The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep.3)

Oswald Madness was sitting at the end of a very long table in a very white room that had a long line of narrow vertical windows against one wall. The windows were covered with chemical blue curtains, the bottoms of which gently swayed because of some sort of artificial air being pumped in.

His eyes hurt. His throat felt like he had been screaming for a long time, but he didn’t know why. There was some sort of lingering cloud over the table that silently churned like a butter thunderstorm. Then someone spoke and the cloud began to twirl into a tighter vortex and then drifted up and out of the room through an invisible hole.

“Can you pass the Christmas mustard?” the young girl called from a seemingly long way away. “I have some vivacious ham here that I would like to add a little more zing to.”

Oswald looked down in front of him at the table adorned in a crystal white cloth. There before him sat a jar of unopened Christmas mustard from a deli in Chicago that he used to know of because his Aunt Sharlene would never shut up about it at family gatherings around the holidays.

He looked up and called out. “Who’s there?” He saw the vibrations of his voice shoot across the long table and stumble into something on the other end.

The girl’s voice came back. “Do I need to come over there and get it myself? You really don’t want that.”

Oswald pushed his chair back and got up. The floor didn’t feel real. He picked up the jar of Christmas mustard and started walking toward the other end of the table. He walked and walked and walked. “This is the longest table I have had the displeasure to encounter,” he said out loud.

“Just keep going. You’re almost there.” A small hand suddenly reached out and snatched the jar from him. “Thank you.” And then the mist around her cleared and she slowly came into view. He just watched as she struggled to open the jar. “Fuck!” she said loudly, and then she handed the jar back to him. “Could you open it please?”

Oswald pushed his hand against the lid and turned. There was a little audible pop. He handed it back to her and she smiled up at him. “I don’t know why they make those things so damn hard to open. What if this had been an emergency?”

“A sandwich emergency?”

She gave him a dirty look as she did not care at all for his sense of humor.

He quickly altered the awkward moment. “I know you,” Oswald said to her.

“That’s right,” she said as she smeared Christmas mustard on a piece of rye bread with a silvery knife that flowed like liquid. “I know you as well.”

“What is this?” Oswald wanted to know. “It seems that just a minute ago I was chained to a very different table. I was in some sort of trouble, I think.”

“You were in trouble, but I decided to get you out of it,” the girl said, and she looked around with admiration. “This is my home and I have invited you for lunch. Are you not hungry? I assure you the meats and breads are top of the line… Top of the line.” She took a monstrous bite of the sandwich she assembled and chewed. She casually swung her legs beneath the table and hummed while slowly moving her head side to side as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She was wearing washed-out blue jeans cut by ragged stone, red high-top tennis shoes and a Nirvana T-shirt. She swallowed and looked back up at him as if she was annoyed. “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all afternoon?” She took another bite of her sandwich and chomped. “Go on now. You can go back to your seat and have your lunch.”

Oswald looked to his right and down the long length of table to a chair in the distance. “We can’t possibly carry on a conversation with so much space between us,” he said to her. “Can’t I sit closer to you?”

She ran her hand across her mouth and looked at him as if he had requested something horribly unreasonable. “Why would you want to do that? We’re eating, not talking. There’s a time for talking and it’s not when we are eating.”

“We can’t do both?”

“No! They’re two totally different and unrelatable things. It would be a mess!”

Oswald decided it was not in his best interest to push the subject, so he turned and walked away from her toward the other end of the table, a table that seemed to have become even longer than before. When he reached his end, he sat down in the chair there and scooted it in closer to the table. He sighed when he realized he forgot to bring the Christmas mustard back with him. “Hey!” he yelled out.

“What do you want now!?” the girl answered sourly.

“I forgot the mustard. Can you bring it to me?”

There was a cackling, childish laugh. “You’ve got some nerve, Mr. Madness. You’re in no position to ask me to do anything for you.”

“I just want some mustard. You can’t expect me to eat a dry sandwich. It’s not like I’m asking you to jump off a cliff.”

“You want me to jump off a cliff?”

“No! I just want some mustard!”

He heard a plate clank in the distance and then it was quick footfalls coming toward him. The girl suddenly appeared, and she slammed the jar down in front of him. “Here’s your fucking mustard!” she barked. “I wouldn’t want you to choke on a dry sandwich… Or would I?” She scowled at him, turned, and walked away toward the other end.

Oswald cringed and called out to her vanishing trail. “Thanks.”

He worked on assembling a sandwich and when it was built to his satisfaction, he took a big, deep bite. It was very agreeable to him. But then he realized as he reached out in front of himself that there was nothing to drink. He looked all around to see if he had perhaps overlooked something. He swallowed what was in his mouth, cleared his dry throat and called out to her again. “Hey!”

“Jiminy Cricket! What the hell is it now!?” the girl replied from the other side of the vast distance.

“I don’t have anything to drink. I could choke without something to wash this rye bread down with.”

“Ugh!” she scoffed loudly. “Seriously, Mr. Madness. You are becoming a real pain in the ass.”

“You sure do swear a lot for a young lady.”

“So fucking what!”

“See.”

“I’m sorry if I offend you, but I was unfortunately raised in not the most stable or proper environment. I’m afraid I’m the product of poor parenting… But despite my personal woes, I persevered. As you can see. But try not to be so judgmental.” She reached for and rang a small bell.

He thought he heard her whispering to someone. And then that someone suddenly appeared beside him balancing a small silver tray on his hand. He was tall. His bald head was large and shiny. He had small facial features. He was dressed in a black and cornsilk-colored suit. And when he spoke it was in a very soft, almost undecipherable tone. “The lady has asked me to bring you something to drink.”

Oswald hesitated to answer the strange man at first. “Yes. What do you have?”

The strange man nodded his head and a slight smile appeared on his face. “Whatever you want, sir.”

Oswald thought about it. “Chocolate milk.”

“Fine, sir. I’ll bring it straight away.” He gave a quick bow and then was off. He returned in nearly an instant, and the strange man’s hand, clad in a tan glove, set down a tall glass of chocolate milk in front of Oswald.

Oswald peered up at him and tried to smile. “Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re quite welcome, sir,” the strange man answered. “I do hope you enjoy it. I worked it out of one of our brown cows myself… May I get you anything else?”

