Category Archives: Fiction

“The Trump Wedding” – Fiction by E.L. Siegelstein

The grand finale of our Winter 2019 issue— and of FLAPPERHOUSE’s five-year run– is E.L. Siegelstein‘s sharply satirical short story “The Trump Wedding.”

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THE CADILLAC SHOT DOWN THE HIGHWAY at a casual 90, an American-made fiberglass comet with a diesel-exhaust tail. Inside, Craig shut all the window shades, locking the world outside, and opened the nip bottle of Old Forester he had stashed in his jacket pocket on his way out of the office.

“Play white noise,” he told the A.I., and he closed his eyes and drank and thought about nothing at all for twenty minutes while the car took care of all the driving itself. It was Craig’s me-time, all he ever really got, and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

He must have dozed off, because he awoke with a start when the A.I. announced in its pleasant, servile voice, “You’ve arrived. Welcome home, Craig.”

The house was a late-model Neo-Deco demimanse, so-called because “mini-mansion” sounded tacky. It had more rooms than they really had any use for, some of which Craig never entered at all. Keeping it clean and climate-controlled was a bigger expense than Craig could realistically afford. Entering from the garage, he walked right into the back of another one.

“Excuse me, Doug,” Craig said to the cameraman his wife paid to give her streaming channel a more professional appearance.

“Please ignore me,” said Doug. He was a slight, sturdy man with dark hair and precision-sculpted stubble, and the build of someone who didn’t have time to go to a gym, but instead actually lifted and carried heavy items on a daily basis. His store-brand deodorant did a middling job masking the tang of a man whose very survival depended on the timely arrival of his next paycheck. Craig felt sorry for him, even as he resented Doug’s presence in his house.

Craig’s wife, Rayliee, and teenaged daughter, Rutherford, were tearfully embracing. Their resemblance was striking, a pair of slender, perfectly-coiffed, camera-ready blondes. Rayliee liked to say that they were often mistaken for sisters, though Craig knew that never actually happened.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, taking off his gun and dropping it in the bowl by the door.

Rayliee dabbed the tears from her eyes with a silk designer handkerchief. “Ruthie’s fashion line was bought,” she said. “By Target!”

“Oh,” said Craig. “Congratulations, that’s wonderful.”

Rutherford burst into tears anew. “You don’t know anything!” she screamed as she stomped out of the room.

“Jesus Christ, Craig,” Rayliee said.

“What?”

“Target? Who the fuck shops at Target? Nobodies. Fucking middie’s wives and… and… working women! It would have been better if no one bought her line at all, at least then she could spin that she’s ahead of her time, and she’d still have some cachet. But Target? That’s like, ‘Congratulations, you did it, and you’re mediocre. Just like your…’”

Rayliee stopped herself.

“Just like her what?”

Craig could see Doug in his peripheral vision, getting a closeup.

“Never mind,” Rayliee said. “So, did we get our invite yet?”

Craig froze. He could tell this was something important to his wife, but he had no idea what the hell she was talking about.

“Craig?” Rayliee demanded. “Earth to Craig? Are you having a stroke or something?”

“No, no,” Craig said. “Our invite to what?”

“The wedding, Craig.”

“Whose wedding?”

Rayliee exploded. “Jesus fucking shit, Craig, are you stoned? Or did you just hit your head really hard? The Trump wedding, Craig, the Trump wedding.”

It was the biggest event in the world. The biggest, glitziest, most fabulous, most expensive, most historic wedding in the history of human civilization. Everybody who was anybody was going, plus another thousand wannabes and climbers. It was all the Twittersphere could talk about. It was all the real Fox media wanted to talk about. It was all the lamestream media was allowed to talk about.

“Right, right,” Craig said. “I didn’t realize you wanted to go to that. Which one is getting married again?”

Rayliee’s eyes went wide. “Are you kidding me?”

Doug’s camera swung around, from Rayliee’s face to Craig’s.

Craig smiled. “Yes, of course that was a joke. Ha-ha!”

Rayliee stared at him, lips sealed, eyebrows raised in threatening challenge, calling his bluff.

“It’s Yuri?” Craig guessed.

“Andrei, you doofus, Andrei,” she said. “To Meegan White, who you may recognize as both the heir to the Remington fortune, Miss U.S.A., and the winner of a little show you might have heard of called Mrs. Trump? In case you missed it, it was the highest rated reality competition series of all time? We fucking watched it together, Craig.”

