Fredric Mitchem – THE LOVE SHOP

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I am Edgar Fish.
    
As the summer twilight cast a purple glow over the city, I pulled up to the Love Shop, my supplier for Sangre de Drago. Entering through the red door, I heard playing from a sound system some bells and chanting. There were all manner of the usual herbs, roots, candles, incense, oils and colognes. A collection of dolls – fertility dolls, devotional dolls, vampire dolls and the like – lined the shelves. As well, there were racks of pornographic magazines and comics. The air was heavy with incense. I approached Mister Ulibarri at the back of the shop. He was a short, wispy-haired man with a skull-like coffee-colored face wearing a tropical-patterned short-sleeved shirt. Behind him on some shelves were the familiar jars and bottles of colored liquid – various ‘potions’ and liquors.

Sangre de Drago is not the common astringent sap of the Amazon, but a bitter elixur made of wormwood and more potent ingredients. A token of its abuse, my shaving mirror that morning had revealed the usual rather sallow complexion, the skin and bone having eroded into a less than respectable mask, the teeth betraying extensive dental salvage work. The mask of addiction…
    
I said: “Hello, Mister Ulibarri.”    
“Mister Ulibarri has taken ill. I am Raoul, his brother.

The resemblance was uncanny.
    
“Twins?”
    
“You could say so,” he said in a bored voice.
    
“I’d like a bottle of Sangre de Drago.”
    
“We have no Sangre.” His accent was Argentinean or thereabouts, ala his brother.
    
“Oh, you’re out?”
    
He looked at me dully. “We sell no Sangre, Senor.”
    
What? I’d always procured it here. “But that red liquid up there. That looks like it.”
    
He half-turned around. Turning back, he said: “It is only colored water, Senor.” And he waggled his tongue slightly.
    
“Eh, what is it for?” What was this? Some kind of a joke?
    
“It is for those who believe.”
    
For a moment I felt disoriented, as if my brain were dislodging from its moorings. “But I’ve always bought it here. Have you discontinued it?”
    
“It is only colored water, Senor. All but the yellow one. That is the piss of the goat.”
    
The incense overpowered my olfactory senses. I felt as if perhaps a headache were coming on. Suddenly feeling on the spot – as if something was ‘expected’ of me – I went to the magazine rack and randomly picked out one of the pornographic publications. “Here,” I said, “I’ll take this.”
    
Silently, he put it in a brown bag.
    
Now I sensed a musty smell mixed with cigar smoke through the incense. I felt a hint of queasiness.  “Eh, you wouldn’t know where I could find some Sangre de Drago?”
    
Solamente wate coloreado, Senor. Solamente agua coloreada.Only colored water, Senor. Only colored water…
    
His resemblance to his…brother…was indeed uncanny. I almost felt a sense of déjà vu.
    
I now began to feel as if I were being deceived. What was the meaning of this? I can tell you that it was my addiction yes my addiction speaking. I had to have my precious elixir. I said: “May I look at it. That red one?”
    
He leaned closer over the glass counter. His tongue waggled obscenely. In a near whisper he said: “It is not for you, Senor.”
    
I felt as though I were being patronized, treated like a child. “I must taste that liquid! I’ll not take my business here anymore if I don’t. I can have your license taken away.” I made to reach in my coat, as if for a badge or a gun.
    
Moving back from the counter like a snake recoiling, he acquiesced and turned and reached for the bottle of red liquid. “One sip, Senor.” And I thought I heard him murmur a little sing-song “la, la, la with his tongue.
    
I unscrewed the serpentine bottle and placed it to my lips. The rush was familiar, as was the bitter taste. “Colored water?” My eyes were slits as I peered at him. “I’ll take it.”
    
Did Mister Ulibarri look sheepish? “Twelve dollars and forty-two cents, Senor.” He showed some gold teeth sardonically in what supposedly was meant to be a smile, the skin of his skull-like face stretched back to its limit.
    
