Category Archives: Black Comedy

Immigrant Wonder Woman and the Broken Man

Immigrant Wonder Woman worked the jewelry counter at Walmart because she had lost her touch with taming galactic evil. The Russian space robots had gotten to her, and the damage to her soul was irreparable. But this new job… This was salt in the wound.

An old man dressed in all black wept at the counter because his wife was terminally ill, and he wanted to get her something nice before she rolled over to the other side. He trembled as he spoke. “A pendant with our picture.” That’s what he told her. That’s what he wanted. He wiped at his nose with a white handkerchief. He sniffled. He coughed.

Immigrant Wonder Woman leaned in and whispered to him. “If you really love her…” And she looked from side to side.  “Go somewhere else.”

He cupped a hand against his ear. “Huh? What’s that you say?”

She leaned in even closer, and the old man could feel her warm breath on his face. “This is all junk. If you want to give her something nice, go somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else?”

“Yes, sir.”

The old man wiped at his tearing eyes with his knuckles. “Everyone I love lives somewhere else. Did you know that?”

“No. I didn’t. I’m so sorry. Doesn’t anyone ever come to visit you?”

“No,” the old man grunted with distaste. “They have no use for me anymore.”

“They don’t even want to come visit with their sick momma?”

He blew his nose into his handkerchief, and it sounded like a funny trombone. “My wife? She’s not their momma. That woman is in the looney bin in San Antonio… The one in Texas.”

“Oh wow. That all sounds pretty wild.”

“Yes, mam. And from where do you originate? Doesn’t seem from around here by the looks of you.”

She laughed and did a little dance. “I come from the wild imaginations of men.”

He leaned in like a curious llama. “Huh?”

“Hollywood, California, mister.”

“Oh. I’ve never been out west that far. Too much open sky and sin… Do you know how old I am?”

“How old?”

“Seventy-nine.” He looked at her body and wondered if she could shoot bullets from those breasts. Her nipples stood out through her Walmart uniform top like the rigid barrels of erotic pistols. He tried to shake the weirdness out of his head and asked her again about the pendant. “I have the photograph right here.” He carefully retrieved it from a yellow envelope. “You can cut it up however you like. You know, just our smiling faces. I’d like it to be silver and with an adequate chain because she tends to be reckless and break things.”

Immigrant Wonder Woman laughed then sighed. She looked at her cell phone. “You know. My shift is almost over. Why don’t you let me take you for a coffee. I know a place right by a nice jewelry store. It’s not far. I’m sure they would have exactly what you’re looking for.”

The old man looked at her face. Then he looked at all the things there in the jewelry case. He seemed confused. “You’re not going to kidnap me and do unspeakable things to me, are you?”

She thought he was being old man cute and laughed at what he said. “No. Of course not. I’m a good person. You can totally trust me.”

The old man sipped at his expensive coffee as would a child with an overly full glass of Ovaltine. He sat bent and innocent. His gray eyes were reddened and puffy from too much weeping and lack of good sleep. Immigrant Wonder Woman bit into a cheese Danish and chased it with an iced caramel concoction. “How long have you and your wife been married?” she asked.

He wiped at his mouth with his sleeve. “Twenty-four years… May I ask you something?”


“Were you once a man?”

Immigrant Wonder Woman nearly choked on her iced caramel concoction. She quickly corrected his suggestion. “No. A man? Why would you think I was once a man?”

The old man’s head wobbled as he studied as much of her as he could, even bending to look at the other half of her below the edge of the table. “You’re muscular. Men are muscular. Women have wrinkled fingertips. Yours seem fine.”

“Oh boy,” she sighed. “Now, I know you grew up in a different time and with different ways of thinking. But let me just right your wayward ship… You know, I never got your name.”

The old man sipped on his coffee without looking at her. “Eugene. My name is Eugene Folklore.”

“Okay, Eugene Folklore. This is 2023 and don’t you know women can do anything men can do. And they usually do it better. Women can do anything they want. I have muscles because I go to the gym and work out. I have muscles because I’m a strong, independent woman who’s dedicated to my physical health. And why in the world would I have wrinkled fingertips?”

“Like prunes,” Eugene chuckled. “All that washing of the dishes and the bathing of the babies in the bathwater. But when it comes to the Baptismal font mind you, well, that’s when a man takes over. Washing away sins is the work of men. It’s the work of men because the sin showed up and invaded the world because of the women. Don’t you know anything?”

“Are you feeling all right, Eugene?”

“Sure I am. Why?”

“Because you’re not making any sense at all. Don’t you know a real man cherishes the contributions of a woman. A real man leans on her when he’s weak because he knows she’s strong when he can’t be. And just to be clear, it’s going to be women that clean up all these messes of these damn foolish men… If you’d all just get out of our way and get your shoes off our necks!”

Eugene physically retreated within himself. “You’re angry with me.”

She beamed at him for a moment. She sighed. His frailty nearly broke her heart. “No, I’m not.”

He looked up at her and blinked his run-down eyes. “Will you be my daughter? Just until I die?”

She didn’t know what to say at first, but then it was easy. “Yes, Eugene. I’ll be your daughter.”

He breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. Then his cell phone rang, and he moved a trembling hand to reach for it and put it to his ear. “Hello… Yes… All right then… I’ll be there as soon as I can… Thank you for calling.” The phone fell from his hand and heavily bounced against the table. He began to shake and gasp for air. Immigrant Wonder Woman jumped up and went to put a hand on his bent back. He leaned into her and began to cry just as she said he would.


The Flatulentapede

Man eating salad instead of junk food in park. For Flatulentapede.
Photo by Darya Sannikova on

Dear Ambrosia:

I’m sorry I make your life reek of flatulence. But your demeanor in front of the Weavers last evening is something I cannot forgive. I am your husband, and you should stand by my side regardless of the weather, but instead you somehow found it necessary to embarrass me, to make a complete fool of me. You know I have stomach issues. It’s a medical condition. You’ve been to the doctor with me on numerous occasions. I don’t make fun of you for being anemic and culinarily challenged so why do you make fun of me for excess flatulence? And now you have gone and told our good neighbors that we no longer sleep in the same bed because I make the room smell like a pig stye. I know I disgust you on many levels and in a myriad of situations, and for the things I have the power to change and have not, I am truly sorry. But to berate me, to stop loving me because of a condition I cannot help… I can no longer be with you. I refuse to live like that. By the time you awake and find this note, I will be on an Amtrak headed west. Yes, Ambrosia, west. Where the sky is big, and the air is clear and crisp. Perhaps there I can live freely and without ridicule and shame. Perhaps beyond the borders of your beloved Tennessee, the people will be more tolerant and loving and forgiving. Perhaps I will come upon true Christians rather than hate mongering ignorant cave dwellers. Do not try to find me. Do not follow. Just go on and live your life without the stench that is me. I wish you well. Goodbye.