Tuning out whatever his wife was watching was one of the few things, Craig believed, that he was truly great at. Tonight, it seemed to be his downfall.

“Sure, sure, sure sure sure,” he said. “And Andrei is… sixth in line to The Donald?”

“Fourth!” Rayliee screamed, voice cracking. “We don’t have an invite, do we? Oh, you little bitch. Daddy said you weren’t alpha enough, that you didn’t carry status and we’d just end up being middies, like a bunch of losers. That can’t be true, it can’t. It’s not? Isn’t it?”

She angled her head so that Doug’s camera could get a good shot of the tears welling in her eyes.

“No, darling. Of course we’re going to the Trump wedding,” Craig lied to his wife. “I was just messing with you a bit, it was all a joke. I took it too far, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, thank you, Jesus.” Rayliee wiped away her tears. “You have to stop doing that! So, where are we sitting? What level invite do we have?”

Craig had no answer for that. To have an answer, he’d need an invitation.

“Shit, you know how hard I work, I don’t remember. I’ll have to look at it tomorrow, I left it at the office.”

“You know you need the invitation in hand to get in, right?” It was the best way to encourage sales on the secondary market, on which the Trump Organization would take a cut. “Any janitor could just pick it up, and then our seats would be his, and there’d be fuck-all we could do about it!”

“It’s in a safe place,” Craig said. Probably the safest place of all: his imagination.

Rayliee nodded, and said, “Liked.”

Sensing that the conversation was over, Doug said, “Hey, you mind repeating all that, so I can get a wide?”

Continue reading “The Trump Wedding” – Fiction by E.L. Siegelstein

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“Our Hero” – Fiction by Brandon Getz

Superman Collage #15 – Andy Warhol, 1960

The arrival of a new superhero makes life turbulent for a team of journalists in “Our Hero,” Brandon Getz‘s stupendously subversive short story from our Winter 2019 issue.

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WHEN CAPTAIN MAPS CAME OUT OF NOWHERE to save that runaway bus full of blind nuns from careening into the river in the middle of town, we at the Daily Reporter had to admit: we were pretty relieved. With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the blogosphere, the decline of subscriptions and creeping corporate cutbacks, we had taken to pumping up even the smallest story. We had just finished apologizing for the O’Dougherty kidnapping (Local Girl Missing, Probably Murdered) after it was discovered she’d been visiting her grandmother for the weekend. That, on the heels of the school shooting debacle (they’d used cap guns in the eighth grade musical) and the clergy sex scandal (Father Michael, helping a woman in the confessional booth, had—allegedly—grazed her breast). We were anxious for real news. For one headline story we didn’t have to sensationalize. We needed a legitimate sensation.

Those of us who were there described, in those first articles and op-eds, the sound of the Captain’s approach before anything else. Rick in Sports wrote that it cracked over the voice of the announcer at the girls’ slow-pitch game “like God hitting a softball.” In the caption under the local weather map, Alex typed that it had sounded like “the mother of all thunderclaps.” But it was Hal in Lifestyles who, though we didn’t understand it at the time, perhaps said it best when he wrote that it was “a sound like a rip in the pants of the Universe.” We ribbed each other in the break room and near the fax machine over our descriptions, accused one another of being excessively literary or purple in our prose. Those of us who hadn’t seen the Captain appear heard so many stories about that moment that we soon spoke as though we had. We knew all the details: the sound, the ripple in the sky, the flash of green and blue leotard, the man hanging in thin air with the now-iconic cape—a map of the world—billowing behind him. The divisions between there and not-there, while at first tense and somewhat bitter, began to dissolve. We were united in our mission to report the truth. We pulled together in solidarity to deliver the news.

 

The first headlines were perhaps overly flattering. Caped Hero Saves Nuns, World. Super Man Rescues, Loves Town. Leotards: Pinnacle of Spring Fashion? Our editor-in-chief Roberta sent them to press with a flick of her manicured fingers. Roberta, whose face only cracked to sneer at a misplaced adjective or improperly cited source, now smiled when we brought her stories of the Captain. She stopped smelling of gin and limes after lunch hour. She even ventured to pinch the butt of Topher, the intern, and gave him what he later described as a “flirty wink.”

