“First Souls” – Fiction by Cameron Suey

Head of a Sick Man - Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1917
Head of a Sick Man – Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1917

From our Summer 2016 issue, “First Souls” is Cameron Suey‘s tantalizingly twisted tale of pandemics, gut flora, and folie à deux.
(And hear Cameron read the story & discuss it with Ilana Masad, check out episode 91 of The Other Stories podcast!)

{ X }

THE WAITRESS BRINGS US OUR COFFEE, dishwater pale murk in cracked porcelain cups. Behind the thin surgical mask, her face is unreadable, but her gaze flicks from me to my companion and back again before she leaves without a word. Mickey watches her go and then fixes his eyes on me. For a long moment, the silence continues, as our eyes confirm what our hearts seemed to know the instant we passed on the street.

“Okay, Dale,” he says, his voice hoarse and still raw, like my own. There is an accent I can’t place – perhaps a district on the other side of the city. “I’m going to ask you a couple of questions, but I think I already know the answers.”

I pick up the coffee, finding it smells as weak and thin as it looks, and contemplate taking an exploratory swig. Around us the few lunchtime patrons of the dingy coffee shop are listlessly eating, lifting up paper masks to shovel in crumbling and greasy burgers, backsides squeaking on red vinyl seats. Those that aren’t eating are staring at us, at our uncovered faces.

“Okay,” I say, “Shoot.”

“You had the sick. But you didn’t report it, or go to quarantine like you were supposed to. Didn’t tell anyone.”

I nod, scared to say out loud that I’d broken the law, and willing him to lower his voice. He smiles a little, showing one blackened and rotting canine.

“Yeah. Me too, I mean, obviously. Look at us. We still look like shit. But, you got better. They say 1 in 10 do, and you took the chance. No family, no close friends, you weren’t worrying about passing the sick along. Or maybe too scared to let that stop you.”

I nod again, excitement and night terror churning in my gut. I knew all this when we first saw each other this morning, that he and I were the same.

I came out of my office building, fighting the paranoia and nausea that had plagued me since my recovery, pulling my necktie loose. I couldn’t be around my coworkers, couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Guilt from ignoring the quarantine, from lying, but something else. Something wrong in every pair of eyes. Ever since the fever broke, and I lay awake and sweating in my bed, the sheets clinging to me, I knew something had changed. That feeling is worse than the sick ever was.

Mickey was just outside my office building, crouched on the edge of a planter box. He was sucking a cigarette down to an ashen nub, and dressed in torn jeans and a stained green nylon jacket, worn thin by time. Our eyes met and I froze, held in place like two sparking nodes of an electric arc.

“We should talk,” was all he’d said, and he led me here, to this grim and filthy diner.

“So,” he continues, “We were sick, we hid it, we got better. But it’s not really better is it? There’s something wrong.”

“Yeah…” I croak, and take another mouthful of bitter coffee. “Something’s wrong. But… I don’t think… it’s not with us.”

“No,” he smiles in agreement, the black tooth sliding into view, “Not us.”

Two hours ago I was convinced I was going mad. Now, I am not alone. I could cry, the relief is so great.

Continue reading “First Souls” – Fiction by Cameron Suey

“Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” – Poetry by Joseph P. O’Brien

ClaraBowBoxFrom our Summer 2016 issue, “Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” is Joseph P. O’Brien‘s poetic tribute to the original “It Girl.”

{ X }

YOU CAN FEEL HER, though you don’t really see her
today. (If you do, it’s probably Betty Boop anyway.)
But when we talk about “It,” we talk about Clara.
All the stars and starlets since just play a game
of tag she started. What is IT? IT’s what the French
call “I don’t know what,” but cutting out
all the bullshit in the middle.

It’s being born in a Brooklyn heat wave, the caboose in a train
of miscarriages, looking death in the face and winking.
It’s growing up with girls maligning your poor clothes,
so you hide inside sweaters and hang with the boys
(your famous right arm could lick any one of ’em)
until your womanhood makes boyhood impossible.

