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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 Montana (4)

Friday
Sep282018

Adamant

"Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart." — John Donne

You following that slat-ribbed coydog down the interstate right now?

Ain’t no towns for miles, just fences and cattle, while the sly grey dog lopes west, lost as the sun.

Semi-trailers and campers, pickup trucks and seekers, late in the summer, pass the dog however hard he runs, his loose pink tongue a ribbon soliciting some secret charity. Pay him some mind if you happen to pass by.

Don’t matter his type or breed—wild, border, working, bright as fireflies, resolute as night. Salute him, greet him, unearth the kindness from the dark ore of your heart, show him something virtuous as you pull away, as you catch a glimpse of his desolate grin in your rearview. He has forever to catch up, a whole lifetime to contemplate his banishment. 

Ain’t ashamed to tell the world I love that mutt. He’s earnest as an abandoned dream in the wake of a long gone carnival. Sad as an old candy wrapper blowing across a field. More fearful than feral.

Lung shadows and rain squalls appear like arrow falls, the whole land opens its gullet, and distant ranges echo with yipped laments for countless absent place names.

After some time, you can’t help yourself. You pull onto the fractured shoulder, oh sweet Montana sky, crack the window and breathe the grass-stem purity, and you wait, and you wait, until the tireless adamant blur in your bug-spattered mirror resolves itself into something alive—this wild insistent dog, heedless of pain, hopeful for your love, loping your way, bringing its torn ears and matted fur, carrying its lonely wet ardor, its road stink, here with you now, believing in some kind of reckoning. 

Friday
Aug192016

Wyoming

Those arroyos outside town, so precious. Their red dirt. The way they breathe so slow, ignoring roads, evoking shadows like the last wispy creeds of dying cults.

"You got a better story?" she asks me.

She ain't never satisfied. I could tell her about Jesus, Beyoncé, and Saddam motherfucking Hussein pooling their resources to solve the murder of a sexually ambiguous alien-dwarf hybrid by a vengeful sixteenth-century teenage Moorish prince in some English stately home, and she'd still ask, "You got a better story?"

Sometimes feels like my life's a constant struggle to tell a better story. It surely can't be, but it might be, after all's said.

So a man was found dead 'neath the cliffs, but there were signs he'd tried to climb them before whatever killed him came along, and he'd gotten two-thirds the way up according to the gouges in the red clay many people attributed to the toes of his boots, which also had remnants of the same red clay stuck to them. Maybe not open and shut, but hardly fucking unfathomable neither.

Braless, she unpeels her shirt and flexes her dorsals, a cetacean back like something lithe and fluid and strenuous you'd only see once in a lifetime of diving in a world of deep. The pendulous hint of her breasts sidelines me, makes me salivate through my answer.

"Yeah, I got a better story." I taste salt, like blood, like tears.

"Tell me."

"You sure you're ready?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"A'right. This. Fuck you is a better story. How's that, goddamnit? Stop breaking my balls, will ya? Something's wrong here, and even if I only felt a surface ripple when there's maybe some kinda vortex, wait it out, let it fucking breathe, for chrissakes."

She won't challenge that. It's beneath her. I can't ordinarily find the words, but I pitch this just right. Like when you get absinthe just perfect, the thick green, the flame, the melted sugar, the voodoo, everything in its right place. Her name is every state we ever lived in, however brief. Right now, her name is Wyoming. Part of me wants her to stop changing her name and stay Wyoming. It suits her. It sounds like a query asked of a journey, which is everything we ever did.

She's a tall female with wide shoulders. Rangy, I suppose. Like her mount. She looks like someone can only be happy astride that wide-eyed stallion galloping on a spit of glimmering sand; her golden silt hair streaming like a raging creek; its nostrils gaping like cave mouths; her haunches splayed and fulcrumed western style; its shimmering, filmy, velvet skin a platonic dream of musculature; her sweet hive eyelids tight as honeytraps; its citrus-leaf ears backstraining; her lone wild heart one violent stormshadow. 

Wyoming knows more than twice what she lets on, and maybe half of what she don't.

But we're here now. Devils Tower looming like a sly insult from a quiet ground. Striated and dreamlike. Look but keep going. Big Timber. The Crazy Mountains stark and barroom blue against a lemon-apricot sky, cheap real estate, torn pleather booths, the interstate, power cables, smokestacks, the bright rails straight like arrows pointing someplace, some other place.

So, the dead man, right? I truly want to honor his memory, find his killer, but my girl Montana insists we keep moving west.

Friday
May022014

One Sorry Mess

More flash fiction. I posted this to Mader's blog again tonight, but honestly, I think this is worthy of an instant rerun, purely because not only does it bleed atmosphere and mood, but it also has a plot—the one area as a fiction writer I need to especially keep working on.