Our workdays grew longer. Because he had only appeared once, and only for a moment, our stories took on more hypothetical angles. Despite restrictions on overtime, we huddled together in our cubicles and speculated on his origins, his alter-ego, his motivations. Topher, being from a farm outside Topeka and possessing—according to some sources—a well-muscled physique, was immediately fingered as a suspect until it was confirmed he’d been at his desk playing minesweeper and writing terrible things about our newsroom on his blog. Someone suggested the Captain might be some kind of super-soldier from the Air Force base on the edge of town. Someone else said he could be a geography professor from the university whose experiment gave him superpowers. One of the obit writers wondered aloud if perhaps he’d been bitten by a radioactive map. Everyone was a suspect. We eyed strangers on the street and kept notes on suspicious persons in the grocery store or church. We rifled through our husbands’ dresser drawers and inspected the spaces under our brothers’ beds. We tapped the walls of boyfriends’ closets and garages, hoping for some hidden panel with a blue leotard and cape inside.

The newsroom buzzed. We held our breath, waiting for the next appearance of the Captain. We loosened our ties in what we thought was a cavalier and attractive way. We wore shorter skirts and started leaving our cardigans on the backs of our chairs. Roberta, who never wore anything but gray pantsuits, came to the office in red slacks and heels. When she sent article corrections back, she no longer signed her notes “EIC,” replacing it instead with a swirly cursive “Roberta” punctuated with a lipstick kiss.

 

Then Captain Maps saved city hall from that meteor. The air rippled; that same heavy thunder-snap “like God rolling a perfect strike,” as Rick wrote, cracked through downtown, and the Captain was flying above our little skyline, upper-cutting the big flaming rock back into space from whence it came. The crowd that had gathered cried out in joy. Children wept. The mayor, interviewed by our Lifestyles section, reported an impressive bulge in the front of the Captain’s green briefs.

This was the news we needed. Our stories were picked up by AP and Reuters, translated into a dozen languages. Photos from our very own photographer, Rashid, ran on the front pages of the Times and the Post. Our bylines were everywhere. We were booked on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN-3, The Weather Channel. On national TV, with our makeup professionally done and our designer suits bought on credit, we gave our expert eye-witness accounts of Captain Maps. We were the media’s front lines. The boots on the ground re: the world’s first living superhero. On those news sets, or in our own conference room chatting via satellite uplink, we conducted ourselves like professionals. We imagined ourselves the Edward Murrows and Connie Chungs of a dawning era. The Captain was the biggest news of our lifetimes, and we were the commentators, the shapers, the voice.

Subscriptions soared. Our website crashed from so many hits. We wrote about our hero from every angle, interviewed every witness, editorialized and hypothesized. When we ran out of things to write, we dug deeper. Caped Crusader – Hero? we taunted. We needed to know. We needed to be the ones to break the story. It wasn’t enough for the Captain to put our town—and our newspaper—on the map. Captain Maps was ours, right down to the name, which either Hal or Jeanine, our Business Editor, had coined the day of his first appearance, depending on who you asked. Roberta had sent in the copyright on behalf of the paper. We were talking to toy companies about licensing. Some of us had started working on screenplays. On the walls of the newsroom, we hung posters of that first front page to remind us of our greatness, our bylines next to an artist rendering of the Captain in all his cape-waving comic book glory. When we dressed for work, we wore subtle combinations of green and blue, his unofficial fan club.

 

Weeks passed. Even if it hadn’t been an election year, there were always wars and famines and water shortages and terrorist attacks. There was always news, but by then we weren’t interested in the misery of the world. Without any new appearances from the Captain, newsworthy heroics, we were fading from the national eye. We’d ridden the Captain’s cape into the limelight, and now he was shaking us off, back to our small-town beat. Jeanine, who’d written about the town’s much-needed tourism surge, reported a drop in the local economy. Captain kitsch—balloons, t-shirts, cheap plastic dolls—washed from the gutters into the river, unbought and forgotten. Alex, in a last-ditch effort, rigged a spotlight on the roof, painted over with a blobby North and South America, shining it into the night sky for days until Roberta told him to stop wasting electricity. Continue reading “Our Hero” – Fiction by Brandon Getz

“A Late Lunch with Philip Roth” – Fiction by Ron Kolm

A recently-deceased author makes a brief return to the land of the living in “A Late Lunch with Philip Roth,” Ron Kolm‘s ghostly vignette from our Winter 2019 issue

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I FIRST MET PHILIP ROTH MANY YEARS AGO when I was a store manager at Coliseum Books, on the corner of 57th Street and Broadway. Coliseum was one of the largest, best-stocked bookstores in Manhattan at the time. This was the early 1980s, and Barnes & Noble hadn’t yet started its massive invasion of the city, opening superstores uptown and downtown, eventually putting Coliseum out of business. Our store was the place to go if you were a serious lover of books.

