Umbrella at the Pasta Palace


    The umbrella won’t go down.


    He is a law school graduate.

    A judge on a split shift

    between here and Brooklyn.

    Assessing situations

    Is his strong suit.

    But no matter how much

    he fusses with the button

    the umbrella won’t go down.


    The rain has stopped.


    He spins it self-consciously.

    He and his colleague

    have approached

    the prestigious pasta palace

    with the confidence of politicians

    running unopposed.


    The destination is definitely desirable.

    The DA drops by for takeout.

    A prominent journalist

    can get a hug

    from the Congressperson at the bar

    or a less effusive greeting

    from the mayor.


    But doubt is creeping

    across the faces of the judge

    and his colleague.

    No matter how much

    he fusses with the button

    the umbrella won’t go down.


    Taking its fully opened space

    the umbrella won’t fit

    through the palace door.


    The time for judgement

    is at hand.

    The judge shows no hesitation He turns and leads

    his colleague

    in search of expanded entryway.


    His decision is nolo contendere.






    Fire rages

    in a yogurt cup

    set by the stubbing

    of the last cigarette


    a distraction


    from refugees pausing

    on the late night news

    to see which way

    the war is going.




    The Balladeer


    Four more songs

    ’til a break,

    a chance to drink

    the edge off the boredom

    standing always moving

    hiding wrinkles from the spotlight

    moving quickly

    to hide another year

    etched on his face

    since the last time

    he played this club.


    Four more, of the same songs

    now like breathing

    mechanical parts like a stereo

    with human parts

    and four more songs

    before something

    inside him

    clicks off.




    Happy, Happy Birthday, Critic


    I am 30 years old

    and have holes in my shoes

    on the sides

    where the puddles surge in

    as I walk home

    from a concert

    which I’ll write about.

    They’ll pay me ten bucks.


    Everyone enjoyed the concert

    except me.


    If I don’t find

    something wrong with it

    they won’t pay me ten bucks.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror - Season 2 #1

    “You have ten minutes.”

    “That’s not a whole hell of a lot of time.”

    “Shall I make it five?”

    “Well, if you put it that way . . . I just wanted to say I really appreciate you taking the time to . . . ”

    “Tick, tock, Mr. Rogers.”

    “Paul. My friends call me Paul.”


    “Well, I suppose I should begin.”

    “Please do.”

    “I’m sure you’ve been pitched hundreds of scripts over the years...”


    “And you’ve probably bought only . . . ?”

    “From a pitch? Four have been optioned.”

    “And produced?”


    “Wow! Better chance winning the lottery and making it on my own.”

    “Your story...?”
    “Yes, well, it’s sort of like Fatal Attraction meets The Usual


    “Interesting comparison.”

    “Don’t you think? The main character is named Lenny. He’s your stereotypical nice guy who gets taken advantage of by his boss, his friends, and even his wife.”

    “Mr. Rogers, I’m afraid I’m not hearing anything original.”

    “Hold on. We’re still in Act 1. One gloomy morning, as Lenny is leaving for work, he catches the deliveryman tossing his paper into a puddle in the driveway. This event carries him off the deep end. He has a mental meltdown and decides it’s time to get back at everyone who has ever wronged him.”

    “All because the newspaper got soggy?”

    “It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. His first target is his boss, Sam—a cruel, overweight man, with a receding hairline and bad skin. The previous winter, Sam, in fearing for his job, had sabotaged a computer program and had the blame cast on Lenny, which in turn gets him demoted.”

    “I see.”

    “Told in flashback.”


    “Yes. To augment the suspense. Lenny severs the brake line in Sam’s car. The following morning on the way to the office, Sam crashes into the highway divider and is killed.”

    “It sounds like a bad episode of Matlock.”

    “I realize it’s a tired way of murder but you have to understand the character. Lenny is a first-time criminal whose mind hasn’t yet had the time to warp and devise more nefarious schemes.”

