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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 Femininity (6)

Saturday
Jul062019

Bright Are the Stars

Seagulls cry like brushstrokes across whitewash. Like ravens gulping at a landfill.

Peripheral. I watch you walk away.  

I like the Beatles a lot, but I don’t love the Beatles. I mean, I probably should love the Beatles. They were the soundtrack of my childhood, in many ways. I’m the right demographic: white, northern, English, old. Memories brimming with cobblestones, smokestacks, and rag-and-bone men. But I love so many bands ahead of them. Not sure why. Even though “And I Love Her” is one of the greatest love songs of all time. And “If I Fell,” too, a near-perfect melody wedded to the most genial and incisive of lyrics: “Cause I couldn’t stand the pain.” Sometimes I take my old Martin acoustic out of its case, all neglected and ashamed, with its patina of dust, and I play “And I Love Her,” those tiny Spanish hammer-ons and pull-offs on the A and D strings, and I’m reminded how demonstrably I should truly idolize that fucking band, and I wonder why they’re not quite at my pinnacle, how they’re the unwinnable K2 to my other more haughty Everests. 

A whole lot of hard day’s nights and plenty of yesterdays, you might say.

Well, that kind of happens. 

Like, why did Samantha become a memory of a sunrise and a sunset while Astrid stole my entire skies? How am I here not there? Why is there something instead of nothing?

Wait. Let me backtrack. Or forward track. Or sidetrack. This is how I want to meet the first aliens we encounter. I want to tell them, “This is the world that treasures Keanu Reeves.” What do you think? Honestly, that covers it all, the genial superficiality of celebrity culture and the sweetness of being risibly, brittly human and plausibly zenlike on this rocky, watery spaceship amid our dopey fixations. 

Astrid might argue. She always argues.

It’s never black and white… unless you’re a panda… or an orca. 

We stole a boat in the shadow of dawn and made for the coast of the forest of the spirit bear, the low sun streaming squadrons of light through the supplicant cedars into the inlet, a pod of orca undulating in the dips and troughs of the gentle sea, spraying golden veiled forests of misted breath as they moved in the waters, breath after breath like the softest of bellows, the rhythm of the rush and the echoing hush, their sinuous profiles sleek as the tender Pacific swells, oleaginous, serpentine, categorically and thoroughly home.

“You were right about one thing,” said Astrid, her cracked lips barely apart.

“Never,” I said. 

Her sea-wracked face was honest and in this moment especially erotic. Her straining for words made them precious.

“No, you were. I used to laugh when you said these things, but I’m not laughing now. These things were wrong, and you called it.”

“I call lots of shit. Can’t seem to help myself. And most of it makes me look like a tool.”

“Not this. These beauties should never be have been taken from their families and made to do tricks. It’s so clear now. How did we not know?”

“We think everything we do is normal. There’s no normal.”

“Huh.”

“I know. Hardly profound. But sometimes I see anomalies within the standard. Nothing was ever arranged so we would be here, now, doing these things. Nothing was meant. We can stop. We can always stop.”

“It’s quite possible I underestimated you, boyfriend.”

Maybe I underestimate her too. Astrid. Bright meteor. Starchild. 

The modest span of a woman’s back, the valleys alongside the ridge of her spine. The twin dimples poised above her hips, low as crescent moons in the sky of a modest planet, soft encounters by a glancing visitor. Do you have any idea how long I’ve needed that? It’s all a fad, every minute. If we live it, we love it.

If she goes now, I’m burned by the world. 

I loiter in the umbra of her night. 

Wednesday
Jan162019

Then

That’s it, I’m leaving. The road is spread before me, wide up close and narrowing ahead, ruined by its history, and I move into its sex trap scope, an ingenue. When last it rained here’s measurable in years, and the dry old asphalt’s cracking and clumped and dusted with skeins of sand. Drifting. Downcast as a virgin, I step forward again, glance into the cracks, halfway breathe along the narrowing arid lines of perspective. 

No other lives or moves here. The brutal sun itself is cataracted. No winds breathe.

However crumbled, like ancient cheese, I love the yellow lines that remain. Tell myself that treading them will break the long-gone backs of so many of my kin. I miss them. Kinfolk, signs. I miss those childhood rhymes. I miss the rampant trees of then. I miss such succulence. I miss so many things.

This town consists of scattered homes, squat as toads though drier and more dead, a dimmed red light askew and hanging like a shrunk albino grape and optic nerve, bone-dry jackstraw corpses strewn beyond. Nothing for me here. Nothing for anyone here, including God and her wide-eyed antic crew. 

