede as she parted the curtain and entered the partitioned space. Where everything reduced to the leaking devastation of the man's skull. Her urge to weep was immediate and vast, but she kept those tears for the sleepless nights ahead.

How is he even alive? she thought, and she took his cool, rough hands in hers. She marvelled at the sheer human will, or perhaps at the dogged obstinacy of habit.

He was guttering like a votive in some drafty corner of an abandoned church. A flickering torch in a dimming cave.

"When I climbed the hill," he said, fixing her with one eye while the other seemed to look past her, at something awful, "I found the pure white sheets flapping against the brightness of the bluest skies. They were so clean, so fresh, I wanted to cry, but of course I didn't. I thought I might find the women who had hung them there and perhaps marry one if she were so inclined, and had there been time, but all I saw were shadowy lost things drifting between those vast invigorating sails that flapped and billowed like the lungs of God.

"But now it's me who's lost. I tried to follow my mother into the building, but the doors were locked, and when I cleared the dust and grease from a window pane a great dog with a bone-and-gristle head leapt up and frightened me away."

His one good eye kept wandering, as if searching slyly for an exit, only to return and fix on her again, guiltily. The light in the other appeared to have drained entirely away. She made a great effort to quiet the tremors she felt just beneath her skin. She gripped his cool dry hands, half as large again as hers, and forced a smile.

"Did you see my mommy?" he asked, leaning slightly forward.

"No. I didn't see her. I'm sorry."

"Oh." He let the pillows stacked behind his upper torso receive his weight again.

She knew she lacked the words for something like this, so she let them drip unspoken from the ceiling of her mind, form something mineral-hard over eons.

He smiled and something shifted in his head—audibly—and his smile turned briefly to woe.

"I have a feeling my head is such a terrible mess." He whispered this, as if ashamed, as if his presence was an unconscionable cruelty to the attentive young nurse forced to bear witness.

"Perhaps try to recall a quiet time from your home."

"Once, Dorothy and I had an appalling fight and somewhere in Nova Scotia, by the spiteful ocean, I wandered. I found an old chapel. Tiny, it was. And empty, but for a small bent woman hunched over an old pump organ. It was bright in there; all the walls between the icons and crosses were a pleasant summer white and all the wood—frames, trinkets, crosses, pews—was pine blond. I could see the woman was blonde, too, although she wore a loose shawl. The music she played felt incomplete, as if quoting shorter phrases from a longer work. I liked it up to a point, but I could hear the ellipses, the gaps, and I ached to hear the full piece.

"Frustrated, I left, but outside it had grown dark and the landscape seemed to have changed, for I now walked beside the edge of a gloomy wood. Soon the animals came, three, four, five deep, clambering over each other at the forest's margin: raccoons, skunk, foxes, deer, weasels, possum, coyotes, all watching me as if waiting for something…"

"Is this a dream, sir?"

"No, I don't think it is. May I continue?"

"Yes, my apologies."

"So I began to speak to them. I don't think it's all been worth it, I said. All this beauty, all the wonders we've seen and built and worshipped, the taming of the wild places, which will only get worse, all the astounding things we've forged and formed, brought to nothing by our impulse to war on our own kind, and to win those wars at any cost. What an experiment it has been, sublime at its apex but reprehensible at its nadir. Not something necessary and bad, a mere shadow behind the wonders. No, it's all-consuming and there is nothing noble beyond it or behind it, no redemption and no hope.

"Those animals listened to my every word, and when it was clear I was done, some nodded their thanks and they melted back into the gloom of the cedars and the pines, and I heard no more sound from them."

Her own head felt like a doomed airship. She still clasped his hands but had not imparted much warmth to them.

He began to sob quietly and she sat with him in silence. Between sobs he spoke small sad things.

"I wish my mother had never gone into that house, or that she'd looked back at least … one time, I peed off of the side of a dock into a boat and no one saw me, ha-ha … do you love the sounds of a radio, in between the stations? Sounds like planets whispering … you are nice. Will you be able to play with me? I have two toy cars, one a racing car, which I'll let you have, the other a London bus, and we could race them on the sand … the sun is growing in the sky every minute and it's coming for me very soon … how sad, I would have loved to hear more Mozart … I once stood on a glacier the colour of a husky's eyes and heard it cracking under me, miles deep … another time I dreamed I was a poet, but all the words got tangled like kite string and I lost them … did you ever hear the dive of a Stuka? It paralyzes you. It sounds like a demon, an airborne demon, coming for you at last … although the sun, the sun in the end is scarier … did you ever lie on a carpet of bluebells and breathe in spring? If not, you should, and then sing about it to a lover … please tell Mommy I looked for her, will you? Yes, you will, I know. You are kind … the sun is huge now and I can feel it on my skin … I hope it won't hurt too much. Tell her I loved her, tell her about the stalactites and the love, all of it, tell her every…"

He talked and his voice faded slowly, like a lost broadcast. She sat with him a while longer until his cool, rough hands—mechanic's hands, kohl-dark at the creases and the cuticles—finally went cold and stiff. Then she left to find the matron and the doctor.

Friday
Feb122016

The Dwelling

He awoke to a morning in which sky and sea had fought to deadlock and were each devoid of shade as the other; even the inundated land had few attributes. He awoke to his burden and felt his heart like an old lead bell swaying ponderous in the groaning frame of his body.