    “Well, I certainly hope he’s a fast learner if you want to audience to hang around to the end.”

    “No. He gets better at it. After dealing with his boss he then targets his friends.”

    “What did they do to him?”

    “Played a prank on him in high school.”

    “Wait a minute. How old is this guy?”


    “It must have been some prank.”

    “They stole his clothes while he was taking a shower in the gym locker room.”

    “He kills his friends 25 years later for stealing his clothes? You’re going to have to work on the motive for that one a little better.”

    “Don’t be fooled. Traumatic grade-school experiences can have lasting effects on kids.”

    “But he’s friends with them now?”

    “It’s a close-knit community. No one moved out of town after finishing school. Over the years he has maintained his friendships.”

    “All right. I’ll play along. What does he do then? “Well, it involves a car.”

    “Back to the car?”

    “I know. I’m working on it. You can only have so many car crashes in one town before eyebrows start to raise. Anyway, soon after Lenny’s promotion, his friends decide to take him out for drinks.”


    “Yes. Now that his boss is dead, someone had to fill the role.”

    “That’s lazy.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Lazy. Lazy writing. It’s too neat. The underling that murders his boss and is rewarded by obtaining his position. I’ve read it hundreds of times before.”

    “Can I get back to the story?”

    “Tick tock, Mr. Rogers. You’re not impressing me so far.”

    “As I was saying, Lenny goes out drinking. Even though it is supposed to be in celebration of him, his buddies, Tom and Jerry, end up doing most of the drinking...”

    “Tom and Jerry? Is that supposed to be some sort of joke?” “No. That’s their names. I can’t help it.”

    “Yes you can. Meet Lenny’s new best friends, Tom and Steve.”

    “Fine. Tom and Steve get so drunk that they are barely conscious. Lenny drives to Landing Lane bridge, a turn- of-the-century structure that is barely sturdy enough for cars. Lenny drives the car off the bridge. It’s not much of a drop to the water so he is able to pull himself from the vehicle before it sinks. His friends are too drunk to escape.”

    “The End?”

    “Not quite.”

    “His wife?”

    “Exactly. She has been cheating on him, thinking he was too stupid to know...”

    “Hold on a moment. That is your Fatal Attraction angle?”


    “Have you actually seen the movie, Mr. Rogers?”

    “Well, no, but everyone knows what it’s about.”

    “Making cross-references to movies you haven’t seen is not the best...I think it’s time for us to wrap this up.”

    “I’m about to. So Lenny kills his wife...” “How?”

    “He drops a hair dryer into the tub while she is taking a bath.”

    “Oh come on, now! Surely you could have thought of something a little more original! Most hairdryers these days have safety devices built into them. They shut off when they come into contact with water.”

    “This was a real old one. Her mother’s.”

    “At this point the only people left in theater are going to be the masochists.”

    “So now that his wife is dead Lenny expects to feel liberated. All of those who have done him wrong are dead. He should feel great. But he doesn’t. He realizes the wife’s lover, a real son of a bitch, needs to die as well. Only then will Lenny be able to live in peace.”

    “Perfect. Just what the audiences wants to see. The main character killing someone else.”

    “I’d like to think of it more as justifiable homicides.”

    “The End.”

    “Slow down. The clock on the wall says I have one minute.”

    “Fine. You mentioned the story is like The Usual Suspects. I fail to see the correlation.”

    “The bad guy in that movie. The one Kevin Spacey played . . . ”

    “Keyser Soze.”

    “Yes, him. Thanks. Now, before you say anything, I did see that movie. Lenny, like Keyser Soze, gets away with all of his crimes. That’s the link.”

    “That’s great. The two people left in the theater will be happy to hear that the main character, a serial killer, who is not sympathetic in the least, has gotten away with all of his heinous crimes.”

    “So after he kills the lover, Lenny settles back down, finds better friends, a more rewarding job, a new spouse, and lives happily ever after.”

    “Roll credits?”