Your loving husband,

Reginald Rangoon

Reginald slowly turned the pages of a colorful astronomy magazine as he sat in his assigned seat on the No. 58 train bound for Denver, Colorado. His comprehension of the words on the glossy paper was made muddled by the great amount of activity buzzing all around him. He looked out the large window at the platforms, long like piers on water, the tracks running between. He saw all the various people upon the platforms, set there like little plastic painted figurines on a realistic model train display. Some stood still, some moved. Some were quiet while others spoke and made gestures. Some were lost and sad, others were joyful and ripe for adventure. But then his dreamy thoughts were derailed, so to speak, and he suddenly clenched his stomach via his backside, but hard as he might, he could not refrain from releasing an invisible yet audible mushroom cloud of retched gas from the confines of his inner bum.

Reginald winced with embarrassment as other travelers came down the aisle searching for their seats. He noticed how the expressions on faces suddenly changed from intrepid glee to looks of disgust as they came near him. A stodgy woman wearing a feathered female bowler and with over-inflated party balloons for breasts stopped at his row. She looked at her ticket, and then up at the letters and numbers above the seats there. Her entire face was puckered as if she had just sucked on a lemon wedge with great gusto. “My, my,” she groaned in a concrete tone as she waved a hand around in the air. “I do hope that awful smell isn’t coming from you. It would be quite a miserable journey all the way to Denver if it were.” She cheerfully laughed at herself, stowed her bag above and wriggled her way into a seat across from him.

Reginald Rangoon then told a lie. “No, mam. It wasn’t me. Must just be the scent of the city working its way into the train car. This is such a filthy and overburdened place. That is why I am starting anew out west.”

“How wonderful,” the woman said to him. “I suppose you could say I’m doing the same thing.” She sighed. “I’m no longer wanted here. You could say that I’ve been run out of town.”

“But why?” Reginald wondered aloud.

“I’m an entertainer… And there are certain prejudiced ideas being put forth here in this state by the current ruling political junk and their mindless followers. Our so-called leaders are supposed to represent all people, but they don’t. They want to legislate their own specific brand of morality, which in itself is immoral. They are closed-closet thinkers. They believe they can decide what is right and what is wrong… For everyone.” She put her hands out in front of her, one at a time and with palms up. “They claim to be this, when in all actuality they are that. And the that is no good at all. The that is akin to bigotry and hate. They idolize fear and the greatest buffoons of history.”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

The woman extended one of her large hands toward him in a gesture of introduction. “My name is Milton, but you can call me Millie.”

Reginald shook her hand. The grip was strong. He studied her carefully. There was something different…

“Honey, let me spell it out for you… I’m in drag. I’m a drag queen.”

“You mean, you’re really a man?”

“Does that disappoint you?”

The tornadic swirling of Reginald’s guts came on again. An air bubble inside him boldly bloomed and then violently burst. He couldn’t help it. The air around them suddenly turned foul. “It doesn’t disappoint me in the slightest,” he said through clenched teeth as he desperately tried to hold in yet another assault of intestinal origin. He relented and let it blow. He wasn’t strong enough to defeat this demon. He was powerless to stop it. “I’m so sorry,” he said to her. “I wouldn’t be a bit offended if you requested a new seat assignment,” and Reginald quickly got up and made his way to the on-board lavatory with the speed of a cartoon desert roadrunner.

Reginald had to flush 14 times to vanquish this latest horror to the netherworld. He cried in the mirror while he scrubbed his hands. He suddenly feared his new adventure would be nothing but the same. He questioned if his existence would ever be better. An impatient stranger pounded on the door. “Are you almost done in there?” Reginald dried his hands and came out. The impatient stranger went in. And as Reginald walked away up the aisle, he heard the impatient stranger cry out, “Oh my god!”

When Reginald returned to his seat, he was surprised to see Millie still sitting there. The train lurched forward in impending departure. Reginald wobbled on his feet, nearly fell into his seat. She looked up from her knitting. “Everything okay?”

Reginald sighed. He felt betrayed by his own body. He felt defeated. “For the moment,” he said. He looked out the window and the movement of the world passing by began to pick up speed. “You didn’t change seats. Why? I was entirely prepared to make the journey alone… As I so often do.”

Millie smiled. “Honey… We all have struggles in this world, some more than others. I’m not going to look down upon you because you’re different. I’d be no better than the fools running the show here in this fascist state. I’m different, you’re different… Hell baby, we all are different. What gives them the right to make my way of life illegal? They don’t have any. Just like I have no right to bash you over the head for having a bewildering ass. But here we are, both of us escaping our present-tense situations because we can’t live the way we want to live. History is full of situations just like this. Full I tell you. Yet here we are again, having to fight to be who we want to be.” She stopped to take a breath and look out the window as the same world that passed him by passed her by as well. “But they’ll get theirs in the end,” she exhaled with hope. “Hateful folks like that always do. And when it comes, I will make a joyful noise and dance upon their toes.”

Then Reginald Rangoon made a joyful noise of his own and he soiled the world around them with his own brand of rugged individuality, and they both gagged for a moment and then laughed like Jokers, and they settled in and carried on to newer and better lives atop the rails, steel wheels biting and sparking in defiance.


The Toast Technology of a Chicken Maniac

For The Toast Technology of a Chicken Maniac

The world is full of those who claim to dance with the vigor of advanced toast technology. But Henry Towel was like a bagel in a four-sided slot. He was an overly wired individual with exponential 1970s Art Garfunkel hair. But it was beyond even that. Henry Towel liked to play with light sockets. He claimed it never burned, but that it gave him something that made his mind anew. “It clears the pathways.” And made his hair poof and revel in a wild bounce when he walked or talked or whatever he did because he often jerked with a nervous energy. It was something akin to the teachings of the Elaine Benes Dance Academy.

Henry Towel was unemployed, once again. He could never seem to hold down a job for more than a few months, weeks, days, or even hours. He never fit in, anywhere. His attention span was that of a finger snap. Nothing ever kept his interest for very long. Not many things, at least. But he did like the dancing. He often danced all alone for countless hours in a dimly lit room near a window. He moved wildly to music by The Cure or Joy Division or other post-punk goth rock goodies. He would crank up the volume and shake, weave, thrust and jiggle like he had gargantuan ants in his parachute pants.  

