Saturday, February 26, 2005

by Ray X

POV 1:
Fuck!--hate this town, nothing goes right, no money, have to get out of here, drug deal, that'll do it, that cunt Connie, took it all, can't pay rent, but I bitch-slapped her good--huh--ouch-- Goddamn crack in sidewalk, stupid city, fix it before I break my leg, this city is a pile of shit, falling apart, making me fall apart--there's that old lady on her porch, must be half-blind with cataracts, thick dark sunglasses, that half-nuts look--here we go again, like yesterday, she's smiling big at me, maybe I should get friendly, con the crazy old bat, screw it, keep walking, yeah, I'll wave to you, you dried-up bitch, goodbye, must have lots of cash hidden in a cookie jar or whatever, maybe I'll break in late at night, might have to knock her around--

POV 2:
The mid-afternoon sun beamed into her eyes but she didn't care: she could make out the glowing shadow-shapes just fine. She leaned back and forth on her cane, ignoring her usual assortment of aches and pains, peering down the street. Anxious, like a young girl waiting for her beau. Wait--coming out of the brightness, sunlight rimming the flowing hair, the beard just visible.
She smiled, whispered his name: "Jesus..."


Ray X is the perpetrator of The Ray X X-Rayer, the Uncommon Zine of the Unusual. More details at or email rayxr (whereit'sat) aol dot com Copyright 2004 Ray X.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

by Mark Russell

1. Remove entrée from cardboard box.

2. Peel back film covering chicken-fried steak portion. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.

3. Remove chicken-fried steak from plate, place gravy pouch in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on MEDIUM HIGH for 3 minutes.

4. Return chicken-fried steak to plate. Stir mashed potatoes. If mashed potatoes are not stirred, over-heating may occur. Over-heating may result in a pocket of boiling steam forming underneath mashed potatoes, which may explode when pierced by a fork. Said explosion has been known to be so violent in nature that it has expelled potato matter like volcanic ash, burning the flesh of all who stood near. We believe that this is an acceptable risk in order to enjoy what we consider to be the best microwaveable mashed potatoes the industry has to offer. Microwave on HIGH for 4-5 minutes.

5. Remove gravy pouch from microwave oven, keeping gravy warm in a saucepan or toaster-oven. If gravy is allowed to cool, it may congeal, animate, and take the form of a small minotaur-like creature. If this occurs, the new entity shall be called "Thorbald." Section off a small portion of your pantry or breakfast nook. This shall be Thorbald’s domain. You may try to incorporate him into your family if you wish, but do not taunt or tease young Thorbald. For though a minotaur made of gravy, he has feelings just like the rest of us. You may train him to perform light household chores such as fluffing pillows and braiding your children’s hair, but understand that this is undertaken at your own risk.

6. Replace film cover over chicken-fried steak, continue to Microwave on HIGH for 2 ½ minutes.

7. CAREFULLY remove plate from microwave oven and peel back film cover. PRODUCT WILL BE HOT. Stir potatoes and serve with gravy. Hope for the best.

8. Again, be aware of over-heating. If, upon removal from microwave, the green beans begin hissing, discard product immediately. If mashed potatoes explode, or chicken-fried steak unexpectedly scalds you, do not cry out, as this may be interpreted as a sign of weakness. A weakness that Thorbald may seek to exploit later during a moment of vulnerability.

Mark Russell publishes zines, including one on the apocryphal adventures of Superman, and co-edits The Penny Dreadful website out of Portland, Oregon USA. Contact him or Thorbald at pendread (whereit'sat) hotmail dott com.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

by Jessica Disobedience

Iowa is slow and hot. Time moves like molasses. For every three hours that passes by in the real world, only one hour passes by in Iowa. All there was to do was wander around in the sun, feeling like a surly cowboy, swatting bugs away from my face.

