Category Archives: Psychological

The Moon Scars of Elysium (2)

Photo by Aaron Echoes August /

Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.

A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.

Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”

He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.

And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”

“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”

The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.

“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.

The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”

Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.

The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.

“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”

The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.

Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”

Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”

The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.

“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”

The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”

After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”

“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”

“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.

Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”


Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.

“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”

“Where’s home?”

“Buena Vista, Colorado.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place, mostly.”

“Well, I hope you can get back there.”

“Me, too.”


The Morbid Mind Correctional Facility (2)

white and pink gasoline station near ocean
Photo by Harrison Haines on

What’s going on in the brainwaves this nochy, eh? The world seems sticky in the stars, the vibrations radiating like stove coils of lava red, back there in a white house in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin. It’s that scary warm place, that buttery icicle place, that turmeric pinecone place way up north there. The place where the creeps howl from the blue depths of the gas clothes dryer, and black witch puppets disappear when thrown up in the sky by cousins named Greg or Sally Sue or Mark the Mallrat…  

And the tussled man drives and there is no sound except ambient space music. He dials it up and lets it spin as he motors. The roadway is two lanes, double yellow line down the middle like a golden cock ribbon. Wizard of Oz people peek out from worn apple tree limbs. They throw spiders and hiss. The man is wearing a green sweater, underwear for pants, black socks pulled up to just below his knees, and brown leather sandals that smell like the birth of the Beach Men in Wyoming… Where sand has no meaning. Where rough girls throw orange roses into the fire. Where mountains with snow are lonely in their rocky yet stolid silence.

The man pulls into a scenic overlook lot at the side of the road. It’s a place of sandy, grassy dunes; wind rape; cold water chalice clinks over the grand lake; a sky above full of clouds, like war guts wrapped in gauze. He stares through the windshield for a long while before looking over at the white envelope that sits in the passenger seat. He reaches for it, sniffs it, breaks the seal. He pulls out the note and reads it: I think for Christmas I would like a new office chair. This one is really starting to kill my ass. Love, Fable.

“Fuck you, Fable,” he groans aloud. He’s gasping for a breath. “You’ll get nothing and like it.” He laughs, yawns, and then begins to cry.

Ten minutes later he gets out of the car and snatches a gas can and a yellowed rag from the trunk. He starts walking toward the shore. The wind is cold against his bare legs. He is all alone, there is no one else. Cars rip by on the hidden roadway behind from whence he came.

For some reason he has an erection. He stops and looks down at the little stick straining against his plain old white underwear. “Hello there,” the man says to it in a playful way. “It’s a little late for that now, don’t you think?” His mood quickly changes from lightheartedness to anger. “Where the hell were you when I needed you!? Now fucking Fable is fucking other fucking men!”

He wheezes and coughs. “But don’t you worry,” he says to the little prick. He holds the gas can out and shakes it slightly. “We’re about to take care of you. I’m going to put you to sleep. Forever!”

The man plopped down into a soft sofa of sand. The waves out there before him were at medium. They churned and rolled and fell, the water a dark gray with whipped cream foam on the edges. He uncapped the gas can and tipped some of the flammable liquid into the yellowed rag. He clamped the rag to his mouth and nose and inhaled deeply. This he did a few times until that feeling came on again. That feeling of rock-hard drunkenness on fuel. That heavy, disoriented feeling in his head. His nasal passages and his throat burned. He felt as if he just consumed an oil refinery in nasty ass Texas. He thought about everything and nothing at the same time.

He reclined into the comfort of the sand sofa and looked up at the sky, a slate of blue, chalk clouds in the hands of some god and he was trying to draw hearts, but they all melted and collapsed. The man huffed some more of the gas. He just didn’t care anymore. He was dead end doomed in this life, he concluded.

He was in a deep daze of drudgery when his eyes flickered, and they showed him a vision of a woman the colors of a peacock and a young girl the colors of a raven eating a banana and they were standing above him and looking down.

“Are you okay?” the girl asked. “You look nearly dead.”

The peacock-colored woman who looked like a wild chick cop bent down and touched the man’s shoulder. “Is everything all right. Do you need help?”

He was dosed well and zombified and it was hard for him to speak. He was halfway drooling.