“Tell your brother,” (?),”I hope he feels well soon.” Leaving the porno rag on the counter, I made my way with my bottle of Sangre toward the door. I saw a man approaching me through the glass. He had a sallow complexion and rings under his eyes. He wore a light summer suit and matching tie. As I reached out to turn the knob he did likewise. – It was my reflection in the door’s full-length mirror.
    
I got back in the Mercury Vesper and, before starting the engine, knocked back a good third of the ‘Blood of the Dragon’. Soon, it having scuttled all sense — unaccountable for my reasons (or lack thereof) — I awoke to that presentiment in the Twilight of Delirium:
    
I stare down at my morning’s tea, the china cup Art Nouveau, with the ivory-colored handle a disrobed woman arching back to meet the lip.     
Reclining ocean maiden, dream of me when I sleep.     
The gun and badge under my coat rested – ready to serve justice should Mister Ulibarri decline to do me service again…
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Fredric Mitchem has had one fiction, “The Bureau of Phenomenology”, published in issue #73 of Danse Macabre. As well, he has had two fictions published in issue #47 of The Café Irreal. He resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his talking cat.
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Gary Hewitt – THE STUFF OF LIFE

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He couldn’t ignore the vultures.

“Jonas?”

Jonas rips open his canteen and flips his canteen.

“There’s no water, my feet are screaming and where’s our team? Harry, I’ve had enough.”

His companion squeezes Jonas’s shoulder.

“I have some liquid if you want. I can’t promise you it’ll taste nice but it’ll keep you hydrated.”

Jonas chokes. His throat splutters sand back into the desert. His eyes are ready to turn into steam.

“I haven’t got much choice have I?”

Harry reaches into his backpack and tosses Jonas a silver flask. Jonas unscrews the lid and blanches.

“What the hell is this?”

Harry points to the interminable expanse of yellow earth.

“You can go thirsty if you want.”

Jonas closes his eyes and swallows. His tonsils threaten a rebellion when the foul wine arrow burns into his stomach.

“Harry, that was disgusting.”

“Jonas, can you hear something?”

Jonas makes out a faint rumble across the endless sand.

“Harry, look over there.”

Harry reaches for his binoculars and punches in triumph.

“Thank God, it’s Peter and Michael.”

Jonas hands Harry his canteen.

“By the way what was that drink you gave me?”

“Oh, it’s only urine.”

Jonas’s throat shivers. His lips release a golden fountain into the scorched Earth. He vows never to take the piss again.
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Gary Hewitt is a raconteur who lives in a quaint little village in Kent. He has written two novels which are currently being edited. His writing does tend to veer away from what you might expect. He has had many short stories published as well as the occasional poem.
He enjoys both writing prose and poetry. His style of writing tends to feature edgy characters and can be extremely dark. Some of his influences are James Herbert, Stephen King, Bulgakov, Tolkein to name but a few

He is also a proud member of the Hazlitt Arts Centre Writers group in Maidstone which features an eclectic group of very talented writers.

He has a website featuring his published works here: http://kingsraconteurswork.blogspot.co.uk/
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Christian Laforet – SUMMER’S FRIEND

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The little girl sat on the edge of the dock, her toes sunk an inch below the calm surface of the lake. She quietly hummed to herself while her fingers absentmindedly twirled a dandelion. Eyes as blue as heaven reflected the picturesque scenery; mountains and trees wrapped around the body of water like a halo.

Her name was—fittingly—Summer, and she had been coming with her family to a nearby cabin for half of her life—all eight years of it. Her parents believed her to be playing with her cousin in the woods behind the cabin; if they found out she was actually alone at the lake they would be quite angry.

Summer had told them of her friend, but being boring old adults, they didn’t seem to want to hear about her special relationship. Even so, the little girl had not seen her friend for almost a whole year. She had eagerly counted down the days until they returned to the cabin by the lake; she was very excited for their reunion.

