Tag Archives: Winter 2016 (#8)

“a Stone and a Cloud” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

The Familiar World - Rene Magritte, 1958
The Familiar World – Rene Magritte, 1958

The grand finale of our Winter 2016 issue is Brendan Byrne‘s “a Stone and a Cloud,” an unforgettable short story of modern alienation & techno-anxiety. But not only is this story your last look at FLAPPERHOUSE #8– it’s also your first look at the forthcoming anthology by the esteemed Dark Mountain Project, in which “a Stone & a Cloud” will be reprinted later this Spring.

{ X }

THE FIRST TIME I MET CLARE SHE TOLD ME SHE DIDN’T WANT TO BE HUMAN ANYMORE. She didn’t tell me verbally or via backchat, but from the way she tilted her head when I introduced myself, her lips pressing together, her eyes vacating, as if she was trying to imagine herself inside me, somewhere past the skin, the skull, and the meat. And then there is the fact that Artur introduced us.


An Open Field. You stand in it, and the background blurs. A thick sheen of rain obscures the horizon, or maybe your eyesight fails to serve the level of detail around you. Like a ’70s film on an HD screen, you can see more than you’re capable of being comfortable with. You sit; the grass underneath you supports you unquestioningly. Your hands hover in front of you: they want to do nothing, cracked and aching as they are. You lay back; you are supported perfectly, the mound of your lower back fitting with the slope of the land. You ever so faintly arch. Are you on an incline? It is such a gradual gradient that you would never notice. The sky above you is woven with soft gray clouds and their manatee offspring. They truck slowly across. There is no threat, though you know it must rain often enough; the land is too green. The field reminds you of somewhere you have never been but have read about online, someplace authentic, someplace where you can be yourself, a place free of politics and anxiety. You twitch, sleeping with your eyes open, but you don’t need to dream: the clouds pass above.


“You don’t look like a videogame designer.”

“What does one look like?”

This conversation, she’d say later, had been repeated endlessly. The guy shrugged, his ice cubes trying to crawl out of his cocktail. He wasn’t embarrassed, but he didn’t have an answer. I could have answered: not so blank, not so restful.

Instead I asked her which games she’d designed. When she told me, I was surprised to find that I’d played one, and told her so. “It has decent market penetration among your population.” She said it cold and slow enough that she could have been reading it off a spreadsheet. She didn’t give me any body language.

Not knowing what else to say, I introduced myself. The guy with the ice cubes looked at me indolent and aggressive as a medium-sized cat, and she said to me, “Artur was telling me I should talk to you.”

“About what?”

She didn’t respond immediately; she was still looking at my face. The guy with the ice cubes began saying something, so I nodded once, raised my glass of cheap white wine and walked away. I drifted to the edge of the roof; the scrum of people got thicker. They surrounded the bar, though nobody was getting drinks, just admiring the rough, dark wood, the brass scalloping, rough and warped; it had just been salvaged from the captain’s stateroom on a recently decommissioned destroyer and bolted into the roof. Someone in engineering tried to explain the process to me but eventually gave up, lacking reassurance. I wondered if any of Artur’s people self-styled as a woodsmith; Artur certainly didn’t. They were probably going to hire some artisanal Brooklyn guy with a superior website and beard to come in and spend several weeks imaginatively restoring it.

I walked to the opposite side of the roof. There was no one there, just the skyline. I could be impressed by it, if I let myself. I turned and looked back to where Clare was standing, next to a kind of plant I’d never seen before. Artur was there, wide and short and game in his perversion of business casual. They both looked at me. He grinned and waved me over. I mimed a grin, drained my glass and left the party.


She stood almost six foot. Her hair was short cut, yellow as a digital rendering of straw. Her avi was a collapse of autumnal humus, undergrowth that looked like it had been churned in some herbivore’s stomach sacs and exuded. She wore no jewelry. Her social was protected; I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t send a follower request. She’d been wearing a tortoise-shell shirt, shellacked like the animal’s skin. Her fingers were thin.


NYU MFA ’10, she’d done a game as her thesis. Assemblyline Worker #5697 @ Apple Plant #72, Guangdong Province! was released right before Steam launched its OS X platform, leaving it just underexposed enough to become culty. “There was a vogue toward boring the player,” she said in an interview two years later.  “This was, I think, partially lifted from the Contemporary Contemplative Cinema movement, which was at high tide then. Indie gamers wanted to suffer for their play. I was happy to help them. And the Foxconn suicides were in the news. Apple backlash was kicking up. Jobs wasn’t dead yet. It seemed obvious. I could do it, so I did it, and then it was just this thing, outside of me. I let it stay there.”