It’s keeping warm with your mom on cold nights
by crying in each other’s arms, until you wake to a butcher
knife at your throat– epilepsy induced psychosis,
the doctors say when dad commits mom, and eventually
it kills her. It’s calling your mourning relatives ‘hypocrites’
at mom’s funeral right before you jump into her grave.

It’s finding romance, nobility, and glamour on the silver screen,
but thinking the actors queer & stilted, not at all how you’d do it,
so you make your bedroom a one-woman circus, star
in your own mirror movies, til Hollywood can no longer ignore
your genuine spark, your divine fire, and you steal the
show as an undercover tomboy. It’s never facing a means to pretend,
no secrets from the world, it’s trusting through dangerous eyes. Continue reading “Clara Bow is In Your Face but You Can’t Grab Her” – Poetry by Joseph P. O’Brien

“Polaroid of a Man in Love” – Fiction by Darley Stewart

Reclining Nude - Paul Cezanne, 1887
Reclining Nude – Paul Cezanne, 1877

Sensuality & brutality collide in “Polaroid of a Man in Love,” Darley Stewart‘s powerful & disturbing shard of impressionistic flash fiction from our Summer 2016 issue.

{ X }

{ 1 }

AS MUCH AS I WANT TO STAY IN THIS SEMI-DOMESTIC SCENE, the pink of the sun rises and infects the clouds. And I am afraid to be alone and stuck in one scene for too long. My mind wanders — often. It runs against good reason. I am afraid more than anything to be alone with my own mind. I know enough to know that I need a woman around, it can even be a girl, she can pick up and fold my socks, or she can suck me until I go blind, she can do mostly whatever she wants unless I am in a very dominant mood, but mostly, mostly, I am gone.

{ 2 }

I believe this is what has made my paintings successful. I watched her slow murder unfold. It was slower than I ever thought murder could be. I can take a polaroid of it for you. Polaroids were popular in the summer of the year she was murdered. The polaroid version is that I was fourteen years old. My mother had died from cancer, leaving me with my tyrannical father and tall, angry brother who excelled at everything he touched, athletics, women, whatever he wanted. I won a scholarship to paint, and I went off to Italy. My father grudgingly acknowledged the genius in me — said to me, quietly one night, you’re a talented fag aren’t you. I painted but I was also lured off to a part of Italy that had nothing to do with the scholarship or the program or the students. A part of Italy that had to do with a girl set against a coastal landscape. I had my first taste of coffee, good bread, and I went to the sea every morning to see her, at first from a distance. She was my age, and she liked to greet the morning without her shirt on. Her breasts were the first I had seen and touched. They were small, perfect. Her deeply tanned skin melted into the palm of my hand. Later in the day she showed me how to catch fish with wide nets. It was unfortunate but the coast was rocky, and by sunset her head was crushed against the rocks by two strong older men. They took turns with her dead body. They forced me to watch. Then I ran away. I never saw them again.

{ 3 } 

I watch her — she is sleeping. She has her dramas, as all young women do, and she is twenty, so she is expected to have them, but what is especially boring about hers — aside from the fact that she is compelled to share them — is that she attempts, in all her dramas, to be the mature one who waits things out. I find it boring that she is as middle-aged as I am. She is very tall — her name is Mildred. Mildred, a name that brings to mind both mildew and dread. Mildred grew up in Ohio before she claims to have grown up in Tribeca and was coaxed into modeling at the age of seventeen. Since then she has earned her spot this winter season as fashion’s “it” girl and she has been parading in white cable knit sweaters and see-through panties, her pubis glittering distantly behind meshed fabric, on billboards in Soho and Times Square. Continue reading “Polaroid of a Man in Love” – Fiction by Darley Stewart

“Mange” – Fiction by Cyndisa Coles-Harris

Wild_coyoteMysterious coyotes & ominous heat lightning inhabit “Mange,” Cyndisa Coles-Harris‘ surreal, semi-apocalyptic tale from our Summer 2016 issue.

