Monday, December 29, 2014


illustrations by pete palomine

devastation covered the earth
every news channel said so
frank wasn't so sure
he got up and went to the refrigerator

how come it was still humming along?
he reached inside for a doctor pepper
just because he was who he was
he knew they were waiting for him outside

lately he had been having gas
but he couldn't stop the munchies
he went back to his red naughahyde couch with his doctor pepper
everything was going to be o k

somebody started pounding on the door
not that he expected peace and quiet
the earth was round and getting rounder every day
the streets weren't safe any more

a tarantula crawled across the ceiling
frank looked up at it
it didn't look as vicious as before
when it first stopped being miss carson and became the tarantula

frank never expected much from life
not even in his younger days
he had gotten zero respect from day one
all on account of who he was

better to just sit in your room
contrary to what they wanted you to believe
every day was a new day
every eternity was a new eternity

Saturday, December 20, 2014

six o'clock show

illustrations by pete palomine and konrad kraus

everybody was talking at once

alice was possessed of a strange suspicion

suddenly a savage thought sent her brain hurtling through space

it was almost time for the six o'clock show

but sissy and charisse and the others just kept on yakking

alice was sorry, but she had do what she had to do

things like this have happened a million times through history

everybody is always sorry afterwards and they build temples and monuments to the dead heroes

it is just the way it is

but, thought alice, this just doesn't feel right

she had a half-pint of whiskey in the pocket of her dressing gown

suddenly johnny appeared out of nowhere and gave her a smack on the jaw that sent her reeling

he stood over her and gave her an insolent and cynical sneer

"we were just ready to break into the big money."

"i'm sorry, johnny, it won't happen again, i promise."

"get out there and get on with the show."

he gave her one of his sudden quick smiles and everything was o k

they will do it every time

alice reached into her pocket for the half pint of whiskey

what could she do? - she couldn't read everybody in the world's mind

everything would be different when they got into the big money

a dust storm was brewing on the horizon

maybe the rubes wouldn't show up and they would have to cancel the show

sometimes the way things turned out made you wonder

the whiskey went down her throat like a burning silk caterpillar

who will ever know your mind or anybody else's

the show started on time

sources: dashing diamond dick, by w b lawson
the liberty boys of '76, by harry moore
claude's confession, by emile zola
sinister street, by compton mackenzie
the hollow, by agatha christie
the case of the sulky girl, by erle stanley gardner
"the doll", by daphne du maurier
my cousin rachel, by daphne du maurier
here comes a candle, by fredric brown
"the freak show murders" by fredric brown
women, by charles bukowski
the accursed, by joyce carol oates

Thursday, December 4, 2014

ralph pushes the door open

illustrations by konrad kraus

ralph slowly pushed the door open.

although he had heard that strangers were often regarded with suspicion, no one seemed to pay any attention to him as he entered the dim exterior.

he sat down at a small table in the corner.

a menu - or maybe it was a wine list - was lying on the table.

he picked it up. it was written in a language he did not understand.

as he did not understand most of the languages in the universe, he was not at all non-plussed. not in the least.

ralph looked around. he did not see any waiters or waitresses.

his eyes grew accustomed to the dimness.

it was a place just like any other - one he had seen a million times before, in a thousand lifetimes.

he decided to just sit there for a while, rest his weary bones.

and his even wearier feet.

he had walked many a weary mile, just getting here.

he had not been able to find his landing spot in the fog and rain that blanketed the planet, and had been lucky to land at all.

finally a waitress appeared in the shadows and approached ...

a cigarette dangled from her lip.

she was sultry looking.

she was really, really sultry looking.

she was the sultriest looking woman ralph had ever seen.

personally, he preferred girl next door types, with freckles on their noses and big smiles.

but nobody cared what he preferred.

now the sultry looking waitress reached his table and looked down on him with her tray on her hip and a sneer on her lip (that the cigarette dangled from).

the script had been prepared. now ralph just had to hope that it worked.

"do you want something?" the waitress asked in a surprisingly clear and non-sultry voice.

ralph thought that this was a good omen, that it indicated she was playing a part.

if she was not playing the part that well, it might be a problem down thew road , but probably not his.

"i would like a daiquiri, please, with not too much - "

"we don't have any of that shit," she interrupted him, "just beer. rheingold draft. you want one?"

"yes, please." so far the script had not come in to play.

"you want a sandwich or something?"

