BYTE-SIZED


LIT LITE FOR AN ACCELERATED CULTURE

Writers this issue: Lucie Aveliere, Chris Byrne, Greg Farnum, Bob Castle, Charles Langley, D. Renee Heslin, Andrew Gallix, and Thomas J. Miller




3 A. M. MAGAZINE welcomes the submission of short-shorts.






WITNESS
by Lucie Aveliere


Behind the window
steam framing her pressed lips
on a dying sunday
it is a scream, or, well, a yawn it seems
in her tired silent face.
The drops drumming on my rubber hood I watch,
helpless,
my boots in a puddle on the gravel path
her family life swallowed her.
My arms will remain dropped.
None the better, none the worse, not a word.

Lucie Avelière, a regular contributor to Hurluberlu, is the only female member of the neo-hydropathe group of young French writers. You can read her Pina Colada in our short fiction archive. “It’s like being in touch with fog”: this is how another 3AM writer, Kimberly Nichols, described her e-mail exchange with Lucie!


lucieaveliere@club.lemonde.fr



A GIANT STEP FOR BOYKIND
by Andrew Gallix


I blushed when she hitched up her skirt a little as she sat down, pinching the body-hugging material on either side of her broad hips between manicured thumb and forefinger. Seeing the hem run up those silky thighs beat the space race hands down, I’m telling you, more racy by far, light years ahead.

Andrew Gallix, a member of the neo-hydropathes, is assistant editor at 3 AM Magazine.


andrew@3ampublishing.com



BREAKFAST IN BED
(A SORT OF FABLE)

by Bob Castle


MJill stands by the master's bed. She is twenty-nine. She reads him the newspaper every morning since they have been married.

He tells her to stop. He feels ill. "You say that every day," she replies. The same symptoms every day. Weak pulse. Upset stomach. Headache between the eyes. He has not left the house in six months. Hasn't gone downstairs the last two.

"Should I phone the nurse to come over now?"

"What good will that do?" he snaps. "Will I stop worrying about the world?"

"Why do you worry?"

"Because it never goes away."

"The pain?"

"The world."

"Don't you feel better when I tell you what's going on?"

"I thought I wouldn't get upset, either. I'm sorry, dear."

"I'm sorry I can't make you better."

"I can't crap anymore."

"Don't say that."

"At least, not by myself."

"I thought we would get closer." She paused. "It's my age. You can't take me seriously. No one takes me seriously."

"I don't want to hear that." He flicked on the morning news on television. "I bet Lambert hasn't started breakfast."

"I'll go see."

"No. Check the Post and see if there's anything about the allegedly poor poor-box thief -- or is it the poor alleged poor-box thief? You first read it to me three days ago. Hacked up a parish priest. The lawyer offered an insanity plea."

Pages rustle. Not there. She checks The Times' second and third sections. Nothing.

"Wait!" He had seen something in a passing headline. "Go back a page. Yes. Read it." He turns down the television volume. "Read, read."

"Doctor Sued for Striking Patient," she starts. "Forget it. I thought it said that doctors were on strike." The volume goes up again, and a report is ending: "No end in sight."

"Neither is my breakfast," the master shouts. "What's keeping him? Oooh, listen: another fire. Give me the bell, I'll get his ass up here."

"Don't be so impatient."

"I'm starving"

He reviews his daily menu. Today. Phil and Sally Jesse. Daily News and the Journal. CNN at Noon. The Weather Channel. Oprah and Geraldo. The hour-and-a-half local news. World News Tonight. MacNeil/Lehrer Report. ESPN evening wrap-up. Larry King Live. The News at Ten. The News at Eleven. Nightline.

Lambert pushes open the door sideways and presents the morning repast. The tray bridges the master's lap. His wife lowers the volume but turns it back up when she realizes her mistake. Lambert retreats to the hallway. The master chomps. Political primaries choose candidates. Garbagemen picket while the trash overflows into the streets. In the city fifty burglaries per hour. Even the suburbs aren't safe from the strikes and the crime. The Mafia sports the last vestiges of capitalism. A five-four extra inning loss for one of the home teams. A star player from one of the sports has surgery to remove cartilage. A cold front bearing down on the entire coast.