Oswald nodded. “I think I’m good.” He lifted the glass to his mouth and took a deep drink. He smacked his lips and looked at the strange man who had brought it. “That’s the most incredible chocolate milk I ever…” The glass suddenly fell from his hand and the chocolate milk pooled on the table and began to seep into the tablecloth. Then Oswald’s eyes flickered and closed, and he collapsed headfirst into the spill. The strange man got down on his knees and moved his face closer to where Oswald lay. The man shook his head and made a noise with his mouth. “How unfortunate,” he whispered. Just then the girl appeared. She was whimsically eating a chocolate covered banana as she looked things over.

She cocked her head and asked. “What happened to him?” Then she laughed before taking another bite of her treat.

The strange man looked up at her and grinned. “Must have been a bad cow.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Go HERE to read the previous episode.

Revolution Meat (First Part)

Marsella Blume woke up on the wrong side of a lifetime of wishful thinking.

The house in the manicured suburb where she lived was quiet. She gathered some fresh clothes and took a long hot shower full of steam and soap. She had to be clean for him. She had to smell good.

Once dressed and properly perfumed, she went downstairs to the kitchen. An orange cat rubbed against her legs and purred. The cat’s name was Alex, and he was hungry so she undid a fresh can of food and plopped it into a bowl. The cat smacked at it mercilessly while Marsella brewed herself a cup of light roast coffee. She drank it down quickly and rushed out to her car that sat beneath a carport. She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror and dabbed at her face with a fingertip to smooth the makeup one last time before pulling away.

As she drove toward the Lucky U Motorlodge to meet the man she was cheating on her husband with, she went through a grocery list in her head for when she would do the shopping following her affair appointment. Gravy. Fat-free milk. Scouring pads. Cat litter. Onions… Meat.

She bit at her frosted lip, worried, hoping she would remember everything. She scolded herself for not writing things down like any sane person would, but she usually relied on her own overloaded mind instead, readily at the cost of her own personal derailments. And the boxcars were piling up.

When she finally pulled into the gravely lot at the Lucky U, she shut the car down in a space in front of room No. 9. He appeared in the window without a shirt on and smiled at her through the glass. Part of her wanted to throw it in reverse and tear out of there and drive to the other side of the world. Another part of her wanted to break the rules of decency.

The next thing she knew she was lying on her back in the uncomfortable bed, and she mindlessly studied the ceiling while he thrust himself inside her. The landscape moved annoyingly — a visual jolt every time he went deep that was beginning to make her head swim. She closed her eyes and thought of Niagara Falls in the spring. She could hear the thunderous flow of the water as it went over the edge and fell with a power like no other. Who was this seemingly random person above her this time? He wasn’t nearly as strong as the falls. She had her hands on his upper arms that weren’t even very muscular. She looked up at his unappealing face, now twisted with his own hard work and pleasure. He was breathing like a marathon banshee and dripping sweat onto her face as he slapped against her skin.

“Please don’t cum inside me,” she warned him.  “Not today. I don’t want to feel it today.”

His dead eyes went wide as he looked at her face. “I may not be able to help it,” he grunted. “You’re a dream come true.”

She suddenly turned away and tried to get out from under him by twisting her body. He popped out of her like a cork from a bottle.

“What the hell! What are you doing?” he wanted to know.

“I’m suddenly not in the mood,” she said as she straightened herself on the edge of the bed. “And I’m not anyone’s dream so don’t say that ever again.”

He scoffed in frustration and went to sit on the opposite edge of the bed. He was trying to catch his breath as he moved his hair out of his eyes. He reached for his pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. He just sat there naked and smoked quietly.

Why had she even chosen him, she thought, as the room filled with the haze of his smoke. Glenn. What an inconsequential name, she thought to herself. They worked together in the real estate office. He was an assistant to the more experienced brokers like herself. How did it even happen? She tried to recall. Then the memory suddenly bobbed to the surface of her jumbled mind like a dumpling in boiling water. One day they were driving in his car together, just the two of them, and they were on their way to the home of a prospective client out in the country who had a very large house they wanted to sell. They had been listening to the radio and laughing about something. He purposely reached over and touched her leg. She instructed him to pull off in a secluded spot and then she found herself leaning in and kissing him. He kissed her back ferociously like he’d never known love. She recalls seeing the glint of her wedding ring as she held his rough face. Soon after, her top was undone, and his hands were on her. She knew she had to stop, but she couldn’t. Then her head had fallen into his lap and this essential stranger was in her mouth, and then she began to cry because it wasn’t love. It was never love, but still, she kept at it. And now she was trapped in a cheap motel room once again, and she didn’t want him at all anymore.

She got up and walked past him without a word and into the bathroom to take a shower. But there was no erasing him from the hard drive of her body — only time and keen personal deception could do that, maybe. He was long gone when she came back out. The key to the room sat on her pillow atop a one-dollar bill.


Marsella Blume always ended up with the shopping cart that didn’t go straight or had a wonky wheel that rattled and drew unwanted attention. It was just her lot in life, she achingly figured.

She steered her trolley down the shiny, well landscaped aisles of boxes and cans and bottles and bags and tins and sacks and pouches until she reached the meat department at the very back of the store. The chilled and brightly lit cases gently hummed. She drew closer and peered down at the animal flesh neatly cut and presented atop the white foam trays wrapped in plastic. She studied all the various hunks of animal flesh. Some were bright red like blood. Others the color of well-tanned human beings. Others still were pale as a sun-bleached shell on a sandy beach or like a distant breakthrough muddied star in space.

She picked up a package of flank steak. She wondered to herself. Flank? She didn’t know what that even meant. The only thing she knew was that she was staring at a piece of animal flesh. It was the flesh of an animal that once walked around and ate grass or something like that, she thought. It breathed. It looked at the sun or stood on a hill in the rain. It had eyes and a brain. And now she was holding a piece of it in her hand. How incredibly odd, she thought. How when you really think about it, the truth of the matter is human beings savagely kill other living things, cut them up into pieces, wrap them up neat and tight and sell them for profit. Then we burn them, chew them up and swallow them down into our collective guts in a celebratory sort of way.