I realise lately I've been attempting to capture the music of American dialect. Its rhythms and melodies, its odd cadence. Not claiming to have gotten it right yet, but each time I do this I hear something new and feel something that frees up my language.

In case anyone's wondering, the setting for this tiny tale is a place called Big Timber, Montana. I stayed there one night, in September 2011. It was actually magical in its low key way, got under my skin. Here it is:

"Supposed to be a rainstorm tonight."

Heading west somewhere past Billings, the only light from a mostly cloudless, deepening ink-blue sky showed up like neon contrails on the railroad tracks. We sat in a diner that squatted like a timid brown bug between those tracks and the interstate, our immediate view a patchwork of choked grass and fast-food trash and signs saying shit like "For Sale 13+ Acres 2 Homes" while dry lightning played in the Crazy Mountains way off. People oughta know something: desperation, like ozone, has a smell.

Those booths were the worst damn booths I ever sat in. Might as well sit on old rusty machine parts wrapped in thin pleather. Or dry bones cold inside ancient skin.

"Well I don't see no storm."

"Then let's keep going."

We paid the squint-eyed girl at the register, even tipped her an undeserved single. Way she looked at Casey made me smile. Like she wanted someone—may's well been him, may's well been Charlie fuckin' Starkweather—to take her out of that town for all eternity and not ever look back. 

Turns out we shoulda stayed, even in a fleabit motel the kind you barely ever see no more, since the storm come in after all, and if we hadn't been where we were, we also wouldn't been on I-90 some twenty miles east of Butte when that oncoming 18-wheeler with the sleeping trucker crossed the median in near-slow-motion and took out the RV right in front of us. As well as us. Buncha others too.

My last memories are a compact import pumping blood like a profane heart over a blacktop artery and a violent Montana sky alive with benjamins, fluttering like grey moths, hoping against hope to find some porch light somewhere and maybe settle.

What a waste.

One sorry fucking mess, to tell you the god's honest truth.

Thursday
Feb282013

Devil's Tower May Have Caused My Lover's Furrowed Brow

It was for you. All of it. Every mile of every road. Every beach combed, whether by boardwalk or by driftwood trails. For you. And it will never truly be enough, each tousled feral cat, each dripping cedar bough, each hardy tadpole in a mountain creek, each fake surfer, each dry phantom tree inundated by wetland, each misspelled signpost, each prairie dog gone tame by tourist handouts, each sidewalk busker, each sheer crag imposing, perched above a plain, a precarious god surveying the gathered armies of a vast but gentle beast.

Sunflower miles and clock-face windfarm dials. John Deere greens gold-misted by evening's haze. The mockery of crows.

Screaming eighteen wheeler mayhem on a submerged interstate, Akron or Toledo-dreams of West Texas or Florida sunbelt vanquished by the hammering of an eternal deluge.

You and I. The dew still glistening as we ride glorious into morning, the freshness of the world threatening a heartbreak toll for its sheer clarity. A purity tax. The world is not going to go away. Only we will go away. One day. But not run away, no. As someone said once, "I won't be no runaway, because I… won't… run," and yes, I can still smell our commingled scent from the night before, as we move forward once again. We will go away as one, joined, in the manner we wished to move in this world. Touching and touched; hard, warm, wet. Animal. Trembling with need.

You become me and I you. We enter a lobby, you talk to a concierge, we smile at the decor, whether through joy or familiarity, alarmed at a rickety elevator, charmed by someone's dog. Hands held on dusty trails, picking berries, chalking our names in yellow on railings. Delight at the very air each other breathes.

And breathe. Take in the possibility we could have it all, do it right, win the prize, earn the reward, achieve the accolades, grab the spoils, hand in hand still and laughing like fugitives high on the very threat of their freedom's fragility.

And yeah: we cross the giant beast of America, marvelling at a sky so large it might belong to another world entire. A sky world with lands of cloud, grey-white accumulations tumbled between expanses of blue, an ocean made of air exhaled by a freedom god. A vision. This world, though, is both tawdry and noble, glowing and tarnished at once. It is our world, the one we were marked to move within together, bonded as two humans could ever be, hungry for more miles, more moments within the finite lifetime of a world as ugly-beautiful as we could hope for, raw with the love and pain of it all.

Unraveled cattle ranch cloth strips, freight cars like beads strung across the world's largest rug, a mildewed rug dotted with apple seeds, black cattle, Canadian trains like prayer flags flapping over a Tibetan meadow, all perspective and reference points gone, the impossible horizon a few feet distant yet a thousand miles away.

My love for you is fierce. My woman.