"no thank you."

now came the script. ralph hesitated for a second, then said:

“what do you do for excitement in this town?”

if the waitress was the one, she would answer: “how the fuck do i know?”

ralph had been skeptical of this procedure, pointing out to commander krogar and captain gordon that the expression might well be used by anyone, whether they were the contacts or not.

they had replied that they wanted a response that, if overheard, would seem "natural".

gordon, who had become a real snotty little prick since being promoted to captain, had sneered, "what do you want the contact to say, something like ' reeses peanut butter cups in the amalgamation of the purple rhinoceros'".

in the end, despite his desparate pleadings, ralph had been forced to give in.

now he waited for the girl's answer.

but she didn't say, "how the fuck do i know?" instead she said

"i don't know, mister. for one thing we're not exactly in a town, we're out here in the middle of nowhere."

"oh." ralph could barely conceal his relief. "so i guess there's not much excitement."

"i've got some old national geographics, and some old issues of variety, in the back if you want to look at them."

"that's very kind of you, but no thank you."

"you sure you don't want anything to eat? cookie whips up a great grilled cheese sandwich."

"no thank you."

"suit yourself. you don't know what you're missing." the waitress moved away.

"mind if i sit here?"

ralph turned and saw a man standing behind him. the man had a big red face, and a right arm that was twice the size of his left arm.

he looked familiar, but everybody looked familiar .

without waiting for ralph's answer, the man sat down.

"remember me?"

"no, i am afraid i don't," ralph answered.

"what a character! you always were a character, ralphie!"

the man knew his name. or did he? ralph had been down this road before.

too many times.

the man ignored the look on ralph's face. "remember that job in moldavia?" he shook his head and laughed. "we fixed some refrigerators then, didn't we?"

ralph decided to cut to the chase. "what do you do for excitement in this town?"

"huh? i don't know, what does anybody do for excitement anywhere?"

the waitress came back with ralph's draft beer and put it on the table.

"is this guy bothering you?" she asked ralph. "if he is, we'll throw him out, no problem. "

"no, he's not bothering me." ralph hated arguments, and violence.

the waitress turned to the man who had sat down. "you sure you're not bothering this guy, ralph?"

"i don't bother nobody, ralphie, you know that."

"you'll be bothering me if you don't order nothing."

"i was just saying hello to this guy because he's m' old pal."

"your mold pal? what did he do, develop mold from listening to you - in a cellar somewhere? with the mushrooms?"

"very funny."

"order something, ralph. or i'll have sammy come over and throw you out."

sammy. at least, thought ralph, the original ralph who had pushed the door open, there is at least one person here not named ralph.

"i'll have a grilled cheese sandwich, with extra mustard."

"you going to pay for it?"

"i'll pay for it."

"you going to pay for it yourself, or are you going to try to impose on this gentleman, who i'm sure never saw you before in his life, to pay for it?"

"i said i'll pay for it."

suddenly another figure appeared. he looked like a strong man in a circus."

"hello, sammy," the second ralph greeted him.


the first ralph blurted out to sammy, "what do you do for excitement in this town?"

sammy just looked at him.

"we fix refrigerators," the second ralph said. "we fix refrigerators and then we get together and talk refrigerators."

"he didn't ask you," ralphie the waitress said. "did he?"

now sammy spoke up. he had a surprisingly high voice. "i don't want to hear about refrigerators. i want to know who this character is?"

"you mean myself?" asked the first ralph. "i'm just a guy who is looking for excitement."

"there is no excitement." sammy glared at him from beneath bushy eyebrows. "the age of excitement is over."

"like the age of miracles," added ralphie the waitress with a laugh.

"you know," said the first ralph. "i think i'll have a grilled cheese sandwich after all. it sounds like a good idea."

"with extra mustard?" asked ralphie.

"no, hold the mustard. but chutney sauce, if you have it."

"don't worry," ralphie told him. "we have everything you need."

to be continued?

sources: something happened, by joseph heller
man on a leash, by charles williams
when everybody ate at schrafft's. by joan kanel slomanson

Thursday, November 27, 2014


"that's a nice suit. it fits perfectly."

"thank you."

"i hope you have a good time wearing it."

"me too."

"i bet they'd let you into heaven wearing a suit like that."

"you never know."

"i'm serious. i've never seen a more perfectly fitting suit."

"are you trying to make fun of me?"

"look at this menu. it's printed in french."

"what do you care? you can't even read chinese."

"i can order chinese though."

"i bet you can. i'll just bet you can."

"did you watch the news this morning? this guy jumped off the eiffel tower to protest something."


"i said this guy jumped off the eiffel tower to protest something. or maybe it was the verrazano-narrows bridge."

"i mean, what was he protesting?"

"i don't know, i didn't watch the whole thing."

"i bet they don't stop doing whatever he was protesting."

"probably not."

"i really like that name - verrazano-narrows bridge. no matter how many times i hear it, i think it's the coolest name in the world."

"if you say so."

"verazzano-narrows bridge. i could say it a thousand times and never get sick of it."

"that shows you have good character."

"thank you. that guy who jumped off the bridge, he must have been pretty upset about whatever he was upset about."

