A Consideration of Wenclas’ Vodka Friday Night (2019)

Kirk Fannin was the dangerous one– yet for a moment Stacey Shemke was the aggressor. (Wenclas, Vodka Friday Night)

§.00 Karl Wenclas’ short fiction Vodka Friday Night was the first incarnation of what the author has described as the ‘3D Story,’ a self-conscious attempt to generate a new, vitalistic literary model.

§.01 The plot—sharp as a razor—revolves around a rogues gallery operating in the seedy underworld of Detroit after the murder of ruthless gang leader named Lenny Z.

§.02 At the first, the style is breathless, almost entirely (and presumably intentionally) devoid of punctuation save the period mark and the occassional comma and features a interesting utilization of bullet points (1. 2. 3.) to delineate character perspective (which I induce to be the genesis of the 3D label). The brisk yet vivid characterization and punchy, clipped descriptions like “He looked mean, and was.” or “Kirk drove hard. Night fast.” harken back to the pulp neo-noir of the 60s and 70s from magazines like ADAM. However, certain lines stick out like weeds on a manicured lawn, such as, “Kirk knew Lenny Z’s reputation and knew the man was serious. He looked serious. Deadly and serious.” If a man looks serious the reader will internalize it the first time. Other lines appear to have been missed in the editing process, such as, “The opera had been a modern updating-.”

The gunman in the car behind Boyd’s took more deliberate aim, his gloved hand– an expensive yellow soft leather glove– squeezing the trigger red jets of flame glimpsed within the barrel gun kicking a row of shots sent off like hopeful children toward their destination. (Wenclas)

§.03 Despite these minor problems, the overall effect is one of tension, speed and intensity. Its a thoroughly rousing tale of egoism, crime, passion, loyalty and betrayal with a colorful cast of characters, told in sparse, machine-gun’d prose and one which I would highly recommend.

C. H. Christie’s The Oyster Pirates (1973) | A Review

“Barton masterminded the deal. He knew a lot about the oyster business. But that was all he knew.” — The Oyster Pirates, Adam, March, 1973, Vol. 54, No. 4

In shuffling through old archives I recently stumbled across Adam Magazine, a curious mixture of erotica, corny comedy sketches and pulp fiction. The stories were of mixed quality, but one of them, entitled, The Oyster Pirates stood out to me.

The plot, like the prose, is simple: Doyle, a down-on-his luck prawn fisher is approached by a “enthusiastic” oyster dealer and refrigeration mechanic named Barton, who offers a singular proposal to sail with him to the island of Toraki Island in search of a “special kind of oyster” which are “as big as a saucer.” Barton asserts they’ll fetch a pretty penny in Sydney.

There is just one problem.

Fishing on the island of Toraki is illegal.

Doyle is hesitant. Barton, however, proves too persuasive and the two agree to split the profits 50-50, and together with Doyle’s friend, Smiley, a “raw-boned half-caste” of Aboriginal origin, set off upon the Esmeralda for the isle of Toraki.

When the trio arrive, Barton strikes up a deal with the local chieftain. In accord with their deal, the chief lets out some of the men and women of his tribe. With a massively expanded labor pool, oysters begin swiftly piling up. However, things quickly sour, when Barton, soused, chastises the chief’s son, slandering and physically abusing him. Doyle objects but Barton pays his partner no heed. Weeks pass and the trio assembles a mighty haul, which they estimate to be worth some $10,000.

Adam_v54n04_1973-03.Kenmure_0000.jpg
Cover for the issue containing ‘The Oyster Pirates,’ depicting Barton, Triki and the chief’s son, at the tale’s spectacular and penultimate climax.

Doyle is pleased and when the refrigeration unit in the ship’s hold becomes unreliable, suggests they return and cash in on their adventure. Barton, drunk, declines, declaring that he wants “a full load.” Doyle then suggests his partner “lay off the booze” because he was treating the natives “too rough” which enrages the blonde oyster hunter. Barton tells Doyle to “go to hell,” and beats Smiley over the head with a bottle after discovering the Aboriginal had been sneaking sips of whiskey, nearly killing the poor man. Doyle, furious at this fresh indignity, demands they depart to seek medical attention for Smiley, but again Barton declines and having paid for the entire trip, has Doyle and Smiley wholly within his power.