"Enough," he groans. New pains in the gut. Can't finish the poached eggs and cinnamon toast. The television expires.

"You want me to read the funnies," Jill asks.

"It hurts to laugh."

"I'll go."

"You always do."

"Ring me if you have to go to the toilet."

"I wish."

She kisses him on the forehead and leaves with the tray.

***



"Bill Turner is at city hall for the report.”

“The county coroner has ruled millionaire Jack Thompson's death 'suspicious.' D.A. Lynn Conroy disclosed that Thompson had been ingesting poison for the last five years, possibly longer, with many of his meals. Assistant D.A. Mark Pendleton spoke to reporters fifteen minutes ago."

"Mr. Thompson was an invalid for many years."

"Will an arrest be made soon?'

"We're questioning Thompson's entire staff, past and present."

"What about his wife? Is she a suspect?"

"No comment."

"Didn't Charles Lambert work for Thompson the last twenty years?"

"No more questions."

"When will you be questioning Mr. Lambert?"

"Is it true he left the country?"

"Well, that was the scene here just a few minutes ago. Jack Thompson died at the age of sixty-three. It is true Mrs. Thompson was thirty years younger than her husband and stands to inherit the fortune he had earned in oil and the stock market. We will update the report at eleven. Now back to the studio."

"Thank you, Bill. That was a live report from city hall. In other news . . .”

Bob Castle has been published in UnderCurrent, 24 Frames Per Second and Gadfly. He makes his living as a History teacher at a small academy outside Trenton, NJ.


Popesixtus@aol.com



CHOONZ
by Chris Byrne


Cars go by
Hissing with the sound of amplified hi-hats
Some slide by like rattle snakes
Others sound like dodgy kettles.

Chris Byrne is a 27-year-old psychiatric nurse working in Isleworth, West London, UK. He was born and bred in Aldershot, Hampshire. His work has appeared in Blueprint Magazine. Check out Chris’s web page: http://fly.to/cwjb


cwjb@hotmail.com



MY RIGHT FOOT
by Thomas J. Miller


My right foot, its full flexibility hampered by a leather, high-arched shoe, smacks along on the pavement. I keep looking down at it, wondering why it is making that sound. Smack, smack, smack. Stop it, I think to myself. I can't concentrate. Just stop.

Ten blocks, eight thousand smacks. I count them all. Every single one. Even the little shuffles when I pause to glance in the liquor store windows, my parched throat begging for a wee tipple of some face-pinching vodka.

These are a tense few moments. I squinch my eyes and concentrate, saying no, I'm not going to drink again, all the while rocking back and forth on the sweltering sidewalk. Smack, lean, smack, lean. And finally the urge passes and I move on, my annoying shoe accompanying every step with its repetitive report.

Three days ago, Asheed, a balding Indian from the Deccan plateau, suggested that I find another pair of shoes. I scoffed at the idea, saying, "They saved my life once, buddy. There's no letting these things go." He said something about the shoes smelling. That kind of effrontery rarely bugs me, but there was something about his holier-than-Buddha-attitude that pushed me over the edge. I ran down the alleyway, into a nearby butcher shop, and stole a freshly cut, plastic-wrapped steak from the cooler. Moments later I was back in the alley and there was Asheed digging through a dumpster in his dingy, hole-filled Kmart shirt and green designer pants. I shouted his name and Asheed peeked my direction. I don't think he expected a thing, so I just plowed straight at him and pulled him to the ground. His mouth gaped open in surprise -- the perfect opportunity! I stuffed the steak down his throat, screaming, "smell this you Indian garbage! No one asked you to change yourself!"

