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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 short fiction (51)

Saturday
Dec022017

Rhymes With Bitch

Once we include all the things we think, it will be so much bigger than a novel. 

Everything grows then dies. Which itch do we deign to scratch?

Them charcoal peaks off a ways. Daubed like watery oils on horizons, come eve, come dawn. You feel you could ride out to meet them and never reach 'em, even if you rode a hunnerd years straight. Our place is flat. This land is flat. Flat's pretty much everthin' we see. Yet we see those peaks like hunched gray notions or long-abandoned questions. And we keep on dreaming up brand new strife. 

She woke and could barely see, let alone summon answers. She tried to squint and found her left eye a tad more operational. She lay still and breathed her own damp flannel funk while taking visual inventory.

She was lucky because she liked herself.

Had I been there, I might even have loved her right there and then. Loved her and hoped she'd love me back.

But that ain't the story, and the folks that rode into town, made their sly inquiries, then made a beeline for her place, had no such sentiments. 

She never brushed her teeth that morning 'cause she had no reason to believe it was any special kind of morning. She woke to the taste of pepper chicken and sickly gin-based sediment. Had she brushed her teeth the night before, in accordance with habit? Maybe. She thought so, but she had to admit she was doubtful. 

She did swallow a skinful of water, though, this bright morn. Head back, gullet tight, abandoned. 

A bovine pelvic hitch.

You think you know rape. Well, you don't. You don't. Ain't about bitterness or poontang or power, none of that. You can't reduce it to a single component, and you can't raise it on some pedestal it don't merit. It's a weak fist and a standup flinch, brutal and unblessed. It's near as bad as it ever gets, cocksure and cuntstruck, but it ain't no singular evil. It screams endless, chews up multitudes, rends tenets, tears ardor.

It's a tear in the fabric of us.

The air in a room is more spray, fine unholy beads coughed scarlet from these ruined pneumatic plights.

Bless this mist. Preach it. Senseless conflict governs and defines our species. 

The aspen shudders like the northern nightscape quakes—green, yellow, gold, ochre, blazes, rage—our dear, demented earth pitching fits. 

Something familiar, rhymes with "I'll kill ya," it ain't just the night but the day of the hunter. Who sure ain't right no more. 

Hear this. Speak this. Hurry. The quailing breath of some tracked, exhausted quarry. The peripheral ticking of a vehicle claimed by a ditch. 

Humans. Each of you ask, am I hunter or prey? Unclasped, I want your tusks. Your horns. Your sultry pelt. Your soft underbelly. Your goddamned humidity. What about you do I relinquish now? What about me do you wreck?

"What are you? What do you relish?"

"I'm a girl."

"What's your goal?"

"Don't matter." 

"I disagree." 

"Yeah, you would. Play a song for us. Walk on two strong legs and shriek at the heavens." 

"You ain't right in the head, bitch."

"Uh-huh. Pay it back. Pay it all back, you terrible, terrible motherfucker."

Friday
Nov172017

In Transit

"I was afraid you wouldn't come," she said.

The man didn't answer but sat in the chair across from her, at the outdoor table she had already propped with a matchbook to prevent it from tottering.

They watched the sparrows hop among the sunlit cobblestones, flit between the legs of the tourists. Light and shade.

"So…" she said. Her voice sounded distant even to her. Less a whisper than the passage of a ghost. "You came."

He smiled with little warmth, leaned back, closed his eyes. "Indeed."

"I'm glad." She fumbled in her purse for cigarettes, found them, lit one.

"You smoke." Too incurious to be a question; even his indifference stung.

She waved a dismissive hand that only made her feel matronly. Or worse, like a girl feigning womanhood. 

Christ, how does he do it? Make me feel this way?

She smoked her cigarette greedily, lustily even, like someone trying to ignore the firing squad as it gathered in the yard.

The man sighed, wafted away the grey swirl between them, looked at her for the first time.

"So why? Why are we here?" he asked.

"Very philosophical of you."