A man in a white lab coat streaked with red and with a hair net atop his head that made him look extremely peculiar smiled at her as he stocked more packages of animal flesh beside her. His eyes were alien blue and twirled like old time camera flashcubes when he smiled. “Can I help you find a particular cut?” he asked her politely.

Marsella looked at him. “Is that blood on your company uniform?”

He looked down at himself. “Yes, it is.”

She was alarmed. “Where did it come from?”

He looked at her strangely, but then again, he was used to odd birds swooping in from the ridiculous world. “I work in the meat department. I’m a butcher.”

“So, you cut up animals back there?” Marsella asked with a nod of her head toward an unknown space beyond them.

The butcher chuckled at her. “Not really. They come to us already cut up. We just cut them up more.”

“So that they fit neatly in all these little packages or in trays in your fancy little case over there?”

“That’s right. We take it right down to the point of purchase and consumption… Are you sure there’s nothing I can help you find?”

“Can you show me where you work?”

He made a puzzled face. “I’m sorry, mam. We can’t allow customers into our production area.”

“Then can you tell me what a flank steak is?”

The butcher cleared his throat and thought about it as he looked at her. “Listen. You seem nice enough. I’ll let you come back and look at my beef chart and I can show you exactly where the flank comes from.”

Marsella suddenly brightened. “Really?”

“Sure… But you can’t say anything to anyone. Okay?”

“Okay. But what about my shopping cart?”

“Just leave it. We’ll only be a minute or two.”

She followed him to an area behind the custom meat counter and through a set of swinging metal doors with two little square windows on each one. He led her to a white plastic table that was stained pink from repetitive butchering. Above the table was a big poster with a drawing of a cow except the cow was divided up into all sorts of different parts and the parts were labeled and color-coded. He pointed to the one marked flank. It was blue.

“See there. The flank is at the bottom of the cow, just forward of the rear quarter.”

Marsella’s eyes slow danced across the chart, and it almost made her feel like she was back in her high school biology class. It nearly smelled the same — like death and bleach. “I never imagined such a thing,” she said.

“Well, where did you think meat came from?” the butcher asked with a tone of sarcasm that made her feel stupid.

“I guess I never really thought about it,” she said. “I suppose like most people don’t.”

“Well,” the butcher smiled. “There’s a bloody reality behind every shiny facade.”

“I suppose that’s true,” she said, returning the smile.


The flank steak Marsella had purchased sizzled and smoked as it hit the hot cast-iron skillet. She turned to look at her husband who was sitting at the table behind her flipping through a day-old newspaper.

He sensed her looking at him. “What’s the occasion?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“Steak. You never cook steak.”

“Oh,” Marsella fumbled in her thoughts. “I decided I would try something different. The butcher recommended it.”

He moved the newspaper away from his face and beamed at her from across the gap between them. “The butcher? What butcher?”

“The one who works at the grocery store. He was very helpful. Did you know they have a huge poster of a cow back there and it shows all the different ways they cut up that poor animal?”

“He showed you a poster?”

“Yes.”

Her husband sneered with suspicion. “Did he show you anything else?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she wanted to know.

Her husband mumbled something undecipherable and rattled the newspaper in frustration. “Don’t burn it,” he said louder.

Marsella jabbed a large fork into the cooking flank steak and it bled out, the juices smoking and sizzling loudly in the pan. “I won’t,” she meekly answered.

She set two plates down. Her husband looked up at her from across the table and smiled after she took her seat. “This looks amazing,” he said as he unfurled his napkin. “I’m hungry as a dinosaur.”

Marsella looked down at her meal as he worked his knife and fork into the slab of animal flesh before him. His utensils scraped and clinked against the oval plate, and that combined with the sounds of his prehistoric chewing made her skin crawl and her teeth hurt.

She crinkled her nose at the hunk of flank steak before her. She thrust her fork in followed by her knife. She sawed, pierced the piece she had dislodged from the bigger piece and brought it to her mouth. She pushed it in and started chewing. The taste of salt and blood and iron played out strongly on her tongue. She forced herself to swallow and then she gagged a bit.

Her husband quickly glanced up at her. “Are you okay?”

She ran her tongue across her lips and fake smiled. “Do you see what we are doing?” she said, and she took a sip of water.

He looked confused. “I thought we were having dinner,” he answered.

“Yes. But no. Think about what we’re doing. I mean really think about it.”

He looked at his plate and then back up at her. “I’m having a steak, some potatoes, green beans…”

“No!” she blurted it out. “I want you to think about it at a much deeper level. Why can’t you ever do that!?”

He slammed his knife and fork down and they rattled angrily against his plate. “What the hell do you want me to say!? And I’m sorry if I’m not as intelligent as you supposedly wish me to be.”

“Do you not see it!?”

“See what, Marsella!?”

“We’re eating animal flesh! Look at your plate. That used to be a living breathing being with a heart and a brain and eyes to look upon the world with.”

He rolled his own eyes at her and wiped at his mouth with a napkin. “Oh Jesus. Here we go.”

“What!?”

“Is this your way of telling me you’ve decided to become a vegetarian now?”

“I may consider it.”

“Because of your great enlightenment following your visit with the butcher? I bet you won’t swear off all meat,” he scoffed.

She avoided his comment for the moment but filed it on the horizon of her memory. “Don’t you see how heinous it all is?”

“Heinous?”

“We stand over all these poor animals like gods and treat them horribly while we fatten them up just so we can cut them to pieces and then cut them to more pieces until the pieces are just the right size of convenience for the bloodthirsty bah, bah, bah consumers. Look at what you had in your mouth! Look at it!”

He watched her carefully in case she physically attacked him, and then he looked down at his plate.

“That’s right,” she continued. “We cut them up into little bits and package them up nice and friendly like and stack them in a refrigerated fluorescent case for the humans to prey upon with their watering eyes and nimble fingers. Oh, but to all of them it’s just a good piece of meat. It’s just something we breed and harvest to feed ourselves. We’ve turned other living creatures into a commodity to buy and sell by the pound! And then you put it in your mouth and shit it out later! Does that not bother you in the slightest?”

