30 September 2011

Cowboy Grub

All flesh is frail, Matty-lumpkin. Stick it in a place where the steel hangers don't bang no more. For when that southern-fried mandolin-picker with the discernible lisp started trackin' mud across the the fabric of your soul, the window-washer made melody most delightful and sweet.

You were going to finish that last sentence to say “sweetbreads,” weren't you? I know you were. You know, I remember every last time you ate organ meats since the time you were about twelve. You liked the feel of those calf lungs in your mouth. You used to tell me that they were “puffy,” and the hearts you said were “muscle-y,” and the testicles were “rubbery,” and the sweetbreads were “slickery.” God bless you, Honey-child, for you never turned down a heaping, steaming platter of beef testicles and calf tripe. Little baby cows and big old steers. Hah.

And when you looked at it all, from a distance of years and a distance of miles, you saw the years roll along like a beautiful minty carpet...rolling and rolling and keeping the dirty little farmers from getting their dirty little bootprints all over the pristine carpet of your soul.

Do you remember the milk house? Do you remember the smell of the raw milk in the milk house? Do you remember how that awful thing happened out behind the milk house? No one remembers it but everyone feels it. It spreads out like ripples in a pond, Honey-child.

Ripples in a pond.

(Stay tuned for the rest of the story, Honey-child)

23 September 2011

Spin, Dreidel

(Excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heartby Tom Andrews.)

A concrete womb, painted battleship grey and humming with the cries of satan-spawn.  "Joy," I thought to myself, and shouldered my rifle.  This was not going to be over quickly.

Ed's ghost popped up again and looked at me like he wanted to say something.  "Don't go in there, you fool," he seemed to say.  Or was that my own voice rattling back at me in response to fear over that concrete womb and the satan-spawn?  Who the hell knows?  Ed's ghost stood right in front of me, though, and I looked real closely at him.  I could still see that wacked-out tattoo on the side of his head.

"Yo, ghost of Ed, I got a question."

Ed's ghost just stood there, looking kind of sad.

"Ghost of Ed, before I go and smoke these Threats, or get smoked myself, will you tell me, please, what the hell that tattoo is all about?  I remember when you got it.  You never told me what it was.  Can you tell me now?"

"Shit, man," said Ed's ghost, "it don't really matter.  I got something to tell you.  Don't worry about my f***ing ink, man."

"Ed, if I get waxed in there I'll never know what the tattoo was.  Can't you f***ing humor me?  Just this once?"

"Watch your f***ing mouth with me, man...do you eat with that filthy mouth?"

"Sorry," I said to the silvery apparition of my old drinking buddy.  I never spoke another foul word to Ed's ghost after that point.  "So can you tell me?"

"Don't worry about it.  Just don't go in there.  Drop a f***ing pulse grenade in there and call it a day.  You have gin back in the barracks.  Call this a Hanukkah gift to my old friend.  OK?"

Ed's ghost vanished like steam rising from a pot of cooked gizzards and I fumbled with getting a 'peege from my load-bearing vest. That old Ed always had some good ideas, and getting back to that bottle of gin in my footlocker was one of the better ones he ever shared with me.

I felt the shock waves ripple out of that concrete womb and the new cracks in the exterior wall told me the 'peege had done its work.  I looked around for Ed's ghost, hoping he'd show up again so I could ask about the gift.

"But I ain't Jewish," I called out over the pock-marked landscape.

20 September 2011

Breakfast on 18th Avenue

That little girl caught everything that went around,” sighed plumpchunky Gramma Magma, flapping her hands against her flour-sack dress and heaving a heavy sigh out of that overgrown torso that harbored such a sick heart. A sick heart that just had no idea it would give up on Gramma Magma in just a few years. A sick, sweet heart can take only so many pan skillets full of bacon fat, you know.

I know that you know. She has no idea, though.

Well, I just grabbed that little girl and I was holding her and rubbing her and I just wanted to tell her I loved her, and she didn't want to go off to school, I think, but she had to go, didn't she?”