Henry once took a job as a night auditor at a hotel of mediocre niceness. The man who had hired him was a cold and salty old sod, like North Atlantic cod, with no hair and no sense of humor. On his very first day, Henry began training on the morning shift with a woman who needed to lose weight and brush her teeth. None of what she explained to him made sense. She was mean. She was short with him. She expected too much for his first day. She told him to take notes, but Henry just tapped at his oversized head with a finger and said, “No need, darling. I’ve got a mind like an aluminum trap.”

The procedures and rules and regulations of the job were so incredibly boring, the tasks so pointless and soul crushing. Henry was ill at the thought of having to do such a thing night after night. What kind of life is that? It was no life he wanted. What sense was there in continuing to live if that’s all it was? None he decided. That’s not why he was created by great Bog the fate sprinkler who sat on his crisp British biscuit out in space. And so, when it came time for Henry to take his very first lunchbreak, he walked out the heavy front doors of the hotel and never came back. He never said goodbye. He told them nothing.

It was January in a place called Colorado and absolutely freezing outside. It was all made worse by a bitter wind. Henry hadn’t even bothered to grab his winter coat from the employee lounge. He just walked out into the cold and drove home. He unlocked the front door of his square apartment that reflected the colors of a pumpkin patch and went to take a warm bath with bubbles of a rainbow sheen. For more than an hour he bathed and screamed at the gray day monochrome burst that rested there like a paralyzed cloud. The hotel manager never called to find out why he did what he did. Henry never got his coat back. He didn’t really care.

Henry Towel sat mostly naked in front of his computer and skimmed through job listings on Al Gore’s Internet. He was sloppily spooning cereal into his mouth from a round white bowl. Milk dribbled down his pale, thin body. He had no interest in making himself look any better with muscles or rock-hard abs or a firm ass. Even if he had the body of the greatest man ever made, it wouldn’t matter because his personality was so strange, awkward and raucous, his heart and soul so wayward, that no woman would be able to stand him for very long. “I’m a confirmed bachelor.” At parties, he would drop that particular cliché to anyone who listened, and then he held up his glass like Jay Gatsby and smiled and pretentiously laughed like he really meant it.  

A job for a crew member at a local fast-food restaurant caught his attention. There was one line in the advertisement that for some reason spoke to him like nothing else had ever done before. It was a desired prerequisite by the company, a quality they were seeking… And this part is true, apply if: You want to make your customer’s day and it shows in the way you are maniacal about serving great-tasting chicken with a great big smile.

“Maniacal about chicken?” Henry thought aloud. “Do they really want someone like that? Because I can be maniacal. I can give them maniacal.” He went to the online application and filled in the blanks. Some of what he put down was true. A lot of it was not. They were probably so desperate for help that they would be willing to take anyone. Even an odd, fabricated individual with no sense of purpose in life. He hit submit, yawned, and went to bed.

It was snowing outside on the day a woman named Susan Gregory called him about the job for a chicken maniac. Henry agreed to come in for an interview later that same day. He even brushed his hair until it looked like golden spun sugar. He shaved until his face was smooth as mirror glass. He wore clean clothes. He was even somewhat excited.

The woman named Susan Gregory sat with him in a plastic booth in the corner of the dining area. She was the general manager and she smelled nice, like chicken and flowers, but she had those big artificial injectified lips that artificial people opt for, and she looked stupid. It was unflattering. Henry had a hard time focusing on the questions as he watched her mouth flap around like a swollen clam as she talked.

“Are you available to work all shifts, including nights and weekends?”

“Sure. I’m a very flexible person. You should come over some time and watch me dance.”

“How would your past co-workers and supervisors describe you?”

“I’m upbeat and easy to wrestle. I’ve got perfect tempo when I hum and walk. I can be a sophisticated jerk at times, but overall, I get the job done when it needs to be done. I can keep a secret. I’m a creative thinker. But I dislike people who have birds as pets.”

“Would you consider yourself to be a team player… And why?”

“Absolutely. The game of life can’t be won by just one person. Or maybe it can, but it generally takes an entire team working in synchronicity to achieve a common goal… And I believe here, in this kingdom of chicken, that common goal would be customer satisfaction.”

“It certainly is. Every day in every way. Because without the customers, we wouldn’t even be here. We would have no reason to exist. Now… Tell me why you want to work here?”

“Because I want to be maniacal about serving quality chicken with a great smile. I’m somewhat of a maniac in real life so this sounds like the perfect place to express myself, earn competitive wages, and have fun. Right? Because that’s how you all portray it in the job description.”

It was 478 days later, and Henry Towel was the new general manager of the fast-food chicken restaurant. He was sitting in the same plastic booth he had sat in with Susan Gregory when he himself was interviewing for a position so long ago.

The female teen who now sat across from him was nervous. She kept playing with her hair and biting at her lip. She had wandering eyes and a shaky leg. She kept sipping at her complimentary soft drink. Henry had his doubts about how intense her dedication to serving delicious chicken with a smile might be.

“So, Tina,” Henry began as he looked over her application. “I’ve worked here for a long time, and I must tell you, it’s the one job in my life I have stuck with… And do you want to know why?”


“Because I get paid to be maniacal about serving the best chicken, and I get to do it with an upbeat, electrified, often questionable attitude. But people love me for it. I’ve become a great success here. And if I can do it… You certainly can. Does that prospect excite you?”

“I guess so. I really just need to make some money to help pay for college.”

Henry was disappointed, but curious. “Oh. What do you plan to study?”

“Elizabethan literature… And business.”

“Business! Well, that’s fine, just fine,” Henry gleamed. “Working here could be an excellent opportunity to learn about business. And you get to be maniacal about chicken at the same time. Maniacal!”

“What exactly do you mean by that? I’ve never heard anyone anywhere ever say that.”

“I’m glad you asked, Tina. Being maniacal about serving the best chicken in the business with a great attitude… That’s our culture here. You can taste it in the air. Literally. There’s nothing like a bead of grease being flung from a piece of hot and tasty chicken and landing on your face. It’s akin to an African rain. In my time here, Tina, I’ve adopted new procedures that make the job fun and exciting and worth waking up for. I’ve untethered my workers from the restraints of the dull and mundane. I’ve released them from the confines of corporate jabberwocky. They are totally free to express themselves. It’s not just words anymore… I’ve given the work here a heartbeat. I’ve given it life! To be maniacal about chicken is to throw it around, to yell, to scream, to cheer, to smile madly, to be whimsical, to be fully enlightened by what we are doing here. And in that rabid enlightenment, we are fully engaged with our customers. Fully engaged and plugged in to all their needs. And people really appreciate that. That leads to success. Success in the fast-food chicken arena means everything to me, Tina. Everything… So, does it sound like something you could get into?”