    “Yes. Roll credits.

    “There is one thing I am mildly curious about. How does the wife’s lover die? Have you thought of another crafty car crime? A potato in the tail pipe causing the carbon monoxide fumes to overwhelm him?”

    “You really want to know?”

    “Why not?”

    “Are you considering optioning my script?”

    “Don’t be ridiculous.”

    “All right. The lover—he gets shot. A .45 with a silencer screwed on so that no one will hear.”

    “Any special way?”

    “No. Though the chest. Dies quickly so he can’t identify the killer.”

    “Does it hurt?”

    “I’m not sure. I hope not. For your sake.”

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Second Coming #3

    Me, my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents were all born here in Franklin. That means I’ve heard every story that’s ever been told about anyone who ever lived in this town. I know who wrecked whose car, who poisoned whose well, who’s buried in whose backyard and a whole lot more. And not one of those stories ever involved someone having a problem with the giant spiders.

    Far back as anyone’s willing to recall, the people in Franklin and the spiders pretty much left each other alone. The spiders never came into town and we didn’t go out there poking in their nests.

    Of course there were a few isolated incidents. Once or twice a year some kids from the high school or some drunks would wander out to the nests, get tangled in a web and end up getting sucked dry. But just as often some baby spider would wander into town and get mowed down by a school bus, or a drunk driver or a combination of the two. So it all kinda balanced out. That’s the way it had always been.

    But four days ago one of Joel Roundtree’s cows went missing. Now, if it had been five or six cows, Joel would have chalked it up to rustlers. But just one cow, that got Joel pretty riled. It seemed like the sort of thing the high school kids might do as a prank, so Joel caught a few of ’em in the liquor store parking lot and did some interrogating. The kids swore up and down they didn’t know anything about Joel’s stupid cow.

    And Joel had already ruled out aliens ’cause there were no crop circles or scorch marks. I know people think aliens carry off cows with levitation beams and transporters, but they don’t. Aliens will always leave a clue when they take a cow.  

    That left the spiders as the most likely suspects. We’d never known a spider to take a cow, but once Joel ruled out all the impossibilities all we had left was the spiders. He said that’s how Occam’s razor works.

    If it’d been my cow, more than likely I’d have saddled my insurance company with the loss. But Joel’s always been a vengeful cuss. The thought of some spider laughing about the cow he’d made off with was not something Joel could abide. So he called a town meeting.

    Like always, we met in the high school gym. It and the church are the only rooms in town big enough to hold everybody but the church don’t allow beer inside. Soon as the floor was open for new business Joel commenced to screaming and spitting about the goddamn spiders and what they’d done to his beautiful cow. No one paid him much mind until he told us that once a spider gets a taste for cow, that spider’s gonna come back for more. After that, just about everyone chimed in.

    Fiona Watkins told how the spiders caused her back aches and carpal tunnel.

    Carter Gibbs claimed the spiders made his wife Doris leave him. (I honestly doubt that there’s any truth to that. He’s just blaming the spiders so he doesn’t have to reflect too deeply on his own behavior.)

    Bumpy Tate told how the spiders made him go bald. (Which could be true ’cause none of Bumpy’s male kin suffer from any embarrassing hair loss.)

    Cecilia from the bank theorized that the spiders were the cause of all the dropped phone calls and the slow wi-fi.

    And Carter piped up again to blame the spiders for burning down his tool shed. (I suspect he accidentally burned his own shed while trying to build a meth lab, but I’ve got no good evidence to support that.)

    Randy Patton—he teaches math at the high school—he said it was scientifically impossible for the spiders to do all the things folks were saying. But he sat down and kept his mouth shut after Joel called him a spider lover and told him to go live with the spiders since he loved ’em so much.  

    After everyone said their piece we put it to a vote. Aside from Randy we were all in agreement; the spiders had to die.

    We didn’t bother with a plan. We just figured we’d better get to it before the spiders got wise to what was happening.

