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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 Saskatchewan (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.

Friday
Nov032017

Fender

Last night in my dreams I revisited my unearthly city.

Things were getting active, a thin carnival air afloat like a banner between the college and the station.

Busy congregants, rainbow flags, milling and dispersing, froth drawn in lattes. 

Long-haired white boy with a battered Jag, southpaw girl in black, fingerpicking. Some unruffled breed of left coast mood.

A few blocks west, in the heart of the old city, place is older than the pope—leaden roofs, water spots on the ceilings, stone and brick facades begrimed, soot and mildew conspiracies lined up to dare to undermine us.

Forever betrayed by AWOL landlords.

Christ. We stopped in the road before we got here, stock still in a surge of brown sludge while we blinked and tuned our instruments. A cloud of wasps swirled overhead until they selected leniency. Moved on. We both did, all did. Found our niche, learned our secret selves, cried witless sidewinder love amid indica dreams, released livewire doves above a field of cranes, serial killers, statistical umbrellas, effluent, cupping in our stigmatic palms our entire reassembled DNA. 

"I love you, material girl."

"You total sap, ethereal boy."

Make a well with your hands and hold the liquid sun. Dispense its dewy gold in ways you see fit. I will swallow what you offer, nod when you make demands, bow to you. To it. You are my receptacle, and I am now your spout; clasp this sacrifice and erase all doubt. That which unfolds within is doubled without. It's lucid, doxxed, subservient, a shaky route running beside the oxen, battling chromosomes, rewriting countless pages, horns… flippant, ardent, genetic, recurrent. 

The library in Swift Current. Remember that? A late Saskatchewan afternoon in fall. The sun dipping low, no phone, no laptop, a need to communicate. Our poet of the prairies gone, will anyone remember this if I forget to draft it?

He killed the living fuck out of himself, didn't he? Long before discarding him, I envied him.

But yes. Things got tense, went south-southwest. We found a cabin deep in the trees, a dubious escape hatch. You laughed when I said I'd keep us warm, but I kept us warm, foraging for kindling, sparking a flint, building a fire from twig to branch to trunk. The bullet in your midriff worked its way inside, and however much you tried to laugh, I saw the panic in your eyes, the blunt and obtuse dimming of your light. 

Without you, I am nothing. Don't die. Please don't die.

You died.

Love and disappointment, fond planetary light and its chill shadow, will stalk us to our last reluctant breaths.

I swept the parchment monarchs and the fallen hummingbirds, built of them the driest pyre. Alone, I found the edges of my city once again. Staggered into an urban patch, a battalion of grime, a place where grunge once thrived that now approximated ruined, tearless hives. Designated merciless, a spice-bound nest. What and where are you? By whom are you condemned or damned or blessed? The place you lived has been abandoned, echoless, and always I must clarify your plans and glean your schemes, and come at last to rest. 

Friday
Jan152016

Headwaters

A story in a single sentence:

Shaky after two days' release from the psych ward, she wants to "put it all behind her," as the genial yet guarded advice had gone, so she takes the Skytrain to go ask about rental costs at a nearby Enterprise office whose bleak geometry squats in a grim patch of stilted highways, loose rubble, and territorial chain link somewhere near where Vancouver borders Burnaby, but she gets cold feet at Renfrew Station, turns around and scurries back to the library near her home on East Pender, where she searches Google Maps and decides Swift Current is the loveliest place name she's ever heard, especially in contrast to that of its province, which is all brittle stalks and wheat sheaf angles (Sask-atch-ew-an), and wants to visit for that reason alone—Swift Current, that is; a name that evokes homecoming sockeye vigorous and sleek as distance runners' quadriceps—although the furthest she's ever driven was Vancouver to Hope, ironically when she'd been at her least hopeful, and even then she'd had a tire blow somewhere near Yarrow, nearly killing her, and the towtruck and repair costs had been so high she'd had to turn back, out by many dollars and by even more self-worth, given all her struggles with what some might call mental health issues yet she chooses to term emotional difficulties, since the former still contains a tiny jab of stigma, and dammit, it's hardly her fault, given her early life with Uncle Giorgio and then those grey-stuccoed group homes and weary, spiteful foster parents, let alone the haunted jaundiced nightscape of the Downtown Eastside and her disaster-recipe life with Gunther, he of the one-part lavish confectionary largesse and two-parts savage fists, but she is free now, aside from the medication she needs to remember, while something about Swift Current calls and calls like babbling headwaters to a downstream eddy, urging her to spawn, to take this step that might mark a new chapter in a thus-far chiefly sorrowful tale, one charged with the possibility of something other than grim nights shivering with cold or dread and warmer nights sleepless with mosquitoes or regret, so she finds somewhere online that calculates the cost of gasoline, which comes to a little over a couple hundred bucks for the three thousand kilometre round trip, and she feels a heartsurge of joy until she sees the carbon footprint she'll be leaving—one thousand three hundred and fifty pounds, to be exact—which sounds so appalling she immediately scratches out this new life at its source—indeed, guilt and eroded morale have long perfected her inner Scratch 'n Lose—erasing the evocative names of Shuswap and Salmon Arm, Golden and Banff, Dead Man's Flats and Medicine Hat from a future that might have held something other than the pitiless tidal ebb of try then turn back, try then turn back, the balance of which has always seemed impossibly, monstrously weighted.