The next day a native frantically approaches Doyle and points to the jungle, but lacking the linguistic proficiency, is unable to tell him what is amiss. Doyle heads to the jungle for the stories penultimate climax and finds Barton, in a drunken fit, attempting to force himself upon the beautiful native, Triki. She attempts to resist the oyster pirate but he easily overpowers her. From behind, the Chief’s Son creeps in from the foliage to the left, spear in hand, seeking revenge for his previous humiliation at Barton’s hands. Doyle shouts a warning and raises his rifle at which point the girl, Triki falls into the water as Barton whirls, pistol in hand, thinking Doyle the threat. Immediately thereafter, from the water of the nearby river, a hungry crocodile emerges, imperiling the beautiful woman.

Doyle is faced with a impossible choice: Shoot the chief’s son, shoot the crocodile or shoot Barton. He shoots the crocodile, saving the woman, as the Chief’s Son kills Barton with his spear.

Doyle buries Barton there, on Toraki isle and, with Smiley, returns to civilization.

The big oysters prove to be a sensation in Sydney, just as Barton had predicted.

Adam v54n04 (1973-03)_0025
Illustration of the deadly crocodile, eventually slain by Doyle.
Adam v54n04 (1973-03)_0026.jpg
Illustration of Triki in the perilous river.

I really enjoyed the tale, which faintly reminded me of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Polanski’s Nóż w wodzie (1962).

Like Heart of Darkness, the story sees men of civilization venturing into untamed lands where mysterious natives dwell, but yet never tips-over into strict dichotomizing of either the old paradigm of civilized vs savage (for the upkeep of civilization mandates savagery), nor the new paradigm of industrial exploiter vs noble primitive (to dispel this Rousseauian myth one need only take a cursory survey of the prehistorical archaeological record of our ancestors), nor ever engages in finger wagging moralizing, which, even when in competent hands, has a damping effect upon the pacing of a plot as a mechanical necessity.

Like Nóż w wodzie, the story centers on the conflict between its two male leads: the noble, if not particularly heroic, Doyle, and the ruthless, power-mad Barton; though, unlike Nóż w wodzie, the source of their disputation is not a woman, but money. Greed, or perhaps, more accurately, the inability to moderate desire, forms the central theme of the work and acts as the catalyst for the spectacular set-pieced showdown of the climax; for if Barton had simply heeded Doyle’s suggestion, he’d have escaped the retribution of the native. For Barton, however, he could never have enough, not enough money, social control, sex or alcohol. Ruin, a invariable outgrowth of his disregard for the Paracelsusian formulation; sola dosis facit venenum.

“The dose makes the poison.”

 

 

The Silence & The Howl | Part 18

§.18


The last time he saw her with clouded eyes was in front of Andy’s house. She had come over to return a sewing machine she’d borrowed for a school project. Harmon had only to meet her gaze to know she felt nothing for him. They exchanged no words. He had been waiting for something to change. For her to admit what she had done and apologize. To ask for forgiveness and swear never to betray him. To at least acknowledge the truth of the past.

She did nothing of the kind; pretending as if nothing, whatsoever, had occurred.

Do you take me for a fool, Bluebird?

His gaze hardened behind the silent question. He wished one of them perished before they’d drifted apart; in such a eventuality their love would have been immortalized; forever untainted by duplicity and betrayal.

I never lied to you.

Never betrayed you.

Never cast you aside like so much refuse. Without justification. Without explanation. Without concern.

And yet you have done as much to me. Why should I hold myself apart from your selfsame standard when doing so only puts me at a disadvantage? Why should I act like I am above my impulses? I am no more above such sordid emotions than you. Than anyone.

You were mine. Now you give your heart away as if on a whim. The actions of a vulgar whore.

You are mine and mine alone.