{ X }

SKINNY COYOTE, WILD WITH MANGE, won’t stop rubbing up against the northwest corner of this house’s foundation.  She leaves rucked tufts of red-silver hair, scabs caught at the edge where the siding meets the cinderblock.

Some nights there’s heat lightning over Lake Los Angeles.  Heat lightning has no color and makes no sound.  You see the light, and you feel a fraction of a second’s gap in the air around you.  Time and the possibility of breathing; that’s where the thunder is.  No sound, but there’s a crack in time and in the air.  I stand out on the back porch and watch the clouds strobe, and I kick the loose hair free of the house’s northwest corner.

And sometimes I think that coyote is Cinderella or Snow White or anyway is somehow enchanted, is trying to set me up for something.  I should collect her hair and spin it on a spinning wheel.  I should stock up on silver bullets.  Something.

In this season, I let my backyard hose drip under the last living Joshua tree day and night.  I feel like I have to.  I didn’t kill the rest, I didn’t make the ungodly heat, I didn’t make my own tree the last one.  It’s only, I’ve been here long enough that I feel responsible somehow.

Once, in a September as hot as this one but years ago, I saw a roadrunner loping circles along the shoulder of the highway, staggering.  Out of its mind, that bird, dying of thirst.  If the coyote is Snow White, then I could’ve called a dying roadrunner the prince, except that these things happened in the wrong order.  The roadrunner stumbled in and out of my life ages ago, before all the rest of the desert died of the heat, long before the coyote started leaving clumps of her filthy hair at the corner of my house.  So I never thought to call that bird a prince.  I missed my chance, missed half the myth.

{ X }

I watch cartoons when the aerial is working.  Often it doesn’t; something in the weather out here sends noise down the wire to the screen, so it snows most days.  Not outside, not ever; this place was always desert, even before the drought.  But it snows on the screen.  Cable out here is expensive, I can’t pay bills with coyote hair.  But like I say, the problem with the aerial is atmospheric.  I’ve learned that if the television is working by noon, then there’ll be heat lightning at night, so it’s useful for guessing the weather, at least.  And when I can, I watch cartoons.

There’s just the one station, and they show cartoons.  Only the coyote and roadrunner.  There are six or seven of these manic short films, and they play on a loop.  Cliff, slingshot, TNT, poor coyote, over and over.  Either the station only broadcasts those six, seven cartoons on a loop, or else it airs more and different things, but if so it’s one hell of a coincidence: always coyote and roadrunner playing when the snow stops and the screen functions.

Then at night there’s heat lighting, and every flash brings that silent gasp of thunder.  Always, the moment, and then the moment’s gone and there’s sound and space again.

{ X }
Continue reading “Mange” – Fiction by Cyndisa Coles-Harris

“After Lincoln, Nebraska” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

Nebraska on the Plain - Albert Bierstadt, 1911
Nebraska, On the Plain – Albert Bierstadt, 1863

“After Lincoln, Nebraska” is one of two haunting yet beautiful Springsteen-inspired poems that Devin Kelly contributed to our Summer 2016 issue.

{ X }

& made our killing into love.

That time I went, sawed-off,
through the back door while you

charmed the checkout clerk
for some bread. I want to say

love’s real fun, but I don’t know
what came first – that smile

you cheeked while I peeked down
your blouse to find the wad of bills

you robbed like the sunlight stolen
in your hair,  or the kiss of your knee on

mine as we drove all night under
big moon & stars & some

good or evil god. We was something
else, road kill resurrected in dust

& the light of blue sky. I deserve
the chair for all the killing I’ve done,

but there was that day in Missoula
where you took the green you’d been

keeping & bought me a suit all paisley
& pink & used the rest on a dress

that made you bloom & twirl without
my helping. You took my hand & we pretended

we weren’t running. We waltzed our time,
whistle-cooled diner coffee on my dime,

told the waitress we were married
& expecting. Nothing is realer than

an honest lie. & nothing’s more fun.
God’s a good lie. & even God knows –

you can chew fat & still stay thin
& love is both a blessing & a sin.