I focus on chewing my own hangnails, tearing with my loosened teeth my raw, torn cuticles. The consumed flesh of my fingers recedes like long-ebbed tides from a dying bay. My nails are black, my scalp alive with vitriolic things that compel urgency. 

Maddened, I lope. 

Feet raw and wrapped in bloody cloth. I won’t even look at my feet unswathed; like something lame and lurching, that way lies limp surrender.

Movement on my left, amid the dying scrub, the blue-grey sage, the burned and skeletal mesquite.

Coyote. 

She’s following my halting steps and glancing right. I glance right back.

Speak risible words into the rising heat: “I’m proud to share with you this leg of our fruitless odyssey, my slat-ribbed sister.”

She looks away but stays with me, snout sleek as a pocket blade, bleak and colorless eyes a-shimmering.

Ten years ago we might have contravened some fabricated line in a mound of imported sand, some feeble wall of rusted slats. She didn’t care then, and she can’t care now. Her offspring gone through violence, she shadows me in this inferno desert, loping between parched stumps, if only because we’re the only two things alive we both can sense. 

Attachment. Linkage. Fusion.

Left like an unraveled arm, once knitted, now forlorn. 

The feminine a last unlikely want. Yet still a want, a wish. A loveliness, the opposite of scorn; an artless, candid, bleached and blasted ache.

Saturday
Dec022017

Rhymes With Bitch

Once we include all the things we think, it will be so much bigger than a novel. 

Everything grows then dies. Which itch do we deign to scratch?

Them charcoal peaks off a ways. Daubed like watery oils on horizons, come eve, come dawn. You feel you could ride out to meet them and never reach 'em, even if you rode a hunnerd years straight. Our place is flat. This land is flat. Flat's pretty much everthin' we see. Yet we see those peaks like hunched gray notions or long-abandoned questions. And we keep on dreaming up brand new strife. 

She woke and could barely see, let alone summon answers. She tried to squint and found her left eye a tad more operational. She lay still and breathed her own damp flannel funk while taking visual inventory.

She was lucky because she liked herself.

Had I been there, I might even have loved her right there and then. Loved her and hoped she'd love me back.

But that ain't the story, and the folks that rode into town, made their sly inquiries, then made a beeline for her place, had no such sentiments. 

She never brushed her teeth that morning 'cause she had no reason to believe it was any special kind of morning. She woke to the taste of pepper chicken and sickly gin-based sediment. Had she brushed her teeth the night before, in accordance with habit? Maybe. She thought so, but she had to admit she was doubtful. 

She did swallow a skinful of water, though, this bright morn. Head back, gullet tight, abandoned. 

A bovine pelvic hitch.

You think you know rape. Well, you don't. You don't. Ain't about bitterness or poontang or power, none of that. You can't reduce it to a single component, and you can't raise it on some pedestal it don't merit. It's a weak fist and a standup flinch, brutal and unblessed. It's near as bad as it ever gets, cocksure and cuntstruck, but it ain't no singular evil. It screams endless, chews up multitudes, rends tenets, tears ardor.

It's a tear in the fabric of us.

The air in a room is more spray, fine unholy beads coughed scarlet from these ruined pneumatic plights.

Bless this mist. Preach it. Senseless conflict governs and defines our species. 

The aspen shudders like the northern nightscape quakes—green, yellow, gold, ochre, blazes, rage—our dear, demented earth pitching fits. 

Something familiar, rhymes with "I'll kill ya," it ain't just the night but the day of the hunter. Who sure ain't right no more. 

Hear this. Speak this. Hurry. The quailing breath of some tracked, exhausted quarry. The peripheral ticking of a vehicle claimed by a ditch. 

Humans. Each of you ask, am I hunter or prey? Unclasped, I want your tusks. Your horns. Your sultry pelt. Your soft underbelly. Your goddamned humidity. What about you do I relinquish now? What about me do you wreck?

"What are you? What do you relish?"

"I'm a girl."

"What's your goal?"

"Don't matter." 

"I disagree." 

"Yeah, you would. Play a song for us. Walk on two strong legs and shriek at the heavens." 

"You ain't right in the head, bitch."

"Uh-huh. Pay it back. Pay it all back, you terrible, terrible motherfucker."

Friday
Nov102017

Grandmother Weighs the Water

The storm came and we weathered it. But we knew there would be more storms. 

And there were. It's how we lived.

Some of our children made a show where they used shadows to tell a story. Silhouette horses rearing against salmon skies. Hands reaching to clasp other hands. Hummingbirds and leaping fish. I sat and watched their shows and cried each time without shame.