And mine alone you shall remain.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 10

§.10


Harmon stood within the melting hall once more. The light in the distance so bright he couldn’t bring himself to look at it. The man from which the centipede had emerged stood once more, bathed in albescent resplendence. Fear quickened Harmon’s pulse as he shaded his eyes and pressed down the hall, compelled by desires he did not understand. When he stood within ten feet of the man he realized that it was not a man at all but a statue of a androgynous human, cast of obsidian or some like substance and it seven feet tall and smooth hewn by impossible skill. The statue’s left arm was elevated, palm facing up, its right arm declined, palm facing down, as if it were pushing in equal measure against the welkin and the earth. Where the obsidian creature’s stomach would have been was a gaping black hole and from it issued forth a ominous skittering that began as a whisper and increased in volume with every step towards it Harmon took. When he stood directly before the statue, within distance of embrace, the sound blared like a war-siren and he fell to his knees with the force of it, screaming as a million voices swarmed upon him, speaking forth in dreadful unison, their words indiscernible.

Loathsome legs, insectal and countless poured from the hole as ears gushed from Harmon’s eyes.

*

“Harmon. Harmon?”

Harmon’s eyes flew open as Lyla shook him. He rolled over in his bed to face the naked woman where she lay, her supple curves blue neath the light of the moon.

“You were making noises in your sleep.”

“I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Bad dream?”

“Yeah. Keep… having a similar one. Same thing keeps happening over and over again… there are these voices and…”

Lyla leaned against Harmon and gently caressed his still heaving chest, teasing about his nipples and the small patch of hair between them. He pressed her to his breast and kissed her crown whereupon she looked up at him and kissed him upon the lips and slid her hand slowly down his chest and stomach to his slowly swelling cock. Harmon groaned and gripped her right breast in his rough and calloused hand, prompting a little gasp to escape Lyla’s thick, red lips and her eyes to roll and her body to sway gainst his own. Shortly the duo were swept up in passionate embrace and as the woman’s body shuddered neath his own, Harmon kissed her upon her nose and pulled slightly away.

“I love you, Bluebird.”

She said nothing and looked away and drew him closer to her body, forcing him deeper inside. Moaning. Moaning. Moaning. Digging her nails into his back until he bled.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 8

§.08


Harmon rang up Bluebird at noon.

No answer.

Tried again.

No answer.

He tried a third time and finally she answered through text, writing only: “Can’t talk rn. Busy.”

Harmon cursed under his breath and slammed the small, black plastic flip-phone shut and slid it into the pocket of his jeans and straightened and looked off towards the old coal breaker, palled by shimmering sheets of rain. They had planned to go out today given that the forecast had ruled out the possibility of work. He wondered what had occasioned such a reversal?

“Am I so unimportant that you can’t even spare a single fucking minute to speak to me? To explain precisely why we can’t meet? You could just explain it vaguely and that’d suffice,” Harmon thought dejectedly as he sat down upon the peeling white, steel chair that sat lonesomely, like as he, in the backyard of his house, legs overtaken by ground ivy.

Harmon loathed self-pity and resentment, such qualities were those which he’d always perceived in his inferiors. He rose and paced and went back inside the house and looked to the illustration on the leatherbound notebook open on the plain, living room table. He studied his drawing of his girl and her smile seemed to mock him. Wordlessly, he threw on a worn, gray sweater, work shoes and sunglasses and headed out the front door.

The sun hovered over the ruins of the age’d industrial facility like a great bloated vampire, leeching the chthonic dark like as the creature from his dream. He didn’t know where he was headed, only that he wanted to walk. Needed to. He felt caged and wreakful and wore fearful of what he might do should he remain locked within the house. A group of young hispanics sitting upon the porch of a ruined tenement jeered, whereupon he slowed and then paused and held their gaze until they fell silent and squirmed with discomfort and the beginnings of fear whereupon he continued on his way. Fists balled at his sides and his breath coming in sharp, rapid inhalations.

After two hours of walking to the right from his house, he found himself standing before the coal breaker that lay like a dead colossus at the northeastern edge of town. Sun was strangled in the sky by a shroud of roiling clouds like hateful khefts and crows dived and perched from the wracked exterior of the abandoned processing plant like living daggers hungering for blood.

