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

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“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.)

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“THE WITCH’S CAT GETS GROUNDED”

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.

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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.

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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
waiting.

{ 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.

“Hatred.”

“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 }

THE BEARDED LADY
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 }

THE WITCH COLLECTS
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