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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 Raymond Chandler (4)

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.

Saturday
Nov102018

Dry Run

It had to begin somewhere, so let’s say it began with the elastic blare of a horn on a rain-smeared night. 

I peered through filthy sheer curtains and saw only the bleary motel sign. The word motel aspired to perfection, stacked vertically in neon blues and reds. The balance of 

M

O

T

atop the teetering

E

L

As if everything was priming itself to fall, rightward, like the overreaching goodness of the world.

Aurora slept through the klaxon din. I envied her that, at least. Since we’d murdered her husband and indulged our inner Thelma and Louise, sleep had been an elusive ghost for me for weeks. Karma, no doubt, for my grubby hands-on part in the drama.

The horn came from a single car parked in the motel forecourt. I could see no one inside it, although the lighting was bad—two weak posts at either end of the lot, and the neon from the sign. Occupied or not, the car’s message was clear: time to leave again. When one’s freedom is imperiled, auguries come in bunches, and all signs and omens are there to be read.

I knew Aurora would want to shoot up before we headed out, so I shook her awake, tore her from her sleep funk a little too gleefully. She took a while to swim through the layers, but as soon as her eyes opened and focused somewhere beyond me, I could see the feral need in them again. And I knew she could see the disappointment in mine. 

Things hadn’t quite worked out the way we’d hoped. But we still had each other. And the raw, wounded, anonymous night.

She winced and I smiled. She didn’t smile. But heading for the anemic yellow bathroom, she drew on enough decorum to close the door behind her. 

***

Hours driving south, keeping to state routes. We were someplace that felt like the South. Arid expanses and weird industry. Huge dry lightning skies. Last night’s rain felt like someone else’s dream.

Though I could still hear the damned horn.

Out of nowhere, Aurora spoke. 

“A moment will come when I’ll sit on the toilet and shit out most of my organs.”

“Girl, I thought you were asleep.” 

“You wish.”

“Or you do.”

She grabbed at my hand resting on the gearstick, held it like it was a sickly pet, and I could sense her staring at me. I could feel a great distant tremor broadcast through her fragile bones as they clutched my own. Urgent. Electric. I refused to turn my head, watched the next mile and then the next.

At last she released my hand and sighed.

“We know how this movie ends, chica.”

I didn’t say a word.

All day, this endless brooding sky had stayed the shade of bedraggled fleece, putrid like the underside of a dying sheep dragged through watery mud. Less a storm threat than a vast sulk. 

Dying too, the day sank into its dark gray shroud, tolerating a thin band of corpse-light to gleam briefly on the horizon. Stark against that sickly greenish strip was the refinery, bristling like a city conceived by an alien amygdala. 

“This ain’t no movie,” I said.

___

Photo credit: © Monica Baguchinsky Lunn

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
Mar172017

Los Irish

This short tale is only a small part of something larger, I'm hoping. Oh, and happy St. Patrick's Day. 

__________________________________

It was a scene right out of Chandler, except I'm no gumshoe. A rain-soaked back alley at night, distant neon smeared abstract by the tireless storm. She wore Docs and a faded cotton dress, some reptile print. Gators or iguanas or some shit. Close-cropped hair and makeup-less. Celtic eyes dark as oxbow tannin. Her dress in the downpour so thin she might as well have been naked.

Without a shred of lechery, I said, "Nice Brazilian."

Despite her instant "Fuck you," a corner of her mouth twitched in a phantom smile.

I passed her the thin package wrapped in plastic film and she slid it under her dress, smoothing it carefully against her lower belly like a newly expectant mom.

"If I'd known, I'd have brought a raincoat."

"Not a chance, mister."

"I meant an actual raincoat."

Again she smiled. Cursed at me without malice before leaning forward and whispering three words in my ear and then dissolving into the night.

"Yeah, bye, Sinéad," I called after her. Did I tell you I have a puerile sense of humor sometimes?

It earned me one last well-deserved "Fuck you," and I could almost see it trailing off like cigarette smoke and rejoining the shadows—tragic, arch, and funny, like its source.

Nothing compares, indeed.