Sunday, July 7, 2013

What it Means to Mow by G. Arthur Brown

The eyes of Balkan Sam, carrier lunatic, were duple. What this means for future generations is still uncertain, but binocular vision was a particular skill of his. A few people admired and wrote about that. But I’m not one of them. I just mowed his lawn.

I mowed his lawn enough times to really get good at it, and he paid me in lengths of velvet ripped from the robes of long dead chamberlains. Balkan Sam, he’s the left side of heaven, my dad used to inscribe on vans.

I think it was already August. I was mowing and not just for vanity’s sake, but to protect the innocent from the armadas of dangerous tick terror cells that were rumored to be spider-holed betwixt blades of too-long grass hidden in respectable lawns owned by crazy men like Balkan Sam.  Being a hot summer, he brought me a glass of poison lemonade. I didn’t drink it, of course, because I’m not a fucking moron. But I thanked him and I continued my mow.

Mowing is a manly art. Man against Nature in the most primal form you can find in contemporary society. It is man with a large mechanical tool telling nature how to behave, what to look like. The mower I use is a riding mower, but it’s not a tractor. It’s the kind that drives like a tank, the kind that can do a 360-degree rotation. I’m at war with these weeds. And Balkan Sam can see that, so he brings me a lemon-grenade, but I’m not a fucking moron and I know it’s poisonous, so I don’t pull the pin and throw it to blow up the tiny arachnid enemy, who may or may not be couched tentatively under a leaf of clover, waiting to suckle the capillaries of some unsuspecting dachshund who certainly doesn’t belong on Balkan Sam’s lawn, but who tends to end up there when his owner has had far too much mead at the Renaissance Faire. 

It’s like hunting. There is a part of the male mind that needs to sit in silence and fight nature, destroying something living, or at least cutting large bits of a living thing away and leaving them to shrivel and die in the sun. Plants have a whole different kind of existence than do animals. It’s hard to say when they are alive and when they are dead, when they are the parent and when they are the offspring. Balkan Sam comes out and cuts off one of my fingers. He wants to create a rhizome that will grow new hunter-mowers, and you can sell that kind of shit on eBay now.  I’m not a fucking moron, so I don’t care that he cut my finger off because that was my poison finger and I’m not a fucking moron. I’m an adventurer, riding into the thick of a very tiny jungle, as far as five gallons can take me.

Balkan Sam rushes back out, those two googly eyes just googling at me, and tries to fill the tank with poison gas. “Save it for the Texas chambers!” I shout over the sound of some of the best mowing the East Coast is likely to see this summer. It’s already August, I think. I should be done by Christmas. 

Copyright 2013 G. Arthur Brown
Artwork Max Ernst

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Virulent by John Edward Lawson

One day, while gathering plantains, I happened upon a fruit-bearing penis. The thing was roughly the size of an adult, with large fronds and fruit of every type. I at first considered tapping it for sap, but in the end let it be. To ensure that this discovery remained unnoticed I did my best to obscure the path I had followed.
    At night I took women from the village up to that desolate area on the farmland’s border. Darkness hid the nature of the “tree” under which we made love; I felt it prudent to take advantage of such abundant virility.
    Inevitably my scheme was discovered when the women began birthing various fruits. Despite--or perhaps because of--the fact that the fruit was quite tasty (or so I was told) the villagers became unsettled. Roused by such obvious heresy they stormed the farm and burned my prized fruit-bearing penis alive, all the way down to the ground. This in turn ignited the underbrush, and soon the blaze spread to all the farm.
    I have wandered penniless and alone ever since. To this day I cannot decipher whether the plant was a blessing or a curse.

