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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 suicide (4)

Friday
Nov102017

Grandmother Weighs the Water

The storm came and we weathered it. But we knew there would be more storms. 

And there were. It's how we lived.

Some of our children made a show where they used shadows to tell a story. Silhouette horses rearing against salmon skies. Hands reaching to clasp other hands. Hummingbirds and leaping fish. I sat and watched their shows and cried each time without shame.

But they—the others, not the children—sought our shame, pursued it with their ghost hounds: bible verses, uniforms, corrective lenses unsolicited, soap inside our mouths or worse, fingers in our pants, worse, the eradication of our language, the cultivation of our unwanted chastening. They enclosed us in brick, touched our secret places, and claimed we'd asked them to. Insisted on our gratitude and compliance then made of that compliance a defense, a vindication. They were sly, shrouding their dark urges with blame, concealing their culpability inside deviant retellings.  

That dark is still deep and lonely, but there are shafts of light now.

The baritone tattoo of a hundred hooves on pliant grassland, hollow and dogged and fierce, the sudden calliope of pollen burst afar and spiraling, bone ridge fingers through chainlink seeking a home, palpating the unquiet hearts of a thousand surplus tales.

Suicide is water. It cools your hurt and finds the channels, drains the great wild weighty hope of a fearsome distant peak to some quiet nearby delta. It is female. Yet it isn't. Because female is strong, not weak. We've forgotten how to think about this. Forgotten that woman is robust, that love itself is sturdy. That fierce is good and ironclad severity not so much. The human spine will twist and flex and carry monstrous burdens. Yet an iron rod encumbered incrementally will ultimately break. Suicide is neither female nor male, neither weak nor strong. We think in polarities. Suicide is the water on the lip of the falls, a precipice in our thoughts, propelled by doubt and certitude. Doubt we can go on, and certainty we're saved. On such fulcrums, where the present balances the past and the future, bury our hearts and cry hoarse and wounded and brave enough to waken hope across all this great Turtle Island. 

Cry for me. Grieve. Then honor me, revere me. And all my relations.

Friday
Jul212017

Chesterman

When you ran alongside me, barefoot, following the beach pier below, I thought you meant to tell me something profound, announce something real. When you caught up to my shadow and climbed the iron steps and looked in my eyes and said, "Your mother died," I thought you were either funny or cruel. It took a long time for me to realize you were going for both.

I can't help it. I associate your metronome hips toiling in a sandblasted skirt with the death of my mother.

At my tea party, Kate Winslet is Emily Blunt's aunt. Kelp lies forlorn on the shore.

"Honey, don't make me do anything. Let me do it 'cause I want to."

Escape your uterine penumbra. Ask me how?

"I'll ask this. Impossible to answer, no doubt. How is it you seem to know me when all you know is my menstrual smell? And what is it that tastes like people? Makes us numb?"

"Because you climb men like we're trees."

"Seriously, no words. You should be banned from speaking."

"True. But then I'd write."

Here we all are, rulers of a thousand silent kingdoms. Wearers of so many tawdry cotton shifts.

"You are not the marrying guy. You are the affair guy."

"Welcome home, girlfriend."

"Ugh."

The wind gets up. Stirs the treetops. Will you dream of a monster hunched among the dark limbs, breathing quiet, awaiting its time? All I know is, every coward craves a gun. 

Friday
Mar102017

Back Story in Green

“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus

***

You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally. 

I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own. 

Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.

Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?

Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.

Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind. 

The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos. 

Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left. 

Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock. 

Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?

These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need. 

***

When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life. 

*

Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian

Sunday
Sep162012

Summer Long

Summer decided that summer had gone on far too long.

The kids were back in school, the university halls packed with the heady pheromones of possibility. Labour Day already a waning memory. Yet someone had forgotten to inform the actual seasons. Achingly blue skies still dominated, the city's abandoned splash parks and outdoor pools turquoise daubs of melancholia beneath the bright gold of an endless late summer.

Unlike the season, however, Summer—for her part—did not intend to overstay her welcome. This had been a summer that only reinforced her belief that such a stark world was not, nor ever had been, designed for one so fragile as she. The name bestowed upon her at birth by a sympathetic nurse now doubled as an ironic millstone around her metaphorical throat. A cosmic joke.