But his suggestion did not sound so bad right now. I daydream of squishy shoes, those kinds with air or gel in the soles. They are noiseless, the perfect shoe for thieves, murderers, and wanderers of the streets. And there would be an additional advantage, too. I would be able to run faster, jump higher, shoot better on the basketball court that is just around the corner from the alley. Maybe they would finally let me play.

I just need the shoes.

No, I don't, I remind myself. These shoes saved my life. I owe them. Death had been so close. My life -- the life I used to have -- had hung by a thread before I slid them on. Water everywhere, my boat filling with water around me, the dirty Tunisian water threatening to kill me. This was supposed to have been vacation, but instead I am reaching through the dark cabin for some clothes, a hat, a pair of shoes. These shoes, leathery, stiff, and built with a high arch that would most certainly torture my flat feet, were a surprise. A gift from heaven. I found them beneath my bunk, bobbing aimlessly between a candy wrapper and a picture of my mom and dad. What a deal. And I especially liked the rubber soles. They slid on, my bony foot pushing the water out through the tiny stitches that held the shoe together. The leather gripped my feet snugly. I slogged through the water, screaming, "The power is out, damn, the power is out!" I could find not a drop of electricity, only oil-stained water and rat feces.

I burst onto the deck, the moonlight sparkling across the Mediterranean. A German sailor, his bloated, gray eyes gazing through fumes of alcohol breath, grinned black, rotten teeth in my direction and said, "Problems, eh? Vet's hav a luuk!" He crunched his shoe on the skull of a dead kitten, one that I had tried to nurture with clipped fingernails and sawdust, and moved on board my ship.

"Full power!" the German sailor yelled, his last name Trotz and his first name unimportant. There is some irony here, since Trotz means "despite" in German, and I wonder whether he will fix my boat despite the fact that it is broken or that he will kill me despite the fact that he seems nice. That doesn't matter, though, as the bilge pump clicks on. The water starts to flow back into the harbor.

That night, beneath the stars and moon, Trotz explained everything that could be "kaput" with my boat. And when he wasn't speaking, my Tunisian friend, a handsome young man with rippling muscles and balding head, spoke of "the will of Allah" and that the only thing I could do wrong was worry.

But I was not worried.

I am looking at my shoes.

I enter the eleventh block. It is, in fact, my eight thousandth-and-first step. Exactly. That's when I feel it. A little less pressure, a slight giving away of the shoe. I stop.

There is an empty spot on an old bench and I plop down beside a wrinkled, ashen-colored old woman who is picking bird seed off the ground and eating it. I don't mind crazy people, so I ignore her, screw up my courage, and start tugging at my shoe. "Ughh," I grunt over and over again, my forearms, hands, biceps, and triceps growing tired with each tug. One last time, maybe fifteen minutes later, and the shoe comes off.

Free. My foot is free.

The putrid, slime covered toenails exude an aroma of rotting flesh and desiccated skunk. I hear the old lady make a choking sound and, like a ravenous wolf, I curl my body and arms around my foot. It is a natural reaction. Protect it, I think, protect it. And I pick at my toes before dipping my index finger into my mouth.

The taste, though wonderful, is just a distraction. I jerk my hand out of my mouth and spit on the ground. "No!" I yell, trying to maintain my focus. I loll my head toward the old lady to find her staring at me, her mouth agape. "Close your mouth, you old bitch!" I snarl. "It's mine. You go back to your bird seed."

She stands and shuffles away, my giggles trailing her down the sidewalk. Back to business, I think, and I plunk my hand down on the shoe. Proof! Proof of everything that can go kaput, I stick two fingers through a tear in the leather. The support is gone, rotted away, the shoe worthless scrap. So this is the big finish, I think, trying desperately not to admit that I have just reached the end. I feel my naked foot ease across the pavement, find leverage against my other foot, and slowly push away the other shoe.

Two free feet.

