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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 Virginia Woolf (3)

Friday
Sep142018

Juniper Moon

"The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder." — Virginia Woolf

Please allow me to introduce herself.

She is now. She leaks from her own seams. Hilarity. Goodness. 

She is a feral wisp of a child finding herself wakening someplace with pale-peach skies and light-olive foliage and a postcoital volcano smoking beyond a shallow lake, a lone ox lapping at the water’s edge. 

Her voice is redolent of mesquite and burned hope. Her sweat is bottled as holy fragrance. Her throat plays all our favourite songs. 

So pretty. I could never forget your tiny perfect face. My hands form a cup for your lower jaw. To protect you. To save me.

One of us left the house in the early morning, while dawn tried and failed to grasp the day, and the humbled sun rose shamefaced over the land, as our astounding friend grew into her stride and strode away among the green shoots, amid the moaning of doves, utterly alone, completely amazed.

***

They agreed to meet in a pullout off the Coastal Highway, an irony she tried to amuse herself with while she waited on his unpunctual ass. Pullout. Yeah. If he'd pulled out like he said he would, they wouldn't be in this situation. Come to think of it, had his unpunctual ass been as late that evening as it usually was, and still was, she'd have quit on the whole date and, again, the same: none of this would now be happening. She supposed she could play that game all the way back to before she slid from between her mommy's skinny legs: if her dad wasn't an asshole and had never met her mom; if the bust-up between her parents had never happened; if she hadn't been so desperate to meet a boy to help her make her escape from her disintegrating home… but now she was retracing territory she'd already picked over, and these days she tried to stop doing that.

***

Mercury screens, lost highways, atomic tests.

Dr. Seuss draws all of this.

And all of this, let’s face it, is loneliness. 

______

Artwork © Finn Campbell Notman

Friday
Sep222017

Emptied

Is this at all ghostable? Let's see.

We came here after fighting through a swarm of mouths.

I met you in the parking lot of a Walmart. Saw you struggling and offered to help and of course you were suspicious and declined.

"I just have to do two things and get home," you said.

"Let me help you," I said.

Here is where our edges fray.

Here, in this time and in this place, you are a mother, and you are good at mothering. Your Ozark eyes are always tired, your lashes worn, your oily hair tied in whorls. You think you are ordinary, but I know you're special. I also know I won't ever convince you of that, so I don't try. You rarely blink. Our lives are bracketed by the opening and closing of a blink. Who ever tells us these things?

"A'right." You almost growl this, but dispassionately. "But then you leave us alone, yes?"

"Of course." I'm not even sure you see me, sticklike, streaming beams of amber and amethyst light against the evening, a distant star lensing light still farther out in space.

I helped you and then you told me an awful tale. This is what you told…

"So back then, when I was just a wain—my gramps and his gramps was Scots-Irish—I used to cry each morning, knowing I had to endure school and hear the taunts and feel the sudden shoves and the pinching fingers of the other children. Every day was another torment. They called me godawful names and hurt me bad and I kept going back 'cause I had to. One day I left school and walked the long miles home, all my bruises both inside and out a reminder I was alive and alone, and I saw my house, where I lived, and it always looked so mean, far meaner than the kids who tortured me, and I opened the unoiled gate, heard its tiny rodent shriek, limped up the short path to the door. They never even gave me keys, so I had to knock, so I knocked. And knocked. And no one came. I went around back and knocked there too. And nobody came. I sat for an hour or more on the front step, wondering why everything was so silent. Then the pale mountain light began to fade and I got scared, so I found a rock and broke a pane in the door and scrambled my way into the house. It was empty. Cleared out. Like no one had lived there for years. I sat on the cracked linoleum floor and cried into my skinny arms for days till someone from the school or a neighbor or some duty-bound local alerted the relevant authority and they took me to a foster home and that was that."

Hate is not the opposite of love; abandonment is. Indifference is.

I wake molded to your body from behind with your upper arm clamping my forearm tightly. You are still dreaming, so I lie immobile and allow my arm to be held in your hot, moist armpit. All that day I bring my forearm to my face to inhale your sleep musk.

Each house has its weather. This place, whose weedy, mossy lawn is more rural than suburban, more pasture than posture, also has its weather. This morning's kitchen and dining area is mostly mist lit with a pale apricot glow from a low sun. This is our place.

You, your arachnid fingers, their tips searching my unshaven face, barely touching. You, the warm light to my dust. You, my oxygen.