Coliseum was also at the top of the list of places to make an appearance for published authors, particularly best-selling ones. The tiny, grizzled Norman Mailer came by the store, escorted by his statuesque wife, Norris Church, who walked him like a wayward bulldog up the steep steps to the manager’s station, where we had piled copies of his books to be signed. He grumbled, but signed them anyway.

Fran Lebowitz, who lived a block away in the Osborne, a landmarked building, visited the bookstore almost every day, and was very nice to the staff. She’s an acquaintance still.

Then there was the first time that the famous novelist Philip Roth stopped by. Most of us knew who he was – we all read widely – but for the uninitiated, one of the guys on the staff grabbed a paperback copy of Portnoy’s Complaint and pointed to the photograph of him on the back cover. In person he was tall, and his hairline was receding, but it was definitely him. Thus apprised, the floor manager let him walk up the three steps that led behind the counters where the cashiers held sway. This partial elevation was to protect the cashiers, to keep dangerous folks down below them where security could more easily remove them from the premises.

Anyway, there was a long plate-glass window overlooking Broadway behind the cashiers’ station, and the early afternoon sun would shine brightly through it. This same sun was now etching a fiery halo around Philip Roth’s head and shoulders as I looked up at him. I was stuck dumb by the vision before me. I so wanted to ask him about one of his early books, Letting Go, that had played an important part in my life when I was in college. Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus were no-brainers as far as I was concerned – I’d read them quickly, and enjoyed them — but I simply couldn’t move or speak. He thanked the store manager, turned and left.

He visited the store many times after that; he lived on the Upper West Side I’d been told, but I was always in the middle of doing something, so I’d say ‘hello’ to him, and that was about it. I never did get a chance to engage him in a conversation about Letting Go.

Life went on. Shortly after 9/11 Coliseum Books lost its original location, due to a spectacular rent increase, and moved to 42nd Street across from Bryant Park. That location closed a few years later when Barnes & Noble opened a store on Fifth Avenue, just a short walk away. We lost fifteen percent of our business that night. After that, I lucked out and got a job at Posman Books in Grand Central Station – I’m still working for them in their Chelsea Market store.

So yesterday I get an email from ‘Charles Lindbergh,’ and out of curiosity I opened it, expecting to get hacked. But no, it seemed to be on the up and up.  The text in it explained that it was from Philip Roth reaching out to me from the void. I shrugged and read on. Everything is so out of whack these days, that I simply accepted the impossible; the impossible had to be way better than the possible anyway! Philip apologized for never addressing my love for his novel, Letting Go, but he wasn’t interested in talking about that particular book anyway. What was on his mind were several things: were people buying his novel, The Plot Against America, and would I be interested in talking about how it related to Donald Trump, and what was going on in the country right now.

“Sure,” I typed back. “Do you want to do this via emails?”

“No,” he answered. Actually ‘Fuck no!’ is what he wrote. “We’ll meet for lunch at the Russian Tea Room. It only makes sense, given the Russian collusion and all that sort of thing. They did bail him out in Atlantic City, you know! And it will be your treat! I mean, after all, I’ll be doing you a huge favor, and you have no idea how much trouble this visit will put me through! I’ll get back to you with the particulars in a minute. But first I have to go and Portnoy myself – emails like this get me off!”

In just a couple, he got back to his machine, and asked me if I could meet him in about an hour at the famous eatery on 57th Street. I typed back ‘sure’ and turned off my computer, but before doing so, I googled the Russian Tea Room. They had no dress code, and the prices were outrageous for a bookstore clerk like myself, but I figured I could use a credit card and worry about it later. When I got there I saw Philip Roth sitting at the bar with a glass of water before him. I sidled over and introduced myself, wondering how the fuck he had crossed the line from the dead to the living, and asked if he wanted a beer.

“Sure,’ he said. “A Bactika 3. It’s Russian, only costs eighteen dollars. And, to answer your question, all of us in the nether zone are walking among you all the time. We just pick and choose our appearances very carefully. Fake news, and all that! So how are my books selling? Particularly The Plot Against America – I hear it’s regarded as being prescient, not a word I use often – meaning it predicts Mr. Trump, and what’s happened to the body politic recently.”

