Category Archives: Non-Fiction

“Penning the Nasty / Creed” – Non-fiction by Lora Rivera

The Broken Column - Frida Kahlo, 1944
The Broken Column – Frida Kahlo, 1944

From our Summer 2016 issue“Penning the Nasty / Creed” is Lora Rivera‘s fascinating non-fiction exploration of sexuality, spirituality, pain, and the therapeutic power of writing. 

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I AM ON MY KNEES at the table’s end, pen poised over fresh notebook paper. On the first floor below, the air is a warm muddle of voices in amiable chatter. A woman’s jazz alto sashays alongside the human hubbub and the mechanical din of barware clink and clatter, and at the door feet clomp in from the cold to shuffle up to the bar beneath the loft where we are learning to write about sex.

It is a seven-week course and I am reliving seven years of married sex I can only barely remember. Let me tell you what that feels like—to relive something you’ve dissociated from: Step one. Put your finger up to your eye. Hopefully you have a nice long fingernail there. Do you? Good. Don’t blink. Now, touch your eye with your fingernail. Push hard.

I expect you did not follow my instructions. Now on to step two. You must relive that moment of pushing in with your fingernail until you feel the convex mucus lining of your eye give way. Do this now. Relive clapping your hand over your face. Hear it, how you cried out. Feel again the sharp spurt of pain. Relive it, goddammit. Feel it. Why won’t you? Why can’t you?

We are in the middle of a silent exercise, the seven of us, instructor and five students and me: a circle of scratching pens around the long table where our beers sweat on paper coasters. Write about a list of wounds. What does it mean to be disassembled by love? By sex? I have put nothing on my page.

I leave the night class boozy, with a mouth yeasty sweet from two scotch ales and a desperate cup of pretzels. I sob hard on the way home. The welcome green lights blur.

That night, I dream of an old woman undressing. She removes each article of clothing until she’s naked, and then goes on to remove the modesty from her body that had clothed her; the fear, too; and the telltale signs of other people’s cultures and words. She is sexual and wild. And then I dream again of the red, muscly thing inside me, and of vomiting it up and pulling it out of my stomach from my mouth, length upon length of it dropping in wet, loose coils to the floor.

Continue reading “Penning the Nasty / Creed” – Non-fiction by Lora Rivera

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“The Innards of Anxiety” – Non-Fiction by Rebecca Havens

Anxiety - Edvard Munch, 1894
Anxiety – Edvard Munch, 1894

Rebecca Havens shares the idiosyncrasies of her disquietude in “The Innards Of Anxiety,” her flash non-fiction from our Spring 2015 issue.

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WHEN THE PHONE RINGS, I AM PRIMED FOR DEATH. The short hairs on the back of my neck peel away from my skin until they’re perpendicular, my guts twist into an impossible mess, everyone knows they’re an impossible mess, I will never be rid of the mess.

As we sit to eat, I tell myself that everything has an exact place and time, which should not only be respected but worshipped at a perfectly prepared altar. “That’s devil-worship you heathen!” it says in the middle of the Pad Prig Khing.

I don’t even excuse myself, I let the sobs do it for me.

My breathing doesn’t just speed up when I find, the next day, that the penne has been placed after the tortellini: It reverses until all the air on the planet is in my lungs. I’m choking on the air that belongs to all humanity. “Greedy,” it hisses.

You, my lovely, once asked me, “Why does the Penne have to come before the Tortellini?”  I could hear in your voice that you were capitalizing the improper nouns, and it stressed me out. “I alphabetize the pasta,” I said. “The pasta prefers it.”

I unwind by letting two seconds tick by instead of one. By forcefully hugging my brother when I wish to hug him even though the anxiety yells “NO!” in my busted eardrum; by eating the last bite on my large plate when it says “Last bites are dangerous and small plates are safe;” by saying “Yes” in the middle of the night when you asked me to marry you and I wasn’t even sure marriage was something I wanted, but then somehow with you I knew it was. Oh, the lashes I got for that one.

It is by choosing to breathe.

My muscles don’t know how to be languid, my voice doesn’t know how to be smooth. These are someday-faraway goals I write in secrecy when the anxiety leaves me for one moment or two moments.

Tonight I actually notice the burden, which is getting rarer. The panic appears, and in order to hide, I slowly slink within myself.

Slink.

                                    Slink.

                                                                                                                                                Slink.

No one will notice when I’m                                                                                                                  gone.

The anxiety, the stuff I told you about, the kind that’s bad tonight (it appreciates when I’m precise), has me gnawing, tooth on skin until it’s tooth on bone, on my Andy-side thumb. It tells me I will one day cause a multi-car pile-up on the busiest section of I-25 because I can’t decipher the words “left” and “right,” and know them only through landmarks like “Andy-side” and “Becky-side,” and after nearly 15 months together, I’d rather just let him drive.

Other nights– but let me be specific not tonight because I’m hiding— it steals my breath, not giving it back, like that person in the office who never did learn to share the conversation. And how will I ever breathe again when all the air belongs to it, and I can’t possibly compete? It tells me, whispers so softly, sweetly, like the most loving partner, that I am a weak mass of unmuscled, scraggly, what’s-left-of skin and bone and hair, and it is the stuff of Myth. I am mere madness, it is Power and Claws and all Venom.

It will sting while it bites while it claws while it chokes.