John Edward Lawson has published nine books, seven chapbooks, and over five hundred works in anthologies, magazines, and literary journals worldwide. He is a winner of the Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition, and has been a finalist for the Stoker Award and Wonderland Award. Other nominations include the Dwarf Stars Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Rhysling Award. As a freelance editor he worked for Raw Dog Screaming Press, Double Dragon Publishing, and National Lampoon, has edited seven anthologies, and served as editor-in-chief for The Dream People. Recently he became a columnist at IMJ, covering events in the publishing industry.

"Virulent" originally published at The New Absurdist
Copyright John Edward Lawson
Artwork by Max Ernst


Friday, July 5, 2013

The Tour(ette's) Guide by Shawn Misener

This is my sixteenth glass of orange juice, and the sixteenth glass that has shattered before I can lift it to my mouth. These dry and quivering lips have grown impatient and are threatening to spew expletives in Portuguese.

I am of course naked, my skin sticky sweet and matted with pulp. The walls are on fire, as they should be, my frustration turning dragon. There is a woman in here- I am never alone- but she is fully clothed in Detroit Derby Dolls gear and stands at a modest seven inches tall.

I turn to her and sigh, “Are you the one doing this to me?”

She cackles like a demon, her bellow cutting through the smoke. “Who the fuck do you think I am? That chick from The Hunger Games? Legolas? Cupid? Any old coot with a bow and arrow?”

“I think you are some kind of evil bitch, and I would appreciate it if you crawled up my ass now.”

She languidly sits at the edge of the coffee table and dangles her bruised legs in a violently playful rhythm. “Hmmm,” she muses. “Back where I came from?”

“Back where you came from,” I hiss, nodding imperceptibly.

The South wall crumbles from the flames, thousands of neon embers billowing up and settling into constellations above us. I find myself standing, with a new glass of juice in one hand, the other one flailing behind me, trying to grab her. She is suddenly normal size, no bigger than that, a freakish giant, squatting behind me and working her forearm into my anus.

A disturbingly unreal scream escapes me in the form of a cacophony of cuckoo clocks chiming all at once. . . underwater. The glass again shatters and I use both hands in a poor attempt to extract her from inside me.

Her voice smashes into my earholes: “HOW FAR WE HAVE COME, HOW FAR WE CAN GO, I'M IN THIS SHIT, UP TO MY ELBOW.”

And she's in. The world feels perfect again, clean, delineated by straight lines and Febreeze.

I'm sitting on the couch, watching the fireplace and thinking that maybe this was the most symmetrical and pleasing wood stacking job I've ever accomplished. The fire seems content with its balance. The pictures of my eight children smile back at me, so evenly spaced, so full of goodness. I resist the urge to rearrange them in alphabetical order. The first week of the month is always by age, the second by melatonin concentration, the third by income, and not until next week do they line up by name.

I slowly swallow the orange juice, wishing I had a straw to protect my teeth from the acid. When I belch, it's her laughing. She wants me to check the lock on the door. She wants me to shout random words. She wants me to blink and blink and blink and blink. She wants me to execute the tic where I rub my eyebrows until they bleed.

“COCKSUCKER! TERRIFIC PIZZA! COCKSUCKER!” I yell, jumping from the couch to the rug. I know that she's satisfied, somewhere in there. She's satisfied as hell and she has a cool grip on my thalamus.


Shawn Misener lives in Michigan.  His chapbooks include Dry Humping a Fire Hydrant and In Your Face(book), and he edits the absurdist blogazine Clutching at Straws.

Copyright Shawn Misener
Artwork by Max Ernst

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Karst Topography of the Soul by Mark Allen Berryhill

My wife wanted a picnic—she grew up in the urban blight of Seoul, and the way she told it that city wasn’t exactly rife with prime picnic parkland. Admittedly, there wasn’t much good picnic land left in Springfield either, but I knew about this secluded and manicured stretch of land behind the Wal-Mart on Campbell Street. All of the nearby houses had either been condemned or seized in an act of senseless imminent domain, but that was probably for the better—this area had a nasty sinkhole problem. I suppose everywhere did, but they were especially bad in this neighborhood. You couldn’t walk your dog around here without the earth swallowing it up. I wanted to take photos of abandoned Hoboho camps.