“It’s simply the cycle of life, Marsella. The cycle of life,” he answered sternly.

“It’s barbaric. If a man did that to another man, they’d send him to the electric chair and then some… And how many people out there do you think would even buy a steak after watching it gutted and plucked straight from a cow right in front of them? Hmm. Would you?”

He stood up. He was perturbed and he yelled at her. “I don’t know what you want me to do about it! It’s just the way it is, Marsella, and I’m sorry, but there are a lot of things in this crooked world far darker than you realize or wish them to be. But man is at the top of the food chain. That’s reality. It’s where God put us. It’s called survival of the fittest. Cows weren’t meant to plow fields or operate machines or be doctors. If you don’t like it, then go ahead and stop eating meat, but I for one will continue to eat meat because humans are carnivores… And I happen to like it.”  

“Omnivores,” she said dejectedly.

“What?”

“Human beings are omnivores. Maybe if you educated yourself, read a few more books, you’d know that.”

“Why is this suddenly turning into an attack against me. Jesus Christ, Marsella! All I wanted to do was enjoy my dinner and you launch into this psychobabble about meat and insult my level of intelligence. I won’t stand for it anymore.”

He snatched up his plate and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to finish my dinner in the den. There’s a game on I want to watch. And I would appreciate it if you just left me alone with my subpar thoughts.”

TO BE CONTINUED


The Sunday Visitor

The misunderstood devil knocked on the back door around noon on a Sunday. Mae looked up from the stove where she had just set her drained pot of boiled potatoes to cool. She dried her cooking hands on a towel hung on a drawer handle and turned down the kitchen radio that was playing war time classics.

“Who is it?” she called out.

The knocking came harder, and she went closer to the door and stood against it.

“Who’s there?” she said again, her heart beginning to race.

Then there came a man’s voice from the other side. “I’m very sorry to bother you on the Lord’s Day, but I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”

Mae paused for a moment and then told the stranger something untrue.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t open the door to strangers. However, my husband will be home momentarily if you’d care to wait.”

She held her breath for an answer.

“It’s quite cold out, mam. I’m not a murderer. I swear it.”

“What do you need the telephone for?” she asked. “Perhaps I could dial the number for you.”

She could hear the crunch of snow beneath the man’s boots as he shifted. She imagined he was looking around, searching for another way into the house.

“All right then,” the man’s voice came again. “I’ll be frightfully honest with you. I have no money and I’m hungry. I was hoping you might have a bit of food to spare.”

Mae bit at her brightly colored bottom lip and thought about it. “What does the good book say about such a situation?” the voice inside herself asked. She quickly decided and opened the door.

A small man wearing a hat and jacket wet with snow stood there and attempted a smile. “Mam,” he said. “The name’s Ed Jallow. I sure do appreciate it.”

“Come in, Ed,” Mae said. “Please, have a seat at the table and I’ll get you a cup of coffee to help warm you up.”

“Thank you,” Ed said, and he pulled a chair out from a small table by a set of large windows that looked out upon a modest yard now caked in various layers of snow. He sat down. He pulled the hat from his head and stuffed it into a pocket of his coat. He sniffled and then coughed.

Mae turned from the kitchen to look at him. “Are you sick?”

“No. I don’t think. It’s just I’ve been breathing all that cold air.”

Mae carefully carried over a steaming cup of coffee atop a small plate. She set it down in front of him and studied for a moment the now revealed top of his balding head. “Here you are. It’s a good thing for you I keep a pot going most of the time. I’m an absolute fiend about it.”

He smiled at her and picked up the cup, blew across the top of it and then carefully took a sip. “Hmm. That’s a good cup of Joe,” he said.

“So,” Mae wanted to know. “Where are you from?”

Ed Jallow cleared his throat. “Detroit,” he said.

“Detroit? What brings you all the way up here?”

A cuckoo clock suddenly released its half-hour call from up above them on the wall. Ed became startled. His hands trembled slightly. “I’m a fugitive from love, I guess you could say.”

Mae was intrigued. “A fugitive from love?”

“Marriage trouble,” Ed confessed. “I’m afraid I didn’t plan well enough. Ran out of gas. And so here I came around to your abode, penniless and hungry.” He feigned a laugh, but she could sense the stress devouring him.

“You were in the neighborhood?”

“I suppose I got lost,” Ed said.

“Would a sandwich be, okay?” Mae asked, quickly changing the subject. “Ham on rye?”

“Great,” Ed answered. “And do you have any potato chips? I’ve got a thing about potato chips.”

“I’m sure I could dig some up,” she said, and she went into the kitchen to fix up his plate.

Ed craned his neck to get a good look at her tightly packed rear-end as she moved it around while she worked. “You said your husband would be home soon?” he said, wanting to clarify the situation.

Mae quickly looked in his direction. “That’s right.”

“Does he work on Sunday?”

“No. He’s down at the corner bar watching the big fight with the fellas.” She strutted back to the table carrying a plate with a sandwich and a small mound of potato chips on it. “I could call down there and have him come home. Wouldn’t take him but about five minutes or so to get here.”

Ed Jallow eyed the plate as she set it down in front of him. He quickly snatched the sandwich up and bit into it. Then he shoved a few of the chips into his mouth. The noises he made while eating bothered her and she walked toward the phone and picked it up.

“What are you doing?” Ed asked.

“I was going to call down to the bar and ask my husband to come home.”

Ed waved his hand against the air. “You don’t need to do that. Let the guy enjoy the fight.”

Mae hesitated for a moment and then hung the phone back up. “I suppose you’re right. No man likes to be nagged.”

“That’s for damn sure.”

Mae smiled. “As soon as you’re done eating, we can go to the garage. I’m sure my husband has a gas can out there somewhere.”

Ed looked at her with a puzzled expression. “A gas can?”

“Right. You said you ran out of gas.”

“Oh yeah. Of course. Gas. I could sure use some gas.”

Mae chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Ed wondered.

“All this talk of gas.”

Ed pushed the plate away and wiped at his mouth with his hand. “How about we go check on that gas now?” he said with seriousness.

“Follow me, Mr.… Jallow, right?”

“That’s right. Like shallow but with a J.”