For you I fashioned and baked home-kilned pizza, piled with artichokes and sundried tomato and feta and spinach, also baked garlic and molten mozzarella, just to watch your jaw cantilever, a tireless gracile thing hinged and vulpine and completely unselfconscious. Sometimes, aghast, I dreamed of you eating the world.

"How'd this happen?" you ask. We're listening to Ray Charles and watching some Olympics with the sound off.

"How did what happen?"

"Us," you say, and your surprised face is comical, and I smile.

"Just be glad," I say, but I catch the redrawn woe on your face the moment you avert it. The first cloud in endless blue. The silent drawback of a tide before the cataclysm.  

What is love, you ask? We all ask. Last week I saw you at the farmers' market, and you handed me a huge yellow tomato. Organic, you said. Smell it, you said. And I smelled it and it was alive in my hand, reeking and brimming with the spoor of life. You told me to wait a couple days, and I did, and the tomato slowly blushed to a deep orange, a tight amber, a shimmering bittersweet heart. I sliced it and ate it, and it was the best tomato I'd ever seen or smelled or tasted in my life. I cried for two whole days. Is this love?

See that candle? Pour its wax into your cupped palm, let it settle, let it cool. Now peel it from the well of your hand. You have made a coin in our only currency. Now pay me.

An hourglass is two versions of sand. You watch through the window as the blown rain hits it in pulsating gusts of flung grain, the pane a flattened hourglass, transparent sand—salt-tears inside; sky tears without—measuring the pace of our gradual uncoupling.

The moon averts her gaze, prays for clouds.

Things come apart. Leaves don't grow back in spring. Rooms are emptied. I've forgotten the sound of your voice. Even the ghosts become silent.

Friday
Jan202017

My Week on the Shoulders of Small Giants

Sunday. Such a European scene: a tumult of starlings shocked into curling spirals by the clamour of bells.

You walk down the narrow staircase, twisting, the adobe walls beset with dark-framed photographs and paintings, small tubs of flowers on every half-lit floor. A hollow airless silence like the preemptive mourning of the world. 

"I wanted to write play. How you say? A story with much art. Its title is The Aching Breasts of Juliette Binoche, and it is deep comment on feminine beauty and mothers, no? And on art also, of course. Is beautiful and filled with unhappy jokes, yes? About what we expect and what we desire?"

"Everything is filled with everything."

Dark cypresses line our route, the narrow road twisting like a gentle scar through a world of fecundity.

"This Tuscany," you say. "You think is real, but you see it only on screens, behind glass."

"Not true. I visited once, a long time ago."

"Too long. Your memory is broken. This is real place. Not just extra virgin olive oil and red wine in fiaschi. People break legs, shit themselves by accident, miss trains, hurt dogs, cry over bad service."

"You are wrong. I'm here now."

"Ah."

Where had you come from? Which floor? What moment? What happened back there? 

Monday. I touch your shoulder and we are in Trafalgar Square, and the rain is coming down like the wet angry spears of a tiny battle. Even the pigeons have sought shelter. Flanking lions like withdrawn testicles and Lord Nelson's updrawn shaft. Regretful intake of breath before a desolate climax. Buses and cabs. Red and black.

Mind the gap and please don't touch my shoulder.

Too fucking late, mate.

Tuesday. Pacific Northwest. A sundown free-for-all. Raucous seabirds. The smeary drama of colour. An overpass and the homeless on palettes beneath it, sheltered from the elements but not from the furious, heedless, seething, incessant noise overhead, that divine roiling endless colitis.

"Notice the Chevy Caprice that's always in the parking lot?"

"The white one? Kinda, yeah, what of it?"

"Serial killer," you say with certainty. "All serial killers impersonate cops. True fact."

"Okay, now you're talking. This is a mystery story, after all."

"Course."

Is it, though? When we learned of her disappearance we thought it was a joke. Last any of us remembered she had smuggled her hamster, Loki, cage and all, into the Cascadian Motel. Now the room is spotless and no one has lived in it for weeks. The very air has retreated in her memory. Is it me, or does it keep getting harder to breathe?

"Since it's always there, always parked away from the front lot, shouldn't be hard to figure out who drives it."

"You're right. I'm on it. Go set a freakin' watchman."

Shoulder tap. Aw, no. For fuck's sakes.