Luckily, I had an app for that. I saw an article on io9 warning of the impending sinkhole apocalypse, back before sinkhole apocalypses were cool, and they recommended a few useful apps for iPhone. So, armed with this little digital safety net we ventured out into this perfectly mowed valley, ignoring the No Tresspassing signs to find a sunny and flat spot close to the biggest tree around, a ginormous sweet gum that had blanketed the surrounding area with those annoying barbed little balls. We figured that the roots would keep the soil together, so we set up our straw picnic mat just outside the ring of gumballs.  Jiddy made  kimbap, a sort of inside out sushi filled with pickled radishes and spam. I brought the finest wine that three dollars could buy, a merlot so cheap that the “t” wasn’t silent.

We had the whole place to ourselves, on one side of the valley sat rows of fortified houses, the owners had spent a fortune safeguarding their property against erosion and errant topographical disasters—but to no avail. The property values plummeted, and the stigma attached to living in this neighborhood became so severe that many of the occupants fled their homes and jobs, preferring to live their lives as indigent peoples—Hobohos whose livelihoods involved scavenging the land for losing lottery tickets redeemable in those online second chance promotions. The Hoboho were also notorious dumpster divers, holding vast open air yard sales with prices so cheap you didn’t mind the inevitable bed bug infestations that came along with the purchase of their goods.

The other side sported a suburban greenway, a curvy stretch of safe sidewalk, potted plants, and ornamental grasses that the still well-to-do jogged incessantly, willfully oblivious to the urban blight on the other side of the ravine.

“How do they mowing here?” Jiddy asked.

 I didn’t have an answer for her. Someone had gone to great lengths to not only make the grass look beautiful, but to also fill in all the sinkholes with large chunks of limestone gravel. For those who didn’t know any better, this area would have looked like any other park.

We talked about nothing, smeared low SPF bug repellant on each other, and ate our food. Jiddy drank half a coffee mug full of merlot to make me happy, while I chugged the rest in a hurry. The three dollar bottle of wine tasted about the same as the nine dollar bottle of wine, but you wouldn’t want either to linger on your tongue. I had to get drunk enough to make exploring the abandoned neighborhood seem like a good idea. If I could stumble upon a mason jar of Hobogris to sell online we could pay our rent for a few months, and maybe, just maybe, we could afford the twelve dollar bottle of shitty wine. Also, I had hinted that it would be cool to plan for some spontaneous outdoor sex, which she seemed uncharacteristically enthusiastic about.

The wine stabbed at my guts and punched me in the bladder. I excused myself to pee and found a clump of uncultivated overgrowth, edged in a safe distance, unbuttoned my pants, and pissed for what seemed like forever. You had to get right up on it, but fast food wrappers, receipts, and plastic bags littered the undergrowth. I made a game of soaking all that shit. I peed and peed, and when I leaned against the nearest tree I put my hand right on top of a six inch honey locust thorn. I had to go so bad I didn’t notice what kind of vegetation I had nudged myself into. A dollop of blood formed on my palm. Looking down around my ankles I saw that the other plants were way worse—stinging nettles and poison oak. Shitness

Jiddy cried out, and I rolled my eyes. Of course. We can’t just have a nice picnic. My first instinct was that the Hoboho had taken her, but I had heard that they were a skittish lot; their jingoistic and superstitious fear of foreigners should have kept them at bay. She yelled again, a slew of Korean profanity I had heard before but she refused to translate for me, for fear that I would repeat the words I had learned in front of her family.

 Which I totally would and she knew it. I stumbled out into the valley, my ankles already itchy and uncomfortable. I could hear her mumbling and cursing, but all I could see was an empty little valley. Fucking sinkholes. As soon as I made it to the green I put away my dick and whipped out my phone.

“Help to getting me down you motherfucker!”