“He’s a mess,” the girl said. She pointed to the gas can and the rag. “He’s been huffing.”

The peacock-colored woman named Magda Balls went erect and looked around. “He sure has,” she said. “We can’t just leave him here. He needs help.”

The banana girl with the raven-colored hair smiled up at her. “You’re such a good person.”

Magda Balls smiled back. “Not all the time, but this situation calls for it I suppose.”

Rosalina turned her head and whispered up to her, “He’s not wearing any pants.”

“I noticed that… He probably just doesn’t care about anything.” She bent down again and touched him once more. “We should probably get you some help.”

The man turned his head slowly and tried to focus on her. “I don’t need any help,” he slurred. “I just need to be…” And then he noticed the semi-automatic rifle slung about her. “Will you just put me out of my misery?”

Magda Balls rose once more, readied her rifle and aimed it at him.

“No!” Rosalina cried out.

The man held his face up and closed his eyes. “Do it,” he said. “Please do it.”

Magda held the rifle on him for a few moments, and in that time, she fully considered shooting him. It would be straight up cold-blooded murder, but at the same time, if he truly was a completely lost and miserable soul, it would be a kind and merciful act. She listened to her pulse as she waited out her own indecision. She turned to look at the girl and her face was struck with fear and sadness. If anything, Magda thought, she could never do it in front of the child. She lowered the rifle and swung it back into place. “Help me get him up,” she said. “He needs to come with us.”


All About Eggs and Life and Then Death

Fried egg with seasonings.
Photo by Megha Mangal on

He started his session by talking to the therapist about eggs.

“When I was a child,” he began. “My mother once reprimanded me at a restaurant for not knowing how to properly order an egg.”

The gray gentleman therapist in white leaned forward. “What’s all this talk about eggs?”

“Like I said, when I was a child, we were at a restaurant, just my mother and me. We were having breakfast and I wanted an egg, just a fucking fried egg. When the waitress asked me how I wanted my egg I said: ‘Fried.’ My mother lost her shit, but mostly on the inside. She looked at me with that fake smiley laugh and said something like: ‘But how do you want your egg fried?’ I didn’t understand what the hell she was talking about, so I repeated: ‘Fried. I want my egg fried, Mother!’”

“I remember her scoffing and tugging her white gloves off and slapping them down on the table. She looked up at the waitress, shook her head, and told her with a hand half shielding her face: ‘Over easy.’”

“I was confused. My head moved to my mother and then to the waitress and then back again. After the waitress walked away my mother scowled at me: ‘You’re such an embarrassment, Mildrew. An absolute embarrassment.’  I asked her what I did wrong, and she told me that I had no idea how to properly order an egg. We were in a fancy restaurant. It was one of those restaurants where people drank champagne with their pancakes and smoked cigarettes attached to long filter sticks and laughed out loud but not too loud. I might have been wearing a little suit for boys and possibly a wool cap. It was winter in New York. That’s where we lived then.”

The gray gentleman therapist leaned back in his chair and sighed with amazed wonder. “So, you feel you were traumatized by this event?”

“Of course, I was. To this day I cannot order for myself at a restaurant. I always must tell whoever I’m with what I want to eat, and they order for me.”

“Always?” the gray gentleman therapist repeated in question form. “But what about when you’re by yourself? Who orders for you then?”

“I don’t ever go out alone.”

“So, these other people who order for you. Are they friends?”

“Sure, I guess,” Mildrew answered. “But also, co-workers, dates, my priest once. I got him to say ‘fishsticks.’

“Wait… Dates? You have dates order your meals for you?”

“Yes. I have to.”

“Do you ever have second dates with these women?”

“No. Not ever.”

“Mildrew,” the gray gentleman therapist began. “This whole act of having other people order for you must end. You’re a grown man. You’ll never be able to maintain a relationship with a woman who has to be your mother.”

“But… I just can’t do it. I have way too much anxiety.”

“Let’s go back to the original event… Did your mother do anything else to you for not knowing how to properly order an egg?”

Mildrew looked down at the floor. “When we got home… She beat the hell out of me.”

“She beat you?”