Once inside the garage, Ed followed her movements with his eyes as she searched for the gas can.

“Surely there’s some gas in here somewhere. I can smell it. Can’t you smell it?”

Ed got closer to her and looked at her face in the dim light. “All I can smell is you, and you’re in heat. Why are you in heat? For me?”

She looked at him as if offended. “Mr. Jallow?”

“What do you really want from life? You want me?”

“Mr. Jallow… I’m a married woman.”

He suddenly grabbed her left hand and held it up. “You’re not wearing any sort of wedding ring… And I didn’t see a single picture inside of you with some fella. What gives, lady? Why are you lying to me?”

Mae yanked her hand away from him. “Why are you lying to me? You’re not some poor fella from Detroit run off by his wife… You’re nowhere near out of gas and down on your luck, are you?”

He got close to her face. He squinted his eyes in defiance. “Looks like you got me pegged, lady.”

“What do you want from me?” Mae quivered.

He was breathing heavily. “I want you to take me to your bedroom and spread your legs for me. Is that bold enough for you?”

With her movements void of any hesitation, she led him back into the house, through the kitchen, and past the table where he sat to drink coffee and eat his sandwich and potato chips. He followed her down a dark hallway, past a bathroom with the door slightly ajar, and finally into her bedroom in the corner of the house. Ed gently closed the door behind them, shed his coat and threw it on a chair in the corner. He loosened the collar of the shirt he was wearing, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up the sleeves like he was about to fight someone.

“Get out of your dress,” he ordered her.

Mae slipped out of the dress like he asked.

“Now everything else,” Ed instructed.

She did as he said until she stood fully naked before him.

“Get on the bed.”

“How do you want me?” she asked.

“Like if you were sleeping, but relaxed, open, untethered,” he told her.

Mae got onto the bed and laid down on her back. She felt his eyes on her as she looked up at the white ceiling that resembled swirled cream.

“Now what do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” Ed Jallow said. “You don’t have to do anything. I just want to look at you.”

Mae propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him, confused. “You’re not going to have your way with me?”

He avoided her stare for just a moment. “No. I can’t. I’m not able to. I got an injury in the war. They told me I’m only half a man now.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

Ed walked to a window, parted a tender curtain with his hand and looked out. “I’ve been driving the last day and a half, and I just wanted to see something beautiful for a change. I’m plain sick of the way the world looks and acts out there. Plain sick of it. I never meant to scare you. You’ve been very kind. I should just go now,” he said, and he moved away from the window, reached for his coat and made his way toward the door.

“Wait,” Mae said to stop him.

He turned to look at her lying there naked on the bed.

“What’s up, lady?”

“Do you like fire?”

“What kind of fire?”

“Crackling, orange fire that gently licks at the brickwork,” she explained. “Would you like to sit in front of the fireplace with me in the other room? It’s supposed to snow more. And where else would you go?”

Ed Jallow scratched at his balding head. “And you won’t mind if I just get lost in the flames for a little while?”

She bowed her head for a moment to think, and then she looked back up at him. “Isn’t that what life’s all about?” she said, her tone thorough and full of conviction.

END


Applesauce Cat

Warning: Mature Content

I was sitting in the din of another rum-soaked afternoon on High Street in some far away town. I was alone as usual. The clock was ticking behind my head like a reader counting down the days to my ultimate demise.

I looked out the balcony fortress at the world all messed up and angry with itself, and I saw a cat eating applesauce down on the sidewalk around the perimeters of chalk art and lonely hearts.

I was cut like dynamite all up in my guts… my face so fucking worn away from the droop of negative gladness that I felt like gravity sucking at a skull through a circus straw, clowns all mad and boisterous running around with shaving clippers to cut away the dirt of dope all muddied in my blood.

It’s the countdown to broken neck as end of summer lawns hiss as the sprinklers spit at the grass like riots, I am hungry and in pain deep down in the belly welly of life on bourbon street sans street, the plastic puppets of a childhood tossed in a bin scream redemption but the oily candles only bleed sin and throat blessings designed to curb the swearing are merely molestations of the skin.

So God, do you have a dick in which to fuck the universe and all its celestial holes?

Alcoholism and roughed up love meet in a bar down on Bleeker Street. It’s puke and madness and a dying heart just trying to reach out to another Rings of Saturn soul, blowholes and arrows, hard drinks and drugs and tattoo flu shots trembling at river’s edge, in upper north Wisconsin, where I want them to spread my ashes, like tumbler cheese on a cracker, and GODmother is dead because money is more important than any sensibility of love and honor… fuck you Chicago and all the piss you dump and pray for… my ass hurts, like a tiger biting into the bone, and I tremble Atlanta, my home, my five-fingered mannequin bone, restless and destructive like a coffee-scented angel on the 285, running circles round the metro like a honey-bee hive, all full of stings and poison and air machines for the lungs, my head, my life, so heavy and strung out like Christmas candles in a circus, a mall walker carrying a tombstone and a blowtorch, attacking the restless kiss as if in a never-ending dream.


Comic Stripped (P.4)

Disturbing dinner conversation

Once at the modest brick and vinyl Midwest bungalow, Max Pine took a seat in an uncomfortable chair near an unlit fireplace. The mantel above was littered with framed photos of Christine as Chris, images of another time that Max scanned with wild sick eyes. An old clock quietly ticked away in the middle.

Mr. LaBrush was fixing drinks at a small wet bar on the other side of the room. Max could hear ice being dropped into a glass.

“You drink whiskey, Max? Or does your kind prefer a wine spritzer?”

“My kind, sir?”

“Well, you’re porking my son so technically that makes you queer, right?”

“I don’t think you know me well enough to make such a brash and insensitive statement, Mr. LaBrush. And what makes you so certain that Christine and I have had any sexual relations? I mean, we haven’t known each other that long. I’m not a pig… And I’ll have a whiskey.”

Mr. LaBrush dropped another round of ice and poured whiskey in a glass. He walked across the room and roughly handed it to Max.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, Max. I spent over 30 years in the military, and I know a thing or two about human behavior. I’m not accepting of any of this at all. It’s wrong. It’s ungodly. I’m not going to cave in and be nice about it either.”

