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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 Ingmar Bergman (2)

Friday
Feb092018

Push Bar To Open

This is not a story.

***

After cancer took him the same year Elvis died, when I was young, I've seen the face of my grandfather most days since, in my dreams or projected onto my inner eyelids when I stop for a moment and rest and allow memory's fluid, capillary reach breach the dam of me.

***

This child: "I made a snowman today."

"It isn't snowing." 

"Snow is just extra cold water, and it's raining."

"But—"

"It's there. You just can't see it. The rain keeps washing it away. If the rain would stop, you'd see it."

***

I was in the office that day when they brought the five children in, spanning age two to age fifteen. Even the administrative staff were vibrating with empathy and sorrow, while the three social workers called on all their training to help pacify the kids, whose shrieks and wails once they'd gleaned how fractured their family now was echoed like waves of cetacean grief.

But who was I?

*** 

Have you ever risked anything? 

No. Never.

Why the fuck not?

***

"The appaloosa is sometimes called the damnation horse. Beware, cowgirl." 

"Sir? I think you got your words mixed up."

"Yeah. Probably. But truthfully, death ain't so bad. Although dying sure is."

***

First day of school, I made a puzzle. Black-and-white cows and a barnyard. Summer blue sky and verdant grass. I sat beside a boy, John Simpson, as anodyne a name as possible in central England in the nineteen sixties. And his dad was a fireman, and I wide-eyed believed him—because why wouldn't I? In that classroom I was completely happy. The middle of England in the middle of a decade. I have no memory of the teacher. Or the other kids. Just a puzzle and a boy, and both were good. I didn't miss anyone. 

***

Her fingers were spatulate;

I asked, "You gonna capture that?"

My heart went all Montague and Capulet.

***

He was one of those sports bros, those hockey dudes, who only articulate the last syllable of a name, as if begrudging full agency: the 'Nucks, the 'Lanche, the 'Gers. We got in a bar fight once when I called him a 'licker. He had no sense of humour. Not much of a fighter either. Shame. I liked that bar.

***

Neon is the shout in the throat of the street. It hollers "Vogue!" and coughs "Orpheum!" into the smeared wet night, and our quailing hearts respond by shrinking. We are impostors, thirsty for sound. This is a broken boulevard jerry-rigged from busted dreams and only for monarchs, and we are pretenders, inadequates, vulgarians, slipping away in the sudden carpal reach of fog from the inlet. This is an ending we'll never get back, grey and mute and dead of eye. You blink, you fucking miss it all. 

***

Are you holy? For now I am winter. So lonely. Such fury. Would I sacrifice twenty more solitary years for a single year's touch of a woman's silk, of the tips of her spiderleg fingers? Yes. Probably yes.

Roll down your windows and crank up the songs. 

You ask why I never ran. It's complicated. How about this? Watch the lynx stalk a snowshoe hare and maybe you'll have an inkling, and then maybe we can talk. 

Or answer this: Chandler or Bergman? The Big Sleep or Winter Light? Do you actually think we are the good guys?

I bring comfort, a soft accommodating blanket drenched in smallpox. Nighttime, driving down to Memphis with you, all foolish pride and futile trepidation. Let the morning break like a bloody egg, the best girl I ever had lying by the quiet roadside, waiting in the muffled grey silence for the sirens and the ghouls in their important livery. And I still can't remember anything at all. Not one single thing. 

Goddammit, yeah. You can look. 

Just don't touch me.

I said don't.

Friday
Feb172017

Forever Girl

Before they hit the bars they agreed to meet and eat at TGI Friday's.

The evening was liquid. Streams of colored light reflected on roads teeming with mingled fluids, wished-for outcomes made manifest.

Her friends had eaten all the cheese-covered nachos. To hell with them, she thought. I will be the virtuous one and eat a plain chip without cheese or sour cream or even guacamole. When she closed her eyes and placed the chip in her mouth and let it sit on her tongue, she was suddenly twelve again, and she heard someone whisper "Body of Christ," to which she murmured an earnest "Amen."

As it softened and dissolved on her still tongue, she tried not to smile.

She wore the piety of her own awkward holiness like a costume halo until the priest cleared his throat and shot her a look, as if to say, "Don't overdo it. You can't stay on your knees forever, girl."

Ironic advice from a priest. Advice she had forgotten until now. (But he hadn't said it, had he?)

***

Migrant. An emotive word, though not like refugee. Maybe I hear the blare of controversy via the thin high line I can trace to my family's story. A story not all that different from any other: history, herstory, theirstory. But it sings to me the gravity of movement. And of banishment. And of irony. 

