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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 Steinbeck (3)

Friday
Apr152016

Of Moths and Monsters

Once she got it in her head, she couldn't shake it. Monsters. Sex was an ambush and drugs were lame; hunting for monsters seemed a better prospect than either. 

Of a night, she'd purloin a semiautomatic pistol from the gun safe in the basement—having a cop for a dad had that perk at least—and go hang out behind the Walmart parking lot, down in the scrubland near the river. Or over by the skateboard park, beside the wharf. Anyplace with deep enough shadows. She lived in a town that floated on dirty rainbow water, its reflection swaying like a deranged mother rocking the corpse of an infant.

When the monsters came—and they always came, as they had done so even in the asylum of her home, the sanctuary of her bedroom—she would make it all right again.

Tonight, an older boy kept eyeing her even as she tried to blend into spindly bushes so laden with late-summer soot they were more brown than green. The dark waters of the wide river sent brief warm breezes ashore that tasted in her mouth and nose like lukewarm decay. The boy was a skater and the spill of hair over his face still couldn't hide his gimlet stare.

"What you doin' down here, home girl?"

She ignored him. Spit on the dirty ground. Wondered if—hoped, even—he might turn out to be a monster.

"This no place for a shawty."

"I ain't a kid."

An urban coyote yipped a sudden sharp thought from the other side of the oily waters. Between them, a dark barge slipped soundlessly by, a silent apparition. River spirits passing between scant gutterings of life.

"Wanna see something'?" the boy said.

Her hand went to her waistband and the boy watched and nodded like he knew. He came closer and she tried to send out a warning but she froze. He was standing below a streetlamp from whose dome emanated an orange mist more sodium haze than any true kind of light. He held his skateboard in front of him like an oblation.

"'Sokay," he said. "Lookit. Move into the light."

She did as he said. Stared at the wooden board. Its surface was filled with shifting graffiti, textured and swirling, in which she saw a land made of slate and purple rhododendrons, watched auroras dance over breaching pods of orca, left her body to cavort with forest dryads in a spore-filled sunlit clearing, flew impossible distances across a black howl to taste the ice mountains of Pluto.

She felt too naked so she came back to herself, though she mostly didn't want to.

"What the fuck…?"

"Told you it was okay."

It had to be a trick, but she couldn't fathom it.

"How?" she asked.

"You see what you see, is all. What you need to see. And it's a'ight, shawty. You oughta get on home now. Lock up that nine, yo."

She felt the need to thank him, but he was gone as if he'd never been there at all, and only moths moved in the weak canted light.

Nothing to do but go home. Funny, but she sensed she could handle this. Somehow the monsters had all up and left and, while relief filled many of her hollows, something about that still disappointed her.

Friday
Oct032014

Natural Born

So once again, I contributed to (and contaminated) Mader's Friday festival of felicitous flash fiction, which is well worth your time either as reader or writer (or both, of course), but the piece I wrote seemed to want to grow into something a little beyond their parameters (as lax and liberal as they are). Mindful that I didn't distract or syphon readers away from there, I asked politely if I could extend it on my own blog, to which I received the equivalent of "shut the fuck up, and if you don't, we'll cut you." So here is a fuller version. Yet it still isn't finished, and if I had the time I'd consider this the beginning of a beautiful friendship, a novella or even novel featuring this dubiously lovable and murderous duo.

***

He was a three hundred and fifty pound trucker from Telluride and she was an amputee from a mining town in British Columbia with a penchant for black metal, NASCAR, and munchkin cats. Both were tattooed in deep homage to monarch butterflies and graphic car wreck fetishism respectively. They would ride the interstates in their big rig (technically his, but mi casa es tu casa) listening to homemade audiobooks they'd record at all-night truck stops—Faulkner, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Welty—his suppressed-rage basso profundo and her scratchy bourbon-and-Camel-lite burr unexpectedly complementary and at times wild-electric sunset accessories. 

Sometimes they would bicker over music (he loved sixties girl groups the best), so if you were both privileged and star-crossed enough to have been riding along, you might have heard the Ronettes followed by Darkthrone, the authentically murderous might of Mayhem preceding the estrogen-drenched exuberance of Martha and the Vandellas, punctuated by a firecracker string of choice insults hurled with the briefest of smiles. Joy and savagery. Love and nihilism.

In many ways, they were the perfect couple. Connoisseurs of chaos, arbiters of havoc. 

She lost her right leg to a dirt bike accident in her teens. Not her entire leg; she still had six or seven inches of femur wormily rounded to a scar-tissue knoll, not entirely dissimilar to a reduced corn dog. Sometimes, while he drove and she allowed herself to be splayed naked beside him, she would let him massage its truncated end and try to imagine it was a gargantuan penis throbbing with some indecipherable need.  

And sometimes, with their victims, it would become a weapon. 