Mr. LaBrush took a deep gulp of his drink, picked up one of the photos on the mantel and studied it with disappointment in his aching eyes. “Just look at what my son used to be. When I think of all he could have become, all he could have accomplished. He’s destroyed his life and soul. It hurts my heart. It truly does.”

“But Christine is still your…”

“I demand you refer to my son as Chris in my house!”

Max sighed with frustration. “Chris is still your child regardless of what he or she accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish in life. If I could be so blunt, sir, you talk as if she has absolutely no value anymore. It’s untrue and sad.”

Mr. LaBrush chuckled as he took another gulp of his drink. “Wow. You certainly are bold. Maybe you could lend some of your balls to my son.” He came closer to Max and hovered over him in a threatening manner almost. “But let me just make one thing nice and sparkling clear, Max. Once you leave this house tonight, I don’t ever want to see you again. I don’t want you back in my home and I definitely do not want you screwing my son. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll just walk away. Walk away, Max.”

Max gulped down his drink, held up the empty glass to Mr. LaBrush and smiled. “May I have another?” he asked.

Mr. LaBrush snatched the glass away, set it on a nearby table and disappeared into the dining room.


The dining room hummed with an uncomfortable quiet as they gathered at the table to eat Swedish meatballs.

“Max,” Mr. LaBrush began. “It’s customary in our household for the guest to lead us in prayer before we eat our meal.”

“Actually, I’m not religious,” Max let it be known to those gathered. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about praying.”

Mr. LaBrush shook his head in disbelief and dismay.

“What do you mean you’re not religious? Everyone is religious. Don’t you believe in God or his little friend, Jesus?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

Mr. LaBrush slapped the tabletop with a meaty hand and the dishes jangled. “Well god damn it! I never thought I’d have a real live pagan sitting here at my supper table. I’m really at a loss here, people. Seems everything is going to hell in a hand basket. The problem is, you young people have no standards or religious morals anymore. You young people just think you can go off and do anything you want. If it feels good, you just go and do it no matter the consequences to your body, mind or soul.”

Mr. LaBrush glared at Christine. “Take my son, for example. He didn’t want to be a man anymore because it didn’t feel right to him… So, what does he do? He decides to turn himself into a girl. Well, I call all that bullshit! Now look at him — he’s got manufactured body parts. He’s defiled God’s own work. It makes me sick.”

Christine started to whimper within the cloud of his berating. She dabbed at her tears with a napkin.

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush screamed. “You stop that right now or I swear I will leave you! This is our child! No matter what, this is our child!”

Mr. LaBrush snorted.

“You’re going to leave me? Hah! That’s a laugh. You wouldn’t survive one day out in that crazy world without me you silly bitch! Those pagans and hippie liberal assholes would eat you up like a bowl of dog food.”

Max started to get up from the table. “I think we should leave, Christine. I feel very unwelcome.”

“Sit down!” Mr. LaBrush barked. “My wife went to a lot of trouble to cook you this meal and you’re going to eat it!”

Max grudgingly sat back down and plunged his fork into the plate of the worst Swedish meatballs he ever had. He looked around the table at the startled, dying eyes as the people there ate the food without any hint of real purpose in life.

“By the way, Max,” Herbert LaBrush started up again, slushily talking with his mouth full of food. “What kind of a person are you?”

“What do you mean what kind of person am I?”

“I mean your background, your ethnicity. Your skin seems a little… Off.”

“Daddy, stop it!” Christine cried out. “You’re being awful.”

“Zip it, girly boy! I want to hear what he’s got to say.”

“Well, if you must know, my father was black, and my mother is Chinese.”

“Holy dog shit!” Mr. LaBrush bellowed. “God damn, this just gets better and better! But it explains a lot.”

“What the hell do you mean by that!?” Max asked, his blood boiling to the point of overspill.

“I’m talking about consequences, Max. Consequences.”

“Consequences?”

“Yes. You’re the unfortunate consequence of the sinful mixing of skin types.”

Max slammed his napkin down on the table. “You know, Mr. LaBrush, for a man who constantly spews talk of God and righteousness, you sure are one hell of a hateful bigot!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way in my own house you little son of a bitch!”

Mrs. LaBrush suddenly shot up from the table, her arms raised above her head, hands violently shaking in the air. “Just stop it, stop it, stop it right now!” she wildly screamed and stomped. “No more! I’ve had enough of this ugliness! Now, we are going to act like civilized human beings or there will be no dessert for anyone. And I’m serious. I’ll go throw it in the garbage!”

“Don’t you dare touch my schaum torte!” Mr. LaBrush warned. “I’ll stick a fork in your face!”

“Oh, shut it, Herbert!” she said, breathing hard as she looked around the table at them. “Understood?”

Mr. LaBrush grumbled under his breath. Christine hung her head in embarrassment and shame and pain.

“Yes, mam,” Max said. “I agree we should try to be a bit nicer to each other. And I apologize for the role I may have played in the disruption.”

“Thank you, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush said. “I’m glad you are willing to make this evening work… Herbert?”

“What?”

“Don’t you feel you owe us all an apology for your cruel antics?” his wife asked.

Mr. LaBrush sucked on his teeth for a bit as his eyes went from Max to Christine and then up to his trembling wife. He scooted away from the table, got up and walked off into the other room and poured himself another drink.

TO BE CONTINUED


Comic Stripped (P.3)

Meeting the awful ‘rents

Max Pine had his face buried in a magazine about the puppetry industry as Christine LaBrush gazed out the smeary dreary window as the world rushed by in BUS No. 13 on its way to the edge of the big, big city among the lakes.

“Mother is making Swedish meatballs for dinner. I told her that you like them,” Christine said as she leaned into him.

Max looked up from his magazine, perturbed. “I hope she knows how to make them. It’s not an easy dish to prepare. I don’t want to be puking all over the place.”

“Mother is a wonderful cook and daddy hates people who vomit,” Christine huffed.

“People can’t help puking. That’s like hating someone who has nervous tics,” Max said in the defense of people who puke.

“It doesn’t matter to daddy. Once he hates something, he hates it for life.”

“Well, then he’ll hate me for sure,” Max pointed out. “I didn’t tell you this before, but I puke a lot.”

