Tag Archives: FLAPPERHOUSE #17

“Let’s not pretend everything is going to be OK” – Fiction by William Squirrell

Canary – Tsuguharu Foujita

Some ships come down in the middle of the night, and a whole mess of bad news follows in “Let’s not pretend everything is going to be OK,” William Squirrell‘s hauntingly apocalyptic short fiction from our Spring 2018 issue.

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THE SHIPS CAME DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. They were huge. Gigantic. They stretched the sky, it bulged. They smeared the stars between their forefinger and their thumb. Have you ever seen water in a balloon? Have you ever felt the tender weight expressing? Pushing against the skin? Milk from a breast. Push! Push! Breathe! Have you felt it in the palm of your hand? That weight? Pressing, pressing, pressing down, impatient to be borne.

They stretched the sky so thin you could almost see through it, see the shapes on the other side, drifting in the bubbles and the scum. Is that God? Is that the singing angels? Fellow travelers through the void? Or just the bodies in the lye?

We never saw them coming. Too late we heard the creaking door, the creaking floor, too late.

What’s the use of radar? What’s the use of a radio telescope in a crater the size of New York City if it doesn’t give fair warning? What’s the use of Hubble? Of Elon Musk? What’s the use of a fictional marriage? Mutual funds? What’s the use of hope? Of love? What’s the use of a lockdown when they’re already in the building?

Oh, Emilia! Emilia! And Winston and John and Lauren, little Lauren, Oh Emilia! And Winston and John. They stole them all. Sucked them up through their rubber skins, through their prophylactic skins. Did they eat them up? Did they eat the children? Did they take them somewhere safe? All the human children? What are we now that they are gone?

There is no one left but us grownups; us old ones; us already dead ones.

When the ships came down in the middle of the night, so massive and catastrophic like heart attacks, we all groaned. Pain in our left arms. Shortness of breath. Nausea. Palpitations. We were squeezed. Massaged. We all felt it. We moaned simultaneous.

“What would you do if you could get your kid back?” said the man at the bus stop who used to always talk about the Government. “No other kids, just yours. Would you kill that old lady over there? The one in the green coat. Would you crush her skull with a hammer? If I gave you a knife would you cut her throat? Would you let me kill your wife? Would she let me? If I could guarantee it: your kid.”

Continue reading “Let’s not pretend everything is going to be OK” – Fiction by William Squirrell

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“Menace” – poetry by stephanie roberts

Carnival Clowns – Willem Cornelisz Duyster, 1620

“Menace” is one of three fiercely evocative poems by stephanie roberts in our Spring 2018 issue.

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THERE IS A WORD FOR EVERYTHING
a flock of seagulls
a menace of clowns
the ova of fish
(known informally as delicious)
the offspring of mr. lion and mrs. tiger
another name for the reverse
the moniker for squirrel tits
the inner sex organs of women
and the outer petals
(often referred to erroneously as vagina)
i call you beloved
(you dismiss this,
insisting on freudian terms
cathectic,
hysterical, i hope
you mean funny)
we’re never talking about the same thing
open your thesaurus
pass your each, every, per
pass your one plus one
pass your zeta
what describes your broken dream
of forever?
i say won you say second
i say me jane you
true husband
then it is sunrise
the earth lights agreement
let’s right the dictionary
for our common prayers.

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stephanie roberts has work featured in numerous periodicals, in North America and Europe, including ArcturusThe Stockholm Review of LiteratureOcculum and Atlanta Review. A 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, she was born in Central America and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Twitter shenanigans @ringtales.

“Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

Papio cynocephalus – Gelber Babuin, 1927

From our Spring 2018 issue, Andrew Davie‘s “Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” recounts the adventurous & litigious life of an unorthodox TV producer.

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JACK O’BRIEN, CREATOR OF SOME OF THE MOST PROVOCATIVE SHOWS ON TELEVISION from 1974-1983, died Friday. He was 87. The cause is reported to be complications from diabetes.

