Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brian Michael Barbeito

Strawberry Blizzards and the Holy Ghost

The bottom of a pail is broken through.
-- Zen Saying

We walked down those streets, where it had rained for hours. The entire area had for a while afterwards been wet with a beautiful type of black that sort of glistened. People used headlights in the day, but then in the late afternoon the whole thing turned into a sun shower. A couple rainbows were painted in the sky- one to the east and one to the west. We walked right along there, heading farther south. It was said that you had to lock your doors there, because there was much crime, and this was accurate, but we were okay then, that day- as if we were protected. Our group stole oranges off some trees and ate them- and then boosted a few more and put them in our pockets for good measure. They smelled like they must have on the day the world was born, before it fell heavily from grace and goodness and solitary gladness.

We had to go visit this church, and when we walked in to where it’s offices were, it was noticeable that the place was just infused with spirit (which is actually strange for a church), and there was so much spirit there that the walls were even full with it, and there was a genuine happiness- not the happiness of this world that is only based on excitement and is not the real happiness. We had to talk there for a while, an incorruptible place, shining- and I felt and saw that light was coming from everywhere, and you could really see and know that it was in and about things, and that the regular world before was all a sort of make-believe place, a secular cop-out of sorts, full of Maya, of illusion- and that this new illumination was what the seers and sages had spoken and written about. It was a universal and non-denominational thing of course- because you can’t ultimately classify those places of experience- but living in the duality as we did and do, it must be classified anyhow, and for now.

We went on from there and down to the Dairy Queen where we bought these Strawberry Blizzards. Outside I sat down the way a bit on this bench, and observed the dusk as it settled in. This strange and kind man stopped on his bike, and then leaned on it a bit so he could rest on it. We looked in the same direction, at a bridge and its underpass in the semi-distance. Soon we spoke, with him starting first.
  • It’s a bridge were the traffic never really stops.
  • The sound is like the ocean if you just let it be what it is.
  • I have this coupon I found, for this free hamburger at a place down there. Thought I might as well go for it and go get me one.
  • Yup. Say, was this place always like this?
  • Always like this how?
  • Messy. Rundown.
  • Time was here when it wasn’t like this. In my times, it wasn’t like this. Been like this a while. About ten years. That bridge done it somehow I think. Hard to know how. But when they brought the highways through everything changed. The peoples been born and grew up this way know no different and that’s the way it just is gonna be. No sense worryin’ bout the past either way the way I sees it. But this time a day still sometimes pretty, and I can see somehow that you see that and that you know that. Good for you I say. Everybody mostly in a rush and don’t see nuthin’ no mores. I gotsa go. Give in my coupon.
  • Have a good one.
Walking along the streets after that, night was coming, and I thought that the little lizards that lived all around might be getting ready to go to some quiet and secretive dwelling place, or else that they were there still by white and pink stucco walls, around orange cars and thick green grasses, or maybe resting, slightly weary from the day, around pale green garage doors, or by anything- but that they could not be seen now. And that was how we walked those streets, wearing watches and sneakers, in t-shirts and in gladness- a long way from the beginning, from creation, but still catching some of the spirit.

© Brian Michael Barbeito 2012

Brian Michael Barbeito resides in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Postprandial, a prose-poem novel, and of Windows without Glass, a collection of flash fiction. A Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in or is forthcoming at Glossolalia, Mudjob, Lunatics Folly, Synchronized Chaos, Subtle Fiction, Linguistic Erosion, Crack the Spine, Otis Nebula, Bare Root, and other venues.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nathaniel Tower

Skydivers and Pornographers

Marcus had to redo the big scene for Going Down Without a Chute. His co-star passed out in midair before he'd even taken off his pants. Jana fumed when she heard the news.

"It's just skydiving," he said.

"Is it even possible?"

He rubbed her gently, making her quiver like a reed in a torrent. "Of course it's possible. I just need you there. You're my inspiration." She succumbed to his touch, her body collapsing on the couch.

"I'll be there," she sighed. For a moment she felt like one of his co-stars, but then she remembered it was just a suede couch. He was off her before it was over anyway, his belt barely buckled as he told her to get in the car or they'd be late.

Marcus was a pioneer, the innovator of the genre. First there was the mountain climbing scene. He didn't even use gear, although his costar wore a harness. Then he rode a horse and a woman to victory in an actual horse race. Then, cageless scuba diving with sharks. There was the gator-filled swamp scene, the wall rappel, the jousting match. And of course there was the scene that had made him the most famous of all, the flaming bed of nails.

He'd survived it all, to rave reviews, and the women, oh the women, how they came and came and came. Just once Jana wished he could do to her what he did to them, but she was too afraid. She would try to support him though, even as he jumped out of a plane and somehow found the dexterity to penetrate a strange woman. Only the woman would wear a parachute, so he couldn't remove himself from her until they reached the ground.

When they arrived, Marcus gave her a rough kiss on the cheek and thanked her for coming. She wished him good luck and returned his kiss.