As befits someone abandoned as a newborn in an alleyway somewhere between Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside, her story had followed a sadly predictable script. Foster care and group homes. Occasional violations from clammy fingers. Or foreign objects. Alternate schools, petty crime, counseling, addiction, an adolescent eating disorder surprisingly conquered in adulthood, a rare and welcome rainbow in otherwise stormy skies. Summer's twenties were a grey blur between polarities. She was still only twenty-seven, although she felt seventy-two.

Nothing had worked. Friends—all gone, via indifference or betrayal. Boys—pretty much the same script. Losing herself in drugs, booze, loveless sex. Sometimes cleaning up. Transplanting her various addictions onto the narcissistic rows of ellipticals and stationary bicycles, smeared wall-length mirrors as tawdry witnesses. First World problems. Trapping her nonetheless. McJobs, unemployment, McJobs. Leaving any one of these dull shifts, she would walk the evening streets toward her bleak one-bedroom apartment and wonder how many others felt this same emptiness tinged with horror at an approaching future that apparently bore only more heartbreak. How many other heads contained nothing but one vast, endless scream.

Now, she sat on a bench on the waterfront, overlooking the deep blue inlet and the north shore mountains. Sapphire and teal, azure and jade. This wasn't her turf, never would be; this was a pretty land of wealth and poise, of audacious cocktails on sunset balconies, of condos, candelabras and Cadillacs. Wheeling overhead, a gull laughed harshly, as if in agreement. There were days when she didn't see the beauty. Couldn't, even. Or saw it, yet didn't absorb it. She tried now. The dog walkers, the cyclists, the tourists, the floatplanes gunning their takeoff roars, the cruise ships and barges slicing the sparkling waters, the container ships massive and rusted silent in the deeper waters, watching. The slick, wet terrier heads of harbour seals, bobbing like buoys. Surface-skimming cormorants. An SUV behind her, blasting hip-hop beats, or dubstep. Nothing. She felt nothing. Except a trickle of sweat down her side, an ineffable sadness like a lodestone in her heart.

"So unhappy." A voice, approaching her. She started. And saw a man, a plain man with rodent-brown hair, possibly in his mid-30s. Uninvited, he sat beside her.

"I'm fine." She shifted away from him.

"If you are fine, then I too am fine, sister."

To which there was no sensible reply, so she sat Centurion-straight and stared out at the waters, counted sailboat masts in an effort to slow the odd sense of panic fluttering in her chest.

At length, he spoke again, his voice marble cool.

"A beautiful day. This city..." A sigh and a shake of his head, sensed more than seen. She kept her eyes on the inlet. "Later today, I'm going to jump from the bridge to my death."

Automatically, her gaze shifted beyond the dark conifers and gathered bulk of the park to the evergreen suspension bridge that connected the latter's steaming mass to the north shore. She felt her heart draw itself tighter. Then she looked back at him. His pale face was that of a mime, no sign of mischief, mockery, or pain.

"I don't know why you'd say such a thing, but I'm in no mood to hear it. You want me to feel sorry for you, is that it?"

"Not at all. I want you to mark my passing. See me go over the edge. Not in the literal sense, necessarily. But there is no one else, and you look like someone who knows."

"Knows?"

"This feeling. It's both numb and heavy, freezes the love right out of you while weighing your insides down. You know what brings us here. Like lemmings."

"There is no us." Her own face a mask. To hide the jackhammer of her heartbeat. Summer could feel more sweat trickle down her sides, wondered if it showed on the forget-me-not blue of her dress. For a second, she cared about that, didn't want to be seen so pitiably human. Her resolve made of her frame a mannequin; no stranger would rob her of that adopted insouciance, however forced its genesis.

"I disagree."

"Look. I don't know you. I don't care if you agree or disagree. I was sitting here alone and I'd appreciate it if you would leave me that way. We all have our crosses to bear. Mine's heavy enough, I can't carry yours as well…" She bit her tongue. Already she had said more than she'd meant to.

"Ah. I knew it. As I said: so unhappy. Misery has an instinct for its wounded kinfolk."