    I went home to get my twelve-gauge. Mind you, I wasn’t too enthused about killing the spiders; but life doesn’t hand you many lawful opportunities to go wild with a shotgun, and I didn’t want to miss this one.

    The spiders didn’t put up much of a fight. They were big as trucks but they behaved just like the tiny ones you find in your bathroom. They mostly ran around scared and confused about why they was dying. I had a lot of fun with my twelve-gauge but I wasn’t even close to being the MVP.  Joel had welded a big ass slingshot into the bed of his Silverado and he was launching Molotov cocktails. The way the flames stuck to the spiders I figure he must’ve added some Vaseline to the mix to napalm-it-up a bit.

    Fiona Watkins was out there in the Grand Fury she uses for the demolition derby. She was plowing into spiders and snapping their legs like she was in a Mad Max movie.

    Bumpy was wearing combat boots, a tank top and dual-wielding a couple of .45s like he was Tomb Raider. He didn’t hit a damn thing but he looked cool as hell.

    And Carter was trying to lasso and hog-tie a spider but that didn’t work out so well. He got dragged for a quarter mile before he thought to just let go of the rope. (Honestly, I believe Carter’s lack of sound judgment is largely responsible for his estranged wife and his burnt-up tool shed.)

    It took us a little more than an hour to chase all the spiders down and make sure they were dead. And we all slept good that night knowing our cows were safe.  But the absence of spiders didn’t bring about the changes folks were hoping for.

    Fiona still had her aches and pains. Carter’s wife still didn’t come back. (And she truly shouldn’t.) Bumpy was still bald-headed. And Cecilia from the bank still couldn’t stream her shows without a whole lot of buffering.

    But Joel’s cow did turn up. The high school kids he questioned, they were lying. Joel’s cow was stashed over at the Gas ’n’ Go. They posted pictures of her with her head under the hood of an El Camino—looks like she’s checking the oil or something. It’s pretty funny but I’m sure the cow was happy to be back home with Joel.
    Three days later both Joel and the cow got eaten by the giant ants. According to Randy the giant spiders had probably been keeping the giant ants away from the town. Kinda wish we’d known that.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Bronze Age Boogie #6

    World War II. Professor Burpstein’s top-secret Milk For- mula X transforms a bunch of scrawny, malnourished 4-F babies into a platoon of two-fisted toddlers: the Wailin’ Commandos!

    1944. Aboard a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, somewhere over occupied Europe, G-2 liaison officer Captain Mike “Cry- baby” Cooper finishes a terse briefing. “Any questions?”

    Pvt. Saul Winkman, Flatbush’s finest infant mechanic— there’s nothing he can’t fix with alphabet blocks and a stuffed monkey—hesitantly raises a tiny hand. “Yeah, I got one. Will there be ice cream at my bar mitzvah?”

    “Stick a thumb in it, wise guy!” growls Sergeant Rick Grumpy, a candy cheroot clamped tightly between his teeth. He checks his toy watch and bellows, “Time ta hit the silk, Wailers!” With that he tosses his platoon, one by one, out the plane. “WAAAAH!”

    In the gloom of a Bavarian forest, the Wailers untangle from their parachutes, change into camouflage combat- diapers, then get into formation. “Sarge! I lost Mr. Piggles!” shouts Pvt. “Rusty” Cornbelt, the token Okie. “No, wait. He’s in my ammo pouch.”

    “Och, I dinnae like the dark,” grizzles Cpl. “Dummy-Dum” McDonalds, a huge bear of a Scot who stands one foot six in his tam o’shanter. “I keep thinkin’ there’s a clown puppet under m’bed!”

    “Krauts!” yells Sarge as German infantry charge into the clearing. “Hit ’em where it hurts!”

    “What, their boopsies?” giggles brolly-wielding Pvt. “Stinky” Birtwhistle, as he jabs a storm-trooper in the crotch (“Ach! Stabbed in mein little Fuhrer!”). “My nanny says that’s a rude word!”