Jana watched as Marcus jumped from the plane and shed his clothes. He stripped the woman and found a way to keep himself inside her as they pierced the delicate clouds. The parachute didn't even tangle when he turned her around. Jana could hear the woman moaning thousands of feet above the ground. It gave her a strange twinge of excitement.

When Marcus landed and dismounted, Jana gave him a hug and said she was proud of him. "Can we give it a try?" she cooed in his ear.

"I don't mix work and pleasure," he said. "Besides, I need to do another take with Amber. I made her moan too soon."

Marcus went off to the trailer. Jana, fuming again, sneaked off to the prop box. She didn't bother to wish Marcus good luck.

Grounded, Jana watched her husband penetrate the sky and the woman again. This time the chute didn't open. Marcus and Amber fell faster and faster, Marcus thrusting all the way, Amber howling to the ground, Jana getting in the car before it was over.

© Nathaniel Tower 2012

Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing. Visit him at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paul de Denus

Dark Black

The world ended on Saturday evening as Clayton Dill danced and weaved in the sand, a glass of red in one hand and a cool brunette in the other.

I was chuckling at his nonsense, eyeballing Laura Lang, Clayton’s tightly held girlfriend when the block of frigid air dropped and plunged the sunset atmosphere into a deep freeze, the sky dimming ultramarine as the red ball fell over the horizon.

Beach goers who had clustered along the water’s edge to enjoy the fine wine and light conversation stumbled about, bodies stunned and stiffening as if hit by ice-blue electricity, some looking to the water… others to the sun’s last slash of gold glimmering along the rim… then to each other as shoulders hugged and shivered and I heard Clayton drunkenly say, “for fuk-say, sum-one turn on the heat” but I was already down, driven to one knee; the startling slap of Siberian-like cold wrapped my body in an icepack, Laura Lang grabbed wildly for my arm, her brown eyes confused, her fuck-me smile disappearing in panic and she collapsed near Clayton who stared quizzically at the people staggering from the beach.

I stood, legs shaky and unsure - that of a toddler - and lurched for the access ramp into the parking lot, the hazed light receding in diminishing shades with each passing second - faster than my mind could comprehend - but one thought formed clear: the sun has gone out.

My teeth ached from the cold and I nearly passed out as I fumbled with the car keys, my hands like frozen rubber, the white chill touching hot marrow, shocking nerve endings; the fading light turned a deep blue velvet coating my skin like cold molasses, weighing me down and I scrambled to hold back panic wondering if I were having a heart attack.

My limbs numbed, my legs moved in slow motion and my arms swam in the semi-darkness… a darkness that felt alive and lurid like a child’s voice in a well and I wanted to go down the well into the dark where the voice, now spoiled and bleak echoed: the sun has extinguished… come to me… but I held my concentration - thin as it was - fragile as loose cobwebs and I shivered and sped through indigo streets, the look of disbelief on the faces I skimmed by, their feet slogging as if encased in cement, their bodies dimming as the remaining light of day slowly winked out; from above, birds - heavy as bricks - plummeted from the blackened sky onto the street.


I found myself home, staggered inside and pawed at the hallway switch; the room illuminated and I felt better almost immediately as if a light had flicked on inside my body and I moved freely then, lurching into every room as my body warmed and my brain cleared, turned on every beautiful light, wondered how long the electricity would last.

In the kitchen, the window over the sink hissed like air escaping from a tire and a memory from childhood bloomed in my head: I bounced inside an inflatable fun house… the structure suddenly losing air and I sank down… into cascading plastic waves… deep and overwhelming… grasping at smooth walls… the dark roof descending. I slammed the curtain over the hissing window and scrambling into every room, pulled the drapes and shutters fast on the rest of the gaping black mouths that now shrieked.

Searching the bureaus and closets, I found two working flashlights, a scattering of batteries - old and new - a half tray of eleven-inch taper candles, several matchbooks and in my bedside drawer, my handgun.

I clicked on the television, only to be greeted with pure static and white snow on every channel and I jumped when my cell phone rang – just the once - but there was no one there, only the darkness of dead air.

There was a fleeting second - only a moment - to ponder that someone finally did something crazy… a terrorist plot maybe… a government mistake… some asshole pulled the wrong switch, pressed the wrong button… and then more frightening, a simpler answer; this was just the nature of things.

I stoked the kindling in the fireplace and let out a child-like cry when it offered an encouraging flame and after several dry logs caught on, I tore into the furniture around the room.


According to the battery clock on the wall, it’s after nine in the morning and the sun should be up but it’s not.

It is beyond dark outside … I don’t have to look… through the numbness I can feel it; the house is ice and I can hear the outside skin cracking, falling; I have no power.

The living room windows bulge, the drapes push inward and I wonder if I’m imagining it or if it’s my alcohol consumption zanily taking control of things.

Wrapped in cold comfort, I drift but stay awake – why I don’t know – I should just let sleep take me but I don’t and I’m crying again… calling for anyone but there’s no one home… no one anywhere.

I can’t get my head around what has happened and I slip into a tearful giggle; my head feels swollen, my numb hands form into bent claws and I imagine myself T-Rex with the same damn look on its swollen face when the world disintegrated around him.