Continue reading “a Stone and a Cloud” – Fiction by Brendan Byrne

“The Witch’s Cat Gets Grounded” – Poetry by E.H. Brogan

Black Cat (Kuroki Neko) - Hishida Shunso, 1910
Black Cat (Kuroki Neko) – Hishida Shunso, 1910

“The Witch’s Cat Gets Grounded” is just one of four magically mischievous poems that E.H. Brogan contributed to our Winter 2016 issue. (And to hear a recording of E.H. reading her poem, check out the Soundcloud file embedded below the text.)

{ X }


Or at least soon he will be. For now still stuck up
in that tree, actually, and meowing up a storm.
He isn’t happy, and sure would like to know she knows.
She ain’t happy neither, he’s an indoor cat all twenty-four and
seven usual hours but one great date & there’s
the witch already forgetting to grab her pails brim-full with responsibilities,
today she clanked an empty pot down on the stove, gas
cranked, forgot it and walked off. Then the smell of burning.
Trying to bring the house down, witch, were we?
Letting the damn curious cat out and then leaving?
Him outside alone, what was she thinking – was
she thinking? He’s such an oldest child, she thinks when she can
do it through her panic using humor, hope this gets him
enough attention, up two stories in a no-limb cannot-
shimmy-up-it tree and crying to her constantly
while she, below, gets busy doing all the little
things that she can dream to do, none of which are helping.
In order she keeps sitting, smoking, offering up treats, talking
like he kens human. Crying. Calling every possible department.
Writing poems. Then, repeating.

{ X } Continue reading “The Witch’s Cat Gets Grounded” – Poetry by E.H. Brogan

“Post-It Notes Left by Failed Actors” – Poetry by Ian Kappos

New York Movie - Edward Hopper, 1939
New York Movie – Edward Hopper, 1939

The dada-esque collage of “Post-It Notes Left by Failed Actors” is one of three wonderfully weird poems by Ian Kappos in our Winter 2016 issue.

{ X }

MOVIE—FOUND IN THE “LIES” SECTION, w/ all the pickled would-have-beens. “PG”; sugary, oratory. All the kings dead; the documentaries digress, amnesiac. Foreground: Lao Tsung clip-notes, predating his resumé (drafted by his progenitors). This coming after the “talkies” & before the color, & w/ the low keening death of the word, drowning in the shower, we all choke down the synonyms & stem cells.

{ X }

His words are pharaoh: anything of worth uttered to anyone will live on in pages pickled in ink, maybe moths. Tombs rise & births conspire belowground. Three pages for every worm. A novella of creepy crawlies yearning for a translator that dies at first breath.

{ X }

Curled nose at the dawn: she wants the kind of weather that’ll inspire her to stay inside & watch Rosemary’s Baby, so she can soak up the hellfire without baring her skeleton to the sun, to the sons. To the daughters of the sky. The infidelity of the screen scorches her, reassuringly.

—Is this American Romanticism? she thinks. —Or does the fair-haired angel-child lie beneath my boxspring? is he giggling, egging me on to wait it all out in the trenches? until I contract tuberculosis? until my friends scramble out of their hoods to time-share my static gaze? until I am a poet?

{ X }

He is made of mesh: awake, he quakes into being some new moths. The janitor. He doesn’t dreams of brooms; he dreams of railyards, just past noon, & the cargo which he wakes up knowing is you & me. That is when he wakes up & takes up his chant, beating the moths from the cats’ mouths.

{ X }

An inconvenient crew: They will be your ushers at the movie theater, & you won’t feel sorry for them that their legs are distorted & stunted. You won’t because their eyes are projectors & you are entranced. They will handicap you. The credits roll.

{ X } Continue reading “Post-It Notes Left by Failed Actors” – Poetry by Ian Kappos

“Lazuli” – Poetry by Joanna C. Valente

Waiting - Aubrey Beardsley, 1893
Waiting – Aubrey Beardsley, 1893

“Lazuli” is one of five spellbinding poems by Joanna C. Valente in our Winter 2016 issue. This is the third of those poems that we’ve posted online; you can read the other two (“The Sun Rises Over Manhattan and Sets in Brooklyn” and “The Hierophant Builds a Bridge Between Deity and Humanity”) in FLAPPERHOUSE #8, or in Joanna’s spectacular tarot-inspired collection The Gods Are Dead.