Something strikes me. This sense of ten lost years. From boat to alley, have I changed my clothes once? No, my feet betray me. Black, cracked, rotting flesh, they are the sum of my experience. I imagine sharing that, turning those two clumps of putrid meat into a cocktail party story and decide it isn't such a bad idea.

Rising, my feet seeping a clear liquid, I follow the old lady, hoping to become her friend. Hoping to find a shower.

Thomas J. Miller is a contributing writer for Zooba.com, and a columnist for WineMaker and Brew Your Own magazines. He has written for the Jackson Hole Guide, and for BrewPub, Sports Bar, German Life, and Wyoming Magazines. He lives in East Aurora, NY with his wife and son.


tmiller@mandtbank.com



ODE TO CHIPS
by Chris Byrne


Thou art divine.


cwjb@hotmail.com



THE BARN
by Greg Farnum


He parked the car at the side of the road and walked the quarter of a mile through the woods to the spot where the trees stopped and the land sloped gently down to the main highway. After some kicking and scuffing with his boots he found a comfortable spot in the brush and sat down, his knees pulled up toward his chest, to wait. He checked his watch, then checked it again; it should be soon, he thought. It was.

Far off he saw them rounding the bend. The waiting was harder now. When the column reached the stretch of road nearest him, about 150 yards from where he was sitting, he raised his hunting rifle to his shoulder and calmly loosed a bullet into the middle of the two parallel lines of marching soldiers. He lowered his rifle to his lap and sat there. The soldiers stood as if suspended, then the entire column fell to earth. There were shouts. Carefully he began to skitter backwards. Then the woods exploded in bullets and he found himself moving at great speed on his belly, on all fours and in a crouching run that sent him bursting through the bushes face first.

Soon he was at the car and fumbling for his keys, an act which struck him as wildly out of keeping with what had just taken place. He wedged his rifle partly on the floor of the car, partly on the seat, and drove off.

Then it started. The act of driving was so ordinary, so exposed. If he saw a roadblock up ahead he couldn't just duck into the woods. He would have to . . . what? He made a conscious effort to keep his hands on the wheel, to keep his speed down, to keep the car on the road.

Then the exertion of slithering and running through the woods kicked in and joined the emotions that made it hard to keep his hands on the wheel and something seemed to rise up through his body and into his skull: I'm going to die of fright, he said to himself.

Then he realized how far-fetched that was, to literally die of fright.

Then he realized it wasn't far-fetched at all.

Each second that the car stayed on the road, though, drained that phrase of its power and eased his fear, and eventually the car came to a halt in front of his house. He got out and stopped. He couldn't leave the rifle in the car, yet he was afraid to take it out. He couldn't just leave it there in clear view of anyone who happened to peer in the car window, yet . . . why not? That was the frightening part, the question. When he'd set out earlier in the afternoon he'd had an iron clad plan, now it had vanished like an unremembered dream. Any choice he made seemed no better or worse than any other.

On his way to the kitchen he glimpsed his wife reading a magazine on the couch in the livingroom. She didn't look up. He opened the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of beer and drank it quickly and felt a little better. He went out the kitchen door and circled round the back of the house to the car. Making a conscious effort not to look around, he removed the rifle and walked to the root cellar. Fortunately the root cellar door wasn't locked. He leaned the rifle against a sack of potatoes, emerged from the root cellar and went into the barn to hide.

A couple of minutes later he got up from the hay bale wedged into a corner of a vacant stall and went back into the house. He walked through the front door and, again passing his wife who still refused to look up, went into the kitchen. He grabbed all the beer in the refrigerator and, arms full, tried to let himself quietly out the kitchen door. He dropped one can which banged down the wooden steps. He froze for a moment; then, convinced his wife hadn't heard, he made his way back to the barn. Back on the hay bale he set the bottles in an orderly array on the floor. It was only after he reordered them, then reordered them again, that he opened one. He was ready to hide and wait.