Born Hyman Lipshitz, O’Brien started out as a page for Warner Bros. He transitioned to the mailroom before becoming a staff writer and eventually a supervising producer for the hit show Knuckle Sandwich. Former middleweight champion Dwight Franklin played “Slip-Slap” Jenkins, a boxer who moonlights as a short order cook for an orphanage who uses his purse money to provide better meals for the children. (O’Brien later unsuccessfully sued the producers of Nacho Libre, but lost during Writer’s Guild Arbitration — see “Lipshitz v. Hess/Black&White Productions.”)  The show’s theme song “Slip-Slapping Away” broke the top ten on the charts in 1975. (O’Brien was successfully sued by Paul Simon, who claimed the theme song plagiarized “Slip Sliding Away.” O’Brien was unable to argue parody as a defense — see “Slip-Slap-Slide-Same; judge votes in favor of Simon.”)

O’Brien helped develop Marlboro Jones starring T.J. Burnell about a private investigator in an iron lung who solves crimes from his apartment. Former Oakland Raider John “Killer” Katoogan played Marlboro’s partner Dan “Slade” Anderson. A fundamental reworking of Nero Wolfe, Anderson would do field work and report back to Jones who would figure out the culprit while incapacitated from battling the effects of botulism. The episode entitled “Just the Tip of the Spear” would win O’Brien the coveted EGAG that year (an Emmy, Golden Globe, AVN award, and Grammy).

This was followed by a show O’Brien developed, The Shankbone Redemption, about an incarcerated Orthodox Jewish prisoner who must remain observant while trying to negotiate the pitfalls of prison life. A memorable episode involved everybody’s favorite inmate Moshe Horowitz digging a tunnel but being unable to use it until sundown. Another fan favorite included the episode where Moshe made kosher “Pruno” in his toilet. T-shirts with Moshe giving the throat slashing gesture and depicting the words “Give ‘em a Hebrew haircut” were a best-selling item in 1981.

A spinoff of Shankbone followed: A Spoonful of Pruno Makes the Heroin Go Down, a musical about the heroin trade in a maximum security prison. This generated the hit songs “Balloons & Mules,” “Cavity Searches (No Fun for Anyone),” and “ABC, Easy as GED.”

Toward the end of his career, O’Brien found a resurgence with a remake of the British show Spousal Privilege, about hitman Llewelyn Headstrong-Jones who tries to marry a witness who saw him carry out a murder.

In 1982, after suffering from exhaustion and a possible drug addiction – see “O’Brien and O’Caine; substantiated reports of Hollywood drug addiction” — O’Brien joined the French Foreign Legion under the nom de guerre “Ironbar Bassey.” He was later sued for defamation by Gary “Angry” Anderson who played said character in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and for licensing rights by George Miller — see “Anderson/Kennedy Miller Productions v. Lipshitz.”

During this period, O’Brien participated in the Chadian-Libyan conflict for two years before disappearing into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There he released a memoir, Dread Medicine, in which he purported to carry out covert military operations for the CIA; he was later sued by Chuck Barris and settled out of court — see “Chuck Barris Enterprises v. Lipshitz.”  Continue reading “Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“the barbie slasher” – Poetry by sally burnette

“the barbie slasher” is one of three terrifically twisted takes on famous dolls which sally burnette contributed to our Spring 2018 issue.

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IT’S SUMMER & THESE COOL TEENS ARE AT A PARTY // it’s this one girl’s birthday // you can tell from the blurry balloons // & tiered cake in the background // she chugs what is implied to be vodka // & there’s this soft flashback// to when she was a little girl

it was her birthday // she got angel face barbie & was so happy // innocent // wholesome // or whatever // & now she’s covered in glitter // & dancing suggestively to generic club music // which screeches & suddenly // everyone’s in slow motion for a few seconds //

the camera zooms in // & nestled in the shiny pile of gifts // is the same barbie from before // ! // except she’s like evil now // as evidenced by her red eyes // peering around menacingly