The fire is dwindling, the light all but gone; it’s a lost cause as the dark moves in and I fondle the handgun and yawn… Laura Lang leans in next to me and I pull her closer, the handgun too and force a smile knowing the flash in her brown eyes will be the last light of the world I’ll ever see.

© Paul de Denus 2012

Paul de Denus is a graphic artist by day, writer by night. He has been published at Six Sentences (The Love Book, Word of Mouth, and 6S Vol 3), Smith Magazine, Fictionaut, and Espresso Stories.
Paul's writings and self published books appear at his blog: Me, the Other Twin.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Edward Strand

Along the Meridian

After Mr. Canaan was dead, his widow and her lawyer opened his safety deposit boxes and inside discovered over two million dollars and a few Tai Chi videotapes.
The lawyer claimed Mr. Canaan was a gambler and had won the money in Atlantic City over a period of years and had stowed it away. He said one of the bundles was bound by a tape with the insignia from one of the casinos. Mrs. Canaan said she was unaware that her husband had been such a heavy gambler, but it must have been so because on finding the money she saw several casino binders. She mentioned the names of several.
Sherri Palatnik, a chronic junior executive, said she was not surprised. She had always thought something was amiss but she wouldn’t elaborate. Later under oath in front of a grand jury, she denied having any knowledge whatsoever. In fact she denied having implied that rumors had reached her ears.
None of the partners of the law firm would give the goods on any other. Even those who had retired and were granted immunity refused to implicate any former coworkers. Each who came to testify fidgeted and appeared uncomfortable when the employee expense accounts were read out once again.
The Union had changed leaders a couple of times since Mr. Canaan’s tenure, so none of the officers who came to speak could say much with any conviction.
The only thing that was a certainty was that after the election in which Mr. Canaan had lost his position, the law firm handling the Union’s legal requirements was dropped in favor of another, not entirely different, firm. Many of the lawyers moved to the new firm. They were familiar with the Union members’ needs.
In the end, the district attorney’s assistant failed to make his case so it was a moot point as to how the money arrived in the safety deposit boxes. Mrs. Canaan was two million dollars richer, minus her attorney’s fees of course.
And the old law firm which was paying a pension to the retired partner who had been a long-time friend of the deceased? They walked away quietly licking their wounds and hoped to rebuild their good name. They really did not need the bad publicity a trial would have brought them.
Those were rough times. Everyone said the stock market was due for a correction, in which case even privately held companies would suffer. Buying Union contracts proved prohibitive under the new economy.
Mrs. Canaan became a celebrity whose every move for well into six months was reported by the tabloids until she spent a goodly sum from her mysterious windfall on plastic surgery that healed badly. Looking ordinary, she was treated ordinarily, and stargazers eventually lost interest in her exploits. Most of what they had wanted to know was demystified in gleaning Sherri Palatnik’s book for the juicy parts. Tell-alls sell well even in hard times, though she had waxed heavily on the symbolism underpinning the Tai Chi tapes.
Six years later, when Mrs. Canaan, on a shopping trip in London, stepped in front of a double-decker bus and was killed, a writer for the Village Voice tried to revive her celebrity without success. The New York Times gave her a scant sixteen line obituary in which her ex-lawyer then riding a career highpoint said he had lost touch with her and was quoted in an off-color remark about the results of her surgery and other unwise investments. Elsewhere he commented that fifteen minutes was hardly enough time to do the right thing, and unless one was prepared to take advantage of their moment, they could easily lose their way along the meridian.

© Edward V. Strand 2012

Ed Strand has written on the Six Sentence Social Network and Thinking Ten, and also tried his hand at blogging a semi-journal called Stranded Online, for which he has not written in several months. He describes Along the Meridian as a comeback piece.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal


I look at the world half-blind.
It does not bother me.
I take my glasses off and see
the blurry mountains in the distance.
The afternoon light makes my eyes
water. It leaves me nearly blind.
I look at life with disappointment.
Dust is thrown in my face
by the passing busses. Lack of love
feels like soap in the eye.
Wounded, I keep my head up.
Perhaps love will come;
happiness ever after;
everything I missed out on.
This dark heart needs light.


At this hour

the sunrise hides
behind the mountain.

A brilliant cloud
veils the golden sun.

The rose wilts.

Life is good.

The flowery garden
awaits the sun
and welcomes the rain.

The greatness of this hour
must be divine.


I gather my thoughts as I gather
flowers. The hummingbird
watches me as does the butterfly.
The flowers are for the one I
love. The birds sing without
judgment. I choose yellow, red,
and white flowers. They are
sparkling with dew. In the early
morning I am half-awake. I want
to make a good impression on
the one I love. I think of sweet
words to say to her. The flowers
are brilliant. It starts to rain.
Still the birds remain singing.

© Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal 2012

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal's poetry has appeared in Blue Collar Review, Orion Headless, and Right Hand Pointing. Pygmy Forest Press published his first book, Raw Materials (2004). His latest, Peering Into The Sun, was published by Poet's Democracy (2011).

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