Gramma Magma's dry and wrinkled breakfast companion sat quietly and puffed on her cigarette with lips that hung on her face like a couple of pieces of beef jerky and were nearly purple. Purple as the bruised teat that pulsated in her mind's eye and stared out of her memory and into her waking thoughts, crowding out Gramma Magma's steady patter.

Shut the damn door, shut the damn door, I said. And the girl didn't think anything of it. I think I remember her first words, but it had to be 'no' that she said to me. She said that 'mommy says that to me,' and I guess that was just her new phrase. They definitely hear what you say, you know what I mean?” Gramma Magma flapped her flour-sack dress a few more times. “She said she told her momma she had a dream and in the dream she was with her momma and she and her momma went on a trip somewhere but she didn't know where. Is that the dog talking to me?”

The purple lips curled around a dirty cigarette, grimy with mouth dirt from that sick, sick mouth with the purple lips hanging like beef jerky. The dirty little companion coughed a wet, productive cough, wet and full of matter getting coughed up from deep within that dirty little frame; coughed something into the crook of her arm and wiped the corner of her lip on the shoulder of her pink blouse, leaving a grimy mark of mouth dirt on the fabric. She coughed again and brought up even more, sounding like something broke loose; wiped something out of her mouth into a dry white paper napkin; crumpled the moist napkin into a tight ball and jammed it deep into her pants pocket.

I'm going to put some astroturf on my front steps, kind of like my neighbor did, except he never finished the project and he rolled it all the way out there like a red carpet and just let it sit there, never tacked it down or anything. I'm going to get the stuff tacked down and it's going to look nice,” proclaimed Gramma Magma, feeling good about the astroturf. “How far is it down to Texas, anyway? You like your new car?”

Wrinkled, purple little teat-lips gripped the cigarette even more tightly and grimy lips pressed that mouth dirt into each other and never dared open and say a thing about the heart and the grime and the pain and the burn.

Always the burn. Always the burn.

19 September 2011


Headlong he fell...headlong down the embankment into an overgrown drainage ditch. Peter and all of his 175 pounds of Switchback frame fell headlong while a pus-jacketed skin eater looked on with a shit-eating grin.

He ain't getting' out,” Sheriff Cecil Morgan said to the dough-faced deputy standing nearby. Dough-faced in visage, not in politics; dough-faced in heart, not in mind. “He ain't getting' out. He ain't wakin' up.”

Two previous Sherrifs Morgan had owned and carried the small, wooden handled revolver that Cecil carried in his sweaty right palm , and with it each of them had erred and strayed and sinned mightily; erring and straying and sinning was nothing new to the revolver, and certainly not to the pus-jacketed skin eater that held it now and looked down into a drainage ditch at an unconscious Switchback – a position the two previous Sheriffs Morgan would have envied and coveted .

Some there are who do not savor the sweet taste of irony; many there are who do not choke on justice, and yet...

(Read the rest in The Pultenham County Sketchbook, forthcoming, by Tom Andrews)

Holy Springs, Batman

Strolling out of the bright shining house of worship that is the Potted Veal Victory Temple , the Reverend Mickey Pontoon lit his fourteenth cigarette of the day and placed it ever so gingerly between his lips. The fresh, unfiltered smoke felt so good as he drew it into his lungs that he lit another and then another. He continued lighting cigarettes until he had eleven smoldering sticks of smoky goodness in his mouth, and with each puff he exhaled such a cloud that he soon looked like a World War Two Naval destroyer running a smoke screen for a trans-Atlantic convoy. “Heavens,” thought Pastor Mickey, “this is making me look like a World War Two naval destroyer running a smoke screen for a trans-Atlantic convoy."  He smiled a grand smile to himself and continued to puff as he strolled.

The headache that had been building in the center of his cranium since early that morning was starting to distract him, and a good, healthy smoke was nothing he wanted interrupted by unnecessary distractions like a headache. “Heavens,” thought Pastor Mickey, “I need to get rid of this headache, and right quick.” This very evening was to be the “Great Festival of Joy” at the Potted Veal Victory Temple, and Pastor Mickey was planning a mighty whopper of a sermon as the crowning centerpiece of the festival. He would be preaching on the sin of despondency, using as his text “The Third Habarabba of the Prophet Orca” - a key prophetical and moral text of the Potted Veal Victory Temple. Within it, the holy prophet warns the faithful to stay happy, and that any lapses of happiness would result in death by crushing.