“Yes. That’s what I said. Aren’t you listening?”

“I’m sorry. Go on.”

“She beat me with her soft white knuckles. They were so damn clean and tender and feminine. Then she tied me to a kitchen chair and threw eggs at me. One after the other they hit me in the face. I was covered in broken shells and tears. I was spitting runny egg slime out of my mouth so I wouldn’t gag and stop breathing.”

“How many eggs?”

Mildrew looked up at the ceiling and thought about it. “Two or three cartons worth.”

“And then what happened?”

“She untied me and made me clean up the whole mess while she sat there and smoked cigarettes and listened to a Johnny Mathis record at high volume. Chances are, ’cause I wear a silly grin the moment you come into view… She would laugh at me, too. She called me an ‘idiot.’”

“That must be a very painful memory for you, Mildrew… But I’m glad you’re talking about it.”

“You know something, doc?”


“Did you realize that if you put a break in the letters of the word therapist, you get: The rapist?”

A man getting a fried egg from a pan.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Dr. Micah Schism, the gray gentleman therapist, sipped at a silvery chalice of iced water with a lime wedge attached to the lip of the glass. He reached for the lime wedge and squeezed it over the water. Droplets dripped. He glanced over at a nervous Mildrew sitting across from him. “Are you ready for our exercise today?” he asked him.

“No. I’m thirsty,” Mildrew complained.

“And you’ll get something to drink when you order it for yourself.”

“Can’t you just say ‘Orange Fanta’. Just this once?”

“No,” Dr. Micah Schism said with a stern grin. “I won’t. I don’t even care if you die of thirst.” He took a deep gulp of his lime-squirted water. “Mmmm. That is very refreshing.”

“You’re being mean,” Mildrew said. “I don’t like this at all. I want to go home.”

“I’m not being mean, Mildrew. This is therapy. I’m trying to help you by forcing you to face your fears head on… Now. Here comes the waiter again. Do it.”

He was tall, young, and thin, and wore a pleasant smile. “Have you decided on a beverage yet, sir?”

Mildrew trembled. He looked over at Dr. Schism who was nodding his head in a gesture of go on. “I’ll have an Orange Fanta!” Mildrew loudly sputtered.

The young waiter’s shoulders sank. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We’re out of Orange Fanta.”

“Fuck!” Mildrew screamed, and he got up from the table and ran outside to the palm-tree lined street of a boisterous Los Angeles heavily clad in traffic and smog. He leaned against the outside of the building and began to weep. Dr. Schism came scurrying out and reached for Mildrew just as he began to slump to the ground.

It was weeks later and Mildrew sat on the soft lawn of the vast, rolling cemetery and stared at his mother’s tombstone. The sun was shining, and he was wearing dark sunglasses over his aching eyes. His clothes were wrinkled. His hair was mussed. He hadn’t showered in days. He lost his job. He wrecked his car. His cat died. He was on the verge of being evicted from his apartment. Dr. Micah Schism had given up on him completely. He was a hopeless case.

Mildrew stood and reached down for one of the three cartons of eggs he had there. He opened it. A dozen white, shiny Ork orbs poked up at him. He took one out and threw it at his mother’s gravestone. It made him giddy. Then he threw another and another and another until the entire carton was empty. He picked up the second carton, reloading himself like a war gun, and these too he violently threw at his mother’s now egg-caked tombstone. The engraved name of his mother, Arianna Shmoke, was glossed over with yolk and dripped with it.

After he emptied the second carton, he reached for the third and final one. This too he unloaded on his mother’s final resting place with a great fury, and he yelled out, “This is all your fault! All my problems are your fault! I hope you choke on eggs in hell!”

Once he was out of eggs and spent and panting like a dog, Mildrew collapsed back down into the grass and looked at the cranage he so artistically created. “It’s all your fault,” he mumbled one last time.

Mildrew got on a bus bound for Phoenix, Arizona. He took a window seat near the back. Once fully loaded, the bus coughed its black lung goodbye to LA and headed east out of the city.

The day was crisping over in a blue bruise sort of darkness mixed with orange and the opening act of stars in the sky when the bus pulled into a diner near Blythe so the travelers could get out, rest, and eat.