“What? Why?”

“I have stomach trouble. I have since I was a kid. My Chinese mother made too much spicy shit.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I can’t help it. You of all people should understand the uncontrollable.”

Christine gave him a puzzled look and went back to looking out the window at nothing. “Well, just try to control yourself tonight, that’s all I ask.”

“I’ll do my best, but my guts have a mind of their own,” Max told her.


The bus pulled into the station and Christine started waving frantically through the window when she saw her plump ma and pa standing there in the glowing parking lot with big, stupid grins on their faces.

Max and Christine deboarded the bus and went over to where her parents were waiting. Christine’s mother embraced her, but her father gave her only a minimal hug.

“Hello Chris,” he said.

“Daddy, it’s Christine now.”

“Sorry, but you’ll always be Chris to me.”

She was disappointed but avoided an immediate confrontation. She grabbed Max by the shoulders and twisted him a bit to show him off to her parents. “Mom. Daddy. I want you both to meet my serious boyfriend, Max.”

Christine’s mother had a ghoulish, wrinkled face and she wore too much makeup, and the color palette was all wrong for her — too much orange and green and she looked like a sickly Irish flag. She was round like a beach ball and her clothes strained against her billowy flesh and her orangey, brassy hair was thinning and whimsical in the wind.

“Hello Max,” she said, and she got really close to his face; she smelled of cigs and booze and her teeth were nauseatingly misshapen and yellow.

“Hello Mrs. LaBrush,” Max said as politely as he could. “I understand you’re making Swedish meatballs for dinner. That’s my favorite.”

“Oh yes, Christine told me on the phone right off that you enjoyed them. And I do hope you enjoy them. I just love to give people joy.” She got uncomfortably close to Max and fluttered her sticky eyelashes at him. “I want you to feel so good inside, Max.”

Christine’s father was just as round as his wife with a big balding head that displayed an ever present and sour scowl on the face part. His hand felt wet to Max as he grasped it and shook it.

“Hello Max,” he began. “Chris hasn’t told us much about you; we’ll have to talk in the car. I must be honest with you, but this is quite a shock to us… I mean, we never thought someone, anyone would want this.” He motioned toward Christine with two open hands in a gesture of disappointed showing off.

“Daddy,” Christine moaned. “Could you be kind for just one evening.”

He gave her a disgruntled look and then sighed in avoidance. “Gather your things and we’ll get going,” Mr. LaBrush ordered.


Max sat up front in the big, oddly smelling car with Mr. LaBrush as Christine and her mother quietly chattered like annoying jungle birds in the backseat.

“So,” Mr. LaBrush began. “Christine said something about you working in an art gallery?”

“That’s right. I manage it. One of my good friends is the actual owner, but I’m in charge of the day-to-day operations.”

“Huh,” Mr. LaBrush grunted. “Operations. That’s a sore word for me. Makes my stomach hurt.” He glanced into the backseat via the rear-view mirror.

“Sir?” Max wondered aloud.

“Never mind… I never cared too much for foo foo galleries and all that nude stuff they call art. Art? I call it filthy pornography straight from the devil himself.”

“I don’t have much nude art in my gallery,” Max said. “It’s not that kind of gallery. And I find it offensive, as well. Not because it’s evil, it’s just that I have some issues with my own body and…”

“Really?” Mr. LaBrush interrupted. “And you don’t find it offensive that my son now has lady parts?”

“Daddy!” Christine bellowed from behind. “I heard that.”

Max surprisingly began to sing loudly and with a dash of spicy vocal irritant:

“People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully. So we’re different colors and we’re different creeds and different people have different needs. It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong. I just now met you at the bus station so what could I have done? I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man, help me understand.”

“What the hell was that all about?” Mr. LaBrush demanded to know.

“It’s part of a song,” Max replied. “Do you like Depeche Mode?”

“Depeche a what?”

“It’s a band Mr. LaBrush. It’s music. Groovy music.”

“Sounds like crap to me! I can’t believe you were singing a devil song in my car. I find that quite disrespectful. And it is quite daring of you to bring my morality into question here. My morality is the right morality, and I won’t stand for someone else to cast doubt over it.”

“But Mr. LaBrush. I was simply making a statement about the love for all people and accepting Christine for who she is via the spirit of a shirtless Dave Gahan.”

“Boy, what in the name of super-duper Jesus are you talking about? And may I remind you his name is Chris and he’s got mental problems and we’re going to see a doctor and get his head and balls all fixed up right and make him a man again!”

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush barked from the back. “This is no time to discuss this. Max is our guest, and we are going to have a pleasant evening whether you like it or not! I’m sorry Max, but my husband can be a bit of an insensitive gorilla at times.”

“And my wife can be a cackling bitch most of the time!” Herbert LaBrush snapped.

“Please, sir,” Max broke in. “I’m very sorry I spoke out. You’re right. I overstepped my boundaries and I apologize to you both. I’ll try to do better, but let’s not resort to horrible name calling.”

Mr. LaBrush sighed with deep annoyance and drove the rest of the way to the house without saying another word.

TO BE CONTINUED


The King of Genitalia Street (FIVE)

I awoke the next morning, a Saturday, to the sound of a baby crying and the strong smell of bacon cooking in the underworld. There really is nothing more distinct than the smell of bacon cooking. It has a strength to it, a powerfulness, it’s almost pushy about it. It has a hypnotic purpose that draws people to the table like zombies. But I had other things on my mind.

I got up and dressed and went out into the hallway. Maine’s cries were louder, and I went into the guest room where they had decided to keep him. I pushed in on the slightly ajar door. My sister Emily was holding him, rocking him, trying to soothe him. She turned when she sensed me standing there.

“Good morning, Everett,” she said, and she looked down at Maine in her arms. “I’m afraid I’m not very good at this. Would you like to try?”

I moved closer and took the baby from her. I awkwardly held him.

“Make sure to support his head,” Emily instructed. “That’s very important.”

“Or his neck will break?”

She shook her head at me. “I don’t think his neck would break… It just isn’t good for them.”

I did as she said and soon Maine settled in my arms. I looked at my sister who was oddly watching me. “What is it?” I asked her.