***

I drank it all. Turned it up to eleven. Poured every taste into my gaping hunger. Insatiable. Daubed oils on a canvas, smeared from it a story. Inhaled a hundred women. Soothed them, was soothed by them. Concocted new and bloodier Caesars. Dropped from sheer cliffs into a tumult of surf. Reckoned with the surging waves. Made of their concussions a prayer cycle. Shucked oysters, eyed tide pools, gripped a woman's hips before my face and breathed—lustful, littoral, deeply consensual. 

***

The sky ain't right, and people have lost their minds.

Hand me that guitar, and I'll try to calm them.

Three chords: Em7, D/F#, G. Capo on the second fret. Pick or strum, I don't care. Be playful. 

You got a phone? A landline? Flat black. Most retro. Or maybe sensible. Listen. Phone your people, let them twitch their isolated minds and cry their goddamned brains out.  

***

You rode that dusty Mediterranean train north. Watched the parched lands fall behind the multiscratched window. You had no money, having squandered it on ouzo and women and lukewarm moussaka while the islands dreamed like ignorant children, of pale olive groves and hot white stasis. You boarded the slowest train. Hunger in your belly and boredom in your brainpan, dwindling memories of a killing. Athens, seed of anise, dark abandoned Albania. Each time it pulled into a station, children ran along the dirty platform, desperate to sell water or bread or newspapers or beer. You also wanted those things. But each time, you sat staring like an ancient exiled wolf as the slow train pulled out and continued north, feeling the outlaw clench of your slattern ribs grip your ailing heart. Athens to Belgrade to Venice to Cologne. Retracing your earlier steps, your lighter ones. Seventy-two tender and stupefying hours. Stripped to essentials. Across from you: a multilingual man teaching fellow-travelers tricks with ping-pong balls, juggling and swallowing them, sequestered in a compartment all his own, and begrudged by no one. 

You recall the squat moustachioed man below the Acropolis, bending steel bars, his wide stance outlandish under such duress, beside so iconic a browbeat of history. His short legs like dwarf trees, his facial hair dark as a painted gasp, his grunts like the croak of goats amid the soft winsome reek of leather.

All passed now into memory.

***

You are that girl. You will always be that girl. Stood atop a headland, attuned to the noise of a calamitous ocean. That bedlam tide. Scanning the heather, the dunes, the stunted trees. Come back to me. Come back. I wrote songs for you, transcribed my dreams, channeled the declarations of a hundred lovers. Stay here. This is temporary. You have a bedroom and a kitchen, with a hotplate. Stay here. I will return. You have my word. The traffic passes by your window like the endless surf. I promise my love is like a branch; touch it. Run your fingertips over my extended covenant, and believe.

***

She didn't want the night to end. She even took an offered cigarette, although she'd quit them years before, and lit it and inhaled its enthrall. Stayed on the sidewalk, absorbing the revelry, the bright nocturnal glory. 

***

"I don't wanna go home yet." Panting. Expectant. Like a challenge to fate.

"Me either. Let's try and score something."

"Right. Get fucked up."

"That's the damn spirit, girl."

Is it, though?

***

That was the side effect, the tape worm, le ténia. You might even say it's irreversible. A world where the tracks shake, murder takes place, conspirators assemble, and where the passersby ignore the rare cry of a downcast upstart. And deny all levity. And sing:

"Metal heart. You're not worth a thing." 

***

She found herself alone and tried to call a cab, then an Uber. No one came; then her phone died. She walked in the direction of her home, a snug and cheery apartment on the west side of the city. Cars passed her, and most left her alone. The odd one carried angry men, spurting ugly names as they passed at speed. Monikers. Epithets. Misogyny is never abstract; some men fear the dark blood enough they vow to spill it wherever. She had to cross a dark bridge over a darker river, the sky a deep purple and empty of stars. The night itself blinking stupidly in the bright black shadows cast by domestic aftershock.

A woman alone cannot beg. She must fold herself into a new coalition. A contract between herself and the wanton night. Cries. Whispers. Veiled things.

She felt them in the nape of her neck before she fully clocked them. Four men like hammerheads, though far less clean. And though she kept on walking, they converged. 

"Looky, looky," said one, his grin a scar on his shadow face, "we so lucky."

She kept on walking, relinquishing eye contact, while the new silence felt ordained, gravid.

She kept on walking. Until she no longer could, at which point they fell on her.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," she heard her voice say, and the prayerful shafts of golden light annulled the pain, the memory of dust motes and the soft organic scent of damp wool, the sacred pungent backdrop of incense, the priest's shy and gentle coughs, rushing to replace the dreadful now with the tender then, her gaze raised to the amethyst heavens, her inviolate sovereignty, her focus now fixed on eternity, forever and ever. Trained on the numbing expanse of God's endless silence.