“Well, gotta tell you I love that book! It sure isn’t all that far away from Portnoy. I marked up my copy, and page 153, where Alvin talks about peeing and holding his cock, and falling on the bathroom floor, could have been lifted from it directly! Hey, do you want a bite to eat? I read on the internet that the second booth in the back to our left is called ‘The Tootsie Booth” — that part of the film was actually shot here. No one’s sitting there now, so we could head over and grab it, then order lunch.”

“Um, I think I’m starting to fade… Don’t know that I can hang out much longer. Geez, really wanted to talk about the ‘pee tape.’ The ‘alleged’ pee tape. It’s like that stuff on page 153 kind of presages it… in a way. Glad you mentioned that part of the book. So much I wanted to talk about… Trump’s limited vocabulary… his lying, fascist tendencies… Sorry, have to sign off here…”

And he was gone. More to the point: I got the check and almost checked out myself.

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Photo by Arthur Kaye

RON KOLM is a founding member of the Unbearables and a contributing editor of Sensitive Skin magazine. He’s the author of The Plastic FactoryDivine ComedySuburban Ambush, Duke & JillNight Shift, and with Jim Feast, the novel Neo Phobe. He’s had work in Have A NYC 3, Live Mag! and the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. Ron’s papers were purchased by the NYU library, where they’ve been cataloged in the Fales Collection as part of the Downtown Writers Group.

“The Mandrill’s Smile” – Fiction by Michael Díaz Feito

Mandrill – Franz Marc, 1913

Jealousy & paranoia possess a married couple in “The Mandrill’s Smile,” Michael Díaz Feito‘s demonically dysfunctional short fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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PRESSURE IN THE NIGHT. There was a foreign presence, a stuttering breath in the drywall and a pulse in the warm carpet, and then the shock of shattered glass: A window broke in the bedroom upstairs where Lily slept. Helio jumped, rising from a jumble of half-conscious worries and from the couch where he’d been dozing off, bathed in the muted TV’s blue light. What’s his name, the monkey. He crossed the living room of the small townhouse in three paces, crouched by the staircase, and listened for another suspicious sound, or for his wife’s reaction.

Quiet. Nothing moved in the darkness at the top of the stairs. Helio knew that nothing without knowing and climbed toward it. He joined it and couldn’t see his legs or his feet in it. With each step, he felt weaker, like his knees might give, and his heart drummed faster, because he was so scared of it. The monkey wants to hurt our marriage. His hands tightened into fists. Sweat pooled on his back. It was hotter upstairs.

Helio’s eyes adjusted. Shards of glass glittered on the bedroom’s carpeted floor, and the night, jaundiced by a single streetlight, pressed through the broken window, as did the fronds of a royal palm. Lily wasn’t in their bed. She wasn’t in the room. But there was something else. A crib composed of bamboo slats rocked beside the bed. It shook because a shadowy baby shivered and kicked within it. The baby was a dense oval of darkness, and it seemed featureless, except for a curled upper lip, which exposed broad, flat, gleaming teeth.

It disgusted Helio. It wasn’t his baby. He retched and hid his face, afraid to look again, and dropped to his knees. His body went slack, releasing tension in spasms as he began to understand what he didn’t understand. Yes, it was a home invasion. The offender was demonic. It violently mocked him with those big teeth. And Lily, wherever she hid, had invited it. Why would she do this. Helio sobbed and pleaded with the bedroom.

A noise boomed outside. It moved closer. Soon it rustled the palm fronds, then the window’s shattered glass, and then the bedsheets. It became like a law-giving voice, which could have been the smiling baby’s, reverberating from the crib. Where your wife is, it seemed to say. I am that I am. Who she’s with. We are that we are. Do you?

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Continue reading “The Mandrill’s Smile” – Fiction by Michael Díaz Feito

“The Scream” – Fiction by Gloria g. Murray

A woman wakes up dead on her seventieth birthday in “The Scream,” Gloria g. Murray’s phantasmically surreal short fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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WHEN I AWOKE THE MORNING OF MY SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY, I KNEW I WAS NO LONGER ALIVE.  Every part of me seemed so light under the sheets.  I tried to move each limb but without sensation. My eyes seemed open yet I couldn’t blink. My fingers were clawed around the sheets.