Tina the teen slid out of the booth, reached down for her backpack and hung it over a shoulder. “I don’t know if this would be the best job for me. I appreciate your time, but I think I’m going to keep looking.” She started to walk away.

“Hey, Tina,” Henry called out before she reached the exit. “I’m concerned that you might regret this. Are you sure?”

Tina stopped. She looked toward the back, beyond the customer service counter. She saw the smiling workers, she heard laughing and yelling, and even the maniacal screaming. Chicken was indeed flying through the air. The employees seemed very happy. Maybe it would be the best thing for now, she thought. Tina reconsidered. “Okay. I think I’d like to give it a try.”

Fourteen years later, Tina the teen, now Tina the adult, sat in the same plastic booth of the fast-food chicken restaurant she herself sat in with Henry Towel so very long ago. It was showing its age now. The whole place was. She looked across the table at the young man and smiled. She looked over his application. He shifted uncomfortably. “So, Dylan,” she began. “I’ve worked here for a long time, and I must tell you, it’s the one job in my life I have stuck with. I ditched a college education for this. And do you want to know why?”


The Breath of Los Angeles

For Breath of Los Angeles.
Photo by Roberto Nickson on

Liberty lies in the wake of a blue house ghost. Christmas glass shines like ass. A ruby red orb like a planet at dusk, in the dust of the Old West. Cowboys cling to the hard backs of horses, sunsets spill, tequila dreams drop like rockets from the moon into the sea. We see. Martians of nuclear clouds. We see. Buildings blowing like bubbles on days of infamy.

Felipe Flauta drags a 39-gallon gray plastic trash can from the kitchen to the back alleyway. It’s full of food waste and he cries as he turns it up and over the lip of the Dumpster. The lip of the Dumpster.

He recalls the clothing store chick in the mall who laughed at him when he brought her a rose and fast-food Mexican from the food court. “I wrote you a love poem,” he told her. He pulled the crinkled notebook paper from his pocket and handed it to her.

Her name was Glenda. Glenda? Was she a good witch? She was embarrassed as she took it. “I’m at work. I’ll read it later.”

“Would you like to eat food with me?” Felipe asked. He brushed the dark hair from his eyes with his fingers. “Do you like burritos?”

That made Glenda laugh as she stood behind the counter. “No. I hate burritos.” She had tossed up blonde hair and she wagged it behind her with a shake of her head. She was overly perfumed. “Don’t you know I’m out of your league? Because I am.”

“You don’t have to be so cruel,” Felipe said. He was meek. He was humble. He was shy. He was small. “I was just trying to be nice. I like you.”

“But I don’t like you. You are pursuing something that is bound to crush you. I really have to get back to work now.”

She walked away from the counter to help a dingy customer with some crappy, overpriced clothes. Felipe sighed. He held the bag of Mexican food tighter in his hand. He went back out to the food court and found a lonely table away from everyone else. He sat down and pulled a burrito out of the bag. He released it from the warm paper. It looked delicious, but he suddenly wasn’t hungry.

He sat stone still and thought of how Glenda had hurt his small heart. Small heart? Then he cried out. “My heart is large and full of foolish love!” People in the food court turned to look. Some pointed and laughed.

Felipe stood up. He reached down and took the burrito into his hand and walked back to the clothing store where Glenda worked. He marched straight to the counter where she was now leaning over and flipping through a dirty magazine. “Hey!” Felipe yelled.

Glenda looked up. She made a face. “You again? What do you want now?”

“It’s feeding time for all the animals,” Felipe said, and he threw the burrito at her face as hard as he could.

She made an ohhh ughhh sound of some sort and it forced her face to contort and shift. The burrito burst open, and its contents covered her heavily made-up face. She screamed as she pawed away the mess. “What the hell!”

Felipe grinned because he knew he had done well in the art of revenge, trickery, whatever it was. “I’m not a fan of food waste. I had to use that burrito for something. Have a nice day.” He walked out as she wept.

Felipe Flauta leaned against a wall in the alleyway and smoked a Spanish cigarette. He was wearing a soiled white apron. The kitchen at Thunder Taco was a hard, messy place to work. He smelled of food and sweat. He always seemed to smell like food and sweat. Food and sweat or dirty dishwasher. He did all the dirty jobs. He figured that was because he was meek and shy and lonely and unsure and wasn’t always able to speak up for himself.

Felipe lived with his Aunt Grasella in a stucco hacienda on the wrong side of the tracks on the wrong side of the city. His parents had died in a hot air balloon crash over the Grand Canyon. His siblings were all older and had moved on. Felipe had a small bedroom with one window that looked out on an alley. His bed was made for one. His existence was so completely singular. He had a stereo and liked to listen to old Rush albums. He would sometimes smoke marijuana and exhale the smoke into his pillow so his aunt wouldn’t smell it. One day she did and she got angry and made him get a job. And that’s why he was a dishwasher at Thunder Taco.

Someone called his name from the kitchen. “Felipe!” He tossed his smoke to the ground and went back inside. A cook by the name of Bryan told him there was someone out front who wanted to see him. Bryan was pretty much an asshole, Felipe thought. He never let him bum smokes. He was saltier than soy sauce. “Who is it?” Felipe wanted to know.

“I don’t know… But she’s a fox.”

Felipe wasn’t familiar with the term. “A fox?”

“She’s hot. She’s got a great body.”


“Yeah, man. Get out there before she takes off… Hey wait, come here,” Bryan said to him. “Let me give you a little advice. Chicks like her dig a guy who sweet talks them. You know, poetry and junk like that.”

“But I’m not a poet. I’m just a dishwasher.”

“Anybody can be a poet, man. Tell you what. I’ve got a line you can lay on her that is guaranteed to get you some action.”

“Action?” Felipe wondered.

“Dude. I’m talking about the ol’ in-out, in-out.” Bryan the asshole cook took his right pointer finger and inserted it into a hole created by his left pointer finger and thumb. He imitated the action of intercourse and grinned.

Felipe was puzzled.

“Sex, man! Sex! I’m talking about man on woman WrestleMania, dude. What’s your problem? Are you afraid of girls or something? Geez.”

Felipe looked down to the ground. He didn’t like the way Bryan the asshole cook talked. Someone put in an order at the window. Bryan looked at him and just shook his head. “I’ll keep the line to myself. I got to get back to work, but take some sort of action, man. Or you will always be just a dishwasher.”

Felipe washed his hands and looked at himself in a clouded mirror above a sink. He took a deep breath and walked out to the front of the restaurant. Glenda from the clothing store at the mall was sitting at a table by the window and looking out at the world. He walked over to her. She turned to look at him. “Hey,” she said.