The man made his way towards the dock—towards the child. He casually looked over both shoulders; empty beach greeted him on both sides.

William—Willie to his friends—had been coming to the lake every day for the past week hoping for just such a moment as precious as the before him.

“Hi honey, what are you doing here?” Willie asked.

Summer leaned back and looked at him; the sun causing her hair to become strands of gold.

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she stated simply as a matter of fact.

Willie licked his lips nervously; he would not be deterred.

“Oh, I’m not a stranger honey; I’m a friend of your parents.”

Summer stared at the man with her sky blue eyes for a full ten seconds before finally shrugging her shoulders as if to say, if you say so.

The girl’s apathy sent a shiver of excitement across Willie’s body. He licked his lips again then stammered on with, “That’s right, honey…so, what are you doing out here all by yourself?” 

“I’m waiting for my friend. He lives around here and I don’t get to see him too often.” Summer replied as she glanced back towards the lake.

The man looked around once more before making his way up the old, wooden dock. His leather shoes made the boards wail with each step. “I don’t see anybody,” Willie said with a smile.

“He’s not here yet,” Summer responded.

“How about while you wait I get you an ice cream. You do like ice cream, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, c’mon. I drive an ice cream truck. It’s parked on the other side of the trees.”

Willie held out his hand. From Summer’s perspective it was large and calloused, his finger nails were too long, crescent moons of grit stained the undersides.

When the girl did not take Willie’s hand, he began to get angry. He wanted her! But he needed to remain calm—he knew this from experience.

“C’mon honey, it’ll be okay. Me and you will go have some ice cream and by the time we’re done you can meet your friend.”

She seemed to consider Willie’s proposition for a moment but then abruptly said, “No thank you.” At that the little girl turned away from Willie completely as if he no longer existed.

A fire erupted in Willie’s guts; rage fanned the flames sending the blaze through his veins. This little girl didn’t know it, but Willie was a monster, he would make her scream.

Willie was so consumed with his own state of being that he completely missed the joyful squeal which came from Summer. “He’s here!”

Spinning around, Willie made sure the beach was still deserted. Realizing the little bitch would not come easily he decided to just go for it.

Summer leaned forward; her small face split with a smile that would make an angel weep. Behind her, the devil lunged.

Willie felt the adrenalin blast through his body as he drove forward. His feet clattered across the few remaining yards of wood, each step an angry shout, as he reached for his prize. From his vantage point he could not see the water around the girl’s toes begin to churn.

Summer beamed as her friend emerged from the lake. Little droplets of water sprinkled her face and tickled her nose—she giggled.

Willie tried to stop but momentum was not on his side; he continued forward as something exploded from the water. Even had he been able to brake it would have been in vain as a set of tentacles wrapped around him faster than he could comprehend. They hoisted him up into the air; his leather shoes bounced off the wooden planks with a whimper.

Willie tried to scream but the tentacles constricted so tight around his chest that before a single peep could escape, his ribs were crushed; pain fired through his brain. Before his world turned red from the burst blood vessels in his eyes he could see the little girl reach out a hand and caress the smooth, wet skin of the horror which had him.

Summer turned her head away discreetly as her friend gulped Willie down in three massive bites. When the feeding was over, she patted his head. She did not like helping him to eat but at least this time it was a stinky, creepy old man and not a cute little doggy like the previous year. She looked into her the one, oversized eye, and she felt his love for her. They had been best friends for half her life. Gingerly she leaned off the dock and kissed his glistening face. She held out a dandelion which was taken gently by a tentacle.

They sat together for awhile before he had to return to the bottom of the lake and she to the cabin—her parents would be worried. Summer knew he would sleep down there until she came back next year. With one final wave goodbye, the little girl skipped away from the end of the dock, her bare feet singing across the boards as she went.