Saturday
Jun142014

The Smell of Neglect

He pulled into the dusty two-pump gas station and diner combo, as lonely a place as you'll ever see, the desert heat like the torrid breath of a febrile god.

He only wanted a break from the endless miles of asphalt, a coffee, and a few moments of stillness.

The flyblown thing had been following him for some time now; he thought he'd shaken it most recently back in Carthage, Missouri, when he'd ditched the rental and hopped a freight like a vagabond from a distant time, a grainier time, and worked his way west. And maybe he had… although he doubted it. Even his current ride was long-ago stolen, plates switched, serial numbers filed off. Untraceable. And let's face it, he suspected the thing used other methods than a paper trail. But he'd tried other tricks, too, and they hadn't worked. Had even crossed the northern border, until the mutilated bodies had shown up inside that dark and peeling Saskatchewan grain elevator, and he'd seen the gaping horror on the faces of the eyeless corpses under Nunavut ice.

The guilt was becoming unbearable. Wherever the thing dragged its stinking carcass, people died, and died horribly. Mutilated, dismembered, eviscerated.

Not only that, but it was only those times it caught him up that it set about its butchery with gusto. What the hell was it? And why him? Far as he could tell he was some sort of catalyst for the thing, a reluctant enabler. Yet that made little sense. He was nobody; simply a man trying to outrun his own story. He had only caught glimpses of it, himself; saw some vaguely humanlike buffalo thing, bipedal by occasional choice, shaggy and matted, and showing little distinction between head and torso. A knobby block of imbalanced meat and bone on muscular legs. And it reeked like some hidden back alley in New Orleans choked with rancid offal during the dog days of August. Stifling, loathsome, wretched. And cruel.

The man dreamed it most nights now, in fact. Him on his back, the bison thing drooling tendrils of blood and pus, loops of gore, howling its rage-sorrow while a rain of maggots big as soft albino olives spattered his face. However else it might be described, it was something built for murder, wrought for mayhem, shaped for bedlam. Its aim wasn't merely killing, but the utmost administration of pain. Not enough that its victims died but that they experienced gouged eyes, severed tendons, slowly shattered bones.

He parked and headed for the diner. Stopped for a moment and raised his head, tested the air, sniffed dust, heat, gasoline, neglect. 

Found a booth inside that squeaked on his back as he took a seat.

"Coffee. Strong and black."

"Coming up."

The man gave her a nearly imperceptible nod, yet she seemed to catch it anyway.

"Some hard miles, fella?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, we serve the best coffee in more than a hunnerd miles of here, so you jus' sit and enjoy."

He noticed her exquisite, singular Spanish beauty and damn near leered but checked himself. No use getting attached at this late stage. Not to no one, not even the world's beauties.

The window was painted with dirt, smeared bugs, and decades of scratches, and looked out on the empty highway in either direction. A range of dark burgundy mountains a long ways off broke up the otherwise steady horizon. Tawny layers of dust covered most things, unless those things were passing through. And even then. An ancient Airstream was filling up at the rusty old pumps, reflecting painful sunflashes. A dog with milky eyes, scarred and limping, crossed from the other side of the highway toward them. The entire world seemed ruined, birdless, and dying. Lonely as goddamnit, all of it.

The man rested his head on his arms on the plastic tablecloth. Red and white check, ketchup and mayonnaise, blood and cum. So weary. He needed to sleep. But how could he sleep? How could he ever sleep again? And yet, how could he not sleep? He wondered if this was it, whether he was at last caught, right here in this hot and dusty nowhere. If so, it could have been far worse, he knew it.

When she brought the steaming coffee at last, he looked up at the sultry waitress, who seemed to flinch at whatever she thought she saw in his gritty, grainy eyes. Tried to back off, even. But she heard him, alright, and heard him good.

"Thank you, missy. Sorry to say, but there's something' comin' outta the east you all ain't gonna like."