Don't screw with the Prophet Orca.

The headache began to build even more aggressively and Pastor Mickey thought that the tiny hammers being wielded by the dwarves inside of his head might begin to be heard by passers-by. “Pang, pang, pang,” went the tiny hammers. “Pang, pang, pang...pang, pang, pang.” Pastor Mickey began to time his footsteps with the ringing of the hammers, beating out a tune by Spike Jones as he walked. “Unacceptable,” thought Pastor Mickey, “I need to get rid of this headache.”

Pastor Mickey followed a tiny path that led down a small flight of stairs and into a dim tunnel. The tunnel followed a winding path beneath the city and reappeared above ground in a wooded glen, filled with michaelmas daisies and rusty leaf springs. Casting himself headlong into a pile of leaf springs, Pastor Mickey cried out in a loud voice “set up thy leaf springs, o glen, as an ensign to the world!”

A shard of spring steel pierced Pastor Mickey's skull as his full weight came down upon it and a geyser of bright red blood shot high in the air, looking for all the world like a spout of water from the blow hole of a killer whale breaking the surface of the ocean.

That thou mayest draw all the world unto thyself,” said Pastor Mickey through smiling lips, breathing his final, headache-free breath.

The tiny dwarf that happened upon Pastor Mickey's recumbent form in the pile of scrap iron studied it quizzically. “Well,” he thought aloud, “ he certainly will remember this “Great Festival of Joy.”

15 September 2011

Fall 2011 Issue of Side B is Out!

Please think about picking up a hard or digital copy of the Fall 2011 issue of Side B Magazine - available today, and if you click this hypertext, you will go to where you can purchase it!

I have a strange-ish short story in this issue, called "A Past Master."  You might like it.

09 September 2011

Like an Engine Block with Hair

(Excerpted from The Pultenham County Sketchbook, by Tom Andrews)

He done kicked Tiny!” 'Possey Pettigrew shouted at us all through the open door and the spit was nearly flying out his mouth and that uneven, kitchen shear-chopped set of blond bangs of his flopped against his forehead as his too-big head bobbled around on his skinny shoulders. “He done kicked Tiny! Git! C'mon!”

'Possey had a voice like someone had his 'bits in a stranglehold with pliers or maybe one of those grabbers that you use for pullin' cannin' jars outten the boilin' water. Could you see it? Steamin' hot cannin' jar grabbers right 'roun' his 'bits? That's his voice, though, so's you get the idee'.

Screaming and hollerin' in the yard by the barn meant that sure as shit there was something goin' on and it probably meant Tiny done got hisself kicked. Kicked hard and square in the man apples if I was gonna' guess, 'cause it was a strained hollerin' and I was sure that I knew that feelin'. Only I wasn't sure of how worse it would be from a horse.

Tiny was never too bright and he would do dumb things like spendin' his whole month of June's allowance on ice cream sandwiches from the fillin' station down by the crossroads and then getting sick and throwin' up that same whole month's worth of those ice cream sandwiches in the ditch out back of the fillin' station. Dumb kid. Dumb as the box of rock like my brother used to say, 'cept dumb as the box of rocks that you threw out the window cause it was too dumb. I never knew what that meant, to be tellin' the truth.

So not too bright Tiny got hisself kicked square in the forehead by that shoed mule, and it left a little c-shaped crack that bled a whole lot and Tiny was even dumber than he ever had been and his sister Annabel had to watch out for him ever after that point. Well, after he got back from the hospital in Cotton City that is.

Tiny didn't go spending his whole month's allowance on ice cream sandwiches no more. He just sat around the parlor and watched the dust specks float around in the sunlight and maybe heard that shoutin' still in his memory if he got anymore memory left if that mule didn't kick it all outta' his head.

He done kicked Tiny! Git! C'mon!”

08 September 2011

Coming Along Nicely...