Into the next beer, he realized he should be thinking about the rifle. He should have it with him. He was defenseless. But what defense would the rifle really be if the army or the police cornered him in the barn? "What are you doing in here?" they might ask. "Escaping from my wife," he could say. They might buy that. They'd laugh at that. He opened another beer.

He lit a cigarette. Could burn the barn down, he said to himself. At least that way they'll never find me. The sun began to fail. He zipped his coat. That gave him an idea. He got up and walked the length of the barn to where the old blanket was stored. Back on the hay bale, wrapped in the blanket, a cigarette burning in his left hand, he numbered the full bottles and cans on the floor with his right hand. He picked one up and opened it. The last of the light slid through the barn's partially-open door. The sound of birds reached his ears and as he listened it was punctuated by the soft rustling and shuffling and snorting of his underpopulated barn. He opened two beers and lit another cigarette. His breathing was regular now. The birds reached their just after sundown crescendo. He cradled the two bottles against his stomach and exhaled.

"This is more like it," he whispered.


g.farnum@french-rogers.com



THE DEAD MAN
D. Renee Heslin


Although Elderwild was small and the inhabitants watchful, the dead man was rarely spotted.

Some of it was because he did not want himself to be seen, but mostly he found he couldn't move quite as fast as he used to anymore, so he usually lingered up around the lake and the bush that edged it, where there was plenty of the cool damp places he needed.

Although not even a decade ago it had been a popular picnic-and-swimming spot, One-Mile Lake had gradually become a place visited but infrequently, and people did not linger. The Parks Board had introduced a few lily-pads which had since formed a green skin over much of the surface, their roots trailing deep, a swimming hazard, a haven for insects. Most of the natural life had been suffocated out of the waters, creating a placid, dark place where only leeches and surface-gliders thrived. The whole area now had a heavy, moist, softly rotting feel, the sands of the shore slate-grey and flecked with bark, the trees close and wet, their profusion of leaves rustling secretively even when the breeze did not blow.

There existed the accompanying rumors of neglected places: of bodies discovered, bloated and caught, in the mess of water weeds, although Elderwild was small and watchful and surely such death would be reported, lavishly, in the local Record. Rumors of a Nessie-type lake dinosaur, ridiculous, as the lake was a man-made reserve, self-contained, very shallow, and becoming more so by the year; rumours of grizzlies too far south, of rapists and hobos and lunatic hermits. And on such speculation, the stories would circle back to the beginning . . .

It was attractive mainly to teenagers looking for drinking hideouts, or hikers en route to Scout Mountain, towering off at a slant, as if in distaste of One-Mile's grey shores. The dead man was intimidated by the volatility of drunken teenagers, and hikers were usually hard to catch. Made nervous by the isolation, the indefinable feel of neglected life, grey and slick, ready for bears or cougars (and perhaps, subconsciously, some of them, ready for him) they were alert to every creak of a bough and crackle of a twig.

Several times, perhaps, his form had been weighed and considered by the eyes of passers-by as he stood distant yet, but trailing doggedly, framed in a clearing or crouched by a lightning-blackened stump. Their hearts might jump and their nerves tense painfully as their brains tried to unsee what was there, until again they persisted in seeing instead the wet and flapping rubbish of forests near civilization everywhere: discarded newspapers or an old and soggy camping blanket; toilet paper twined around hoary branches in a lazy web. It was a shape that looked like a person, yes, for a moment -- the form was too slumped and wrong to be someone real.

Closer examination lent no sense to the slouched thing, in fact, its crevasses and angles that had first held so much fright further lost coherence under scrutiny. A torn garbage bag draped on a branch, the breeze in a berry bush heavy with fruit.

Sometimes it was enough for the dead man to trail one hand along the slippery fabric of a rainslicker, to caress a rough boot. He would wedge himself into the dark beneath a deadfall and in the dimness of the overgrown trail his protruding fingers would be nothing but twigs. He would lay amidst the debris of the clotted stream that flowed by the mountain's base, and grasp at the mud their feet displaced before his eyes.