"he must have been."

"heaven is smiling on is today."

"what makes you say that?"

"that's quite a bit of money."

"for what?"

"this guy in the paper."

"why, what did he do?"

"he wanted to play a big joke, to show his girl friend he had a sense of humor."

"so what did he do, buy a joke store?"

"do they even have joke stores any more? when was the last time you saw one?"

"i don't knpw, i don't go down to that part of town any more."

"what part of town is that?"

"the part of town where they have all the joke stores. down around where they have all the chinese restaurants."


"no, not chinatown."

"but you just said - "

"you don't have to be in chinatown to have a chinese restaurant."

"i'm fully aware of that, thank you very much."

"it's kind of dark in here."

"i can read the menu."

"why do need to read the menu? you always order the special."

"excuse me, are you gentlemen ready to order?"

"i'll have the special."

"he always has the special."

"and what would you like, sir?"

"i'll have the special too."

sources: gaspard de la nuit, by aloysius bertrand
claude's confession, by emile zola
doctor zhivago, by boris pasternak
the case of the sulky girl, by erle stanley gardner
the case of the bigamous spouse, by erle stanley gardner
something happened, by joseph heller
edith's diary, by patricia highsmith
when everybody ate at schrafft's. by joan kanel slomanson

Monday, November 24, 2014

joey isn't the problem

you guys are the greatest
but that's not what i meant
because joey isn't the problem

why does it have to be this way
we all know you guys are the greatest
and can even make your own sandwiches if you have to

you used to be so much fun
before you decided joey was the problem
and the dog - let's not forget the dog

joey, always joey
you never felt that way before
do you believe everything you hear

he was just the paper boy

"leave, if you don't want to hear what i have to say."

there's somebody at the door

hello, can i help you
i'm sorry if we disturbed you
we'll try to keep it down

what was that?
i said, we would try to keep it down
you won't try, you will keep it down

i see you are a very forthright individual
there's no need to call the police
yes, we were discussing the paper boy

why do you ask?
that's very interesting, thank you for sharing

“good night.”

sources: an evening in naples, by robert gray
the last of the lonely, by sarah philbin
american midnight, by carl b johnson
the case of the incurious butterfly, by amelia desrosiers
a cafe in nogales, by brett fisher
i thought you knew better than that, by wilson chadwick
the fools, by g t sanderson
thunder at ten o'clock, by alfred clay jones
dead man's whisper, by alfred clay jones
this man and this woman, by dorothy mainwaring smith

Friday, November 21, 2014

good times

heaven is kind and good
the suit fitted perfectly
going into a nunnery

that's quite a bit of money
he slowly pushed the door open
smoking in the dark tavern

slowly pushing the door open

"i don't see any cause for alarm, do you?"

he was having a good time

so they slowly closed the door
he was having such a good time
going into a nunnery

the number ten-thirty on the tablecloth
in the dining room of the nunnery
it cost quite a bit of money

the suit fitted perfectly
the number ten-thirty on the tablecloth
two other guys were in on a little racket

you've got good character
and you are having a good time
with menus printed in french

the number printed on the tablecloth haunted him
heaven is kind and good
in the whole wide world only them

smoking in the dark tavern
clinking glasses in the dark tavern
the prophet who sacrificed himself

sources: the improvisatore, by hans christian andersen; gaspard de la nuit, by aloysius bertrand; the insulted and injured, by fyodor dostoevski; claude's confession, by emile zola; the devil thumbs a ride, by robert c du soe; doctor zhivago, by boris pasternak; the case of the sulky girl, by erle stanley gardner; the case of the bigamous spouse, by erle stanley gardner; something happened, by joseph heller; man on a leash, by charles williams; the eighth circle, by stanlley ellin; edith's diary, by patricia high smith; when everybody ate at schrafft's, by joan kanel slomanson

Monday, November 10, 2014

naraldo and melissa

"that's not what i meant."

"then what did you mean? you should learn to say what you mean."

"you should fix the refrigerator."

"i'm not a refrigerator repairman."

"that's a pretty big dog you've got there."

"that's because i feed him a lot."

"do you believe everything you hear?"

"not everything. but most things."


"because it's easier. if someone says, blue is my favorite color, or 'i had a bacon egg and cheese on a croissant and a french roast this morning when i got up' isn't it easier just to believe them than to waste brain cells wondering about it?"

"don't change the subject."

"i'm not changing the subject, i'm right on the subject."

"fuck you."

"a brilliant riposte."

"stop fighting, you two."

"who's fighting?"

"he's disrespecting me."

"oh please - how am i disrespecting you?"

"you know."

"no, i do not know."

"i was attempting to open up my heart and start a serious conversation about my abduction and you just blew me off with your frivolous philosophizing."