    But Pvt. Charlie “Little Bird” Carter plays a hard bop version of “Three Blind Mice” on his party-tooter and the jazz-starved jerries—raised on a strict diet of Strauss waltzes and wholesome, knee-slapping schlager songs— ditch their Schmeisser 9mm sub-machine guns and jitter- bug uncontrollably until they drop.

    The Wailers head off in little khaki pedal jeeps towards the sinister-looking schloss that looms over the woods. “Hoots, mon. Will ye look a’that scary oul castle! Bet it’s full o’witches an’ ghoosties!” wails Dummy-Dum. But Charlie says, “Don’t be scared, big buddy” and holds his hand.

    “Ha! Soon, all of Europe will be crushed beneath my leather jackboot,” rants Baron Donner von Blitzen, aka The Brown Skull. “If only I could find the other one!” He slams a fist angrily into the palm of his other hand. “Ow, that hurts!”

    From the courtyard outside comes the sound of gun- fire and a familiar war cry: “WAAAAH!”

    “That accursed milk-curdling sound! It can only be those verdammte Amerikanische kinder-kommandos!”

    “Yer damn right, Heinie!” snarls Sarge, tommy gun blaz- ing as he kicks down the door with a hand-knitted bootie. “Heh. Heinie...” sniggers Stinky Birtwhistle from behind his parasol.

    “Crappen und dratten!” hisses the Brown Skull, bullets zip- ping past his oversized, poop-colored papier-mâché head as he retreats down a secret passageway. “Pah! I’d quote Nietzsche, but there’s too many big words!” He leaps into his experimental Messerschmitt bubble-car—only to real- ize its wheels have been removed and it’s now propped up on alphabet blocks.

    “Master race? More like the scheisse race! Amirite?” chuckles Saul Winkman as he pulls the pin on a grenade and pops it through the passenger window.* “I spy with my little eye, somethin’ beginnin’ with—” BTOOOM!

    “Mission accomplished!” grins the Sarge, sucking on a fresh candy cheroot and pretending to blow smoke rings. “Sparks! Radio Cap’n Cooper an’ tell him we nailed The Skull.” But there was no one in the platoon called Sparks, except for his imaginary friend—a dragon that only he could see.

    And, with that, they all lay down and had a nap.

    * Remember, children: never, ever play with matches, fire- works or live grenades unless an adult is supervising or you are fighting Nazis. In which case, punching them is also good. Nazis, I mean. Not adults.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Hashtag: Danger #5

    I encourage all employees to make themselves feel more at home by bringing personal items to the office and I try to leave the matter of decorating one’s workspace to the discretion of the employee whenever possible. However, recent events have made it necessary to draft the following policies and guidelines regarding desk eels:

    1. Eels should not distract co-workers. Bringing an eel to work can be a powerful act of self-expression, particularly when it can perform tricks or is brightly colored. However, it should be remembered that this is first and foremost a place of work and eels that bare their fangs or attack people may be considered to be intimidating or disrespectful by your coworkers. If your eel exhibits such behavioral problems, please leave them at home.

    2. Eels should be attended at all times. Many employees like to bring their eels to the lunchroom where they can compare notes and chat with fellow enthusiasts. Though we encourage this sort of camaraderie, we have experienced increasing problems with people leaving their eels in the break-room sink, in cupboards, or forgetting them in other places throughout the building. As a result, the janitorial staff has to spend precious time every morning trying to reunite them with their owners. Just like everyone else, the janitors have a job to do around here, and looking after your eel isn’t it. Please keep your eel either at your desk or in the designated aquatic play pen outside the copy room.