Felipe sat down across from her. “What are you doing here? I didn’t think you liked Mexican food.”

“I’m not here for the food.” She licked at her Disney Channel mouth and acted nervous. “I came to see you.”

“Me? Why? I thought you hated me.”

“Hate is such an ugly word.”

“What is going on with you?” Felipe wanted to know. He was feeling distrust. “Do you have emotional problems?”

“No… I’m sorry I made fun of you,” she said. “I act like that when I’m nervous. I know it’s terrible, but I can’t help it. I always regret it after.”

Felipe looked around as if there might be someone else behind the scenes pulling her strings. He thought it was all an act. “Are you a puppet?” he asked her. “Puppets creep me out.”

“A puppet? No, I’m not a puppet. What a strange thing to say.”

“Is that all you want?”

“Don’t you have something to say to me?”

Felipe leaned back and strummed his fingers against the window. “No. What would I have to say to you?”

“You threw a burrito in my face. It was mortifying. I was hoping you’d at least apologize, and we could move on from this. Maybe be friends.”

Felipe looked up and toward the kitchen. Bryan was hovering in the shadows and watching them. He was doing his ol’ in-out, in-out routine with his fingers again. Felipe cleared his throat. “Do you want to have sex with me?”

Glenda’s sweet-as-rhubarb-pie face morphed into a sour snarl. “What!?”

Felipe leaned forward and put his elbows on the table and looked right into her eyes. “I asked you if you wanted to have sex with me.”

Glenda fumed. “Are you being serious right now?”

“Yes. What’s the problem? Geez.” He looked across the restaurant at Bryan who was shaking his head in the positive and grinning triumphantly.

“Do you know anything!? Have you any clue what romance is? What love is?”

Felipe was more than surprised by her words. “Love?”

Glenda began to cry. “You don’t throw a burrito at someone who loves you.”


Glenda suddenly stood up. “I love you, Felipe! I’ve loved you since tenth grade.” She covered her face with her hands and cried harder.

Felipe jumped up in shock. “This is hot and fresh and a jiggled mystery to me.”

She pulled her hands away from her face and looked at him. “You’re a senseless fool, Felipe Flauta. A god damn senseless fool.” Glenda dashed from the love ruins of Thunder Taco. She paused outside on the other side of the window and looked through at him one last time before running away.

Felipe slumped back down in his seat at the table and withdrew into his deeper self. Bryan the asshole cook sauntered over. He slapped a white towel over his shoulder and clamped a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “That was rough, man,” he said. “Real rough.”

“She could have been my person,” Felipe said softly. “The one person who could love me forever… And I threw a burrito at her.”

Bryan took the seat across from him, folded his arms, and sighed. “And you straight up asked her to have sex. Damn, man. That takes guts.”

“And what good did it do me? She ran straight out of my life.”

“Do you love her?”

Felipe was shocked that Bryan the asshole cook would even utter those words. “I think so.”

“Then go after her. Go find out for sure.” Bryan got up and started to walk away.

“But I’ve got a pile of dishes back there that need attention,” Felipe called out after him.

The words floated across the waves of dying light as the whole of reality stood still. “Fuck the dishes… Love is everything and more now.”

Felipe looked around at his present-tense broken future. He got up and went to the door. He pushed it open and stepped out. The breath of Los Angeles struck his face, and he went into it and after her, his royal soul on indelible fire.


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Asphalt Whiskers

asphalt blur car city
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He simply thought to himself as he rubbed at his temples: What do I have to do to make all the noise in my head just stop?

His name was Asphalt Whiskers and he was sitting in a fast-food behemoth of burger places, one out on the Brass Highway that mingled with all the rest, the chain of chains, and he was looking down at whatever it was he was about to eat. Asphalt looked up to the electric visuals slowly rotating by the menu board above the cashier’s counter and the milkshake machines. The pictures showed food and beverages that looked perfect, beyond appetizing, the penultimate of delicious and refreshing. Then he looked down into the greasy crinkled yellow paper at the half-squashed hamburger that was his lunch.

We live in a world of illusions, he thought to himself. Everything is purely an illusion. Even I, Asphalt Whiskers — I am merely an illusion. And if I am an illusion, I can do anything I want. I can get away with anything I want. No consequences. Like a dream.  

He picked up the hamburger and took a bite. The meat was cold, the cheese like a loose flap of fake yellow skin. A pickle slid out and dangled at his chin and he clumsily worked it into his mouth with his fingers. Some ketchup dribbled down onto his shirt. He nearly knocked over his orange soda as he reached for a white paper napkin. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed, if anyone was staring.

But then he remembered that no one cared about anything other than themselves. All the heads of dead thoughts were lost in their own listless worlds. Children were running and screaming in the play area, and out of the play area. A table of overweight adults was oblivious as they talked amongst themselves at megaphone volume… Words far drifted from any ordinary wisdom. One of the men was wearing a dusty sweat-stained ball cap that read: Free Moustache Rides.

Asphalt Whiskers just wanted to ascend away from the moronic, to go to his own private mountain and meditate. But he couldn’t. The end of his lunch break would be another end to his life. The monotony and the freezing rain on Mt. Olympus were killing him, so he thought as he looked out the window at the sunlight spilling and splashing along the Brass Highway. It was the main artery through the medium-high city of the Great Plains.

There was no true mountain. He wondered where all the beautiful water was. All he saw were backlit yellows and dirty grays and asphalt purples. He wondered if Asphalt was his real name. He reached down and pulled out the wrinkled birth certificate that he always kept on the inside of a sock in case he was stopped and had to prove his identity. He uncurled it and looked at it. There it said in completely legitimate and legal print: Asphalt Reginald Whiskers.

He picked up some French fries and dabbed the golden ends into a pool of ketchup he created on the paper with squeeze packets. They were salty and greasy. But they tasted good as they were masticated in his mouth and then swallowed. He suddenly became catatonic like he often does. It comes on without warning and the triggers are fathomless.

He wondered if it was the food or the atmosphere or just his own mind again. The way he sees his mind is like a clock and every once in a while, the second-hand may get caught on a piece of stardust before returning to the true sense of time, but then with an infinite lag. Does anyone even know what a second-hand on a clock is anymore, he wondered. Then he didn’t care. Because they didn’t care.

Asphalt’s eyes were then absorbed by the world around him. His hearing became muffled, but it was still loud. He wondered if he was underwater. A pain radiated through his arms, and it felt as if his heart was beating faster, like in an impending drug overdose. His mouth became dry. He suddenly got up from his seat, wobbly like a drunk. This time he did spill his cup of orange soda and people looked at him. Asphalt Whiskers just stood there as the orange soda puddled and then ran off the edge of the table and onto the dirty floor.