"nobody wants to hear about your abduction. mom, she's starting to talk about her so-called abduction again."

"melissa, i warned you - i told you to just drop the subject."

"you're all a bunch of heartless pigs."

"i said drop it! now rewind, and start the conversation over."


"that's not what i meant."

"then say what you mean."

"this sweater is the wrong color."

"how can a sweater be the wrong color? wrong color for what?"

"wrong color for me."

"that's right, it's always about you, isn't it? mom, she's being a narcissistic asshole again."

"melissa, stop being a narcissistic asshole."

"that's right, take his side!"

"just take a deep breath, melissa, and rewind. i am sure you have an intelligent conversation in you someplace. somehow."


"master, that's not what i want."

"huh? what's that supposed to mean?"

"dumbhead! it's a line from the classic romance novel 'take me forever ' by geraldine st john."

"oh. classic to you, maybe. i would have thought 'classic romance novel' was an oxymoron."

"mom, he's being a snotty patriarchal dickhead again!"

"naraldo, stop being a snotty patriarchal dickhead."

"oh, taking her side again, are you?"

"again? i just took yours."

"fuck you! fuck both of you! i'm going up to my room and jack off!"

"i thought you wanted some intelligent conversation!"

"fuck intelligent conversation!"

"well, if you don't have it now, you will have to have it by tuesday. you know what doctor zeno said."

"i don't give a shit! i feel like jacking off!"

"the porno is turned off until wednesday, you know that, don't you?"

"i have my own fantasies, thank you. i have red-hot fantasies that will knock the booties off the trendiest porno makers in hitsville!"

"ha! ha ha double ha ha!"

"let him go, melissa, he knows the consequences of his actions."


"now what? i was ready for my part in the intelligent conversation."

"well, what do you want from me? there's nothing i can do."

"i could have an intelligent conversation with you."

"you know that's against the rules."

"it's not exactly against the rules. it just doesn't count."

"you mean you want me to talk to you just - for no reason?"

"yeah. for practice, like."

"honey, that's - that's kind of sweet, but i just don't have it in me, i'm sorry. my brain dried up a hundred years ago."

"well, call up and get me somebody then."

"all right, just let me put the finishing touches on this."


“that’s not what i meant”

“then say what you mean.”

“we’ve had this conversation before.”

“then i guess we are having it again, aren’t we?”

“say something new. go ahead, i dare you.”

“make your own sandwich, i’ve sliced my last cucumber.”

“that wasn’t exactly new.”

“the obfuscating termite destabilized the contrite cow.”


“joey isn’t the problem.”

“how could he be the problem? he’s just the paper boy.”

"without him we'd be nothing. we would know nothing."


“you don’t feed that dog enough.”

“he’s my dog, thank you very much, and i'll feed him what i want."

"you should feed him what he wants."

"fuck you."


“i meant what i said the last time.”

“you mean about the paper boy?”

“no, about the termites.”


“you used to be so much fun.”

“you used to be such an asshole. and you still are.”

“i guess there isn’t anything more to say.”

“you got that right.”

“mom, he’s being snotty again, after his last pathetic attempt at faux-reconciliation.”


sources:: the deadbeats, by sam white
take me forever, by geraldine st john
american midnight, by carl b johnson
i thought you knew better than that, by wilson chadwick
the fools, by g t sanderson
daphne, by nora green
this man and this woman, by dorothy mainwaring smith

Sunday, October 26, 2014

the spaghetti and the sadness

she cooked up spaghetti probably from a can
with jeremy's whole life in her hands
but the stove was too hard

the summer it rained and rained
and the guinea pigs escaped from ella's bedroom
putting their whole lives in mom's hands

they dreamed of marbled halls
but ate chef boyardee ravioli straight from the can
the summer it rained and rained

she put the doll beside her plate
even as the dream of marbled halls faded
the summer it rained and rained

the birds sang the wrong tunes
and made her feel sad
especially for the guinea pigs

the birds didn't know any better
shaking off the remains of fear
because the ground was too hard

for the holy family on a saturday night
so they felt sad
and their sadness took the form of heartfelt prayer

mom opened another can of spaghetti
the rain was falling harder
but she shook off her fear

of the lawbreakers infesting the city
liberated by her old customer the archbishop
it was all so sad, so sad

sources: a girl is a half-formed thing, by eimear mcbride; the facades, by eric lundgren; the shock of the fall, by nathan filer; love me back, by merritt tierce; the undertaking, by audrey magee; dept of speculation, by jenny offill; nw, by zadie smith; all the birds, singing, by evie wyld; the laughing monsters, by denis johnson; the anatomy of dreams, by chloe benjamin; how to build a girl, by caitlin moran; rainey royal, by dylan landis; nora webster, by colm toibin

- amazon suggested these books to people "looking for something in our literature and fiction department"