His need was sluggish. There was no urgency in him; in the remaining paste of his brains no killer's pulse urged him to hurry. His greed was slow.

The few, the very few that the dead man claimed -- his caution born not out of discretion but from the apathy of those with nothing but time -- he would savor.

He would claim a glove, a scarf, now frayed with moisture and struggle, for his own to wear. Lay the skin, fresh and life-smelling, in strips and patches over his own decay. Use the pulp of his remains as glue, to bind the tattered layer down. The canopy of leaves, lushly rotting, would chuckle and stir in the breeze, and the trees would fold in close around him as the dead man ate.

Elderwild is small and its inhabitants watchful but despite this, such things do go on in its wilder ranges.

D. Renee Heslin, 20, lives “in the silences of one of Canada's more isolated regions.” This is her first publication.


valley_of_unrest@hotmail.com



THE SARSPARILLA KID
by Charles Langley


The big man took a seat at the end of the bar. He was at least six foot four and stood 280 pounds in his size 12 shoes that seemed too small for a man of that size. His shirt looked like it had been slept in a few times and the washed blue denims that were tucked into his boots were patched and stained. There was no gun belt at his waist.

"Bourbon," he told the man at the stick.

The barkeep shoved a thick shot glass in front of him and filled it. Then he turned to return the bottle to the back bar.

"Leave it," the man said. "I don't like a long wait between drinks."

Conversation was buzzing among the regulars of the place. This was the second stranger tonight. The first one was nursing a bottle at a corner table.

The latest stranger tossed off another drink, then introduced himself. "I'm Tiny Tom Prewitt," he said. "My ma named me after a sickly boy in a story she read. All my brothers were normal eighteen or nineteen pound babies. I was the runt of the litter at fourteen pounds. But I can still whup any man-jack in the place with one arm tied behind me."

The conversation stopped. Everyone sat quiet, staring into his drink or at the painting of Lily Langtry that hung over the back-bar.

"Nobody gonna take me up on that?" Tiny Tom wanted to know, "Ain't there a man in the place? All I see is a bunch of saddle-tramp mama's boys. All the men must be out at the round-up."

The bartender glanced at the baseball bat he kept under the bar for emergencies. He decided it wouldn't be sufficient and let it be.

"You call this panther piss, bourbon?" asked Prewitt. "Back home we use better stuff than this to keep the fleas off the hound dogs."

The swinging doors opened and another stranger walked in. He looked completely out of place with the other waddies in the room. His boots had a shine. The gray corduroy pants had a slight crease and his blue shirt was neatly pressed and had an eagle embroidered over the left pocket. The off-white sombrero had never held branch water and his uncalloused hands had never roped a steer.

"What'll it be, Pardner?" asked the barman.

"You have any sarsaparilla," the newcomer wanted to know.

"Got a couple of Coke Cola's, you want one."

Tiny Tim was laughing out of control. "Son of a bitch," he said, "It jest gits worse. Room fulla mama's boys and now this sorry specimen walks in. Yore Ma know you're out, Sonny? Shouldn't she be here to undo your britches if you have to take a pee?"

The newcomer sat sipping his Coke.

"I think I knowed your Mama. Probably slept with her a few times when she was whoring in Tucson."

That remark did it. The dude put down his glass and took an awkward boxing stance. Volunteers hastily moved back the tables and stacked the chairs, leaving two for the contestants, should they decide to swing them.

The man in the corner got to his feet. "Just hold on there a minute. It's a waste of blood and sweat to fight with no money at stake. Git up your greenbacks, boys, and I'll cover any open bet."

The kid was still standing flatfooted when Tiny Tom swung one from the floor that would have decapitated a mule. The younger man dodged it barely. The big man came up with another roundhouse swing that the young man evaded. Then the young man's manner changed. He danced lightly on the balls of his feet, shuffling in and out, slipping one blow and riding out another. His left kept tapping Tiny Tom on the cheek between the big man's wild swings. His right was held in reserve until his opponent was puffing from exhaustion and was wet with sweat. Then he jabbed with the right, crossed his left, and pounded with the right again. Tiny Tom went down. He got up groggy and dazed, only to go down again to lie flat on his back.