"Funny."

"Because we didn't finish the conversation."

"That was a long time ago. I don't even remember the first part of—"

"Oh, I think you do."

Something transited his face, something elusive and brief, a rogue orbit. As if a decision had happened behind some locked door. A bad one. A cataract. A shadow on an X-ray. 

"Go ahead, then. Talk."

"How does someone pick up a sentence they started writing ten years ago?"

"Look. I don't have time for this. What is it? Money? I can—"

She gasped. "Fuck you."

"Yeah. Allegedly you already did."

He stood. Looked at her briefly. Mumbled something.

"What? What did you say?"

"I said, I never knew what you wanted from me." And he walked away, into the milling sightseers.

She watched the people through a film of tears and then the tiny sparrows that hopped like popcorn on a griddle. 

"Just your apology, Daddy. That's all," she whispered.

Friday
Jul072017

Boundary Bay

© Monica LunnThey came to our virgin thresholds and asked for our longest songs.

Some grim radar. An impertinent sonar.

Cephalopods.

Those songs we sang for them, relayed them for days, weeks, even months, the dwindling howl of a coda falling silent on upturned cedar. Dank, weary branches like bony old limbs. Notes like heavy snowflakes, the banshee shriek of the wind up in the narrow draw, silencing the very owls to grey.

Agonal gasps. A moist clutch of arms. First we gave them our extravagant minimum.

What were they? Aliens? Well, yes, but that says so very little. With which face should we meet the encroaching distance, which forgotten facet?

Rapid City. Deadwood. Devils Tower. The Black Hills quivering, purple, epochal, sacred with need. Unearthly as plasma spit from a star.

Dream westward. Spearfish. Sheridan. Missoula. Coeur d'Alene. Spokane. Fremont. Deception Pass. Ninety ways to Boundary Bay. 

You came home tonight, via the food bank, buzzed our door and I let you in. A train strums the night air in power chords. A hog revs on State Street like Satan's ruined trachea. The neon signs burn without mercy. You brought Campbell's soup and noodles and mushrooms and celery. Couple fresh spices. From this, we will conjure a feast in defiance, and while one of us plays culinary virtuoso, the other will walk a block to the Grocery Outlet and buy two bottles of wine, a malbec and a syrah, for relative pennies, and we will eat and drink like covetous gods, then turn our salivary hankering to each other's indigent need. Our thirsty skin. 

Okanagan. Plastic corona Penticton forecourt. Intersection highway desert fall fruit stands. Summerland. Peachland. Don't sneer; they're real. Burned on your shifty retinas. Harshness muted by conifers. Heat like a wall when you exit your car. Late-evening thunder in the hills like rumoured war. The shout of stars. The damp smell of dust in the dawn. The utter absence of any breeze. A patch of grass between your motel and the strip of sand by the lake. A toddler playing ball. Your child. You throw him the ball and his arms jut, fingers spread, and he laughs into the sky. You throw her the ball and her arms jut, fingers spread, and she laughs into the sky.

Even the living have ghosts. Sequential traces. Semblances.

Fairhaven. There are ghosts in the rust on the corrugated sidings of what I silently call the cannery, after Steinbeck. Rust-coloured ghosts of dust-covered trails and railroad tracks. Quick, when does the Amtrak come through? Let's watch it from the bridge, see it stir up the afternoon wraiths, send more dust and creosote to coat the dark berries where lovers saunter and graze. Let's take the boardwalk over sculptures and starfish. Swallow blackberries of sorrow over grapes of wrath. Someone draped a shawl over the evening, dimmed the reflected lights, the piers of industry reaching forlorn into the bay. Inviolate night haunted by the blush of its own unlovely face.

You have pledged all your nonsense and I will honour it. Speak to it.

"I was left behind," I begin.

"Yes, indeed. It wasn't anyone's intention, but you were hurt, it's true."

"Not just hurt, but hurt."

"Butthurt. I can't deny it." You smile.