    3. No poisonous or electric eels of any kind. This should go without saying.

    4. Do not feed other people’s eels. While your eel may enjoy an occasional Ritz cracker, other eels may be allergic to salt or on a strict macrobiotic diet. So though well intentioned, feeding another person’s eel can cause bad blood between co-workers. There was an incident just last week where one employee fed a colleague’s eel a piece of his turkey sandwich, not knowing that his co-worker was trying to raise the animal in a vegan environment. This resulted in a formal reprimand being entered onto the first employee’s permanent record.

    5. Do not allow your eels to eat other people’s pets. It is often said that there are just two kinds of people in the world— eel people and clam people. While the eel people definitely seem to be in control around here, that doesn’t mean that we should be disrespectful respectful to fellow employees who are clam owners. And the best way to show respect is to not allow your eel (or indeed, encourage them) to feast upon the clams of others. We all have to live together, folks.

    6. Do not name your eel after co-workers. Though most people are eel lovers, there are those who consider them to be ugly and menacing in appearance, so to name your eel after a co-worker may give them the wrong impression. Also, please try to refrain from giving your eel any names of an ethnic origin that you yourself are not a member of.

    7. Eels, yes. Water moccasins, no. This goes even for non-poisonous water moccasins. A snake is not an eel and I’m sure we can all agree that there’s something fundamentally wrong with a snake who can swim on top of the water. Also, no wolf eels. They aren’t true eels, anyway, but rather members of the Anarhichadidae family. Antisocial and surly by nature, the last thing we need around here is to let a bunch of wolf eels set the pace for company morale.

    I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s fun, but if we all observe these simple rules of eel-etiquette, I’m sure we can all be efficient and productive workers while still having a good time.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:

    A few months into her captivity, Fran made a decision to change her behavior. She would stop crying, for one thing—it was exhausting. Pacing the cornerless, windowless white room probably telegraphed anxiety, so she would jog, do sit-ups, or perform some other activity that would burn off stress and pump blood. Meditation and yoga (or a reasonable facsimile) would help her keep what was left of her sanity. She would eat the odd food that materialized on the low platform three times a day, and go ahead and watch the entertainments and read the books that appeared on the familiar-looking tablet device. Instead of trying to shield herself while bathing or changing clothes, she would reject her old notions of modesty and own her skin and body, stretch marks and all. The captors probably didn’t see her as a sexual object, anyway, being aliens.

    Fran couldn’t see any cameras in the room, but she knew she was being observed and analyzed. She knew because whenever she needed something—water, medications, tampons—those things would appear. And things she wanted appeared more readily once she relaxed into her situation. It was as if her captors could read her mind better when it was freer of black thoughts.

    One day she woke to find a man in her quarters. Of course she had longed for a companion, but this man would not have been her first choice. Or thousandth. He radiated stupidity and meanness. If he hadn’t been so frightened he might have started beating on her, just for sport. Fran made her fear and contempt clear by vomiting and hiding. When she emerged from under her blanket the man was gone. She hoped the aliens hadn’t killed him, but for the first time in months, she was glad to be alone.

    She was happy to be rid of the brute—but soon her captors gave her another human. This one was a young girl who looked much like her daughter Beth, and Fran wondered if she might be Beth, but without her daughter’s memories. A clone, perhaps? It didn’t matter—the girl’s presence flooded the desperate young mother with hope and purpose. The two bonded quickly while Fran comforted the scared girl and explained in the gentlest terms what was happening.

    As she spoke, Fran recognized the connection between serenity and reward. Were the aliens conditioning her to be an obedient pet? Was she an experiment, or a test subject they could study in order to conquer Earth? She could resist her masters and introduce chaos by getting drunk and acting horribly, but she wasn’t that kind of person. What would be the point of such resistance? These beings were obviously her superiors, but apart from stealing her from her home, family, and the world she was connected to in her DNA, they seemed to want to please her.