A man with a white Wilford Brimley moustache and half his hair looked over at him. “Are you okay?” His wife leaned into him and whispered, “Just ignore him. There’s something obviously wrong with him.”

Asphalt cocked his head in her direction when he heard what she had said. He reached toward and took what remained of his hamburger and clutched it in his hand. He threw it at the woman as hard as he could, and it hit her in the face. She made a noise like “Oooof.” It forced her head to turn to the side, and then Asphalt saw that exact event over and over and over again in his head like a comical movie in front of his frozen eyes… The hamburger flying and striking her face in slow-motion, the way her skin moved at the point of impact, the sound she made, the turning to the side of the head as in true human reaction to something hitting one in the face. Like a bug, maybe. But it was a hamburger. A disgusting fast-food hamburger prophesized by the corporate gods of lies and rained down upon the land by the billions.

The husband stood up in his wife’s defense. “What the hell is wrong with you!?”

Asphalt Whiskers looked at him in a robotic sense of the way and smiled, but it wasn’t a big smile, it was a straight-line smile with no teeth, just a flat horizon of mouth. “I need to use the restroom. Do you know where the restroom is?” And Asphalt wildly moved his head about scanning the entire restaurant for the restrooms even though they were close by.

Then the recognition clicked in him. “Oh. There they are,” he said, and he moved away from his table and walked by the man and the woman, and he paused and raised a threatening fist toward them and play-acted like he was going to really throw a punch and the husband shrunk back in fear. Asphalt retracted his fist and laughed. “I wasn’t going to hit you,” he said. Then he laughed again. “Not this time!” He disappeared into the men’s restroom.

Another man was like a firehose at the urinal when he went in. Asphalt stood there and watched him. The other man noticed him leering like a pervert and made a face. “What the hell’s your problem?” He quickly finished, zipped up and walked around him and to the sink.

Asphalt watched as the other man washed his hands. “I like your beard,” he said. And the burly man did have an impressive flowing motorcycle-riding guy kind of beard, wild and long and full of freedom.

“Back off before I knock you out!” the motorcycle-riding-looking kind of guy barked as he made himself large and threatening, like a Kodiak bear. “Do you want to be dead!?”

Asphalt looked at him and sadly smiled. “Sometimes.”

The motorcycle-riding-looking kind of guy scoffed at him, backed away, and walked out of the restroom.

Asphalt Whiskers looked at himself in the water-spotted mirror of unclean humanity and decided that he didn’t even look like a regular human being. Asphalt felt he looked like he should be living on another planet behind a wooden rail fence usually reserved for longhorn steers. The sky would be nearly black all the time and the three moons above would all be a different shade of lack-of-oxygen blue.

He put his hands beneath the automatic faucet and let the cold water chill his knuckles and palms. He splashed some up in his face. He stuck his head beneath an automatic hand dryer and kept it there until it started to burn.

When Asphalt walked out of the restroom there was a police officer talking to the woman he had thrown the hamburger at. Her husband pointed. “That’s him!”

“Sir,” the officer called out to him. “Sir! I need to talk to you!”

Asphalt pushed on the bar of a nearby emergency exit door and bolted through the parking lot. He stopped at the curb of the busy Brass Highway as if it was the edge of a cliff overlooking a rapturous sea. He looked back over his shoulder as he tried to maintain his balance. The police officer was giving chase and yelling, “Stop! Stop! Stop or I will gun you down!”

Asphalt Whiskers then stood on the edge of the curb like it was a diving board. He closed his eyes, the smell of pool chlorine wafting up the passages of his hobbled imagination and memories. He then dove into traffic, arms out in front of him, legs held close together, breath held in the waiting room of copious amounts of fear. He felt the warmth of Acapulco in that anorexic sliver of a moment.

Asphalt was instantly and violently struck, and his body twisted and flew into the center of the roadway like a hurled deer carcass. Drivers in both directions slammed on brakes. Horns blared. People screamed. Air raid sirens wailed. A murder of ebony crows made a scattering from the treetops. A mushroom cloud splashed upward from the floor of a once beautiful now forgotten desert ruthlessly betrayed by greedy madmen. The police officer radioed for an ambulance with a winded voice.

A shocked crowd gathered around the broken body of Asphalt Whiskers. Hands were clamped over mouths, eyes were closed by dismay, heads turned away to avoid the unbelievable. Maybe they had forgotten the way the world is. Maybe they had forgotten meat comes from living things and broken hearts run to foolish errands in the end.


The Pumpkin Cult Clerk

For Pumpkin Cult Clerk.

Jehovah Pumpkin worked in an oceanside souvenir shop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His job title was that of clerk and his basic duties consisted of stocking merchandise, helping customers, and operating the cash register. He liked the job but hated the people that came in and complained about the most mundane things. He also liked the job because he could come to work looking like a beach bum and no one really cared. He was part of the “atmosphere,” his boss had said, and so it was okay if he resembled a hippie surfer dude who was high on more than just life.

But the one thing that Jehovah Pumpkin always got heat for was his name. There were a great many people who upon looking at his nametag emblazoned with JEHOVAH became very accusatory in the sense that Jehovah Pumpkin was somehow making light of the name of God, or worse yet, impersonating the good Lord. His persecutors — and wasn’t that strange, persecution for the persecuted — said words like “Sacrilegious,” and “Blasphemous,” and “Scandalous,” and “How dare you,” and “You should be shot, and then shot again.”

Jehovah Pumpkin would try to explain, if they would listen, and some did, that he had no choice in what his name was because he was raised in a cult that lived in a pumpkin patch in Colorado and that their Prophet had bestowed all names upon the newly born, for it was his law. Jehovah would always add, “And I have a brother named Yahweh.”

Many of the people he told this to would just scoff and shake their heads in disgust. Some would spit on him after purchasing big towels or beach balls or plastic pails and shovels and molds for sand to build sandcastles with.

It was his crazy mother, Ruth the Baptist, that decided to stay with the cult while his father, Roger Hemingway, (Hemingway being the secular surname he returned to) had escaped to a semi-normal life in Denver when Jehovah and Yahweh Pumpkin were just young gourds (or boys). There had been much fighting and hot-headed quarreling between the mother and the father, especially when Roger Hemingway discovered that the Prophet had taken his wife as his own… Without even asking first.

And seeing that Ruth the Baptist had no intention of protesting the arrangement, in fact, it seemed she was quite in love with the Prophet, Roger Hemingway could no longer take life there in the pumpkin patch. He decided it was time that he left the compound, to leave behind the bland adobe buildings, cell blocks really, and metal fences, and wild dogs, and bizarre rules and rituals, and so he packed one bag and stole off into the night without even saying goodbye.