Mildrew stepped off the bus and walked across the graveled parking lot and into the diner. He took a seat in a booth by himself and pulled a menu out of a silver rack. It was sticky. He flipped through it. He didn’t even think about it, really. He was just moving and breathing and living and he suddenly didn’t care anymore if he was scared or embarrassed or even dead.

A waitress with large intelligent breasts came to the table and smiled at him. “What can I get you, honey,” she breathed in the tick-tock of dusk time.

Mildrew smiled at her without looking at her. His eyes went out the window and in the direction of a new life. “I’ll have a cheeseburger, medium-well, no tomato or onion. Crispy French fries. A chocolate malt… And can I get a silvery chalice of iced water with a lime wedge nestled into the lip of the glass?”


Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (3)

Constable Harley O’Shea strolled around Lloyd the bartender’s small apartment above The Village Fig. He bent his thick neck from side to side to leer into nooks, crannies, corners, cubbies. He pulled out a pair of reading glasses and leaned in close to a dusty wooden cabinet of clutter. “You sure do have a lot of stuff, Lloyd. What gives?”

“I like things,” Lloyd answered. “I don’t have many friends, but I have plenty of interests. Is there a law against that?”

Constable O’Shea took note of Lloyd’s attempt at sarcasm. “No.” He pointed to a door off the living room, darkness in the cracked opening. “Is that your bathroom?”

“Yes,” Lloyd answered as politely as he could, but his patience was already wearing thin. He stood behind the constable as the lawman worked his plump body through the doorway of the bathroom and switched on the light. The constable pulled the shower curtain aside to look inside the tub. “What’s with all the different kinds of shampoo, Lloyd? Hell, you don’t even have that much hair.”

“I like to experiment with different brands, fragrances and cleansing styles. I don’t understand what shampoo has to do with…”

Constable O’ Shea raised a hand the size of a thick bone-in porkchop to silence him. “Interference with my investigation isn’t a good idea, Lloyd. Trust me on that one.” He turned and bent with a groan and opened the cabinet beneath the sink. He retrieved a small flashlight from his utility belt and illuminated the dim space. “Am I going to find any feminine products down here?” he asked.

“No!” Lloyd protested. “That’s preposterous.”

“What about boner pills or condoms or latex gloves? Huh?”

“Oh, good grief, Harley! I’m not a swinger.”

The constable stood and there was an audible popping sound that came from his overtaxed joints. Once erect, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a blue cloth bandana and wiped at his brow. “Whew. It’ so damn hot in here, Lloyd. Why don’t you go open a window.”

Lloyd did what he was told, and when he returned, he found that the constable had migrated to his bedroom. When he walked in, Harley was inspecting the closet. “You’re kind of light in the fashion department, Lloyd. Why’s that?”

“I don’t want to have to trouble myself with too many clothing decisions on a daily basis,” Lloyd answered.

“Like Einstein, huh?”

“Something like that.”

“What’s in the shoeboxes?”


“Aw, come on, Lloyd. No one uses shoeboxes for shoes. What you got in them? Dope? Naughty pictures? Laughing gas for pre-coitus huffing?”

Lloyd sighed with frustration. “If you want to know so bad, just look.”

The constable grinned and worked to remove the lids from the tops of three shoe boxes… Nothing but shoes, shoes, and shoes.

“I told you.”

“What about the dildoes and the vibrators? Under the bed?”

Lloyd was insulted. “No! I don’t have those kinds of things!”

But Harley ignored him and had already gotten down on the floor and was training his small flashlight under the bed. “Jesus, Lloyd. Do you ever clean? You’ve got enough wootzoolas down here to build a bear.”

“I suppose some dust is reason to arrest me, too?” Lloyd snapped.

The constable got to his knees and looked up at him. “You’re being too far lighthearted about this, Lloyd.” He wagged a fat finger at him. “But you might want to take this a bit more seriously. I’ll find something.” He stood all the way up at the foot of the bed and proceeded to loosen his gun belt and undo his pants. He let them fall to around his ankles and then stepped out of them.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lloyd said, now growing furious and more confused.