His girth, allied with and likely the result of the largely sedentary lifestyle and trans-fat-and-white-sugar diet of a long-distance truck driver, was a slow death sentence, and he knew it. All the more reason to satisfy appetites in the here and now. Never defer certain specific pleasures. It became a principal tenet of their peculiar faith. 

They were a cult of two, dealing almost exclusively in warped love, dark loyalty, arch skepticism, and wanton homicide. 

"Baby, how long till we eat?" she asked, her pinkie lost inside her ear in a forlorn attempt to kill a maddening itch, black-painted nail scoring the drum. 

Their regimen was strict, she knew, yet still she asked. 

"A little more than two hours, my love."

"Aw. Fu-uck." She could bestow precisely as many syllables on the word fuck as she desired. 

"Easy on the cussing, my sweetest Jezebel." 

This elicited a crooked smile and a raised eyebrow. Conflicted, seductive, tentative. 

"Sorry. You know how I get when my gut thinks my throat's cut." 

"You could always gnaw on James." 

Oddly, she'd forgotten about James, the last hitchhiker whose doomed trajectory had intersected with their own grisly arc. He'd been a fighter and had nearly gotten away. Which happened far too often. 

She explained it thusly: "We're natural born lovers, honey. The killing part don't come natural, just something we tacked on later."

 

Saturday
Nov302013

My Own Private Cannery Row

© Tracy Prescott MacGregor

Rarely do I write poetry. Even more rarely do I allow it exposure. Not entirely sure why. I revere great poetry, but I find it to be a rare species: elusive and golden, hiding in shadows or, occasionally, in plain sight.

So here's a poem, no more fanfare than that.

 

My Own Private Cannery Row

 

"Accept loss forever." — Jack Kerouac

 

Here I endure my own private cannery row.

It crackles and breeds in

the dark parts of

an unruly heart—corrugated sheets layered over 

smoky post-afternoons, 

heavy enough with loss

and the memory of loss

and the fear of its return

and traffic

and iron

dragging gull

flocks in slick patterns against a volcano sun.

 

Twenty-first century. Under a bridge,

five slow crawdaddies move

in murky shallows 

sluggishly annihilating an 

immense fish head, 

while Steinbeck sleeps

and, worse, will never again wake.

 

Makeshift guido, cursed on a contrary shore, 

adrift off a refugee coast, face

boasting reflected orange 

yet

this smudged collar's powder-blue and new-sewn

with my fugitive name (upset) in gold below it:

 

Beloved. 

Strong. 

Among.

The Woods.

 

Say it. Woods await those

who fear themselves

lost, and lost 

indeed

is my new locale.

I might even call it

sorrowhood.

 

Plus this:

Names are potent, yet

the cogent grain of twilight welcomes smut,

refracting it for such long

drawn-out breathless

prayer flag horizons.

 

Music, too.

Blue jazz in a wineglass, Hendrix, bluegrass,

pure smartass, rhythmic

tantric belligerence.

 

Hopper beckons, eyes downcast. Lonely as hell—

old, weird America, less 

permanent than it believes and now

utterly unnerved.

 

Primary. Planar. Endless

sunflower acres.

We've come so far.

 

A thick-framed window, sunlight

ambergold, pouring like

fresh-squeezed motor oil, dripping from a citrus sky, 

easing us toward some

inarticulate lie: Desolation row, go, desperation

ground, loud, discovery known, flown,

deception pass, past, passed

below, ago, just so...

 

We cutouts tacked as

silhouettes. Transfixed somehow

with the mundane interplay of 

pristine fonts on 

the Grocery Outlet sign, where

we value our view; our warm, fawn 

thriftstore pact.

 

But come, listen, lookit.

 

Gather the lambkins, reel in the nets,

trawl the depths and count up the lost, 

bake the bricks, haul away the lumber,

give your day the ending it awaits,

its fitting close. Stumble past those who

would erode you, layer by

sheet, skin by cover, yet

keep on walking,

stumbling aloud, 

humbled,

cowed.

 

Agog. Gaga.

 

And keep your finger on

the fuck you trigger.

 

Especially that. Especially that.

 

Let the soft burr of a charcoal evening

smear the essence of your face like an artist

learning shading, blurring, obscuring.

Rendering.

Recurring.

 

Sudden evening quiet. The warm preemptive air. Sacred. 

Birds play then mute and the colours pulse dark, anticipatory,

so loaded, and indeed so

goddamned holy.

Abandoned flea markets,

green shoots and street scene clarity,

murmurs, a caress of freaks,

waterfowl feeding.

 

Someone in a waterfront townhouse,

on some higher balcony, 

is picking a banjo; pure

vibrations in the wires

aching with backyard echoes, 

the sound a trojan horse for a

renewed assault of grief, 

while your final drama speaks 

of absent fathers, trembling hands, 

half-gleaned urges, mother throes, 

white-hot and contradictory and 

wholly lonely: these

secret 

desert

fires.