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Christian Laforet lives in Canada’s southernmost city of Windsor, Ontario. Most of the stories he has published are on a site created by local authors called Adventure Worlds.
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Matthew Kirshman – TWO POEMS

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My Mouth, Which Burns

He wakes after the Twin Towers tumble.
Because they’re beautiful to each other,
They collapse in a havoc of ashes.
My mouth, which burns from holocaust flashes,
Takes me inside the wet dark thick organs,
Whose oozy sense stems from their being flesh.
Through the pink, boozy paunch around my trunk,
I enter the dense history of signs.
Bothpaunch” and “trunk” have their primitive cult.
The king learns to chew gold naturally,
As a reflex, the business of Kingdoms.
Why should I suddenly be in the world?
So this poem becomes my creation,
These creatures submit to constant castration.

Prelude to a Fertility Tale

He creeps, slinks around the castle
On the scent of a man’s brain,
Like a fox, scared and cunning both,
In a steady state of nerves.
There was a crime in the cornfield.
An ax was mislaid;
A solo inhabitant reacts to the cry;
Dark tongues orbit the earth.
She whispers into the hole of his brain,
A tale from childhood—Jack & the plant of gold.
Enter the story through the sound,
A nest of bees below ground.
Through the ear, yet another underground.
A sonic figure takes shape,
A story, a fantasy, a murder mystery
To pass the time.
A giant fell in the cornfield.
She purrs, once upon a time, there was a kingdom
And a king looking down from a cliff
To a village by the sea, a hamlet.
The surf is heard throughout the kingdom.
She prophesies a tale of seven winters.
From the crime comes seven consecutive blights.
A narrative runs and from the words grew spirits.
A king from whose figure a tale of temptation grew.
You were not true to me, the sea said.
A poor man collecting aluminum,
This poor man who lived alone with his daughters,
Alone heard the sea say the king was untrue.
The smallest seed of a crime grew under the skin,
And the thought of doom grew
Into rumor, into tumor,
Into humor, into horror.

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I live in Seattle, Washington with my wife and two daughters.  I am an English teacher, but before that have had a varied career–telephone repairman, bartender, and cook, to name a few.  Writing since the early 1980s, my publication credits include: Altpoetics, Charter Oak Poets, Dirigible: Journal of Language Arts, Futures Trading, Helix, Indefinite Space, Key Satch(el), Mad Hatters’ Review, Phoebe: The George Mason Review, posthumous papers (NothingNew Press), Vangarde Magazine, The Wayfarer, Xenarts, and Z-Composition.
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Ernest Thayer – CASEY AT THE BAT

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The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!” But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

 a danse macabre classique supplémentaire

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Kenneth Kesner – FIVE POEMS

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angle of next

so if you sense something like me falling
and the one in the air don’t mind
you’ll come to trace seconds in fault
of nothing at all left beside senses
already before you turn to voice
stun many here among us staggered
in reach of wonder

red silent

destiny of more than alone
only mine will never leave us
within this season a warning
of innocence some just lost
time ago in octave all too fast
to number tides tie them altogether

laugh irony

hear

that time’s wanting where left off
of frequent and near set conscious to
sun so shallow to board will it yearn if
undone a sum of shadow you could
could touch you all those close
contouring colors one facing legacy
profound day meridian of verse

torn in a circle

as strangers of cobalt nightin painters the rest of livingyou’ll see us together sloweror is this another questionwithin measured complexity somewhere else endlesslyclose and chosen onlyor hands finding her bodyspeaks past the so manycorners of i can’t live forever

when she looks on and on

feel I’m drifting all ways now
and like you seem more than same
could we remain departing
memoirs left touched from exile
so you could defer visions
bend the pale noon elation
for destiny to silence
contents of our last version
if you’re there enough to tell
down by the breeze drawn by waves

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Kenneth Kesner lives and works in East Asia, where he’s held several academic appointments.  Some recent poems may be found in Decanto, Ginosko, ken*again, Line Zero, Retort Magazine and Ygdrasil

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