I looked about. The room seemed the same—the screen saver on my computer zigzagging into pink, green and yellow lines, the sunlight filtering through the blinds, my pink slippers positioned at the side of the bed. Everything was as always until I looked into the mirror. My mouth was open in a Munch scream so that I couldn’t move my lips. I put my hand on my breast but felt nothing, not even a flutter.

It seemed like I floated down the steps to the kitchen. Everything was as usual—the coffee pot ready to brew. I turned it on to hear that sweet, perking sound, inhale that savory smell. I opened the blinds and stared out at the familiar sump across the street, my neighbor’s American flag blowing in the January wind. Perhaps it was all a dream. Yes, a Picasso nightmare from which I would eventually awaken. I avoided the mirror in the hallway. I wanted to speak but my mouth wouldn’t move.  I grabbed the phone but it fell from my hand, and then I too fell to the floor. I lay there for I don’t know how long before I heard the front door opening.

A man and woman walked in. Hmm, lots of goodies here, the woman said. Yes, most everything is sure to go, the man answered. We could probably set it up for three weeks from today. The woman nodded and they proceeded to walk around, inspecting everything. After admiring one of my statues, the woman said—Oh, this Rodin, I’m sure it will go!  Oh no! Not The Kiss, the one I found at a garage sale and sprayed pale pink to cover the cracks.  And these prints of Frida Kahlo, the woman smiled—lovely.  But I’m not sure in Suburbia many would know who she was.

 I poked at my mouth. Damn it—OPEN!  They continued walking around, tapping the piano keys on the out-of-tune Winter upright, the one my dear friend played while I sang off-key, the one he claimed was firewood.

Well, we might get something for this—but it’s doubtful, the man commented. Hmm, the woman agreed. Then they went upstairs to my bedroom. Well, look at this, the woman said, rattling through some of the files and papers on my desk, examining the computer my fingers had stroked like a lover, long, long into the night. The lady was a writer. How about that?  Well, we might get something for the computer and printer. I suppose her children could come and collect the books and the writings and any other incidentals.

My poetry, plays…poetry for which I had never achieved real notoriety, just a local contest now and then, the two free contributor copies, a couple of my plays performed at local one-act festivals by senior citizens in various stages of Alzheimer’s.  The couple wandered about for a while before they came down, took one last look around and closed the door behind them. Yes, they had come and assessed my life in all of ten minutes. Continue reading “The Scream” – Fiction by Gloria g. Murray

“The Rules of Magic Blankets” – Fiction by E.H. Brogan

illustration by E.H. Brogan

Childlike logic grapples with nighttime terror in “The Rules of Magic Blankets,”  E.H. Brogan‘s playfully spooky flash fiction from our Winter 2019 issue.

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THE RULES OF MAGIC BLANKETS ARE AS THIS:

IF i am a child, and IF i am tucked in, and IF i cannot sleep;

IF the leaves and arthritic finger-branches of the deciduous tree outside my window insist on shifting, sometimes furtive, sometimes maniac and distressed;

and IF no matter the size of the moon or its lost face there’s ambient light eternal thrown by streetlamps and adult windows lit up after dusk, so that the second-story shadows cast in my room of the animal-alive old oak can never die or be obliterated, so i can never flee them except into sleep, which my terror keeps me from;

and IF i am sure that in the stammer and slide of thrown-off dark on darker void i’ve seen – i do not know for words but i have seen, and my just-minted eyes are sharp and while i cannot name them that i saw, — cannot explain them, cannot be said in any adult sense to understand them in intellect or language or your grown-up fashion — in flashes: sinister tails on ground snake hidden, the sheen of matted fur, reptile armor formed of scales, light refracted in two condensed red eyes peering out a well, the hint of mushroom breath rotting but with caution in between and around bladed fangs;

IF, THEN it can be said: i know there bide monsters in the murky depths around me, yes, my very bedroom, and somewheres, for once a monster finds a favored haunt it advertises, it leaves a scent to telegraph the sweet spot among all of them. so yes IF there exist monsters in my very room THEN magic must so too.

so IF there’s monsters who drag nails as long-grown as my fingertip to bottom palm along the ground while they stalk, and i trust my eyes and this IF, it’s only IF to speak to you — then i can use magic on my side, too. monsters and magic or nothing.