Harmon hated the place. To his mind, it was unconscionable to let such a majestic construct be overtaken by the greedy, swarming multitudes of nature. Every twisting, rangy vine, every rain-washed and mosquito-thick rut, every unpainted wall and door and broken window filled with bird feather and pollen-dust was a vile heresy.

Crunch of gravel. Footsteps.

He turned away from the frontal facade of the old coal breaker, to the left, where, just beyond the mangled, gravel drive, stood a woman with wild hair and light skin; she wore a multi-colored sweater, torn at the right shoulder and mud-stained tennis shoes held together by ducktape.

“Yall ain’t police is ya?”

“No, ma’am. Why do you ask?”

“They keep on harassing us.”

“Who is ‘us’?”

She thumbed the air, pointing with her digit over her shoulder towards a ratty lean-to surrounding by old tires and rusted cars.

“Us. You know that its illegal to be homeless here?”

“You ain’t homeless though. Got a tent.”

“They don’t recognize the tent as a home.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah. Mind if I ask what you’re doing out here?”

“Just walking.”

The woman stood uncertainly, swaying on her heels, eyes vacant, body lax. When she did not respond and slowly sat down on the ground, playing with a fraying thread upon the knee of her jeans he spoke up without moving.

“What’s your name?”

“Luna.”

“I’m Harmon. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Yeah. Yall seen the Bone Man?”

“The what?”

“The Bone Man. He comes round every so often.”

“Caint say as I have.”

“He’s got a little bag of skulls. Bird bones. That’s why we call um Bone Man. Don’t know what he does with um or where he gets um from but he always carries um.”

“Sounds like an odd fella.”

“Yeah. He is. He scares me.”

“Whys that?”

“Cuz I think that one day… one day I might end up in that bag of his.”

“Why you think that?”

“Don’t know, just do.”

“I see.”

He wondered if there were truth to the woman’s story or if it were just the product of a drug-addled mind. Momentarily, a pudgy, balding man with a trucker’s cap approached, scratching his beard.

“Heard ya talking. This a friend of yours?”

Luna shook her head.

“Nah. Just met him.”

“Right.”

Harmon tilted up his head and nodded in the man’s direction. The man nodded back and then returned his attention to the woman on the ground.

“I need your help with something.”

The man with the trucker cap looked suspiciously to Harmon and then knelt and whispered something in woman’s ear whereupon she nodded and slowly unfurled herself from the gravel. The pair then left off, returning to the lean-to and from their they headed off for a small camper in the far-flung distance. She was a mule, Harmon was certain of it. Probably a tester as well. For a moment he considered following them but hesitated. Hands working at his sides and his heels digging into the grit with a muted, flinty hiss.

He took a step forward. Then three more. At the fourth a new voice intruded upon him, it rough and jovial and foreign.

“It ain’t wise to follow people that are more dangerous than you.”

Harmon spun and discovered a tall, thin man watching him from atop a beaten and rust bitten pickup. The man wore a ball cap low and metal rimmed sunglasses and a dull flannel shirt, rolled up at the sleeves.

“How long you been there?”

“Long enough.”

“That ain’t no answer.”

“It is. Just not the one ya wanted.”

“You said those people were dangerous.”

“All people are dangerous.”

“You being purposely opaque?”

“I’m clear as crystal.”

“Crystal ain’t always clear.”

“I didn’t say it was, said I was clear as.”

Harmon paused and nearly chuckled but caught himself at the last. He found the strange interloper as amusing as bizarre.

“I’m-”

“Harmon. I heard. I’m Ryter. Jonathan Ryter.”

“Is that girl ok?”

“Compared to?”

“Anyone else.”

“Like as not the answers no.”

“You don’t seem much perturbed.”

“Lot of not ok people in the world.”

“Yeah. You live here?”

“Presently.”

“You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”

“Not. You were going to go after them.”

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“Certainly seemed like you were.”

“Well, they ain’t exactly normal.”

“Neither are you.”

“I think I’m pretty normal.”

“Normal man woulda walked away. Called the police.”

“Should I?”

“You think they’re cooking something?”

“I dunno. Are they?”

“Couldn’t say. What would you do if they were?”

“Nothing, I guess.”

The man muttered something to himself and then swung himself over the side of the back of the truck and eased down onto the gravel and left off towards the front of the coal breaker and looked off towards the south where an ominous stormwall built in the sky.

“Going to rain.”

Harmon followed his gazed.

“Looks like it. I’d best be heading back then.”

“If you’re planning on walking you’ll get caught out in it.”

Harmon shrugged.

“Guess so.”

Ryter gestured to the coal breaker.

“You’re welcome to come inside til the storm passes.”

“Mighty kind of you.”

The man nodded, more to himself than to Harmon and walked into the overgrown breaker. Drawn to the man’s easy cadence and confident gait Harmon found himself following. Down the slight decline of the gravel drive and past the old power plant to the duo’s immediate left that overshadowed the tents of the junkies scattered all about the drive and outer yard where stirred dozens of glassy-eyed cast offs who sat upon over turned buckets and cinder blocks, ringing round tiny fires and jabbering of the unfortunate wending of days. Some of the itinerants looked to the duo moving towards the old facility and spake one to the other in hushed tones of grave concern and fear moved them back to silence when the sunglassed man looked in their direction.

When they passed within the decayed structure a flock of crows fluttered off from the ground and fluttered around the rafters as thunder echoed in the distance. They walked between rows of old seats where breaker boys and sorted coal by hand, beyond which was a heavy tarp upon which was a circle of bones, meticulously arranged and all of animals, lizards and possums and cats and dogs and birds and other things which Harmon could not place within the animal kingdom. It was then that Harmon recognized the man for who he was; the bone man of whom the female mule had spoken. He felt uneasy, increasingly so as the man stepped into the circle of ivory remnants and removed therefrom a old and battered tome without title save a strange sigil which Harmon could make neither heads nor tails of.

“What are all those bones from?”

“Animals I have found during my travels.”

The sunglassed man did not look to the bones and seemed not at all perturbed by them and instead flipped open the book and scribbled a couple lines down with a curious pen that looked to have been cast of bone itself. Without forewarning, a woman’s voice sounded from somewhere nearby as rain began to pelt the boarded and broken windows.

“I didn’t know we were having company.”

“Neither did I,” Ryter replied with a broad smile. Harmon turned and beheld a young woman hunched upon one of the old sorting tables; he had missed her upon entering. Her hair was short and cropped at the sides and the left side of her face was covered over with hideous scars that ran the length of her neck and vanished beneath a pale, green parka.

“Don’t be rude. Introduce yourself.”

The woman sighed like a petulant child and then rose and stepped forth from the darkened corner of the room and moved to stand before Harmon.

“Freya Lauren.”

She held out a wool-gloved hand from the ends of which more scars fled up her arm like the aftertracks of some massive species of worm. He took her hand and shook it, “Harmon. Nice to meet you folk. I had seen long ago that some people had set up tents around the breaker but I had never given any thought to people living in it – had always heard it was dangerous.”

“Upper floors are. Wouldn’t recommend you go up there alone.” The woman stated flatly. Harmon got the distinct impression she didn’t care for company.

“I’ll keep that in mind. So, what brought you two here?”

“Just needed in from the rain. Going to have some tea, you want some?”

“Sure.”

The woman turned round and moved to a small portable electric heater which had been set up on the right-middle-most anthracite sorting table. The table was iron and was the thus imperious to the heat and on top of the heater sat a small metal thermos and beside it lay two tin cups and into the cups she poured an aromatic brew.

“Must be nice.”

“What?”

Harmon gestured out to the criss-crossing iron bars of the rafters, “Living here. No taxes.”

The woman nodded.

“Yeah. Sometimes the police come round to chase out those who’d set up tents in the yard; that’s why we don’t keep much on this floor, someone walking by the windows might see us and then its up on trespassing charges. Course, that’s unlikely to happen, police round here are sparse and don’t make much of an effort. Its a long drive from the station all the way down here and a long walk from the power station to the breaker to the conveyor and dumphouse.”

Far behind them Ryter had finished writing in his book and set it upon one of the processing tables and then returned to the circle of bones and began rolling them up into the tarp on which they sat and then deposited them into a old, wooden chest in the far left corner of the room. Then the man ambled back with a tin cup which Freya dutifully poured for him. The trio drank in placid silence and shortly thereafter the rain subsided and Harmon thanked the itinerant duo for their hospitality and said he must be getting back before dark and then left off for home.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 1

CHAPTER ONE


“I don’t have no problem.”

“Sure seem like you do.”

He shook his head, a fractional gesture, noticeable only due the couple’s proximity.

“Well, I don’t. Was you what started yappin.”

She folded her arms below her breasts, turning slightly away, staring at nothing, muttering, “Fine.”

“Yeah. It is. Why you being this way, Lyla? Ain’t never was like this between us before. Now, all a sudden, you’re constantly screwing up your face, hmph-ing all over the place, snapping at me for no good reason, constantly tryin ta start something…”

“Ain’t try’n ta start nothing.”

“Good, cuz there ain’t nothing to start.”

She made an expression that was midway betwixt the spitting-upon-of-disgust and the-self-indulgent-sigh-of-petty-transgression. Harmon Kessel finished his frozen yogurt, threw it in the parking-lot trashcan and turned to his girl with a expression she could not place and then fished out a cigarette and stuck it between his blood-red lips and stood smoking and watching the gulls turn circles in the thermals above the pavement.

One big cliché. A stupid and boring one, Harmon thought to himself with mild irritation. This venomous exchange and the countless ones that had gone before it. He was not a intemperate man but his reserve – like as every others – had its limits; in Lyla’s constant scrapping he was finding his. He blew a circle of smoke up and out over the parking lot before the ramshackle plaza, grinning slight, proud he’d remembered how.

“We’ve had this conversation before, Bluebird, and before we had it, we heard it.”

She turned to look at him from the corners of her eyes. He didn’t like that. The way she side-eyed him as if he weren’t worth the fullness of her attention, as if he were merely a speck of colorful paint, floating at the terminus of all perception.

“What are you on about?”

“It’s the same argument I always hear from couples – that everyone hears – whether its from memories of my parents, or the parents of my friends or my friends themselves, newly-wed, or from some book or movie. I’ve heard it and so have you. I reckon people have been hearing it since they were able to do so. People arguing bout nothing. Eating up time. We’re time eaters. Time eaters that pay no mind to whats on their plate. That’s our problem as a species.”

She cracked an awkward smile, frailer and less broad than it used to be. He dearly missed the way she used to smile, a little slice of bone-white moon with the twin suns of her dark coffee eyes shining above it.

“Anyone ever tell you that you’re strange?”

Harmon took a drag, considering. Nodded and spoke flatly.

“Bout once a week nowadays.”

“Can’t say I’m surprised.”

She was flipping through her phone now, less than half-listening. Harmon took another drag, his expression falling into a drab blankness. He’d meant the statement as a joke. She used to laugh at that sort of thing, at his dry, off-kilter humor, driven by flat overstatements of the commonplace. Just two years ago she’d have been cackling like a hyena. Now she couldn’t seem to tell when he was being serious or not. Harmon thought maybe in him some fault for that lay; maybe he was too serious, too tense on the thread of life, like as his father had said. He never smiled anymore. It was just his way. One of the gulls swooped down to the parking lot and pecked a greasy hamburger wrapper that some litterbug had left behind. Prodding with its bladeish beak til it found a fry. As Harmon watched it abscond with its golden and greasy prize and flutter up into the shine he wondered why he couldn’t feel sadness. Given the situation, it seemed appropriate; like as it would be the normal response. For all Lyla’s accusations of peculiarity, Harmon had always considered himself a relatively normal person. Average in most ways. Average height, average looks, or maybe, a little above average looks, average job with under average pay, average build, maybe leaner than most. Lean but muscular. It was only when it came to his mind that any peculiarities began to manifest themselves, odd turns of phrase and archaic words which pleased his ear and confounded every other and so oft poured from his lips in brisk and liquid flow; ruminations on the state of things that seemed beyond all ken save his own. His grandfather had once said that Harmon spoke like a man that were unweaving a secret loom which only he could read. The bar girls thought it was “sophisticated,” their boyfriends “pretentious,” Harmon’s amiable acquaintances just said he “talked funny.” He took a long drag of the fervid Fortuna and thought on the phrase “amiable acquaintances.” Most of what he had that were social were such. He reckoned he didn’t have many friends. Not anymore. None save Sprawls and Reggie and Lyla. Only Lyla was different. Friend and lover. Sweetheart since high-school. A bond worked for nearly twelve years.

He looked away from the gull. Back to his girl. She was still on her phone, drifting towards the passenger-side door.

“I’ve gotta meet, Serena.”

“Right, right. Art show.”

Harmon finished off his cigarette, dropped it to the blacktop and crushed it out beneath his heel with a faded serpentine hissing and then got in after the girl and drove out of the frozen yogurt shop where they’d shared their second kiss, the gravel sputtering beneath the ceaseless, half-deflated wheels of the battered 1990 Ford Escort Hatchback.

He looked over at her and forced a smile.

“I had a good time with you. Been too long, Bluebird.”

“Yeah.” She replied without emotion, gaze still fixed to her phone. He guessed she was still talking to Serena or one of her other art school friends he’d never met. His smile faded and he drove the rest of the journey in silence, smoking and tapping the ash out the crack of the window and watching it sputter in butterfly whorls into the oblivion-warp beyond the ambit of the roiling machine.

*

Fiction Circular 8/31/18

FLASH FICTION

First up, Nell of The Library of Nell published a sequence of erotic microfictions entitled The Book of the Woodsman as well as the surreal, The Book of Morpheus. Decidedly evocative. Very interested to see her future works.

“We raised our faces at octagon windows of colour, through mirrors, upending to infinity.” — Book of Morpheus, Ely

The persistently consistent Dark Netizen published the mircofic, Buster about a dog figurine that is more than it seems.

Curious Forgotten Lore has published a plethora of fascinating little fictional tidbits, most notably: a continuation of his mythos of Clod, The God Of Clowns. Perchance, in time, he’ll be the new Slenderman; if that is to be the case I just hope SONY doesn’t try and make a movie out of it…


SHORT STORIES

Lucas Barstow has published Deep Vein Trombonist, which begins alluringly, “Deep underground where sunlight can’t be seen, the ore veins glisten in the light of a candle half burned out, dripping wax onto the floor.” Whilst the opening line is intensely atmosphere and the story is interesting, Mr. Barstow often violates the show-don’t-tell edict, describing in a rather flat and matter-of-fact way what is going on and why instead of painting a picture of the actual events in motion; but my, what an ending! Highly recommended.

Also read The Stain from the The Story Hive.

“I petted the fabric, fingers tracing the sewed areas, for the hundredths time, maybe for the hundred-thousandths time by now…

It had been vibrant and colorful, with the reds and blues and yellows thoughtfully arranged on twenty to thirty-five inches. Baby animals playing under the stars and the moon. Pink hearts lined beneath those little paws. My fingertips knew all the stitches.”

Sad, taunt, eerie and moving. Highly recommended reading and the best of the week.

Also from The Story Hive, The Greater Good Protocol.

Terror House Mag published Soul Box by James McHell, a supernatural drama concerning a man whose spirit has affixed itself inside his wife’s TV. Also from Terror House, Sugar-Plum Fearless by Soren James, a sad, creepy tale about a sad creepy man.

Jellyfish Review published Smolder by Hannah Harlow, which was quite good.


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

Little to report other than that I found a old Henning Mankell thriller in a shoebox. Was titled The White Tigress (Kurt Wallander Series #3). Reading through, very good book thus far.


Tune in next time for more.

If you wish to support our work in publishing great prose and supporting up and coming authors you may do so here.

Fiction Circular 8/17/18

THIS WEEK’S FICTION


Flash Fiction

Noteworthy was the (very) short story Rescue from The Dark Netizen. A humorous excursion of misbegotten Don Juanism.


Short Stories

Give Was Her Resting? from Terror House Magazine a read, echoes of Reynolds Price.