people start getting slashed // there’s blood all over the guy-whose-parents-are-in-cabo-for-the-weekend’s house // & eventually everyone escapes // or dies

except birthday girl // who was the primary target all along // but has somehow survived

she limps around the darkened silent mansion // & when she enters the kitchen // she encounters barbie wielding a sharpened stiletto heel // she grabs a knife & screams // they fight // & finally stab each other // it’s unclear who wins // because the screen blacks out // then flashes forward // to when the paramedics arrive

the camera pans first to the girl // waking up on a stretcher// then to barbie // decapitated

one red eye // twitches

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sally burnette is originally from North Carolina but currently lives in Boston, where they teach at Emerson. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nat. BrutBOAAT, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Calamus Journal, and Yes, Poetry.

“The Underworld is a Multiverse, and All Your Lovers Are Invited: Part 1 and 2” – Fiction by Laura Podolnick Dukhon

Haywain – Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1488

A woman discovers just how twisted Hell can be in “The Underworld is a Multiverse, and All Your Lovers Are Invited : Part 1 and 2,” Laura Podolnick Dukhon‘s demonically hilarious short story from our Spring 2018 issue.

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Part I: If You Break Hell It Only Gets Worse

I WANDERED INTO HELL BY MISTAKE, on a thunderstorm skulk while I cried and asked God questions. I paused for a moment and ducked into a warehouse, half-hoping to meet my doom and half-hoping to take a break from the rain. The ground split beneath me– smooth pavement separating to an obscene crack directly under my size three Converse high-tops, the crack then growing and sucking me in, enveloping me like a giant, jealous vagina.

Hell is a charade that takes place in a ballroom, and the cast comprises men who no longer love me and men who never did love me, dancing the tango, the foxtrot, the merengue, and a variety of other steps with nubile, big-eyed, dewy-limbed young women wearing slinky satin underthings and too much red lipstick.

Hell is round, so there are no corners in which to hide. My ex-paramours and not-quite-ever-paramours are dapper in tuxedoes and they are all sweet-smelling and cleanshaven. The one I’d taken to calling The Worst Person In The World waltzes by and gives me a wink. His hand, though still managing to hold an unfiltered cigarette, is conspicuously beneath the silky half-slip of his curly-haired dance-partner, who audibly hums a haunting tune that calls to mind requiems, ghosts, genocides.

P___ ignores my presence and is a poor dancer. At least there is that. The girl grasping onto his shoulders looks bored, as though she has been hired to be here. Y____ and I lock eyes for a horrible moment and tears well on both sides, but then he looks down and looks up, all while wiggling a violent tarantella. His partner appears nonplussed, so I want to punch her for her insolence. W___ does not remember who I am. His cha-cha could use work.

A__ comes over to talk. He first whispers to his partner, who crosses her arms and rolls her eyes. He runs over and asks if I am okay. “Considering this is Hell, I’m peachy,” I reply. He seems surprised to know that we are in Hell. I direct him to the sign over the refreshment table: Welcome to Hell, it reads in a fancy script. “I have to get back,” A__ says, pointing to his irritated partner across the room. I nod.

The walls are garish, baroque, pale orange and pink sherbet swirls and curlicues. The carpet is a periwinkle floral. The chandeliers make everything just a little too bright and a little too yellow.