“Investigating,” Harley said, and he proceeded to climb up onto the bed. He stood as tall as he could, somewhat struggling to keep his balance on the soft mattress. Then he took a giant leap and violently bellyflopped into the sheets. There was the sound of something cracking and the bed comically collapsed as if they had time shifted to an old Laurel and Hardy film.

“What the fuck!” Lloyd screamed.

But Harley ignored him as he buried his face into the bedding and inhaled deeper than the deepest depths of space. “Ahh hah!” the constable bellowed. “I’m catching the scent of my own wife’s delicious ass!”

Lloyd grew red in the face and fisted his own head in uncontrollable anger. “Get out! Get out now before I call up the real cops!”

Harley rolled out of the bed and thumped onto the floor like sack of potatoes. He struggled to get up, but when he finally did, he scooped up his pants and put himself back together. He sniffled, dabbed at his head with his blue cloth bandana and tried to fix his wispy hair back into place with a hand. He looked around at the mess he created. “Wow. Geez, Lloyd. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I was just trying to be thorough in my investigation.”

Lloyd’s pointer finger shook at the end of his outstretched arm. He spoke through clenched, grinding teeth. “Get the hell out of my apartment.”

“Okay, Lloyd. It appears I went a bit overboard here. Things really got out of hand. I realize that now.”

“A bit? A bit!?”

“I’m sorry, Lloyd. It’s just that… Damn it all.” He sighed with a soul full of sadness. “I know Mary is up to something. I thought I had you pegged. It appears I was mistaken.”

“You sure as hell were, Harley. Very mistaken.”

The constable bowed his head in shame and walked out of the bedroom and toward the front door. Lloyd rushed after him. “What about my bed?”

“Oh,” Harley said, and he scratched at his honeydew melon-like head. “I’ll send over a new one as soon as I can. No charge to you, of course. I’ll ding the ding-a-ling taxpayers.” He tried to laugh.

But Lloyd found no humor in any of it. “When?”

“Soon, Lloyd. Soon.” Harley pulled the door open and went out.

Lloyd stood for a moment in shocked silence. He eventually sighed, a calming breath in and out, and put a hand to his forehead and scrunched his face as if he had a terrible headache. Which he in fact now did. Then he heard the muffled, soft voice coming from behind the door of a small closet in the kitchen. A closet the constable had overlooked. Lloyd went to the nearly invisible door and tugged it open. The constable’s wife, Mary O’Shea herself, came tumbling out and fell into the bartender’s arms.


Elves Chipping Ice

Elves Chipping Ice in a cold, lonely city.

A dark hotel room in a cold Midwest city. The only light there is comes through the love slit in the drapes. The bed in the room is a California King. It’s large, alone, built for four, but cradling one. The air smells of ghosts, gin, and God. There’s a noise in the deep uncomfortable band of golden gray light. The heater box by the window is puffing suffocating breath as the glittering ruby blue town twinkles like radiated space.

“I’m going to be late for my flight,” he tells her as she rolls like a comfortable cat on the giant bed.

“There will be other flights,” she says. “Come keep me warm. It’s so cold in here. It’s like elves have been chipping ice.”

He turns away from the window to look at her there. She looks welcoming yet evil.

“That’s a weird thing to say,” he tells her.

She shrugs, unwraps a piece of gum and puts it into her mouth. “What can I say. I’m a weird girl.”

“Why are you trying to sabotage my flight plans?” he asks her accusatorily.

She props herself up on her elbows and gives him a dirty look. “If you don’t want to spend time with me… Just say so. But keep in mind, I came a long way to meet you.”

“This whole thing was your idea,” he said.

“And you agreed to it… Reluctantly.”

“You know I must get back home. I have work tomorrow.”

She scoffs and moves to the other side of the bed. She sits up on the edge, her back to him.

He turns to the window again, spreads the drapes like he would a woman’s legs. The city is there, staring back. Tattooed gray homeless shelters, black as witches’ wings ramp and soar, the energy cuts through like a whip. Tall buildings penetrate the atmosphere of aluminum blood, erections of steel and glass, the people inside creating humanity bombs. Lights pop, flicker everywhere and even there. Strangers stand on a bridge and kiss before one of them walks away in the neon rain. Somewhere in a cardboard box a broken man is sad about the decrepit condition of his underwear and wonders about the angels. Where are they now? In their bourgeois arenas of hypocrisy.