Coffee and a stale slice of bread. The radio on low, a recording of a preacherman exhorting or extorting, he could never be sure: a last broadcast, a distant itch few could scratch, and certainly not him. Far as he could tell, if God made man in his image and in no other he was a damned fool with one dim and murky colour on his palette standing imbecilic before an eternity of canvases. 

Today his home was a structure not a dwelling. 

He'd known this day was coming; its inconsolable pallor and the tenor of his heart were commensurate.

Make this day short, conjure brief ceremonies from the air, let my next sleep be the dreamless kind.

He stood and picked up the heavy sack and a shovel. Each old wound, every place cartilage had worn to a threadbare shine, all disfigurements of mishap and war, places where bone had been split and set and healed over months, years, decades, moaned at him in unison as he carried his load out the door and made his way across the barren fields and toward the wooded place.

The wan, anemic air was birdless and silent.

Each day that passed was a way station, a site for some small drama or banality. Strange that his mind would seek out such locales, but as he hiked he recalled his wife, a time when they'd sat on the porch watching the lightning bugs sew the edges of twilight to the encroaching night and hearing the coyotes and crickets while the crimson in the west had dimmed and triumphant night had bled its ichor over everything and she'd drifted into sleep, and before he crouched to carry her to their bed he stopped to gaze at her face lit warm in the reflected porchlight, her closed eyes flickering with new stories about limitless new days, her lips still full and in a half-smile, her mammal scent, and he passed his hand over her jet hair that had only recently welcomed a few grey strands, feeling its cool, its silk, its utter mystery, feeling the strangest confluence of adoration and sorrow in the hollow atrium of his chest.

But though he now felt that same odd blend of love and woe, she was five years gone into some different or indifferent night, and he had no idea if he'd ever find her long-cold trail to wherever she waited amid the eternal nights ahead.

The world is scrupulous, but the human heart is profligate. We are all prodigal sons and daughters yearning for a home we spurned while stars swallow planets and all jots and iota return to the searing core to be reborn.

He reached the thicket and kept going until he discovered the small clearing he knew was there.

Her wooden marker still stood, tilted slightly and branded crude and guileless as a grieving heart.

Eva, beloved wife

And beside it he began to dig. It took an age, although he gave up a benediction of sorts for the chill in the air, thankful the world had eased even the tiniest part of his burden. When he was done, he opened the sack and retrieved its contents, letting them slip from the burlap onto the decay at his feet—first the blanket, then the loosed pitiful object once lustrous with life and now dull as the leafless trees and the sunless sky above.

Damn everything in this world and damn all worlds. We let something in and it was without soul or love and it lit the touchpaper of our ruin.

He wrapped the body of the dog in the same blanket the old retriever had slept on for fifteen years. Matted with fur, it still reeked of his ebullience. Rigor mortis had passed during the night and even inside the blanket the animal's skull rolled like a small cannonball under his spread hand, once-robust neck muscles forever slackened. He carried the corpse of his dear old friend, placed it in the hole, and covered it with earth.

When he was done, he found in his coat pockets the wooden marker he'd carved and engraved the night before, and drove it into the dirt.

Rusty, beloved dog

"Goodbye, old fella. Might sound funny to some, but you was a good friend to me, some ways better'n I was to you. Ain't even sure if there's a people heaven, let alone a dog one, but when it's my time, if it's at all possible I'll come find ya, old friend, soon as I find my Eva, and you got my word on that. Be good to sit out on the porch agin, listen to the night, even if it's some other porch on some other night, doncha think? Gonna miss you real bad. You was a good dog."

He sat awhile, resting from his labours. Looked up at the bonework of the trees against the sky's fugue. Wondered whether God had recognized his error and moved on. Then he, the last exhalation of earth, picked up the empty sack and the shovel and made his way across the riven field where all perspective shrinks to nothing and which the sun has abandoned and where no bird now sings.

Friday
Sep262014

Stolen

What first made her run is long forgot, but run she did. Giving careful head in the backseat of limousines was only the beginning. She dreamed of the stars, of stardom and of actual stars, of an impossible silver life onscreen and off—red carpets, green rooms, the blue flashing lights of overdose—and when the cracks begin to show and you run out of inner space there's always the oblivion of actual space.

Yet first she ran. Or drove. Or was driven. Endless bloodred nights, long midwestern trains keeping pace alongside her constant flight. Hitchhiking, joyriding, from turning low-track tricks to hunkering down in hayricks. 

Sometimes an easy charm, apposite words, and timely fingers down the throat won't save you. In the end, the teeming randomness of the world swoops in, all smirks and honed surfaces, and snatches you up.

You wanted outer space? Here's space. The shattered windshield glass sprayed like the Milky Way over dark asphalt, each tiny star part of something vast, lovely, and immutably unhinged. Howling through the night, blunt force impact, then the pure silence, the longest gap between breaths, after the broken parts settle and before the dawn cleanup arrives, when even the dry wingsongs of cicadas cease.

Her eyes. Always so pretty. Seeing pretty things. Each piece of glass a makeshift jewel, a life inchoate, hanging amid the vast black fugue of eternal night. Watching them all swirl like bitter snowflakes and cruelty and, one by one, dissolve into nothing: hay bales, pocketbooks, purloined kisses, shining things.