Instead of eliciting a screaming, as she'd intended to do, something in his words touched her. A certain dark poetry. She felt her obduracy dissolve.

"Why are you jumping?" she asked, quietly.

"I can't answer that, but probably similar reasons to why you also intend to bow out, wouldn't you agree?"

"I don't know." Her head dropped. She felt the acid heat of uncried tears. Heard the distant howling of eternity, as it prepared to rush toward them, heard the world creak on some cosmic fulcrum. Sensed that if she gave in to the deep sob, a vast, trapped bubble yearning for the ocean's surface, she might avoid some fate she'd hitherto seen as fixed, unavoidable. She let them come, the tears, the hiccuping sobs, the deep-sea bubble, a ravaged young woman in a powder blue dress jackknifed by grief on a public bench beside a quiet stranger. She let them pass through her; the images, the sounds, the smells, of betrayal and cruelty. A face misshapen by rage. Calling her a cunt, a thundercunt. Inserting something into her. Hurting. Hot breath stinking of onion, sour mustard and oatmeal stout. Another face, mismatched eyes, laughing cruelly. Indignities. Mockery. More names: savage, bitter, merciless words... Might as well have been aborted, sucked out of her whore mother dripping pink-red ropy gouts in that same rain-drenched alley. Oh, there's more, always more. In a way, she had been aborted. First the rending pain, then the dull, hollow loneliness of it all.

He sat and waited. For the summer squall to abate. Which it did, and almost always does: tempest to gale to breeze to stillness.

"So, how were you going to do it? Fill your pockets with rocks and walk into the water? The Virginia Woolf method?"

"I have no idea who Virginia Woolf is. And no."

He stood, suddenly. As if he were a lockpicker and pins and tumblers had shifted and clicked into place. A look of stubborn surprise spread across his face, and he blinked.

"You know, now feels like a good time. Though I got a bit of a walk ahead of me. Will you walk with me, even for part of it?"

She looked at him. At his eyes. They were eroded to blanks by whatever unasked-for pain had been his burden. But she was no lemming. The camaraderie of annihilation was not for her. She would ache for this nameless man when she heard the news reports of a jumper on the bridge, but she would not throw in her lot with him, hitch her fate to his.

And he saw it. For a second, she saw the blankness in his eyes melted to pure pain, the realisation of his utter aloneness descending once more, as it no doubt had done when he'd made this call in the still, small hours, or whenever that awful moment had arrived in which his tenuous ties with life had finally come undone. He winced, paled further.

And she stepped forward and hugged him. It was all she could do. Held him as he sagged against her. Her route through the tangled undergrowth was not to be his. No two of us are alike, it seems.

When they parted, set out in opposite directions, one toward loud car stereos, dog shit, bar fights, perimenopause, film, sinks full of dishes, sleepless nights, music, abandon, spiritual inquiry, aching tender love, g-spot orgasms and sporadic health concerns—life, in other words—the other toward quiet, irreversible oblivion, something made Summer stop and turn and say:

"Oh, right. Yeah. I was gonna grab a 40-pounder of vodka, go home to a drawerful of Xanax, make a low-class cocktail of sorts and watch the sunset. Worked for Whitney, apparently. Although she was high class, I guess, but still..."

And with that and the most rueful of smiles, she turned and walked away.

Summer had lasted too long. But it was a false thing, really; however cunningly it faked it, there was no hiding the steady, earlier encroachment of darkness each and every day, a slow imperative. Either way, she would set out now into its still-warm, sticky glare and wait to see if fall, in its acceptance of that darkness, would yet prove a more bearable season.

*     *     *     *     *

Ed Lorn has written an excellent response to this piece on his blog, Ruminating On. Anyone wanna tackle winter? ;)

Update, 18 September, 2012: JD Mader stepped up to the plate for the winter segment and the ball is still somewhere in the stratosphere collecting ice. This has turned into a fantastic exercise, a new Four Seasons for the 21st Century. Who needs Vivaldi? Okay, that was stupid. But this is very cool.

Final update: Jo-Anne Teal rounded this whole thing off beautifully. Thanks, all, what a fantastic exercise.