Jehovah Pumpkin was haphazardly rocked by Parrot Bay rum as he looked out at the ocean and the clouds above that were like purple haze marshmallows. He was sitting out on the deck of his beach bungalow, it needed fresh paint, and he was listening to the waves crash as he rearranged his mind with the strong drink. The sliding glass door was open and music from the radio inside was filtering out through the screen, something from the Yield album by Pearl Jam. He had recently cleaned the kitchen and the dishwasher was running and so he heard that, too, the machinery and the water. It was somehow soothing and satisfactory to him as it mixed with the mainstream rock licks.

The wind blew his hair around and there were people running and playing down in the sand. Someone was flying a kite. He could hear the distant sounds of people laughing and speaking inaudible words to each other. He reached for the binoculars on his patio table and zoomed in. There was a woman who had taken off her top and her oversized breasts were jiggling almost grossly. It was unsatisfying to him. The tourists clot the cream, he thought.

He set aside the binoculars and bemoaned the fact that he was too drunk to just run out to the sand and feel the grains between his toes and the softness on the soles of his soul and jump out into the ocean like a madman to jungle dance and eat jellyfish sandwiches as a windsock screamed a scalding warning about a coming storm called IGNORANT MAN… So it said on a banner trailing from a small plane in the sky.

The phone rang. Jehovah Pumpkin clumsily got up and drunkenly shuffled inside to answer it. It was his boss from the oceanside souvenir shop wanting to know if he could come in and cover the evening shift, 4 to 9 p.m.

“No. I can’t do that.”

His boss got a little upset and wanted to know why.

“I have to go to my uncle’s funeral.”

His boss wasn’t convinced and wanted to know when his uncle died.

“A few days ago,” Jehovah Pumpkin answered. “His heart exploded.”

His boss wanted to know why he hadn’t mentioned it before now.

“I was to upset… And I didn’t want to place any unnecessary emotional burden upon my co-workers, dude.”

His boss sighed and asked him to call tomorrow with an update on the status of him being able to work.

Jehovah Pumpkin hung up without saying another word. He looked out the sliding glass door and saw that storm clouds were beginning to develop. He was happy about that because he liked a good rain, he enjoyed the sound of it as the drops hit the world and discolored it. He was suddenly hungry for pizza. He dug through a small pile of paper coupons and found one for a good deal at Volt’s.

“Volt’s… Shockingly good pizza,” Jehovah Pumpkin said aloud with a laugh. “Hell, man. I like that. That’s a billion-dollar idea.”

He dialed the number and ordered a large sausage, pepperoni, and pineapple pie to be delivered. They told him it would be about 45 minutes.

“Dude, time has no meaning to me. Just bring it when you can,” he told the young man on the other end of the line.

He hung up and walked outside. The wind had picked up and the temperature dropped, and he thought that was strange. “Maybe it will snow,” he said to the clouds.

A while later there was a knock at the door and Jehovah Pumpkin nearly fell on his way to the door. He pulled it open hoping to see the pizza delivery guy holding a big white box and a pleasing smile. But his heart quickly sunk when he saw the Prophet from the pumpkin patch in Colorado standing there, looking much older than he remembered, but it was definitely the Prophet. There was a large man standing on either side of him, big muscular arms folded across their torsos, squinting scowls upon their faces.

Jehovah Pumpkin poked his head out a bit and looked around. “What the hell… Have you seen the pizza guy?”

One of the large men quickly put a cloth sack over Jehovah Pumpkin’s head while the other grabbed him up and carried him to a waiting white van with the side door open. He was thrown inside, and the door was quickly slid shut with force. The van sped off.

Just as the van had completely disappeared, the pizza delivery person from Volt’s Pizza arrived and knocked on the halfway open door of Jehovah Pumpkin’s beach bungalow. “Hello… Pizza delivery,” she called out. She waited. “Hello,” she repeated. “I have your Volt’s Pizza order.” She waited a little longer. “God damn it,” she mumbled, and she went back to her car, tossed the white pizza box through the open window and onto the front passenger seat. She went around and got in on the other side and drove off with a bucket full of anger in her guts.

The pizza delivery girl, her name being Emmanuelle, stopped at a convenience store and bought herself a lemon-lime soda in a plastic bottle. She drove to a park overlooking the ocean and watched a thunderstorm give birth far out over the Atlantic. She ate Jehovah Pumpkin’s pizza and drank the lemon-lime soda. When she was done, she put her hand down her pants and touched herself for a while. Then the rain came in thick sheets, and she felt it pool in her heart for the rest of the day.


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The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 5

For Gravy

In the toiled tick-tock of a fat blue dusk, Steel Brandenburg III stood at the stove in the kitchen of his grossly overpriced apartment on the west side of Berlin, Wyoming.

He was frying two tombstone-shaped slabs of reduced-sodium SPAM in a heavy black iron skillet. He thought about life as the meat sizzled and popped and filled the room with the smoky smell of a cheap life of struggle. He wondered how bad the repercussions would be for pranking the evil chubster Carrie Gould with the trick gum. He suddenly didn’t care. He didn’t care if they fired him or if she had him arrested for assault… As long as she didn’t sit on him, he laughed. “I’m just not into that,” he said aloud to a pale-yellow wall slightly splattered with grease. He suddenly felt like a sad clown.

Steel turned off the burner and used a white plastic spatula to transfer the SPAM to a piece of waiting toast slathered with mayo that sat on a dark blue plate that was chipped in one spot. He topped the SPAM with a thick slice of tomato and a crisp piece of iceberg lettuce. He put down the top piece of toast and gently squashed the sandwich with his palm to connect all the parts.

He moved the plate to the table and set it down next to a tall glass of chocolate milk. He sat down, scooted his chair in, and began to eat and drink in silence. His mind was chugging with a revenge repertoire. He was set on paying that asshole Craig Nusmerg a visit. That very night.

Carrie Gould was sprawled out on her bed as much as her large body would allow it. She was slowly flipping through her diary and reading over all the entries she had made about Steel Brandenburg III. The inky red hearts she had drawn were now all deflated after she crossed through them with hard Xs that nearly tore the paper. The words her eyes traced again and again made her ache. Tears were falling down her face like slow, gentle rain in Africa. She put the tip of the pen to a blank page, sighed, and began to write:

Dear Diary,

Today was absolutely one of the worst days of my life. The worst. I can’t even describe the depth of my pain, the emotional torture I have suffered at the very hands of the only man I ever loved. Steel… Why are you like real steel? So cold, so metal, so heartless. Maybe if I had told him a long time ago how I felt, maybe things would have been different. He was so unbelievably cruel to me today. He played a prank on me with trick gum that tasted of mustard and made my mouth yellow. I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. And he laughed at me. He laughed out loud. I’m nothing but a joke to him. And the worst of it… He called me a “fat sack of shit.” Maybe he’s right. Maybe that’s all I am after all.