Her disappearance mingled with the thunderclaps. There was nothing left of her on the bed. He wondered, had she ever even been there? He turned away from the window once more to verify he was truly alone. There was another round of thunder. He turned to look out the window again just as a crooked line of lightning illuminated the sky. He winces.

He glanced down at the winding water burrowing through the guts of the city. That’s when he saw them. Warships of elves coming up the canal. Pointed ears twitching, ice picks in small hands. The sight of them is far more ominous than the Winter Warlock in an animated childhood Christmas tale. There’s a sudden hard knock at the door. He whips his head around as his heart flies up his throat. He stumbles to the door and puts his eye to the peephole. Her blonde fish-eye image is pouting. She pounds on the door again with a flattened palm. He undoes all the locks and pulls it open.

He doesn’t know who she is until she says something. “It’s just me baby. What’s wrong?”

He points to the window. “Have you seen what’s going on out there?”

“It’ starting to storm,” she says as she looks at herself in the mirror and tosses her hair around. “Do you want to go get breakfast before I take you to the airport?”

“I’m not going to the airport!” he protests. “Not when there’s elves attacking the city.”

She spun around to look at him. She noted that he was completely serious. “What? Elves?”

“Come look out the window,” he encouraged her, and he took her by the hand and led her. He yanked the drapes apart. “See!”

She looked out and saw nothing except the city wrapped in a thunderstorm. She glanced at him, concerned. She touched his trembling face. “I think you need to see someone… Again.”

“What are you talking about. I can’t see someone when the city is under siege.”

“There’s nothing out there. It’s just a passing storm, my love.”

“Your love?”

“Absolutely. Do you want to sit down. Or we could go to the lobby for some coffee. You always enjoy your morning coffee.”

He didn’t look at her when he spoke. “No. Go ahead. I may come down later. Just give me a few minutes to collect my wayward thoughts.”

She went to kiss him. Her lips tasted like grape water. “Okay. But don’t stay up here too long. You must get on that plane eventually.”

“I’ll miss you,” he mumbled as she went out the door. It closed with a heavy clunk.

He stood in the lobby and looked around at all the people there. There was a lingering fog of meaningless copulating conversations. He didn’t see her. He went to the front desk. The woman behind it smiled at him. “Good morning. Checking out?”

“Not yet. I’m looking for my wife. Have you seen her? We were supposed to meet for coffee.”

“Your wife, sir?”

“Yes. My wife.”

The desk clerk leaned forward and whispered something to him. “I believe she’s already left.”


“I saw her get into a taxi with another man.”

“Another man?”


“Do you know where they went?”

“No, sir. No idea at all. But if you ask me, something’s not quite right.” She took a step back as a breathing black cloud came through the front doors of the hotel. “You better run!” she called out.

The horde of elves came upon them all there, screaming and shouting, thrusting their ice picks into everything.

He felt something pierce his heart and he fell to the floor. He gasped. His head swam and his hearing faded as he looked up at the dust and chaos all around him. He just closed his eyes and waited until it became quiet again.

There was a long pause in his life and when his eyes finally did flicker open once again, she was sitting in a chair beside his hospital bed staring at her phone. She jumped up as soon as she noticed he was stirring. She held his hand and her eyes danced all over his tired, whiskered face.

“What happened?” he wanted to know.

She squeezed his hand and almost cried. “You had another one of your spells.”

He tried to sit up. “It wasn’t a spell. It was real. It was all real.”

“Baby,” she whispered. “You told the doctors you were attacked by elves with ice picks.”

“I was.”

She sighed. “I’m going to run down to the cafeteria for a snack. I won’t be long.”

He watched her walk out of the room… Again. She was always walking out of the room.

A young nurse came in. She smelled like a freshly cleaned restroom. She smiled at him as she checked his vitals. She glanced at the monitor. She wrote something down. “Any pain?” she asked.

“Just my heart.”

She panicked. “You’re having chest pains?”

“Not like a heart attack. Emotionally. I’m broken. Isn’t that what it says in all those notes?”