{ X }

GOD TOLD ME he wanted to create
a lovelier girl of auburn and ivory
laying her feet in an apple orchard

near a house on the hill where bodies
float in the heart and lungs of her family

channeling lavender soaked memories
and the uterus’ of virgins who have
too many “feels” & now

i’m standing outside a restaurant
in the cold and a man comes up

to me, says i wouldn’t keep you
waiting. he has always kept me

{ X } Continue reading “Lazuli” – Poetry by Joanna C. Valente

“Meets All Conditions” – Fiction by Kalpana Negi

The Voice - Barnett Newman, 1950
The Voice – Barnett Newman, 1950

A woman’s obsessive search for purity drives  “Meets All Conditions,”   Kalpana Negi‘s intriguingly surreal short fiction from our Winter 2016 issue.

{ X }

THE ORDER OF THE THINGS WAS TO MAINTAIN UTMOST PURITY. The obsession so pathological, neurotic, crazy and fanatic and infused with a hyperbole stretched so far that it laughed at its own ridiculousness. Purity: A non-existing black hole, milk curdled with sourness and floating in whey—undefined, disbanded, scattered. A bad joke constructed to collapse on a passer-by. That’s why when she was told she needed a “pure” box, Gita simply threw a fit. She slapped that woman Mala on the face, pulled her from the cushy chair and dragged her out of the house.

“I swear I can help you!” But Mala was standing on the porch by now. As a woman, that word exploded a bomb within Gita, its hidden connotations angered her. But it had to be found, the pure box, it was important for her survival now. The dew drops of reasoning cooled her head and she thought about it calmly.

“Do you mean anything that can be touched, felt or seen?” But it was not the box she was talking about.

“That’s right.” Mala was back again on Gita’s invitation.

Because the bigger problem than finding a pure box for it was to know whether what she wanted to sell was eligible at all. A person’s voice could certainly not be touched, felt or seen. Not in orthodox ways at least.

“Of course it can be!” Mala pressed Gita’s hand, as if trying to squeeze a nod out of her. “Watch this.” She made a small ringlet with her lips and emitted a sound. What started as a hiss and developed into a whistle became a roar that could not be likened to any sound that existed on the planet. Like a flute that starts off easy and loses its temper. That sound broke a few glasses, invited bursts of loud and nasty comments from the neighbors and proved its point. “You see what I mean?”

But Gita was unconvinced. A wave sneaks into your brain through a tiny, inverted, snugly fitted loudspeaker in the ear canal and unsettles sleeping toddler-like tiny hair. Result? Voices you hear. How can a thing like that be touched, felt or seen? Gita continued to argue within herself and out. “But you know, I would say, even sorrow, happiness and anger are more tangible than voice. What did you sell?” Gita picked up a biscuit and bit on it with her slightly protruded teeth, wanting to really hear than be heard.


“Very wise.”

“Well, it was in high demand back then. Now everyone has it and no one wants it. They even have software.”

“Does hatred need a ‘pure’ box too?”

“No.” Of course not. Hatred can’t be infected with love. Hatred, like poison, turns everything into itself.

Continue reading “Meets All Conditions” – Fiction by Kalpana Negi

“Two Torsos Don’t Make a Heart” – Poetry by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Carnival Figures - Rene Portocarrero, 1952
Carnival Figures – Rene Portocarrero, 1952

Hurry hurry, step right up, folks, and marvel at the carnival of curious characters in “Two Torsos Don’t Make a Heart,” one of two stupendous poems by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens in our Winter 2016 issue.

{ X }

sang in an all-girl church choir,
her demented alto,
a Bobby Darin croon
put men to sleep in funeral suits.

She commands presence on stage
while clowns, those colorful
killers, pick at ukuleles.
What midnight ritual is this?

Her vocal chords, ham hocks,
Her cheeks overflow with rosy,
the drips and drops
of doo-wop spills out over
her praying lips. This

prayer is a cake donut,
meticulously heated by a
nacreous blur glaze,
a Hallmark card of
unicorn shards.

Who could ever slay that
beast? The strong man.
One morning they awoke beside
the barn, full-bellied;
a man of great size,
he took his place in the arena.

He slept his way to the top.
Children’s shoes over size 10 are
considered large.
He is just one big child, but
possesses great heart.

He is a satellite falling toward earth,
a meteor sat down to lunch,
down, down, down, face, beard,
muscles, muscles, thigh, thigh,
muscles, big black boots.

The earth is dangerous
for someone who looks dangerous.
Gravity points in one direction.
Dawn like so many orange
and red fingers flickering across the

horizon and yet, the child sees
the dirt more clearly in the light
from the front row footlights.