"Fight's over," the stakeholder announced. He paid his bill out of the wad of winnings in his hand.

The winner finished his drink and went out into the night. The loser paid his tab and followed, a look of amazement on his face.

"You folks don't know who that kid was, do you?" the stakeholder asked. "That's the Sarsaparilla Kid. Best man with his mitts in the territory. But he don't like to fight. Won't drink, won't cuss, never known to chase fast women. Could be middleweight champion if he put his mind to it. But all he wants to do is sip sarsaparilla and read dime novels." He pocketed his winnings, picked up his bottle and beat a retreat.

***


Three lone riders came together as they approached the city limits.

"How'd we do?" Tiny Tom wanted to know.

"Little over two hundred," Waco Prewitt offered. "Boys were flush. Payday just passed."

"You gotta be more careful with them wild swings, Pa. You almost tagged me with one," Billy complained.

"Yeah, I know," Tiny Tom answered. "I get so caught-up in the play-acting I forget myself. And watching all that fancy footwork is distracting, too. Where'd you learn it?"

"Got it from a Pentecostal preacher who lived in a mostly Baptist town. He had to fight at least once a week over which faith would bring peace to the world. Dazzled them with fast footwork and a killer right cross. Made more converts in the ring than in the pulpit."

They rode quietly for awhile.

"I never can figure it," Billy Prewitt said, "Everybody in there hated your guts. I was the knight in armor defending their honor. But they all bet on you."

"Just obeying the Gambler's Creed," the big man explained. "Give the man who's in the right your respect. But bet on the one you're sure will win."

"Pass the bottle," Billy said. "You talking about me never drinking makes me thirsty. I'm glad they didn't have sarsaparilla. I'm having a hard time getting it down anymore." He took a big swig. "Man, that's good likker."

"Yeah," Tiny Tom agreed. "Best I've had in a 'coon's age. Wouldn't waste any of this on a hound dog's fleas."


Since returning to writing a year ago after a fifty-nine year hiatus Charles Langley has written seventy-two short stories for e-zines and print magazines as well as numerous columns and humorous pieces. Until the demise of the e-zine because of litigation, he wrote the "A Writer's Life" column for The Quill. He is currently working on a collection of short stories for publication early next year.


talespin@bigfoot.com



TEXTUAL HARASSMENT
by Andrew Gallix


I think the back view of a finely formed woman the loveliest view.

-- Wilkie Collins


In the beginning was the sound. A swish whoosh followed by the click-clicking of Miu Miu cha-cha heels, crisp on cool kitchen tiles. It never failed to microwave the cockles of his little heart, even when he was relaxing of a Friday evening. Even of an evening, bless him. She pressed the switch and there was light and then sound again. The same sound sound turning him on.

He checked the time on his Swatch as she sashayed towards a sachet of Mr Mash. Stocky stoccado. Scatty scattato. Like the keys of a battered old typewriter peppering the page, he reflected appreciatively. The stuttuttering stiletto style. The sheer-stocking bliss of textual harassment. Stocky stoccado catty scatty scattato click click click. Like the key to some mystery, he pondered rather pompously.

His eyes zoomed in on silken thighs, NordicTrack-toned. Silken thighs and swishful thinking. He felt a stitrring in his Calvins. Keep this up, mate, and you won’t be needing Viagra in a hurry, he boasted inwardly.

Thetis saw Jupiter’s face reflected in the sachet she was holding between manicured thumb and forefinger. Next thing she knew, she was being bent over the work surface and a pair of seemingly-disembodied hands were simultaneously drawing up her skirts and pulling down her drawers. She closed her eyes and thought of Mount Olympus: Jupiter was up to his old tricks again, and by Jove he was up to it!