"Funny. When you walked into my store, I thought it was a beginning. You were dressed in muted greens and reds, and they seemed so right."

You look waylaid. Your words are a whisper. "I'm sorry. I never intended anything else."

"Anything else?"

"Anything other than what it was."

"Which is?"

"Now? A pure clusterfuck." You show me your sweating palms, a saint with stigmata.

"What the hell did you want then?"

"All the love. All the good things."

"Did you capture anything at all?"

"Photographs. Hundreds of them."

"Tell me your favourite?"

"The beach ball in the grass with the blurry palm tree background and the heartbroken sky."

"You know about that? I should let you go now."

"Why? What? Seriously?"

"You know. You fucking know."

"…"

A concussion ricochets across the distant ridge, clay pigeons, the shattered rock itself a percussion section. We can make of chaos sheer rhythm if we're so inclined. Strata. Stratum. Sessions. Casual permissions. And you will listen. And dance. Even in a last apocalypse. Even within the fission hiss and searing echo of all our abandoned superannuated missions. Even then.

Friday
Mar312017

Monarch

The wind gets up and sweeps our fires into streams of sparks, and we huddle closer inside our reams of rough hessian. Who knew the gales would blow so long? This is our place in the town square, our moment in the dreamscape, our truth within the chapel. Press those pedals, let the tiny organ wheeze its banal statute. Unfurl its rules. Queen, open your warm vaults to me, force me to partake of your exotica. The blizzard is here already; no one will speak again. 

"Wait."

No, I will not wait. 

"I am telling you to wait. I will not beg." 

Are you placed, poised to describe a million, maybe tens of millions, of black-and-amber leaves opening and closing and flapping northward, tropical to temperate, fine panes of leaded glass, flakes of tiger, endless pages from a children's book made for countless children yet to be born?

"No, you will not beg."

Once, a woman walked among you. She was lovely in mind and body and heart. Did you administer kindness? Treat her with respect? Urge her to lie crosswise? Trace the carious ridge above her passage with your fingertips, searching for fragmented things? Shattered enamel, a busted pelvis, and a skewed, deteriorated jawline. 

"We don't need to beg."

A whiteout. Shrieking phantoms skirling across empty highways. No lawmen. Not even sirens. Nothing. No one. 

"Just wait."

"No. Fuck. I will not."

"Spring is almost here."

"No. It's not."

"Weesht, child. Be still."

She sat in a quiet centre and let the groan of a weighted mountain lurch and creak and begin to detonate. She was a superhero, but one who lived on earth and not in shaded panels or amid spilled ink. She accepted her millstone, scoped her foes, cradled her spigots, arraigned her adversary. Made with a vineyard near Summerland a faraway date. Woke to hope. 

"Not begging. Imploring."

We're gathered on some secret meridian, far from the gridlock bedlam, quiet in a Costco parking lot where color has drained from a bright sky and sound from a late spring evening. Breathe. We remember our journeys here: passing through semicircular bridges—iron hemispheres of hemlock-green like half-buried parts of some giant machinery abandoned by unknowns—jerking the wheel right and then left, skirting traffic circles, wrenching gears, racing some dumbfuck in his Dodge Ram with truck nuts and a Trump/Pence sticker, blurring cornfields and anti-choice billboards, RV parks and storage yards, Chevron pumps and John Deere outlets. Praying a state trooper won't be waiting round the next bend, flanks still, all of him ready to move like a rested fly on stricken carrion.

"I am clean."

Welcome, Gaia.

"They don't care."

Welcome, Jocasta.

"They must."

Welcome, Cassandra.

"No. No."

Welcome, Pandora.

"Then we must—"

Welcome, Boudicca.

"Don't speak it out loud."

Welcome, Kali. 

A soft-boiled sun drops into a blue Pacific to the west, and before the light drains from the world a billion wings ripple the quiet air, batlike against a lung-shadow sky, looming voluminous, a bounteous smog with which to paint the evening, had we the tools or the vision.  

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.