She smiled at him. “The sun is out. Would you like me to open your curtains more?”

“Maybe a little bit. I’m not much for sun.”

“Okay,” she said as she moved toward the window, and he noticed when she turned and brushed her hair back… She had pointed ears. 

His wife was the one who walked in when he was attacking the nurse. She was sprawled out on the floor, and he was on top of her. His hands were around her throat. “Baby!” she screamed out. “Stop!” She went to pull him off the nurse. He fell back. The breath of the nurse sputtered like a dying engine. His wife ran out into the hall screaming for help.

A team of nurses came thundering into the room and secured him. Someone called for security. The nurse on the floor was attended to. His eyes darted around madly as they worked to get him restrained in the bed. He caught a glimpse of his wife cowering in the corner. She was crying. A gurney was brought in and the nurse he attacked was placed upon it and wheeled off. He wondered if she was still alive. “That elven scum should not be allowed to live!” he cried out. Haldol was ordered by a doctor. A beautiful hospital pharmacy tech in tight scrub pants that accentuated her perfect ass went to work. The frantic day eventually ended, and the moon came out and barked softly above the city.

His imagination often went on wild rides in dark and lonely hotel rooms in midwestern cities with a brutal edge. He breathed deeply as he looked out the window. The storm was over. The elves were gone. He could hear the clock ticking away in his chest. His heart. He turns to look at the king-sized bed. It’s neatly made. Smooth. Empty. The digital clock on the table reads 3:13 AM. He hates it when he can’t sleep. He hates it especially when he’s alone. If she had been there, he could have at least held her close, felt her warmth. But she was somewhere else. He picked up his cell phone and called her.

“Baby? What’s wrong?” she said in a very sleepy voice.

“I just miss you.”

“Baby. You’ll see me in two days.”

“Right. I’ll let you get back to sleep, my love.”

He saw her beautiful face as she said it. “I love you so much.”

He ended the call and sat on the edge of the bed in the quiet, lonely room. He took a deep breath and went on living.


Ghost Mints


Winter’s weight and dust galore
Eyes heavy in the pain of dawn
cheekbones ache
whiskey madness takes its toll
on an ever-building mint bridge to heaven, scars, delusions
I’d be cutting the lawn
if there were a lawn to cut
I’d be drinking soda drops and pops
if I wasn’t a ghost
such a ghost
walking through walls
wading in the stalls
I might be painting the fence
if there were a fence to paint,
the barricade is metal, so rusted
stained with the sweats
of dashing immigrants
this mind so invaded
where are you lumber lady now?
on the seven seas forgetting
fornicating the sailor boys
as I drown in cold crab legs
you flag hags
put your pink slippers away
and start another war
be careful
you kings of New Hampshire,
you Queens of Albuquerque
do be careful.

The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 2

Entering Wyoming sign.

The dining of the great meal took place casually in chairs and on a soft sofa in the living room at the home of Veronica Eyes in Berlin, Wyoming. Plates and beverages rested on a coffee table; some people stood while they ate and drank. There was the murmur of blended conversations. There was light laughing.

Steel Brandenburg III sat in a chair in a corner beneath a tall reading lamp with a red velvet shade. He was quiet. He was alone among the people. He watched the others eat, trying to decipher if they liked the store-bought gravy. He braced himself for bitter reactions. Everyone acted as if he wasn’t even there as he raised fork to mouth repetitively. He was a ghost, someone looking in from the other side. He had to break the barrier.

“Are you all enjoying the gravy!?” Steel suddenly blurted out. The others stopped talking for a moment and looked at him. One guy named Craig, who was a real jerk, said, “What’s with the gravy, man? Why are you always about the gravy?”

Steel cleared his throat and looked around at everyone as they awaited his answer. “I… I just want everyone to get the most out of their meal. Gravy’s wonderful for that. It adds flavor and richness to our food.”

Craig the jerk busted out laughing. The others followed suit, even Veronica Eyes.

“Whaaat!?” Craig said with a disbelieving laugh. “That’s like the gayest thing I ever heard anyone say.”

He moved closer to Steel and looked down at him. Craig Nusmerg was a tall buffoon with an odd-shaped body, something resembling a bosc pear. People say the heavy drinking has caused his body to morph and turn him into the strange being he now was.