so IF i can smell their long-past meals of little sleepless girls and boys in fragments ossified under yellow claws and scores of morsels slicked among their greasy beards and wedged between their teeth then i declare my blanket’s unreal too.

it’s already special, woven wide so holes were left through it in the thick-spun cotton weave. i call it my cold blanket because when summer’s hot, the windows open and the cicadas all a hundred degrees or four more in their hum i cannot dream of sleep without some blanket despite sweat so in covering me this one is my solution. this blanket which is here but also halfway not in spaces blooms in its existence out along two planes: this one where my parents see me, kiss my cheek and smooth the linens down as well as that other one where in the closet a shadow grunts between his breaths and the oak tree branches become witch hands which scrape at the windowglass.

so IF there are monsters and magic THEN i cast this spell: my cold blanket cobwebs over me til i become invisible to monsters while they prowl. slithers and ghouls find nothing. so long as any part of me’s slipped under this my beige-spun sentry, unshrinkingly vigilant, i’m like its holes unseen. all i took and made this happen with was my sweat and fear and my belief, unswerving, whipped and cooked from child-sense.

what i see, i see. i cannot root out all the monsters but can manage to keep me safe. so IF there’s magic and there’s monsters i don’t even mind – i turn on my side and sigh and like a jaw snaps shut, another night’s conquested. i sleep with the confidence of death.

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E.H. BROGAN creates in Newark, DE. She writes poetry and prose, sometimes. She sketches, draws, paints, colors, collages, creates artisan paper/paper products, knits, and bookbinds in between John Irving novels (currently; the Irving expedition kicked off in 2018, to continue until completion). She has had art or writing published in places like Flapperhouse, Five2One Magazine and Sideshow, Red Paint Hill, and the Portland Review. Her blog is not updated frequently but a list of all publications with links can be found at emilyhopebrogan.blogspot.com. She also tweets @wheresmsbrogan and IGs her casual art at comics_by_e.h.brogan

“And Nothing But” – Fiction by dave ring

The Truth – Ferdinand Hodler, 1903

“And Nothing But” is dave ring‘s brutally honest flash fiction piece from our Winter 2019 issue.

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MY TRUTH? THE FUCK. 

My truth has teeth and hundreds of legs and chews apart the bodies in the middle of the night.  My truth leaves a smudge behind to remind you of what it once undid.

My truth knows the way to the door.  My truth has weight.  My truth can get me into any hardhold in this town fast as anything.  My truth gets me kicked out even faster.

My truth stops motherfucking trains in their motherfucking tracks.

My truth has a reputation.

My truth ain’t all class:  My truth fucks the landlord.  My truth pays the rent.

My truth got me the codes to T-Rex Tsang’s secret stash.  My truth saved Billy Jean Angelou’s ass during the Smoketown Massacre.  My truth scored rides on the jury-rigged rollercoaster at Beth the Eastside Boss’s cannibal roadshow and then got me out alive.  My truth slid along One-Eye Lawson’s hairy tit, flitting back and forth, while my hand did things to his dick that made him shout so loud I could hear his bodyguards gritting their teeth from their post outside the door.

My truth tricked power chords from the pulverized Stratocaster that Skullface Suzy has hanging on her wall like it was a stuffed elk, the barely tuned strings twanging with sadness like a lover that knows every amp in the world is dead.  My truth returned that guitar to its place with a reverence when Suzy called me back to bed, even though Suzy doesn’t deserve her.

My truth went back after dark.  My truth had sticky fingers.  My truth knew when to admit that it got us into all this trouble.

My truth knows that Skullface Suzy never stops.  My truth can tell when the hourglass is running out.

My truth knows when to get out of town and how to bum a ride on the I-90 all the way here from where the sun licked the surface of the lake with a flicker of magenta at the first light of dawn.  My truth knows never to stop looking over my shoulder.  My truth lets the chariot idle on the tarmac, chauffeur snoozing in the back, his bare spine slick with sweat against the vinyl seats, jeans still around his ankles, lips still tingling from a post-coital smoke.  My truth still sings of the spark, the sweet tar.

My truth knows to check that the gun is loaded.

My truth can’t do this much longer, but this gun has seven 9mm lies in the clip, plus one in the chamber.

And Pinocchio ain’t shit.

{ X }

dave ring is the community chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival in Washington, DC, and the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was from Mason Jar Press. More info at www.dave-ring.com.  Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop.