Front and Back Cover by Robert Gregory Griffeth
Dead Mice in the Art Class by Carl Miller Daniels
His Ass was on Fire by Kurt Nimmo
No Coney Island of the Mind by Thomas H. Brand
A License Plate by Michael Walls
The Ransom by B. D. Love
Dead Mice in the Art Class
By Carl Miller Daniels
"We are going to take the
and dip it into paint
and print with it"
says the instructor,
a willowy blond young
man with tight pants
and broad shoulders and
"We are using the mouse
because i am interested
in your exploring your
natural feelings of revulsion
toward certain things
and perhaps mastering
colors you may use when
you dip your mice are black
and blue," he says. "Then you
press your paint-dipped mouse
onto the paper once or twice
or as many times as you
like." I am outraged. My
artistic freedom is being
constrained. Two colors!
One of them not really a color!
One of them, in fact, the very negation of
color. He hands me my
mouse. His fingertips brush
mine and linger a few seconds.
"You can use different shades
of blue," he says to me, and to
the class as a whole.
We all seem appeased. My mouse
stinks. It has the smell of
rot. Students are pluckily
picking up their mice and dipping
them and pressing them onto
paper. The smell
"Do you find all this disgusting?"
the instructor asks, hopefully.
I actually see a maggot crawl out
of my mouse
and leave an intriguing trail
as it crawls across my paper.
I title my picture
and get a big fat A.
The instructor seems
ecstatic at what a good
job everyone did, except for
the one or two who wouldn't
touch the dead mice.
He gave them rubber mice
though, started their
grade at C, and subtracted from
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His Ass was on Fire
By Kurt Nimmo
It was the hemorrhoids, the damn things flared up again. He sat on the sofa looking outside at the children. It seemed to him the neighbors didn't like their children very much. They were tricked into marriage and parenthood back when they were eighteen years old and now resented it. He sat there with a half gallon bottle of vodka in the window. It soothed the burning of his ass for the moment. It also made him not give a shit about the way things had gone sour with the woman. She was going to marry the other guy, the unemployed construction worker. He didn't question her stupidities. He was a malleable male lump, nearly perfect for her fingers. She sculpted the unemployed construction worker like fresh yellow clay. He never drank too much or thought about things very few other people bothered with. l'm insane, he thought. You're insane if you go against the myths and superstitions of the tribe. An HMO psychiatrist wanted to disable part of his brain with drugs. Another so-called professional wanted him to enroll in a substance abuse program. If they take away the substances, he thought, I will go crazy. If sober long enough a person is capable of anything, even voting for George Bush. He laughed as a black fly jumped off the window screen. It flew around the room. He thought briefly about killing it. And then the hemorrhoids began throbbing the damaged tissue of his asshole and a little girl screamed in the street. Her voice sounded like glass breaking. She will buy into the myth, he thought, like ninety-nine percent of them. Sunlight came in the window. It shot the half gallon bottle of vodka full of white light. He looked at it. She deserves the unemployed construction worker, he thought, and then he told himself it was all meaningless. He looked around for the fly and thought about killing it.
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No Coney Island of the Mind
By Thomas H. Brand
Eating chicken legs with greasy fingers,
then pushing thigh bones
like spikes into the hot sand
as though at the Black Sea,
three fleshy Russians
sit on their blanket before us
enjoying July in America.
In this sea of languages,
we are the ones embarrassed
to have pilgrimed to Coney Island
for all the wrong reasons,
an amusement park and a line
we once read
back in Minnesota.
Thirty years too late
in both cases
and not prepared with towels or suits
or attitudes of the day,
we sweat for a half hour
and then head toward
the House that Ruth Built
in pursuit of whatever it was
pulled us to this sad relic in the first place.
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A License Plate
By Michael Walls
hangs beside the beveled mirror
of a bar in Gadsden, Heart of Dixie
where tattooed men in black leather
park their Harley-Davidsons
and drink Budweiser on Saturday night.
On a dirt road, half-way between
Boaz and Fort Payne, an old man
passes familiar fins on a rusted out hulk
that rests on blocks like a pyre
under the slow burning August sun.
He walks across fifty yards of kudzu
and two gullies to get a closer look.
A wasteland, crisscrossed with spider webs
stretches between front fenders.
A spiralled hornet's nest
hangs like a papier mache cone
into emptiness, once a front window.
Back when it shone, and A Summer Place
played at the drive-in on Saturday night,
he loaned his Chevy to his nephew.
It was almost ten years later
on the ride back from the cemetery
before he told his sister
about the gold coin pack and church key
he had found under the back seat,
her son's red-faced grin when he returned them.
She had giggled like a schoolgirl,
while tears dripped onto the triangle-folded
piece of cottonred, white and blue,
she squeezed between gloved fingers.
For a long time he just stands
out there in a washed out pasture
in the quiet of a summer afternoon,
miles from a town or interstate highway,
alone, with just the buzzing of a hornet
and the soft strings of Percy Faith.
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The Ransom (excerpt)
By B. D. Love
Jack Carpenter put the answering machine on rewind and went to the kitchen to pour himself a Scotch. He was trembling. He poured a double. Then he came back to the living room. The day's last light sifted through the windows and hung in the dust his feet had raised as he dragged them across the carpet.
He sat down beside the machine and let it play through once more from the beginning. It was like a parade, he thought. It was the pageant of his daily life.
First there was the mechanic, telling him that the repairs on theTriumph were going to run unexpectedly high. This was something Jack Carpenter had fully expected. Another day on the RTD. Wonderful. Then came his ex-wife, shrilling for money and, as always, reminding him of why she'd ex-ed him in the first place. There was a passage of silence that usually indicated an automated sales message or a wrong number. Next, somebody wanted to talk to Pepe. This message was in Spanish. It sounded urgent, but messages in languages he didn't understand always seemed to Jack Carpenter to be urgent. His mother wondered how he was surviving the divorce. His girlfriend, bored at work, just called to fill up some tape. His old health club wanted him back. So did his chiropractor.
Jack Carpenter took a strong sip of the whiskey.
The next message began with fifteen seconds or so of very soft breathing. Then a voice he did not know, a woman's voice, or that of a very young male, began very calmly and quitely.
"We've got your son."
Not the words themselves, but something in the tone of the voice sent a jolt straight to the bone. The plot itself was bad television, tabloid stuff.
"We've got the little boy. You're going to have to pay. We want "
The tape cut off whatever remained of the message.
His girlfriend was still bored.
He set the controls to erase the messages.
Jack Carpenter was sure the threat was nothing but a prank. After all, he and his wife had been childless. There had been women beforebrief affairs, one-nighters, but the chances were practically nil any one of them might have produced a child. He imagined a couple of teenage girls sprawled on sofas, bored in the way only teenage girls could be, dialing numbers at random. Is your refrigerator running, he recalled asking a gullible party when he was a bored teenager. Yes? Then you'd better go catch it!
Sooner or later, someone must have let poor Prince Albert out of the damned can.
The next morning Jack Carpenter scoured the Times for any mention of a kidnapping. There was none. At the office that day he listened to an all-news station. Nothing. He was watching the eleven o'clock wrap-up on Channel 4 when the phone rang.
"We've got your little boy."
"This isn't particularly funny."
"It isn't meant to be."
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