“Well, ain’t that sweet? Old fool and his doggie.”

The voice came from behind him, and Bud jumped and turned. Standing right behind him was a a pale, cadaverous young man with a tuft of hair on his chin and large metal discs in his earlobes. He was wearing a filthy T-shirt and the rank odor of his body struck Bud like a fist. Behind the young man was an even younger black man, dressed all in black and wearing a knitted skullcap on his close-cropped hair. Both of them were sneering at Bud, and both of them had glittering, crazed eyes. The one closest to Bud lifted a pistol and pointed it right between the older man’s eyes.

“Where’s the pills?”


Serialized (Sometimes Ongoing) Stories

One of the more interesting pieces of writing I read this week was the fascinating and yet-unfinished fiction series, The Devil’s Peak (I & II) by R. C. Darabant of The Story Hive. It is one of those tales wherein, the less you know going into it, the more tantalizing it is and we are certainly interested to see how it ends.

In our own capacity, four parts of the fiction series, The Photographer’s Dilemma are now available here: Part 1Part 2Part 3 Part 4.


Novellas & Novels

I’ve currently been reading a number of novels, one of which entitled Dark Journey (Bantam Spectra, 1991) by the pseudonymous horror-writer, A.R. Morlan, stood out as being particularly compelling. Fans of Harlan Ellison’s work will likely appreciate the text, as Morlan explicitly makes mention of the fact that Ellison’s Gopher In The Gilly, played a vital role in inspiring certain sections of her own tale. From the backcover:

TOWN OF EVIL

Ewerton: a decaying small town, its glory days many years gone – if they ever existed… Few residents know that these times were built on corruption and lies, that the town was founded on evil. Palmer Winston glimpsed the eerie truth in a mysterious woman – and spent his last fifty years trying to recapture it. His oldest friend, Lamer Nemmitz, saw her too – it turned him sour and mean, as his humanity withered within him.

 

CARNIVAL OF HORRORS

The Water Carnival: a faded memory of imagined better times. This year will be the most memorable in Ewerton history. This year the South-State Enterprises Carnival, outlawed in Ewerton since 1923, returns. The crooked games, the mentalist, the freak show. And the true horror, disguised by a beautiful face and a Veronica Lake waterfall of caramel-blond hair, a thing born of corruption.

 

NIGHT OF JUDGMENT

The Ewerton High ten-year reunion: when she will return to her hometown and give birth to a terror from which there can be no escape…

Just as spooky as it sounds (only better written than the amusing, but rather in-your-face sensationalism of the promo text, which probably wasn’t written by Morlan herself).


Commentary, Critique & Analysis

A interesting entry from Alina Hansen this week in the character of Gertrude Stein’s “Autobiography” of Alice. The piece, though in no wise lengthy, was quite informative on one of the writer’s most popular works, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (it is not actually a true autobiography, hence Hansen’s deployment of air-quotes in her title) for someone like myself who is not well-versed with the works of Stein.


BEST OF THE WEEK

Our nomination for the best fiction-related piece of the week is not, itself, a work of fiction but rather a historical exegis of the life, times and works of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges by OddMadLand entitled, Erase Their Eyes, Ensure Their Devotion. As someone who knew next to nothing about Borges, the piece was considerably edifying (and exceptionally written, as is everything at OddMadLand). It is a lengthy article but well worth the read.

(The existence of these new events bring more to the event than there was before. There is a devil behind them, it is the antichrist. Jorge Luis Borges wants us to understand that by turning away from time in favour of space a wrinkle is created that allows the devil to dance behind our back. This leads to a powerful realization, that the apocalypse is cumulative, gradual, always already happening, that the antichrist is a time traveler who, in altering the timeline, creates chaos at a distance, chaos for the future. If for God time is always complete, than the only way for the devil to sabotage Gods absolutely completed space is to create alternative versions of the original events. That way, blasphemies would occur: like sons being peers to their fathers or christ’s resurrection.)


WORST OF THE WEEK

Thankfully nothing to report at present.


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Join us next week for more recommendations and literary commentary. Thank you for reading.