But they—the others, not the children—sought our shame, pursued it with their ghost hounds: bible verses, uniforms, corrective lenses unsolicited, soap inside our mouths or worse, fingers in our pants, worse, the eradication of our language, the cultivation of our unwanted chastening. They enclosed us in brick, touched our secret places, and claimed we'd asked them to. Insisted on our gratitude and compliance then made of that compliance a defense, a vindication. They were sly, shrouding their dark urges with blame, concealing their culpability inside deviant retellings.  

That dark is still deep and lonely, but there are shafts of light now.

The baritone tattoo of a hundred hooves on pliant grassland, hollow and dogged and fierce, the sudden calliope of pollen burst afar and spiraling, bone ridge fingers through chainlink seeking a home, palpating the unquiet hearts of a thousand surplus tales.

Suicide is water. It cools your hurt and finds the channels, drains the great wild weighty hope of a fearsome distant peak to some quiet nearby delta. It is female. Yet it isn't. Because female is strong, not weak. We've forgotten how to think about this. Forgotten that woman is robust, that love itself is sturdy. That fierce is good and ironclad severity not so much. The human spine will twist and flex and carry monstrous burdens. Yet an iron rod encumbered incrementally will ultimately break. Suicide is neither female nor male, neither weak nor strong. We think in polarities. Suicide is the water on the lip of the falls, a precipice in our thoughts, propelled by doubt and certitude. Doubt we can go on, and certainty we're saved. On such fulcrums, where the present balances the past and the future, bury our hearts and cry hoarse and wounded and brave enough to waken hope across all this great Turtle Island. 

Cry for me. Grieve. Then honor me, revere me. And all my relations.

Friday
May262017

Sister Matins

For a hushed moment, in your stillness and quiet we thought you dead. 

Your body is encased in a form-fitting spray of powdery charcoal dust. No gloss, just fine textural grain. Your hair, which does in fact gleam like the renegade moon, is gathered in a dark ponytail, most alien to you. You are a vessel, a human kayak someone might paddle across the mist-shrouded lake. But you would never stand for that. This is about dignity. And what is right. 

Sister. Let me breathe for you.

Still. You are on your feet now in defiance, your perfect legs spread in a warrior pose, your musculature fine as topography, the line of your jaw tracing the upraised shoreline like a medieval sextant. 

With my fingertips I want to sketch that jaw; with my whole hands I want to ward off hurt for you. And I see that you know this. But each passing moment only adds to your Egyptian charm, your Cleopatran scorch, your torrid Mediterranean allure, your intrinsic gypsy tang. A parade of goddesses arrives and begins to carouse. Nephthys and Isis and Bastet. Qetesh and Sekhmet. Banished to the shadows, I watch with my jackal eyes. I dream of violet orchids and ruby-throated hummingbirds. 

I literally just said this to my good friend, a father of young children: "Hugs from a four-year-old are worth their weight in hummingbird wings."

He laughed in that way you laugh when something is unassailable.

It might well be that you rebut your feline side. Whatever. I sense it anyway; see, hear, feel, smell, taste. The steps you offer me I recondition, make of them a route for you to renegotiate and clamber back aboard hope.

The aurora blooms in the late summer sky. Greens and violets, curtains in the vast cosmic window. They dance and shimmer all night without need of accompaniment. An electric profundity of silence. 

You are a single flower the colour of amethyst in a once-fertile valley that has grown cold and strange. Your petals are a purple fist, protective. The very first rays of daybreak fail to tempt you. But then a sudden sunshower mists your corolla, stirring them to unfurl and accept both heat and liquid, and you open to the world and the first bird sings.

Your cry is piercing in the gentle night, carrying over conifers and crumbling ridges, the lament of someone grasping at a hundred frozen edges. Pain is pain. Fear is fear. And you know both. We meet on that very plain, wrought of anguish and the bleak ignoble tendencies of our kind. We are clothed; we are unclothed. It matters not. We embrace. Another time you walk right by me, oblivious. At others we are bathed in the spectral light of nebulae.

Sometimes my thirst makes you smile. And you tease me. Sometimes you welcome it. Each time we honour the crossing of our paths, we're forced to reconcile our altered selves. And each time that happens, the more we can say we're mostly good. And if I know your femininity of a moment, it's true you might save me from some future hangman. We are dangling from a fulcrum, you and I. Like clocks and guns and fever dreams. Crows and coyotes. Ravens and eagles. Breakthroughs. Onslaughts. Executions. Hot rocks in a lodge and scintillating skies, everything animate and woman-bejeweled.