She possesses astute
wisdom. Tiny, tiny insight.

{ X } Continue reading “Two Torsos Don’t Make a Heart” – Poetry by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

“Witch Collections” – Poetry by E.H. Brogan

Witch - Theodor Severin Kittelsen, 1892
Witch – Theodor Severin Kittelsen, 1892

“Witch Collections” is one of four wickedly enchanting poems by E.H. Brogan in our Winter 2016 issue. (And to hear a recording of E.H. reading her poem, check out the Soundcloud file embedded below.)

{ X }

warpaint over
the years, ancient
bottles of woad and slim
pine needles. Some spells must
be drilled into the muscle of
the heart. Some curses want
a large black dot, it’s
required – some wounds must amass
scar tissue in sleepy hoards if
they ever hope to finish
what they’re healing.

{ X } Continue reading “Witch Collections” – Poetry by E.H. Brogan

“The Nest of His Love” – Fiction by Jon Savage

Kennedy Motorcade - Audrey Flack, 1964
Kennedy Motorcade – Audrey Flack, 1964

A boy navigates early-60’s America raised by his damaged veteran father in “The Nest of His Love,” Jon Savage‘s exquisitely brutal contribution to our Winter 2016 issue.

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’62 was the year My Old Man retired from the Army, and without the daily routine of the service, he took up a series of habits—wrapping his lips around a bottle of hard liquor like he puckered-up for a kiss; cleaning his pistol during the night’s late hours in the strobing light of our color TV while telling a story about the wars that still raged in his mind; and last of all—smoking through packs of Embassy’s, complaining about their new filtered cigarettes, about how he had to try too hard and always got too little.

A Mode of Crisis

Near the end of ’62, My Old Man talked about the Russians a lot. He went on about Soviet Scud-A missiles and the spread of Red across hemispheres. He drank beer and screamed at the nightly newscasts. Lost control and waved his pistol around while shouting, You think Stalin is dead, you mother fuckers between puffs of his Embassy’s.

Then, in October, it happened. The face of John Fitzgerald Kennedy flashed across our television screen. He talked like a steady drum. He said the Soviets were moving missiles.

My Old Man never stopped to say I told you so. He took a series of precautions that bled into the rules of our home, all in the case of disaster. My Mother was required to keep a certain ration of canned goods in the cabinets. We kept our shoes lined up near the front door. He backed the Buick into the driveway any time he returned from the hardware store to pick up more matches and candles.

This went on for almost two weeks—our family halfway out the door with cans of peas and navy beans in the crooks of our arms. My Old Man would run into the house with a whistle clinched between his teeth, blowing his alarm for an evacuation. He screamed like a gym coach. He yelled for us to move our asses as we hustled out the door cradling blankets and jugs of water.

And when the three of us were packed away in the Buick, My Old Man would put the keys in the ignition, check his watch, and say, That was slow. Lucky for us it wasn’t real.

A War Story

He said he’d seen four big, borsch-eating Ivans rip a Jerry limb-from-limb after the Kraut sonofabitch was found snoring-drunk in a liberated Belgium brothel. They tried to weasel some information out of the poor bastard, but the Kraut was drunker than a skunk, and the Ivans didn’t speak a lick of Deutsch. They put the Jerry’s own P38 to his head and shouted Roosky like it would make a difference.

They kept straight faces as they stripped him naked and dragged him through the street. They announced him to the freed citizens and the soldiers, paraded him around for the Belgians and the Tommies and the Americans and the other Ivans to spit on and kick. They threw him in the farm mud. Pushed his face in it. They rolled him around in it til he was coated with pig shit. They beat him for hours, til they got tired of playing around. Then they took hold of the Jerry’s arms and legs.

Continue reading “The Nest of His Love” – Fiction by Jon Savage

“The Sin of a Son” – Poetry by Innas Tsuroiya

My Son - Suzanne Valadon, 1896
My Son – Suzanne Valadon, 1896

Tenderness wrestles with taboo in “The Sin of a Son,” Innas Tsuroiya‘s  evocative poem from our Winter 2016 issue.