It’s strange to be taken to a friend’s hometown, to meet their family, to see the places where they got in fights and fell in love and slept and ate. In a way, you’re time traveling, they’re taking you back to their past. You’re a visitor in someone else’s photo album; finally being able to put images with the people and places they’ve told you about. The first day, we stayed with Barb, K.’s mom and Katelyn, her sister, and they were so kind to me, and I was happy to be there, immediately a part of the family. K. and I got stoned in the mildewed basement, and sat around on the couch eating cereal and watching cartoons. We all spent time on the back steps, and in the dappled green light of the low-hanging trees, K. and I learned how to grill. We sent up smoke signals of charcoal, and cooked burgers for everyone. K., Barb, Katelyn, and I, all walked across the dusty main street to a little bar. I put quarters in the jukebox to play songs by Patsy Cline and other ladies of old-timey music; and we dusted our hands with blue chalk and played pool. K. and I got our asses kicked by Barb and Katelyn, and the few locals that were gathered around, drinking foamy beer out of plastic cups, laughed at the two city girls. "Yeah, well, we don’t play pool in Chicago. In Chicago we play Bozo Buckets! And we could beat all
of you at that."

That evening, K. and I took the half-full bottle of whiskey we had brought with us, and walked out to a playground structure that stood in the middle of a nearby field. We lounged around on the plastic structure, taking swigs out of the bottle, getting drunk and talking about sex. Locusts buzzed around our heads, and we ducked and squealed, hoping it wasn’t an omen, hoping it wasn’t a Biblical plague telling us that this whole trip was going to be a bust. K. was playing on one of those things where you grab the handles and lift yourself up in the air, sliding from one end to the other, when she heard a high-pitched squeaking noise. Then, a fuzzy brown-and-white ball tumbled out and landed in the gravel. A bird. "Oh God," she said, "He’s still warm. I killed him."

We made him a grave in the stones and dirt, and adorned it with a cross made out of twigs. Then we shouted the words to "Come On Up to the House" at the sky.

Darkness fell so strangely. One minute, it was still light out and the clouds were making shapes of dinosaurs and mythological creatures, and the sun was still on the horizon; and then I blinked and this wall of darkness came down, this absolute impenetrable black curtain, pierced here and there by stars.

And the fields were full of fireflies, blinking, blinking, thousands of them, green and yellow faerie lights across the prairie.

Locusts, and lightning bugs, and night. Time to stumble home, make some food, and sleep.

In the morning, I had a message on my cell phone. However, way out there in Sticksville, Iowa, I couldn’t get a signal on my phone in order to listen to the message. I had to drive twelve miles down the highway, to Decatur City, in order to find out what it was all about. The message was from my mom. My bank account had been overdrawn by about a hundred dollars, and with the bank fees and everything, I was in the hole by almost two hundred. Damn! We’re in a tight spot! I was slightly panicked, but somehow I knew everything would work out okay. It had to. Perhaps I shouldn’t put faith in the hands of a universe that generally has one cruel sense of humor, but that was my only choice. We were being called by something greater than ourselves to continue on this trip.

K. and I took Katelyn to a diner out on the highway in Decatur, a diner that was all the pink and green and white ice cream colors of a fifties diner. I played "Wipeout" on the jukebox, and had coffee and fries.

Then it was back to the basement, to get stoned again. There was a knock at the basement door. "You should come upstairs, we have company," Barb’s voice filtered down the stairs.

We emerged into the prickly heat and daylight of the aboveground world, and found that a panel of local elite women had come over to pay a visit to Barb, as she has been sick. Sure, it was good of them to bring over baskets of food, and presents for Katelyn. But here was this group of rich, perfect women (hair-sprayed hair, whitened teeth, tan skin, and giant gold crucifix necklaces) that had ignored K.’s family for years, and as soon as they find out there is a charitable deed to put next to their names, like a checkmark for getting into heaven, they’re there with bells on. The tan skin and glaring white teeth formed a circle around Barb and prayed for her.

K. and I went to sit out on the porch steps and have a cigarette, as we couldn’t deal with the prayer furnace world that these women were part of. "They’re so self-righteous," I said. "Like one good deed can make up for a lifetime of being stuck-up bitches."