“Nothing really. It’s just I never expected to see such a moment such as this in my lifetime — my baby brother Everett holding a baby. It just doesn’t seem real, that’s all.”

“You don’t think I’d make a good father?”

“Well, for that, you must first have a girlfriend… A real girlfriend. Not a fly-by in the night,” and she nodded toward Maine. “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

I paused for a moment as I looked at her, suddenly remembering the taste of her mouth for some odd reason. “I need to talk to you about something. Would you go for a walk with me?”

“What is it you want to talk about?” she asked with a scrunched face of curiosity.

“It’s important. Please?”

“Okay. Take him down to Eliza and let me get dressed. I will meet you out in the front of the house.”


I smoked a cigarette as I waited in the cold and wondered what I would say to her and how I would say it. I tried to predict her reaction, but the only outcome I saw was her being mad. Very mad. At me.

The front door opened. She was wearing a puffy green winter jacket, a scarf, and she had a raspberry beret atop her head. I was reminded of that Prince song. “Okay,” she halfheartedly smiled. “Let’s go for that walk.”

We moved side-by-side along a snowy sidewalk lined with tall trees, iron and stone fences, and big fancy houses beyond them. There was the dead crispness of winter in the air. The dark branches above us were leafless and crooked like old fingers. I looked over at one of the opulent homes through a vapor of my own chilled breath, and I saw people in a big window, and they were just living their lives in a seemingly perfect way and then I wondered why mine always seemed so damn broken, the pieces of it scattered in a fit of rage.

“So…” she began. “What’s this important thing you need to talk to me about? The kiss? Because I haven’t forgotten about it… And I don’t mean that as a compliment.”

“No. It has nothing to do with that.”

“Well, then what is it?”

“I don’t know how to tell you this and I really don’t want to. But I think it’s something you need to know.”

She stopped walking and we looked at each other for a cold moment. “You’re scaring me. What’s going on? Is it dad? I know he’s been slipping a bit…”

“Emily. It’s about Frost.”

“Frost? What about him?”

I just let it out. “He’s cheating on you.”

“What!?”

“And not only that… I saw him with mother.”

“What do you mean you saw him with her?”

“He’s having an affair with our mother. They are being intimate with each other. Physically. I saw them last night. At the house.”

She stared at me for a long while, a tear fell out of one eye and slowly slid down her cold face. She sniffled, and then she scoffed in disbelief. “You are a sick son of a bitch,” she sneered, and then she slapped me hard across the face. It stung. “I know you don’t care for the man I love and am devoted to, but you don’t need to make up some horrible lie about him in an attempt to sabotage our happiness together. That’s unforgiveable, even for you, and you should be terribly ashamed of yourself. And to include our mother in your disturbed fairy tale. I can’t even stand the sight of you right now.”

She gave me a hateful look and then stormed off back toward the house.

“Emily!” I cried out. “It’s not a lie! I can prove it!”

She ignored me and just kept on going.


When I got back to the house, it was very quiet, as if everyone scurried off to hide in their own personal little holes of hell in the walls. I went into the kitchen to get a drink from the refrigerator. I investigated the sunroom and tipped back a plastic bottle of cranberry juice. Eliza was sitting in there, and she was in the very same chair that played host to reckless adultery the night before. She was holding Maine and feeding him a bottle. I stepped inside. She was somewhat startled when she saw me.

“Hello, master Everett,” she said, and then she looked down at the baby vacuuming the formula from its bottle. “He was a hungry little man.”

“Thank you for helping with him. I know it’s not really part of your job.”

She looked up and smiled at me. It seemed to be the first genuine smile I had seen in a very long time. She was pretty in a foreign way. I never had noticed that before. “But this is much better than polishing silver all day long — silver that doesn’t even need polishing,” she said with a frustrated little laugh. “I don’t mind at all. In fact, I will miss him very much when it is decided that he must go. I almost wish I could keep him.”

“He would have a good life with you… I’m sure much better than the one that’s going to be decided for him.” I looked around the room and I was suddenly struck with a wicked idea on how to convince Emily that I wasn’t making up some terrible lie. I bent down to Eliza, and I lovingly kissed her on top of her head. Her dark hair smelled like a flower garden.

She seemed a little shocked. “Everett? Is everything okay with you?”

“Yes. I’ll be alone in my room if anyone needs me.”


That night, once I knew Emily and my father had drifted off into whatever terrible dreams they were destined to dream, I buried myself in a corner of the four-season porch and waited in the cover of half-darkness. I knew that eventually my mother and Frost would stir, their bellies tingling with sexual excitement, and they would come together at their rendezvous point to connect the plug to the socket.

It was Frost who came first. He was wearing what looked like nothing but boxer shorts and a T-shirt. He stood near the windows and looked out. He tilted some sort of a drink toward his mouth. Then he turned when he heard my mother enter. She quickly went to him, and they embraced each other with a kiss. Then she took a step back from him and whispered, “I think Emily knows something.”

“Evelyn. Darling. She couldn’t,” Frost whispered back. “We’ve been very discreet.”

I carefully pushed the buttons that would make my old tape recorder, the one from my high school days, start recording. I stuck a corded microphone out into the darkness to better pick up their voices, their animal noises.

Frost pulled my mother closer to him and started kissing her again. He worked to undress her. She started breathing hard. Then she stopped him. “Wait. I’m serious. She was acting strangely today. She was very moody. Very quiet. Something is on her mind.”

“And you need to stop convincing yourself that this thing on her mind is us. Emily has a lot on her plate right now. It could be a million other thoughts.” And Frost pulled her close again to kiss her some more.

“But I don’t feel right about this,” my mother asserted as she pulled away once more. “Not here. Not now. Let’s wait until we can meet up in the city again. This is too risky. We’re playing with our very lives.”

“But I can’t wait,” Frost groaned. “I just can’t wait. I must have you.” And that’s when he forced her to the couch and laid down on top of her. He quickly spread her legs and worked himself inside her and that is the point my mother completely surrendered, and from there they went full throttle, and the noises they made were devastatingly perfect.  

FINAL CHAPTER STILL TO COME

Read the previous part of this story HERE.