{ X } Continue reading “After Lincoln, Nebraska” – Poetry by Devin Kelly

“Warlock” – Poetry by William Lessard

Guardian of the Entrance - Nicholas Roerich, 1927
Guardian of the Entrance – Nicholas Roerich, 1927

Any sufficiently advanced technology, as Arthur C. Clarke said, is indistinguishable from magic. And sometimes, advanced technology can be so maddening it’s indistinguishable from black magic– kind of like in “Warlock,” one of four bewitching poems by William Lessard in our Summer 2016 issue.

{ X }

user: not found
someday my magic
will be perfect,
my spells
not a question
the right conjuring
this world
a sad
trying to remember
is it
my mother’s
maiden name
my best friend
at school
turns enemies
tree frogs,
makes gold
across my palm
I will not yield
I will not
Warlock Tech Support
to the middle
your favorite song
I am the warlock
you forget
during commercials
one day
I will lift
will kiss

{ X }

Continue reading “Warlock” – Poetry by William Lessard

“So Much for the Sound of a Starboard Warp Whistle” – Poetry by Jessie Janeshek

Peacock and Crocodile - Maria Primachenko, 1937
Peacock and Crocodile – Maria Primachenko, 1937

No poet has contributed more pieces to our weird little zine than Jessie Janeshek, and we’re ecstatic to have five of her marvelous, mystical poems in our Summer 2016 issue. One of those poems, “So Much for the Sound of a Starboard Warp Whistle,” is below, and you can read the rest by purchasing FLAPPERHOUSE X in print or digital (PDF) editions. (And if you’re in the NYC-area on August 3rd, you can come hear Jessie perform at FLAPPERHOUSE Reading #9 at Brooklyn’s Pacific Standard!)

{ X }

I NEED THE PURENESS                                          that’s hard on the kidneys
              a blue faux leather jacket                                         your unused breasts.

              I need white paper                                          five years of service
shuffling the room                       in Ouija board shoes

              striped socks thinking of you              the dead cat on the mattress
a peacock for sickness           its noose on my ankle.

                                                     You said we were headed       for doom or the door
the saint’s wheel an orange brain                                  too much in one basket.

                                I’m not learning the rain
                                one black knot in our aspect

but let’s plan a murder                                                                          for when you get stuck
              hearing that sex                                                       or the light clears your head.

                                Depression is lazy                                I hate all the babies
              morality plays                       in a foreign language.

                                      I let the door crack                    for a merman-shaped angel
                            a sweetheart-grip gun.

                                                                         I build asylum
                                with thick wooden blocks                      one finger in

                   my seizing crotch.                         My eye sockets jingle
                                              a sunshine          a gingham-skirt suicide

                    so much our monster                   ascends metaphor
                                                                your red and white candle
                                                                                   removing its jinx.

{ X } Continue reading “So Much for the Sound of a Starboard Warp Whistle” – Poetry by Jessie Janeshek

Beyond-the-Grave Buzz for FLAPPERHOUSE X!

XSome of literature’s deadest legends are buzzing about our latest issue, FLAPPERHOUSE X (now available in print & digital PDF editions)!

If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it. If you have got it, you can’t hide it. And let me tell you, FLAPPERHOUSE X has truckloads of it. And not only that, if you don’t have it, then  FLAPPERHOUSE X will give some of it to you.” – Zora Neale Hurston

“When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathe News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since had been anticlimax– until I read FLAPPERHOUSE X!” – Flannery O’Connor

“I’ve lived my whole life thinking of myself as the only real man. And if I’m right, then a limpid, lonely horn is going to trumpet through the dawn some day, and a turgid cloud laced with light will sweep down, and the poignant voice of glory will call for me from the distance — and I’ll have to jump out of bed and set out alone. That’s why I’ve never married, and why I sleep every night cradling a copy of FLAPPERHOUSE X in my arms.” – Yukio Mishima

“bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!” – James Joyce


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