I begin to dance awkwardly, alone, moving towards the center of the room. I feel the girls all staring at me, judging my inappropriate attire, my unkempt hair, my dripping mascara, my tired face. They all glower from stiletto-heeled heights, and their high, neat ponytails flick like whips upon every turn. I figure it is Hell, so there aren’t really any rules of etiquette to break, and it can’t get any worse, so I resolve to make a scene. Now in the middle of the floor, I slither out of my coat, my corduroys, my Henley, my shoes, my sweater, my socks, my unattractive underwear, until I am fully naked. I look to the mirrored ceiling and there I am, pink and shiny, raw, like a scar. The room has moved away from me and I am alone at the center, writhing, naked, arms out, looking up. I am in Hell, so it follows that the rules of physics do not apply, so I try to breathe fire from my mouth. It works. The girls who were laughing at me stop laughing. The gentlemen look less aghast now and more afraid. I shoot blasts of smoke from my nose and I fart tear gas from my very butt. Everyone is coughing and covering their faces, to protect themselves from my glare, my noxiousness. I make swords grow from my fingertips and scales and horns sprout from my back. I commission six tails, each with a dragon’s head, and my nipples are miniature machine guns, delicate, pink. Just when I start thinking that Hell is a lot nicer when I am not the only one having a bad time, the fire alarm goes off and all my exes file out, each holding another girl’s hand. I join the end of the line, but when I get to the double doors, I cannot fit all my new body parts. I try to undo them, but they don’t go. Hell, apparently, does not allow subtraction. The dragon heads on my tails bite each other, and it hurts. I stumble over to the refreshment table and pour myself a cup of coffee. There is no milk.

Continue reading “The Underworld is a Multiverse, and All Your Lovers Are Invited: Part 1 and 2” – Fiction by Laura Podolnick Dukhon

“The Virus Shaves Her Legs” – Poetry by Katie Longofono

Woman With Stole – Jean Dupas, 1929

“The Virus Shaves Her Legs” is one of four gritty & enthralling poems by Katie Longofono in our Spring 2018 issue.

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ITCHING FURIOUSLY TO BE SMOOTH
like every woman
on the subway, she soaks
for 3 hours and sands down
to the skin. The virus is shocked
at how much it bleeds,
like her shins are crying out.
Must take some nerve
to go naked after dressing
with such intention — she grew
a stole at first to repulse
desire, covering herself
in animal skins and furs
lusty for red paint, and kept them
for the luxurious feel. Slick
and wiry, a boar or a mink.
The virus was a crop
of cacti or dragonfruit,
whatever spike goes right
to your head, she was dying
to get under your skin. Now
she takes off the armor,
goes raw and rightfully
invites you, if you want to
come in.

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KATIE LONGOFONO received her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, where she directed the 2014 SLC Poetry Festival. She is the co-founder and co-curator of WEIRDD, an inclusive monthly reading series that honors weird, rigorous poetry with loving kindness, as well as compensation for their art. She also co-produces AmpLit Fest in partnership with Lamprophonic and Summer on the Hudson. She previously co-founded and curated Dead Rabbits Reading Series 2014-17. Longofono is the author of three chapbooks:  Angeltits (Sundress Publications 2016), Honey and Bandages (co-authored with Mary Stone; Folded Word Press 2015), and The Angel of Sex (Dancing Girl Press, 2013). Her work has appeared in The Boiler JournalTinderbox Poetry JournalBOAATglitterMOB, South Dakota Review, Juked, Slipstream, and more. She lives in Brooklyn.

“If You Water a Horse” – Poetry by Abigail Welhouse

Corncob Horse in Outer Space – Maria Primachenko, 1978

“If You Water a Horse” is one of three exquisitely offbeat poems by Abigail Welhouse in our Spring 2018 issue.

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IF  YOU  WATER  A  HORSE,
flowers will grow from its spine.
They will die if you pick them. If they live, they will grow
into water lilies as large as goldfish aquariums,
then into beanstalks you will climb to giants.

If you dry off a horse, the desert will give you a message.
You will know when you find sand in your boots.
When you empty them, you will uncover a tree.
The tree is a gift from the giants.

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photo by Jason Koo

ABIGAIL WELHOUSE is the author of Bad Baby (dancing girl press), Too Many Humans of New York (Bottlecap Press), and Memento Mori (a poem/comic collaboration with Evan Johnston). Her poems have been published in The ToastYes PoetryGhost Ocean Magazine, and elsewhere. Subscribe to her Secret Poems at tinyletter.com/welhouse.