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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 Philip Marlowe (2)

Sunday
Aug112019

Lit By Fire

"If you must die, sweetheart, die knowing your life was my life's best part.” — Keaton Henson

They said it was Banksy. The last painting. The howling boy on the wall of the capitol. We’ll probably never know, but I saw it, and it sure looked like a Banksy. 

You can’t really miss a black bear. The dripping, flexing arms of the forest murmur their shades of green, some a pale jade whisper, some an emerald shout, some so abysmal they’re nearly black, and within those dark branches lie shadows, blacker still. Yet a black bear, once it crosses your visual field in front of or within those varied shades of green, is a piece cut out of the world, a stark absence, a patch of lonely void in the shape of a bear. At which point, is it even a bear?

We sit in a quiet corner, you with your floppy hat and me with my eighties obsession that I can barely articulate.

“Try my hat on,” you say.

“I’d prefer not to.” I realize this is a hat store, and I balk. 

“Ha ha, that’s why I love you! You let me down gently, like an escalator.”

“No idea what you’re talking about, but you’re my friend, and I love you too, of course. Why are we even saying any of this? It’s a given.”

“Nothing’s a given. We’re renewing our friendship vows.”

“Um, you can stop now. Stop talking, that is. For fuck’s sakes. My toes are cramping.”

“Which only makes me love you more.”

“Shut up. Uh. Please, shut up.”

“Let’s go see some sights.”

“Yes, the new Banksy. The one we literally dropped everything to come and see.”

She had a way about her, a mood, something impossible to say no to.

But yes, back to art and stuff. Life. Banksy or not. 

What matters? Stale toast and the late, lazy flap of corvids against a peach sunset. An avocado pit sending tendrils. A butter churn. Scaffolding arched above a sidewalk, mauve and crimson night leaking into the tubular screens of its graceless folded geometry. Umbilicals. A honeybee nudging petals, reticent as a new lover. “I can’t breathe.” Do unto others. Me too. Make me an instrument of thy peace. Do what thou wilt, though it harm none. Keep on truckin’. Just do it. The great oil canvas of Serengeti brushstroked by wildebeest. Boreal trails of the caribou. Helpless, tenacious Marlowe balanced on the unlikely ridge spanning love and cynicism. The shock of a black locust on the whitewashed farmhouse wall, droning stark on stucco. Slanted dusty rays of old gold across grocery scales. The micro worlds of toys, all those chimes and astonished faces. And she has gone to Carterhaugh. How long, baby, how long? Stripe of the Bengal tiger, the lion’s nasal folds, the cougar’s stern and diffident brow. Howling alien nowheres blazoning the arrant vacancy of forsaken love. Pissing your name in a snowbank, or better yet an obscenity. Reeking fresh leaves of basil torn and open as the Sacré-Coeur. Bats exploding from a granite mouth, hurtling like scorched sparks in the quiet fire of twilight. Reciprocity: mouthing a woman to orgasm and being sucked. Croissants warm in the slatemine morning beside the drifting river. Dreamed unearthly cathedrals. Black lives never not mattering. The hart of the wood, the heart of the would, a-bloom with grief and guilt. Kiln-baked pizzas assailed by artichokes. Rooks prattling in a copse, jackdaws likewise on ramparts. Blastocysts zapped by lasers. Terror cells cleansed by drones. Eyelashes shipped free by Amazon. Thirst, in all its forms. 

Smiles like an ocean horizon, faint, blue, where the sky is stitched. 

A baby crying on the floor, abandoned. Cold concrete and a massive ceiling. A bear seeking entry, quivering snout attuned. Junior’s alone and loud, his laments a looping echo of their own discordant song.

“Come back now. Did you hear me? Where did you go?”

My ears half-closed, my heart is like a cannonball, shock aroused by alcohol, patterns like a dream tattoo. 

Open my secular breast. These dripping fragrant delicacies I’ve saved for you.

Saturday
Jul272019

Indifference

They shepherd us into identical rooms, boxes of stacked cinderblock daubed a failed sort of white, like something long since beached and never dealt with. Plastic molded chairs bolted to concrete. A rounded table and a recording device. Two elongated bulbs in the ceiling buzzing intermittent. Insectile. Almost nothing to snag your attention, no edges on which to catch, might as well be one more casket in waiting.

“I hear you have a story for us,” says the stocky man with the alarming mole on his face. I wonder for a second if his use of the plural means he speaks for it too.

“You might have heard wrong,” I say, deciding to be nice.

“My hearing’s impeccable, friend.”

“Good for you. This story died before it got started.”

“Something died. That much I know.” 

“Yeah.” Boredom enfolds me now, like a threadbare thriftstore coat. Bought for a good price, but so was Manhattan, allegedly, and look where that got us. I think I prefer beads.

“The question is whether you know more than that.”

“A better question is whether I’d tell you.”

“That’s not a better question. Just a more immediate one.” His eyebrows, toothbrush bristles dusted with cornstarch, are a neutral hirsute line, like a prairie winter highway.

I feel like writing a poem about Saskatchewan. “I could almost like you, pal.”

“Let’s see if you’re still saying that in an hour.”

Although I wasn’t there, my life almost blew up on a stretch of road outside of Summerland. Three covert feet of silent black ice can obliterate you and all those you love. Try not to forget that. If you’ve ever driven up in the aftermath—phone dropped, heart arrhythmic, skin voltaic—to meet your hollow-eyed loved ones in some box store parking lot, you’ll know what I mean. Maybe no one cried, not then, but maybe they did when they thought it was over, once it became a Thanksgiving story not some awful marker separating the heartbreak chapters of our lives. Some unpunctual thing meant to come later. Or before. Or maybe that was the dream version sweated out into laundry loads of spectral grey sheets, the bullet not dodged, or maybe dodged, like we’re Neo and we took the wrong pill. Or the right one.

Loss steals in where it wants. Nod assent when it bypasses us. It’s a fluke.

“You’re saying you never knew the woman?”

“The woman?”

“Of whom we speak.”

“I’m not.”

“So you knew her.”

“No.”

“Allow me to apprise you of something, hoss. Riddles are dull and stupid things. Meant for children. And evasiveness makes me vindictive. Not a direction you want this to go, trust me. Now tell me how it is you knew her yet you didn’t know her. And do it in plain Canadian.”

Since I like a man who calls another man hoss, I decide he deserves something en route to the truth. “I knew she existed, I met her a time or two, drank with her, but I didn’t know her. Not in any real sense. Not even in what they used to call the biblical one.” 

“Yet, speaking of, she’s dead as Lazarus.”

“Not the best way to illustrate your point, detective. I might even be the Jesus in that version.”

“You’re not, so hush your mouth. So where’d you meet her?”

“Why do you ask when you know the answer?”

He and his damn mole stare at me. On the outside I’m still as a lizard on a boulder at noon. Inside, my heart is pizza dough.

I stare back until I don’t. “Alright, fuckhead. You win. I did it. I closed her account. Called in her number. It was me. Now take me away…” I offer my wrists, yoked like veiny ghosts, the abject godless bones already singing songs of the dead.

He keeps looking at me like he can’t decide whether to tousle my hair or kill me himself.

He doesn’t say a word, but the brisk violent arc of his thumb in the stagnant air says, “The fuck outta here, punk.”

Alone beneath the cold fire of stars, my friends are gone, some into caskets they won’t get to claw out of. The merciful cloak of night has dropped. I no longer know how to say no to anyone at all. Rake my strained face; tell me which one’s the right pill. And dig a shallow grave. I can’t even and I won’t ever. It’s over. Lukewarm and lacklustre. You know full well what I’m trying not to say.