That evening, we drove the fifteen miles to Mount Ayr, the town where K. spent the majority of her childhood and adolescent years. She showed me around the main drag. Mount Ayr was bigger than Grand River. There was a bank, a library, a hardware store, even streetlamps. Most of the town was bars and churches. Work, pray, and get drunk. That’s what we all do. We might work for different things, we might pray to different gods (or not even refer to them as gods at all), we might not be drunk off alcohol. But we all work, pray, and get drunk in one way or another.

We went to the convenient store, where it was 99 cents for a tallboy of Miller High Life. I bought four. I think I just like Miller High Life because the can is ornamented with a drawing of a girl sitting on the moon. She’s far away from the earth, and that’s where I want to be when I drink.

We sat on the porch with K.’s dad, talking about the weather and the locusts, talking about meat and the price of cigarettes. That night did not cool down at all, it was still thick with humidity, even as the streetlamps flickered on one by one, and we clutched cold, sweaty tallboys in our hands.

Jessica Disobedience hails from Chicago, Illinois USA and is a member of the Underground Literary Alliance. "Iowa" is an excerpt from issue #2 of her zine Sad and Beautiful World. Check out her website and contact her via email--jessica (whereit'sat) order her zines.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Excerpt From WEEK (+DAY) OF BOMBS
by Todd Dills

The weather is beautiful this day. Winds blow a surge of cool, fall-like air into the city. My friend Amber from high school in NC is here for the National Poetry Slam event. She and her team--a ragtag group of bearded boys and dredlocked girls from Winston-Salem, NC--slammed against a crew of incoherent Canadians from Ottawa and a team of blond girls from Delray Beach. The NC crew took last, but that didn't dim the party. Joey and V and I were in attendance, and once the loss was complete, we convinced Amber to skip her solo slam and head to more hip climes, namely Joey's rooftop just near downtown.

We grab a case of Old Style on the way, and Amber grabs wine coolers for herself.

Joey, absolutely gregarious this night after five vodkas at the slam, sent the lot of us on up to the roof, Amber by virtue of quiet circumstance leading the way up the stairs. She hummed an antiquated showtune . . .
Oh how I love you, darling!
Oh how I love your beard!
. . . ardently sucking back a wine cooler* and singing to her lumberjacklike boyfriend. She reached the precipice, then, the small gaggle of us chattering at her back. She opened the door onto the cool night, the song belting forth from her throat and quickly turning into a blood-curdling scream; she slammed the door to the cool night, Amber now white as a sheet in the yellow stairway light--she said, "Oh--My--God there's two people out there. And they're fucking."

A collective groan, after which Amber sang the verse once more . . .
Oh how I love you, darling!
Oh how I love your . . .
then catching V's eyelashes (batted coyly to my gaze) and exclaiming, "It looks like somebody's done that before!" The lot of the crew turned vulture eyes on us. We shrugged, redfaced. "Fuck it," I said. "Give the fuckers thirty minutes." We tramped back downstairs into the heat of Joey's hole to give him the news. He was not surprised. "I'd heard rumors of that shit going on," he said, to much laughter, himself actually eyeing V and I like he knew something . . .

* by the end of the night, Amber (herself and bearded boyfriend being nondrinkers, normally, young nondrinkers of the type who might indeed be able to get shitfaced on a four-pack of wine coolers) and her man will be slobbering on each other they are so very drunk, causing much delight among the jaded crew of V and I

Bred in StromThurmondville (otherwise known as South Carolina), Todd Dills lives in Chicago where he oversees the broadsheet The 2nd Hand. This excerpt from a longer piece about the Weathermen, guillotining CEOs, literary terrorism, homemade flying machines, perps wanting to blow shit up, the activities of an organization named TRAFFIC, and bicycling to Lake Michigan at 5 a.m. comes from the book All Hands On: A The2ndHand Reader published by Elephant Rock Books/TNI in 2004. It'll make you go ape.