Fierce and stubborn as the clapboard walls of nondescript motels bracing for the raging gales of prairie winters, unprotected, abandoned. Stubborn as beauty in a world that seeks its own annihilation. Stubborn as life clinging to a tiny rock while nebulae swirl and supernovae detonate in cataclysms of lambent violence.

I had a dream of you, long before you coalesced from the woods and beaches of your own dreams: I was alone in a cabin, fixing kindling for the stove, my fingers numb in January's vice, a body of water rushing away nearby, towering conifers bowing their laden heads in sorrow at the elegiac loss I had just encountered, stricken and arrested in my tracks. And you beckoned, from the future, called me through Dostoevsky fever-shades and Radiohead desolation, Russians and Englishmen, whispered of a time to come, of joy and discovery, of warmth and hope. And my insect mind began to follow the breadcrumb trail you set, one day catching up to the future as my brittle present fell away in chitinous strips like the shedding of a needless carapace.

Seagull sounds. Little wing. Gratitude. A river gorge, its waters the strangest and most exquisite shade I've ever seen, not jade, not turquoise, simply an indescribable blue.

You are my little wing, you help me fly. My pigeon camera, circus mind.

Brick shorelines, purple starfish. Cormorants and detritus. Shallow water crayfish rendering a giant fish head to nothing.

Jazz chords, Coltrane. Irish bars, Guinness. Blood Alley, history.

Spanakopita, souvlaki, classic rock, the world's most endearing waitress. Outside, a sunset, and a grey cat on warm cobblestone, diffident and wary.

I step outside the featureless motel, a bruised and dying sky darkening, air so breathable it almost induces panic. My woman is inside, drinking something sweet and potent, laptop typing, perhaps contemplating the dubious shower. It's as if the landscape is darkening while it quietens down, sound and light linked, the hush itself a dim new world hugging the hunched shoulder of a familiar one. Someone might even be dying out there. A farmhouse tragedy, a grim domestic tableau. Here, I can discern a day shrunk to a dog bark and the subsonic growl of the I-90 night shift. Somewhere a life ends in horror. Elsewhere, one begins. We fret too much.

We will drive and become temporarily lost on grey-mist Wyoming county roads tomorrow, until late afternoon the clouds begin to break and red earth arroyos emerge, all mere precursors as we head into something astonishing: an abrupt wedge of land, vertically striated rock, a truncated peak scored and topped from above, rising above sleepy stands of trees and untroubled fields, a land that has closed its eyes and forgotten its ancient ones though this one still looms. I can't breathe. I'm reliant on the world breathing for me. And my woman breathing for me, but she does that already, has done many times over. And we stand, rapt. This is something worth standing rapt over. Not because of mother ships—or not necessarily—but because we have moved far beyond that in such a short sliver of time, beyond the mashed potato modeling, beyond the earnest search for something that might prove we're not the lonely hearts we always suspected… our new knowledge far deeper and more forlorn.

And we do leave. And the sky rewards us with burnished gold and amassed cloud bunched like the awful fists of heaven, a land so utterly given over to its fantasy of beauty that it actually achieves it. And we drive. Rediscover the interstate. Factory-silhouetted refugees, passing asthmatic through an impassive land. And we keep on driving. And we cry. And laugh. And we love each other yet more, while each mile we consign to an awkward history behind our rubber aluminum revolutions.

But don't forget the boardwalk. We can always go back to the boardwalk. Even if it has to be rebuilt and is not the same boardwalk. No matter. It will always need to be rebuilt. Giant slices of pizza dripping scalding cheese, foamy mugs of amber beer, SALAD, WRAPS, in neon, and Julia from right here on the Jersey Shore with her raw glint of an English future urging us to commit, too. Real as this Elvis-haunted land, this vast and vulgar mystery. The great circle of life is revealed as a night time ferris wheel leaning over the Atlantic, metal on metal squeals, the pause at the apex all the more precious for that.

All I ever wanted, all I ever needed…

Drive till the rain stops, keep driving...

All those songs, drifting over twilit fields, their words torn to orphan strips and rags by the world's indifferent winds and scattered to the lonely horizons.

Death may come, invisible...

Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again…

This is now. Do it now, all of it, again, again; before we all become phantoms wandering dusty yellow backroads in search of the appalling beauty we let slip when time was young and hope dared to be born and we recklessly believed that was how it would always be.

This is the place all our hungers will meet, where needs go to be quenched, where we find each other again and stop time in order for it to be forever. Brand it with our need. Here, on some lost highway, in some dim motel room, the grey-blue glow of predawn painting us with spectral planetary light, your finger raised to touch my lips and trace them, like an artist, before another tentative question can emerge, saying shhhhh… shhhhh…

Outside, angled, the car waits quiet beneath a single bare bulb.