When I am strong enough to dream, I dream of wishing.

I dream I was strong enough to wish I could loathe it, and when I am strong enough to dream, I see how it eats my will to do anything of use.

The phone rings, and I am primed never to exit this state, for the anxiety must surely have killed all I’ve ever lived for.

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newskiREBECCA HAVENS is a happy person. She currently works for a nonprofit, and graduated in 2014 from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in Writing. She mostly writes fiction and poetry, but adores everything.

“Copulatory Lock” – Lyric Essay by j/j hastain

Hyenas - Martiros Saryan, 1909
Hyenas – Martiros Saryan, 1909

Until very recently, we at FLAPPERHOUSE had no idea that the mating practices of hyenas were so subversive and transcendent. If you’d like to learn more, allow j/j hastain to explain it all to you in “Copulatory Lock”, one of the four lyric mini-essays by j/j that you can read in our Winter 2015 issue.

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SEXUAL INTIMIDATION DOESN’T HAPPEN IN HYENA CULTURE. If it’s not consensual then it simply is not– end of discussion.

Based on the location of her masculinized genitalia (shaped like a penis, but hanging flaccid between her legs) he literally has to squat and dance behind her, moving into her squat, in order to even penetrate her penis with his. Her sexual center is pointing ahead; his follows from behind, into her and through her to the degree that she wants it. She is the stipulation here. She is his direction.

Aware that some gymnastics are required in order for mating to occur, if the female is keen on him, she will lead him up the hill or out to the brink where there is the most likelihood for safe copulation. He follows her to their spot. At the moment of intromission the hyenas’ bodies literally lock in order for exchange to occur. This locking makes fruition and impregnation possible at the same moment that it dramatically increases the risk of the two being seen as a lager body of flesh and then eaten with excitement: a predator’s conglomerate meat.

As the lion nears he does not have a choice. His hormones are raging in response to their hormones raging. With doubled flesh before him, he rushes the magic to engorge on something more integrated than yin and yang. Yin and yang have that curved line between them, indicating their difference. The hyenas’ copulatory lock means, in her choosing to let him, they have found their way beyond the line.

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Bio Next2j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j simply hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

j/j hastain is the inventor of The Mystical Sentence Projects and is author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), The Non-Novels (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance of Experimental Realisms. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain, Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin, Aufgabe, and Tarpaulin Sky.

“Still Shooting” – Non-Fiction by Todd Pate

Drink Coca-Cola - Weegee (Arthur Fellig), c. 1950
Drink Coca-Cola – Weegee (Arthur Fellig), c. 1950

Our good buddy & hobo journalist extraordinaire Todd Pate gets personal and shares “Still Shooting,” a plaintive account from some of his darker days, which you can also find in our Summer 2014 issue.

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I CAME UPON THE OLD JUNKIE at the corner of 111th Street and 3rd Avenue. Spanish Harlem. He’d just finished shooting up in the middle of the sidewalk. The thin rope he’d used to cut off the circulation to his left arm dangled loosely around the elbow. The syringe lay on the sidewalk at his feet but he still held his right hand to his left arm in shooting position, pressing his thumb down on the invisible plunger, over and over. People passed by with Spring afternoon speed, going in and out of the bodega, dollar store, fried chicken shack, Cuban or Chinese joint or liquor store. Never noticing, never caring.

I can’t say I cared, either. I’d quit drinking that Winter, I cared about very little then. I had no compassion for myself, much less for that old junkie, in those early months without the drink. I didn’t even know what compassion was anymore. I knew nothing about anything in those days. Without the drink, everything was one greasy unformed thing. The only thing that made sense was drinking and I wasn’t drinking anymore and the only thing to do about that was to walk, day and night, above freezing or below, around Spanish Harlem. The noise in my head faded a little when my feet were moving. While in motion, I could forget about the gaping hole running through the center of me, quit worrying if it would ever close up. I took each step as if they’d been predetermined. But my feet froze about 10 feet from that old junkie. Seconds after I stopped, the noise rushed in. I fought to push it away, putting all my focus on the old junkie…

His eyes were broken windows in his sagging gray face, curtained by stringy, salt-and-pepper hair. Sparse cactus-needle whiskers grew around his open mouth that looked to be stuck on a syllable of a word he’d failed to finish. A skinny and bony creature, but rogue flab managed to collect about his midsection. Shoulders rose and fell with each slow breath. Dirty sweater, holes in it. Dirty pants hanging below a pale ass. Belt buckled in the last hole, excess of belt swinging about like the withered remnants of some mysterious appendage. Sockless feet disappearing in tattered tennis shoes much too large.

He took three tiny crab steps toward me as if to balance against a wind blowing in his mind. Once stabilized, he looked at me. I looked down. I was wearing a sweater, too. Belt buckled on the last hole, too. My green cargo pants too big, cuffs shredded. The pants I wore the last time I drank. I pulled them up over my waist and there were my black tennis shoes. I felt the hole in the right heel. I wore them the last night I drank, also. I looked up just as the wind blew the junkie again. He crab stepped closer, I crab stepped further away as if he were the bull and I the matador. I couldn’t take his eyes anymore so I looked down. The same pants, the same shoes. But I can’t remember anything else about the last time I drank. Crab steps, crab steps. I just know Mount Sinai was the hospital…

Continue reading “Still Shooting” – Non-Fiction by Todd Pate