She lifted the pen from the tear-stained page and began to cry even harder. She began to wail like an injured whale in the ocean. Then there came the sound of feet on the stairs and a knock at the door of her bedroom. “Carrie? Is everything okay in there? Are you crying again?”

It was her mother. Carrie Gould still lived with her in the house she grew up in. Even though she was an adult, Carrie Gould had a hard time navigating the real world and her beloved mother was sympathetic about that and had agreed she could live with her as long as she wanted. “You’ll always be my child,” she often said. “Always.”

The door opened and the mother walked in. She looked upon her sobbing daughter with pained pity. “What is it, dear?” she asked as she went to sit on the small slice of space that remained on the bed. “What’s the matter?”

Carrie sniffed and closed her diary to keep her true feelings hidden from her mother. “It’s nothing,” she told her mother. “It’s nothing at all.”

Steel Brandenburg III blasted Oasis on the stereo in his white Toyota Tacoma as he drove the night streets of Berlin, Wyoming. The streetlights were gaseous and wet due to a rare rain that had come over the city. The wipers made a noise against the windshield as he drove. Droplets of water were frenzied in the headlight beams ahead of him.

Once he reached downtown, he pulled into the parking lot of the newspaper and used his key to get into the office. The reserve lights burned like yellow pollution in the dead of night dim as he strolled through. Computer screens glowed in places. Buttons on phones flashed with messages. He could hear the clambering of the pressmen as they worked in the back. He heard the obnoxious voice of Craig Nusmerg above all the others.

Steel made his way back to the press room just as they walked to the back dock for a smoke break. He followed them and listened to them make remarks about the weather.

When he emerged from the shadows, Craig Nusmerg turned and noticed him there. “What the hell are you doing here?” he said with a squinting eye of suspicion.

“I forgot something,” Steel lied. “Can I have one of those?”

Craig Nusmerg scoffed. “No. Cigarettes cost money and I can’t just hand them out to everyone.” He turned to one of the others. “Ricky. You got money coming out of your ass. I don’t even know why the hell you even work. Give Steel a cigarette.”

Ricky was skinny and dirty and was missing a few teeth. “To get out of the house and away from that nag of a wife of mine and them damn screaming kids. God, I swear. All they do is scream. I don’t care how much money I have; I’ll always be looking to get out of there.” He reached into his pack and handed Steel a cigarette and the use of his pink Bic lighter.

Craig Nusmerg laughed out loud. “You need to get yourself fixed and quit knocking her up… Damn baby maker. The damn world is already too crowded.”

Steel lit the cigarette and exhaled his first drag from the edge of the dock and into the rain that was more like mist.

Craig Nusmerg redirected his attention back to Steel. “So, just what the hell are you doing here so late. I thought you were a 9 to 5 man like all the rest of them fools,” and he gestured his head toward the main office.

“I just had something to work on that couldn’t wait… And I wanted to talk to you.”

“Talk to me? What the hell for?”

The other pressman tossed their smokes and moved around Steel and Craig Nusmerg as they returned to work.

“I wanted to apologize for the other night… At the party,” Steel said. “I was way out of line with all that talk about gravy. It was stupid. Sorry about that.”

Craig Nusmerg shifted nervously. He looked at Steel as if he were the strangest person alive. “Whatever, dude.”

“No. Seriously, Craig. I’m sorry. I thought maybe we could be friends. Maybe we could hang out some time, go grab a few beers at the pub.”

Craig Nusmerg let out a laugh. “Friends? I don’t think so. I’ve got plenty of friends. Hang out? No way.” He took one last drag of his smoke and tossed it into the darkness before walking away.

Steel feigned disappointment. “Wait,” he said. “All right. I guess I’ll just let you get back to work then.” But before Craig Nusmerg completely walked away, Steel moved after him. He quickly pulled something out of his pocket. “Hey. Do you want a piece of gum, Craig?”


“Yeah. Gum.”

Craig Nusmerg looked around to make sure no one was watching before reaching out and taking the piece. He didn’t want anyone to think he was gay. “Okay, I guess so.”

“See you later, man,” Steel said, and he walked off. He paused alone in the editorial department and waited for it. Then it came. The angry wail was like a dinosaur’s and the solo stampede coming after him even greater.

“You son of a bitch!” Craig Nusmerg cried out, his mouth stained green and spitting as he burst into the room. “I’ll fucking kill you for making me eat shit gum!”

A light suddenly illuminated on someone’s desk in the corner. Veronica Eyes was suddenly aglow like a fox angel. “What’s going on, boys?” she wanted to know. “Fighting again?”

“This son of a bitch gave me gum that tasted like shit,” Craig Nusmerg loudly complained.

Veronica Eyes giggled. “And you should look at yourself in a mirror.”

“What?” Craig Nusmerg said, pawing at his own mouth and tongue.

“You’re all green,” Veronica said. “But it serves you right, don’t you think. You did pour gravy all over his head at my party.”

Craig Nusmerg steamed as he looked at them both. He pointed at Steel. “This isn’t the end of it,” he growled. “I’ve got my eye on you, mother fucker. You better watch yourself… And you better watch out for me.” He turned and stomped off.

For some odd reason, Steel wanted to give Veronica a hug. Then he thought it not so odd and moved on her. She felt good in his arms. She smelled good. He wanted to kiss her, but he was so caught up in the moment that he didn’t clearly realize she was forcefully pushing him away.

“Whoa pal. You can thank me for saving your life from over there,” she said.

Steel took a few steps back. He was horribly embarrassed. “Sorry about that… How did you do that?”

“Do what?” Veronica wondered.

“Make him back off like that. I was sure he was going to beat the hell out of me.”

“Women have a way,” she began. “We’re smarter and stronger than men. We don’t resort to violence at the drop of a hat… And we’re sleeping together. He knows he needs to keep himself in line and not ruffle my feathers if he still wants to get some.”

Steel was shocked. “What? You and Craig Nusmerg?”

“It’s not exclusive, or a relationship. It’s just back-alley lust. It’s completely selfish on both our parts and that’s fine.”

Steel thought about it for a moment and wondered if she could be selfish with him as well. “Do you want to go get a drink?” he suddenly asked her.

He was delightfully surprised when she said, “Yes.”