Thetis is now sitting down, legs akimbo. Jupiter is kneeling on the cool kitchen tiles, his face buried between her thighs, up to his neck in it. He wants to go back, way back. It is warm between her thighs, warm and soft under her skirts. It is also pitch black as if someone, somewhere, has switched off the light.


andrew@3ampublishing.com



DREAMS
by Chris Byrne


I want to be a cult author
I'm going to shoot my wife
Drink myself to an early grave
Do drugs man
To provide vicarious thrills
For commuters on the train.


cwjb@hotmail.com



CLUBBING IN ALDERSHOT
by Chris Byrne


As the deejay piles pure piano tuna
On hard cheesebag endlessly

Anybody who is nobody
Will soon walk through that door
Life is not hard in here
Just a lot of it is para trained
Major structural damage is being inflicted upon the premises
By the mattress backs
(Not mutton dressed as lamb
But offal packaged as mutton)
Waddling in time to the big numbas
It feels like the roof is about to cave in
My dandruff is glowin' under the UV light
Oh the glamour.


cwjb@hotmail.com





SKIRMISH
by Greg Farnum


He could hear the old woman talking in the next house while he ate a bowl of soup and shared a bottle of beer with the corporal. He'd been with the corporal for two weeks now.

Two days ago he had seen his first action. They were with some local men . . . just sitting . . . when about ten of the enemy came walking down the road. They opened up, then got out before the enemy could return any effective fire. They got one. At least that's what everybody said. He didn't see it, but the corporal and some of the local men said the first few shots brought the enemy's point man down. He went down grabbing his leg, they said, and crawled into the bushes. The fact that shots had been exchanged -- a real fight -- made him feel like a legendary warrior of old.

Sort of.

The corporal was pretty casual about the whole thing, having survived a lot of fights. That made him feel better, more confident, knowing the corporal had never even been seriously wounded. A little better. A lot of the men with the corporal hadn't made it.

He'd just borrowed a cigarette when the rumbling became audible.

"APCs," said the corporal. "They come by here two or three times a week about this time. Don't worry, they never stop. The bastards are afraid to stop."

He did some serious smoking in the darkening room as the sound of the tracks grew louder. And then they stopped. That quiet was the loudest sound he'd ever heard. For a moment. Until the whole sky broke loose. The tracks' .30 caliber and .50 caliber machine guns opened up in concert. He threw himself into one of the shelters . . . the holes . . . in the floor. Plaster and dirt rained on his face and through closed eyes he seemed to see the small house being ripped apart. The sound of breaking glass and pottery, louder, almost -- and more frightening -- than the sound of the guns. A whiff of smoke. Something was on fire. He prayed they'd stop shooting and come and take him prisoner. Even if they'd just ease up a bit he could get out of the hole and try to surrender.

And then it was over. They'd stopped. He laid in the hole, his eyes shut tight, waiting for them to come and get him.

Nobody came. He could hear them, but nobody came. He opened his eyes, raised himself, and looked around. The corporal looked like he'd been dead for a week. The smoke was coming from the next house over. Across the field, distant laughter.

His rifle was lying on the floor, the stock chewed up by a bullet, but otherwise OK. He crawled out of the hole, grabbed his rifle, and made his way across the floor towards the back door.

A thought struck him. He turned and crawled back to the corporal. Careful not to touch the body, he went through the dead man's pockets.

He stopped again when he reached the back gate. It had been knocked down by bullets. He lay there on the damp dirt of the backyard, staring up at the space where the gate had been, the splintered gate post flickering in the light from the burning house. Behind him, the still cheerful voices, and an occasional random shot.

He got up and walked through the gate, across the small garden, and into the forest. After a couple of minutes he stopped. He could no longer hear voices or see fires. Leaning his rifle against a tree he searched through his pockets. He found the corporal's lighter and a nearly full pack of cigarettes. He lit one, picked up the rifle, and walked on.


g.farnum@french-rogers.com


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