Wednesday. "Now I've arrested you, things will come clearer. Speak to me. I said, speak to me. No? Okay, I will spell things out from here on in. You have been arrested for being a slut, as you probably know. Yeah, I'm aware that's not an official felony. Not even a misdemeanour, however much it ought to be. Both. Worse. I watched you for years, tried to get your attention so you would change your filthy ways, but you never even looked my way, let alone listened to my advice. Attempting to help, I went to a priest and a rabbi. They knew nothing, other than to identify my own blackened soul. Which I knew was only tainted after fitful dreams spent rubbing your soiled thighs. Yes, yes, you are restrained. This is to protect you, believe it or not. Sorry for your pain. Such discomfort is nothing when compared to what I need to do to cut out your dirt. I cannot lie. It will become unbearable, and for hours, but by the end you will thank me for the release. How glorious the mysteries of this life."

You haven't encountered me before. I cook with cast iron, dream in monochrome, except for the sounds, which are technicolor, ride dirt bikes along narrow trails on mountainsides while screaming cougar sounds as the sun drops off the edge of the world, plead with the holy Jezebel to part her swollen lips for me, allow me one brief entry in a long, dull existence, wait for me in the swamp while my Cajun brethren gather to parlay vengeance before the invaders can disperse along the Gulf coast, itself teeming with pinguid betrayal, last guttering breaths belched amid twilit mangroves.

I am new to you. Knew to you. Ha, funny. Unbeknownst, I've stitched together histories, closed the edges of long-exposed wounds with my gluey saliva, sutured your suppurating lesions. I was there when Tutsi bodies were split then stacked like stove lengths amid the pews. Sanctuary my holy-rolling ass. Truth is, it's been a blistering education. I am not your kind.

Thank you, my love. But I am not your kind.

Get away from my goddamned shoulder…

Thursday. "I speak perfect French, excellent English, and functional Italian. You look at me like I live in an ivory tower. But I don't. I am normal. Normal. Yet I dedicate my life to art, to beauty, because I want to embody love. I know I am not pure. I know my body ages, my waist thickens, and my buttocks grow like cauliflower heads. Like mushroom clouds viewed from space. My breasts ache because I never wanted lactation to stop; I want to feed the world through my heavy tits, my dripping engorged nipples. This is normal, I think?"

A woman strolls through a field of slaughtered men, plucks poppies as she goes and drapes their moist and fragile petals on the pale and upturned faces of the sleepers. Butterfly wings, humidity. Mrs. Dalloway knows flowers cancel death—the great and secret equation. Knows stories are told in increments, a soft weak page at a time. Her hands make patterns in the golden air, patterns of loss and patterns of murder. Until she stops. And finally speaks.

"I had to kill my pet today. Not because the pet was wrong, but because I was wrong. Not because I was wrong, but because you are wrong. Not because you are wrong, but because everything is wrong. Not because everything is wrong, but because…" See? You take this where it wants to go and you rediscover nihilism. And that's okay, if that's what you want. But watch the tide blast into some granite hole, explode upward at its secret outlet, the percussive shout an hourlong blare and echo. Ready for that?

She was an addict. Erica. She sat straight-backed on a stool in the back room of the Immortal Lion Rampant and told me she needed to take a piss. I offered to guide her to the right toilet. She shook her head like a small dark bird, stayed still, and after a while let loose in her hip-shaped jeans. The way of the junkie. I carried her home, more than once, soaked, ammoniac. Yet she was beautiful in her way, a dark gypsy face like a sabotaged heart and cool black tresses, full shapely breasts and an improbable waist. Her favourite record was New Gold Dream by Simple Minds, music she never grew beyond. Me either. I still worship her. With my diligent eyes, I edited out her track marks. 

I'll never forget how her ribcage looked as she climbed on me, her hard dark nipples swinging free for a second or two, her inky tornado snatch clutching me stormward, her grief-stricken face more pretty than anything I'd ever seen, or have ever seen, ever. Those fatalistic chestnut eyes. My faltering shaft, the immunity plight. Skepticism and the caterwauling heart. O Erica. O Clarissa. O Juliette.

Had I known more, and been less wound, I would have asked if she knew Ms. Binoche. Whether she loved cats. Or cypresses limned in gold. Or poppy fields. Her preferences: tea or coffee; cats or dogs; sunrise or sunset; love or money. And, of course, how much she loved to fuck.

We can't do this forever. The decades have accumulated like virescent foam on a pond, and rotator cuffs break down. Hips uncouple, ruination looms. Grab my shoulder, girlfriend; hang on. Most everything's now sad poetry. 

Friday. The high elastic whine of atoms stretching. "The sadness will last forever," Van Gogh's final words. Our unlikely kind's likely epitaph, read by no one ever. No interpreter at all.

Oh, almost forgot. Unpack, unburden this. 

Saturday, that shamanistic day—reflections off of chrome, a motel door ajar, a sweaty pint of mezcal, me ready for your valley, your little prairie wolves—is permanently canceled.