Getting down? The app showed no signs of recent karst activity, although it indicated a 76% probability of a very large sinkhole opening soon. My phone should have sent me a push notification when it went over fifty percent.

“Goddamn asshole! The tree got me!”

And it totally did. That sweetgum tree had her by the ankles. It held her up and regarded its catch. I approached the tree with my hands up, to show that I was no threat.

“Okay buddy, just put her down, we don’t mean no harm.”

The tree creaked and groaned and thrashed about, slinging seedy little balls everywhere. My iPhone chimed. The sinkhole predictor hit 92%. Jiddy squealed. I rushed to the trunk, that big bastard was already in its own hole, the balls had camouflaged its predicament. I quickly find myself up to my knees in sweetgum balls.

“You don’t have to take my wife with you, let her go and I’ll write a story about you, I promise.”

The tree dropped her into the gumball pit and she went completely under. I waded out to her, and thought that if it weren’t for the ticks and chiggers a sweetgum ball pit would be so much fun. I fished around for her, grabbed her by the crook of her elbow and hauled her out. She screamed and cursed at me the whole way.
We retreated towards the greenway trail, watching the tree sink into the earth.

“My picnic stuffs!” Jiddy said as we sat and panted.

“Leave them.”

“This is your fault.”

“I guess. Do you, um, still want to have sex?”

She grunted something I couldn’t translate but totally understood and we started the long and itchy walk home.


When he isn't gardening, Mark Berryhill spends his days exploring complex social issues through fart jokes. 
Copyright 2013 Mark Berryhill 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Blank Slate by Jeremy Maddux

Dear Peeing Boy Fountain of Pacebrook Park,

I know you are terribly busy these days, what with Mr. Weiss who jogs through your vicinity every day and stops to rest on your cusp, and Roma Wheeler who brings her rotten children to your park to play every day while she scoops the coins from your basin. Who can forget the old men who gather to play chess on the bench just beyond your reach, as if using their activity to compete with your own spectacle.

With that being said, I am soliciting your attention for two reasons, which I will now outline:

1) I have spent the better part of my adolescence in your spectrum of being. It was with you that I was first exposed to the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, T.S. Eliot, even Bukowski. The sensation of yellow banner of sun falling over us as I engaged the poet with a sailor’s temperament has never left me, nor the whirlpools of shade that swallowed me as we watched the day end, together. I knew it was where I was supposed to be.

2) Have you seen her? You know exactly who I’m referring to. The woman with the whimsical wardrobe and the tear-shaped buttocks that spurns on animal thoughts in my swelling humanity. I first met her while feeding ducks gathered at your monolith’s bedside. Nothing sets me so firmly on the path of championing animal rights as a woman whom I fear unattainable otherwise. I know she used to traipse through your territory every Sunday afternoon and sometimes Thursday and Friday. We enjoyed many multi-faceted discussions, about the universal consciousness, experiential theory and even capitalism’s best laid trap of corporatism.

I had many chances to ask her name. I could lapse into tangents about unspoken inner narrative, illustrate with laconic precision the critical dilemmas of declaring war on drugs

in a free republic, but I couldn’t be bothered with what her mother called that tangle of windblown, strawberry blond hair, that space between her shoulder blades that impressed upon me the urgency of active living whenever I watched her walking away.

Now, she hasn’t visited you in approximately two months, since the end of January. That’s exactly fifty nine days, sixty by the time your custodians and attendants have had time to pore over this document.

Something has happened. No need to tell me I’m overreacting. I know something has gone wrong with the cosmos. Yesterday, while feeding the fowl at your feet, I observed a peculiar anomaly as the sun fell behind its rotational curtain. I noticed strange shapes emerging from the dusk, funnels of shadow which fell on the ducks like oil slicks with teeth. Their reaction was to hiss and clap their wings at one another, liberally excreting waste as they snapped at even their own young. I don’t have to tell you how upsetting this phenomenon was. I still can’t believe the children nearby never took notice.