{ X }

SAVORING; HIS UNFLEDGED SKIN very squelchy by day

                                                                                                                            very pixilated by night

yours truly longed for soaking in there before dawn lit

and craved for an ostinato after dusk set


                    —we danced together as we melted

                    had the disarray sheet been plucked from our bed

he was that green and sweaty, so baby-like

could have been rakishly trapped in silky spider web

if I ever left him alone in the cruel sphere of tropical woods

in the search of a lost father and an unborn sister


but then he remembered my womb as the warmest place ever

so he cried in my left arm and snuggled into my right nipple

                    —whispered he, you look like a virgin, while viciously switching direction

                    to vice versa, compelling the storm to crash inside his body

he knew his innocuous eyes had tricked me into

                                                                                                            beguiling solicitation;

the coldest hell housing our sweet wrong

{ X }

Continue reading “The Sin of a Son” – Poetry by Innas Tsuroiya

“How Emma Jean Crossed the River” – Fiction by Shawn Frazier

Go Down Death - Aaron Douglas, 1927
Go Down Death – Aaron Douglas, 1927

A woman on the run from the Klan ends up on an otherworldly journey in “How Emma Jean Crossed the River,” Shawn Frazier‘s powerfully gothic short story from our Winter 2016 issue.

{ X }

“I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” —Socrates

FLASHLIGHTS SPREAD OVER THE WATER LIKE BRIGHT EYES. I ducked. Branches scratched at my legs and arms. The white devils still chased after my Jacob. I tumbled over fallen logs and fell down into the river. The current dragged me under. Quick. I saw so many poor souls stuck between rocks. If black folks knew what was buried in Darlington’s River, they stop holdin baptisms.

We was on our way home once we heard the hounds. We’s stompin through the wood, back from warnin folks that the Klan was comin.

“Emma Jean, go hide by the oak tree where we first kissed. I promise to be there.” Jacob told me. The fool—he called them Klan boys crackers. But I was proud—it was the first time I seen him hold his head up to white men. It was always Yes sir, no sir, and thank you sir before. Where would you like me to nail this sign? NO COLOREDS WANTED, sir.

Under the water. I seen one skeleton dressed in a suit and a woman in a nightgown holding a baby. A man in overalls had some flesh still on his face. He turned his head at me, seemed he grabbed the hem of my skirt. I pulled and pulled, for I don’t know. Til finally my skirt tore and I floated away and up to the surface where orange and brown leaves floated. I reached land and crawled to a patch’a oak tree. My face and my hair and clothes was wet and filthy with mud.

In the sky, the moon looked like a silver coin. And there was stars. I rested on land and stared at the twinklin. I smelt gardenias. Like a good bottle of perfume I once broke whilst cleanin a house. I wanted to be rid of that odor, but it grabbed a hold of me. A rattlesnake slithered in the gardenias and dashed off through the grass when it seen me.

I put my hand around a flower stem, but the petals fell. Each time I touch one, it died. The white petals crinkled and the perfume smell disappeared. I placed my hand on an oak tree, the leaves fell. Leaves turned yellow, brown and orange. The branches of the oak become toothpicks, stripped of their leaves.

An as I sat there, soakin wet, the moonlight shone out on a ship floating toward where I rested. Big black letters was scrawled on the ship’s surface: R.I. and a third word was all but washed away. There was a loud noise from the boat and the white sheets billowed out from the masts like clothes drying in the sun. A faceless boat covered by fog. Someone held a lantern. That ship dropped its anchor and the water splashed. And they pushed a bit of wood out onto the shore. A young colored boy came down the plank.  He read my name off a clipboard.

“Emma Jean, I apologize for coming so late. A storm came.” He made marks on his clipboard with a feather pen.

Bats hung beneath the ship’s railing. I stepped out from behind the oak.

“I am the ship’s captain, Henry.” Henry smiled—his teeth was cracked and yellow. He said, “Don’t be scared, Emma Jean.”

He wore a cotton blue navy uniform and had medals on his great coat. I never seen nobody, especially no colored, dressed so well unless it was for a funeral or he was headed to trial or it was a Sunday. A red carnation hung out his penny-shaped pocket. His swoll belly stuck out, strainin his coat buttons.

I whispered because I thought the Klan was still in the woods. “Did you see a man? He got on a pair of overalls. This tall,” I held up my hand, “and wears a hat. His name is Jacob.”

“Emma Jean, we are ready to go.”

“How you know who I am? What do you want? I am a married woman and my husband is out here with a rifle.” I lie about being married. I stepped away not sure what he wanted. A wind shook the leaves what was left on the oak.

And Henry said, “Poor thing, you look tired. Come with me. I will take you to where he went.”

I thought that why did Jacob leave me? He went where it was safe. Sure he would. If he was someplace safe, I would be there too with him. Continue reading “How Emma Jean Crossed the River” – Fiction by Shawn Frazier