Craig Nusmerg had been a high school basketball star and nothing much more since. He worked the presses of the local newspaper for the last ten years and always smelled of ink and grease. He was divorced and lived alone in a rectangular can at the local trailer park. Now he was towering over Steel like an over-ripened Godzilla.

Steel looked up at him and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. That’s how I feel.”

“Why are you here anyways?” Craig wanted to know. “Nobody gives two shits about the stupid gravy.”

Steel glared at him. “That’s not true. I’m sure plenty of people here are enjoying the gravy.”

Craig scoffed and shook his head. His eyes then caught the white gravy boat sitting on the coffee table and he went to pick it up. “You like gravy so much,” Craig said to Steel as he carried it toward him, “Here you go. Have some gravy.” He tipped the gravy boat, and a thick stream of warm brown gravy came pouring out right on top of Steel’s head. Craig kept pouring and pouring, snickering with delight, until the entire gravy boat was empty. Steel just sat there and let him do it. He let him do it all the way. He just stayed in the chair as the gravy dripped from his hair, down his face, and into his lap.

“God damn it, Craig!” Veronica cried out. “You got gravy all over my favorite chair!”

Craig just laughed, went to grab more beer from the refrigerator, and slipped out onto the back patio.

Veronica ran to get some towels. When she got back, she started mopping up as much of the gravy as she could. She handed a towel to Steel. “You better wipe your face off,” she said. “You look like some horrible creature.”

“Do you think I could use your shower,” Steel asked her with gravy spattering out of his mouth as he spoke.

Veronica was aghast by such a request. “My shower? Oh, no. No, no, no. Let’s just get you out into the yard and hose you off.”

Veronica led Steel out the front of the house and had him stand in the small yard of grass. She went to the water spigot and cranked it on as she leveled the hose. She aimed the nozzle at Steel and began to spray him off. “Close your eyes and your mouth, Steel,” she told him as she worked. “I don’t want to rupture your pupils or break your teeth.” But then again, maybe she did.

It wasn’t long before the real Steel emerged from beneath the slick of gravy. She had him turn around and hold his arms out to his sides. “That’s good,” she said. “I need to get you nice and clean before we send you home.”

“Home?” Steel asked without turning to look at her. “You want me to go home? Why don’t you send that fuck-off Craig Nusmerg home? He’s the jerk. He’s the one who started this whole thing.”

Veronica sighed as she sprayed. “You weren’t even supposed to be here.”

“Right. You lied to me. Why did you lie to me?”

“Because I just knew something weird like this would happen. Weird things always happen when you’re around, Steel. You’re a weird magnet. You’re… You’re just completely weird. I didn’t want you ruining my party.”

Steel turned and stepped back from the spray of water. “Sure. Sure. I get it. Sorry to trouble you.” He walked off, soaking wet, and moved down the street toward where his pickup was parked. He got in it and sped off.

The moon was full and bright, and the landscape illuminated. Steel Brandenburg III drove his white pickup like a cowboy even though he was nothing like a cowboy. He went out to a place called Silver Lake and parked within the bones of the trees near the shore. That same moon that had chased him from the city was still there in the sky, looking down, watching him.

He got out of the truck and went closer to the water. It looked like a mirror with the way the light was shining down on it. He craned his neck upward to look at the ivory disk in the sky and then he just started to scream like an animal. He screamed and screamed until his throat hurt. A herd of deer shuddered through the surrounding brush. He fell to his knees and bowed his head in irreverent prayer, mocking a God who never saw him or cared for him.

He got back up and stumbled to the truck to retrieve his phone. He pressed the button for Veronica Eyes. He breathed as he waited.

“Hello? What is it, Steel? Why are you calling?”

“I just wanted to know if you have ever heard of a symbolic revenge tale?”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You should be aware that the silly little actions of you and your friends could have serious consequences.”

“What? Have you been drinking? Where are you?”

“Stop asking me questions, Veronica. Just stop. But be prepared.” He ended the call. He looked around at the wilds. The treetops suddenly bent in a gust of wind. Something snapped and fell nearby.


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