She must have come some time after I last saw her, unless she only exists through my seeing her. I’m still puzzling over the implications of implied existence versus accepted existence, and it is too late in the game for anyone to write a textbook or manifesto about such musings. I want to love her, but I can’t do so without first conquering the inevitable gender anxiety (which endures with great consistency) between male ego and female form.

If her existence is merely implied, then she is a blank washboard for me to project any number of phobias, philias or habitué onto, until or unless her existence becomes accepted.

The moment her existence is accepted, either by myself or through you, she can then begin to effect me and project onto me the memes which populate her own reality. I could be her friend, her father, her lover, a father/lover hybrid per Freud or even (Fountain Forbid) a threat to her physical safety.

Surely you can relate to this plight, seeing as how any number of individuals project meaning onto you each day, until you have no choice but to accept your own existence, regardless of whether you are accepting an implied existence or an accepted existence. That too, is for us to determine.

Please, tell me her name. Why hasn’t she been to the park in sixty days? I kept my hands to myself, even if I can’t say the same for my eyes.

Yours Truly,

A Blank Slate


Jeremy Maddux lives in Blountville, TN where he serves as Vice President of the Night Writers’ Guild. He was recently voted Talent of the Year by his peers. Jeremy’s work has been featured in Surreal Grotesque, Connotation Press, Literary Orphans, Garbled Transmissions, Red Fez, Dream People Magazine and The Glass Coin. He recently had a story published in Aliens, Sex & Sociopaths: The Best of Surreal Grotesque. He is also Co-Editor of Surreal Grotesque.

Copyright Jeremy Maddux
Artwork by Max Ernst

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to: Make Your Own Live Kitten Necklace by Madeleine Swann

Live kitten necklaces: you’ve seen them on the runways, you’ve seen them on TV, but the amount they cost could leave you without emergency moustaches for an entire month. So, the question is, how can you get your own? The answer is so simple it makes my toenails bleed-make it yourself!

Step 1) Everyone knows the ultimate fashionistas wear the best kittens, so this means finding pedigrees. Find out where breeders live and either wait until they go out (check out our fabulous stalker’s range online) or ingratiate yourself into their home. One option is to wrap yourself in sisal rope to look like a scratching post, another is to cover yourself in the same wallpaper they used. Don’t pass up the opportunity to get some good people watching in, just remember not to breathe too heavily.

Step 2) The other possible route is to kidnap a breeding pair. Watch out, this involves some more DIY! (All items mentioned are available in our ‘Breaking and Entering’ Catalogue). First cut a hole in the bottom of a litter tray and fill it with tissue paper. Then sneak into the cat owner’s garden late at night and dig a hole big enough to fit yourself into. Place the litter tray above the hole and wait-it’s that simple. When the cat finally takes the plunge its best you wear head cover and this week we’re just loving the Bearskin cap.

Step 3) Take an ordinary collar that would fit your neck, the same kind you find at pet stores only stolen from local animals instead, and some clothes pegs from your neighbour’s line. Spray the pegs a colour of your choice and glue them to the collar. Now it’s time for the best bit!

Step 4) Gather up those mewling beauties and attach one to each of the waiting pegs. When picked up by the scruff of the neck they’ll automatically hang quietly so the only thing left for you to do is get out there and bust some moves until they’re too old to be cute. Then put them in the bin.


Madeleine Swann has had several articles published by various magazines including Bizarre and The Dark Side, ranging in subject from church restorations to toe wrestling championships.
She writes from her home in Essex and has erotica published in the likes of the Forbidden Fiction website, The Darker Edge of Desire and ‘Big Book of Bizarro’ anthologies. She also has surreal comedy and horror in Polluto magazine, LegumeMan Books and Black Petal magazine.
Copyright Madeleine Swann
Artwork by Max Ernst