I would like to give a short update for all of you who are interested in my soon-to-be-released first collection of short fiction (and that would be all three of you, probably). A Martini and a Pen (pretty original title, isn't it?) is completed and a foreword is being written by a guest author - in all seriousness, it is by an author and editor I am INCREDIBLY honored to have write it.  More on her identity when the book goes to press.  

God willing, it will be available by the end of the year in both print and digital formats.  Isn't this a wonderful, squeaky-clean digital age we live in?  

Keep your eyes open for A Pultenham County Sketchbook and Balloon Heart on the heels of each other after that.  This is, of course, dependent on my staying sober long enough to see the works to completion.  In the mean time, remember that I have a longer-than-usual (for me) story in print this month in Side B Magazine.  It will be available in print and digital on the 15th of September.  More on that next week, no doubt.  

I am now going to return to my cocktail.  You should do the same.

07 September 2011

I Remember When He Was Just Starting Out...Do you?

My brother Pat and I stood at the edge of the observation deck, overlooking 164 stories of thin air between us and the ground.  It was the crowning achievement of his work, as far as I could tell - this 165 story megalith of steel and concrete.  "It's a mulitpurpose structure," he used to say during its design phase, quoting one of our favorite artists, "it's a box."  A box it was, to be sure, but this box was unique in that it was alive - the first multi-celled architectural organism ever created, and my brother was its creator.

"I derived a lot of the ideas for it from one of my first projects back in the Midwest," he told me as I marveled at its size and design.  "We built it from the sky down - a new method of construction.  When the exoskeleton was in place, we filled the interior sinuses with a protoplasmic liquid based largely on pecan nougat, chocolate and caramel.  We then super-charged the nougat with DNA from a very intelligent Sciurus carolinensis, hit the incubator switch and off we rolled.  And now here we are."

"Indeed, Pat, here we are.  I have to admit, I never thought you would get to this point, and I am damned, damned impressed."

"Thank you, Tom," he replied, lifting his glass of scotch in a toast, "here's to brotherly love."

"And here's to my brother the architect who went from being an assistant on the 'Zigby's Magical Possum Kingdom'  to the brains behind the World Headquarters of 'Chubby Squirrel's Nutt Hutt.'  You the man."

05 September 2011


The sweaty baby with the handlebar mustache reached up and pulled down on the bowl – all full of gin and floating cherries. Babies generally love gin, you know, but they are sometimes not so keen on cherries. This particular baby loved gin and really hated cherries, so much so that he spit each and every cherry across the room. The cherries hit the steel wall with a loud ringing sound. The baby grinned with delight and filled his diaper with a cheery squirt.

While the baby spit the cherries across the room, he guzzled the gin with such glee and gusto that bystanders rocked backwards in surprise. “My, that baby certainly likes his gin!” cried the Lutheran belly grader with the cleft palate, re-lighting the herring he was smoking. The baby grinned beneath his handlebar mustache at the Lutheran belly grader and lit his own herring. He knew the herrings aggravated his gout, but he loved the taste of a good smoked herring, especially after a bowl of gin.

The Lutheran belly grader offered a cherry to the baby, and the baby's razor-like teeth quickly ripped through the belly grader's arm, rending flesh from bone and muscle from tendon.

Give me a cherry, will you? You filthy, cleft-palated baboon...I should remove all of your filthy, herring-choking limbs, but I will grant you the boon of your writing arm – only so that you may warn others in your tragic, heretical memoirs.”

The sun dipped low in the horizon and yet another bowl of gin and cherries descended from the heavens.

02 September 2011

Moving...Back in a Bit

I just wanted to let you all know that I am in the final stages of moving my household to...(drum roll, please)...THE QUAD CITIES OF ILLINOIS / IOWA!  Well...that was certainly exciting, wasn't it?

Accordingly, I am going to be tied up for a few days running my gin collection between households.  I will resume early next week, but until then, please amuse yourself with other diversions, such as setting up you smartphone to read the Mobile Martini...here is the QR code:
Scan and Read!
Have fun with this and all other diversions!  Thank you! See you next week!