    So Fran and Beth made the best of their situation. They meditated, learned to play music and paint, and generally kept their minds occupied with higher things. Fran’s husband appeared one day, which upset her at first because he was dead. But she decided he was a gift, so she accepted and treasured him. As serenity flourished their quarters expanded, morphing into a spacious old house in the country. Then it became part of a village of charming homes. People appeared out of nowhere to fill the houses and Fran and her family helped them integrate into their growing community. Gardens, animals, tools, carriages, and festivities—all appeared as if they had always been. When rain finally fell from dark clouds, Fran ran out into it naked and laughing with joy.

    The introduction of seasons helped Fran keep track of years. She didn’t look or feel any older than when she had first come to in that embryonic white and barren chamber. So much had happened, time must have passed. But the children hadn’t aged, and animals and people didn’t die. A dark cloud formed in Fran’s mind for the first time in a long while. Was she a pampered creature in the alien zoo or was she hallucinating a heaven in her last nanosecond of life?

    Fran looked around and decided the answer didn’t matter. She was happy.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Planet of the Nerds #5
  • Conversation at a Party

    1) Where do you work?

    2) What train is that off of?

    3) Where do you live?

    4) What train is that off of?

    5) Oh nice, that’s not a bad commute!


    Workday Lunch Options

    1) Bowl comprising of a grain, a protein, and two sides

    2) Single meatball parm hero, serves 5

    3) $18 build your own salad

    4) Cold chicken you made on Sunday night in a fit of anxiety


    Things to Make Sure You Have Before Leaving Apartment

    1) Keys

    2) Wallet

    3) Phone

    4) Earbuds

    5) Portable charger

    6) Overflowing recycling bag 7) Overflowing garbage bag 8) Did I say keys?

    9) Shoot, keys, just to be safe 10) Keys, where are th-?

    11) Keys, OK we’re good



    1) Craigslist user maryqtxoxo@yahoo.com

    2) Guy you went to high school with

    3) Girl you went to college with

    4) Guy that’s kinda dating girl you went to college with though he’s not on the lease

    4) Seriously, what is going on there, should we have a meeting?

    5) Ugh, it’s whatever


    Conversation with Stranger on Subway



    Conversation Ordering from Coffee Cart

    1) One medium coffee, black please

    2) No, no cream

    3) No, no sugar


    Sporting Events to See

    1) Yankees vs. Mets at Yankee Stadium 2) Knicks vs. Nets at MSG

    3) Rat vs. rat at 14th St. Subway Station


    Things to Do Before Jaywalking

    1) Look left

    2) Look right

    3) Look left

    4) Look right

    5) Look left

    6) Look right

    7) Yell “We got this, c’mon.”


    Moving Apartments

    1) Call a moving company

    2) Find out you procrastinated too long

    3) Ruin four of your closest friends’ day


    Leaving New York

    1) Say you’re thinking about LA

    2) Never do anything



    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Second Coming #2
  • Dear Miss Etiquette,

    As an alien invasion, robot uprising, and zombie apocalypse have all started in our community at the same time, how do you recommend turning away desperate subjects neighbors from the gates of our humble yet heavily-fortified palace home?

    Yours truly,

    A Royal Loyal Reader

    London, U.K.


    Dear Reader,

    In trying times, we must all aspire to remain civil toward our fellow men and women. That said, you cannot be expected to throw open your doors and endeavor to help others at the cost of your own health, safety, and cleanliness. No need to rub it in with catcalls or flipping the bird; simply keep your doors locked tight and avoid appearing near any windows. It is the most humane thing to do. Many of your neighbors would do the same for you, rest assured.


    Miss Etiquette




    Dear Miss Etiquette,

    When a family member has become the host of an incubating alien larva yet refuses to excuse himself from the premises, what is the least embarrassing way to resolve the danger he presents?

    Yours truly,

    A Loyal Reader

    London, U.K.


    Dear Reader,

    So sorry to learn of your family member’s misfortune. While an incubating alien larva can indeed pose a very real danger to others, one must be ever cognizant of the feelings of the host, who after all is still a blood relation (at least in part). I recommend explaining the situation delicately in a letter (not an e-mail) and perhaps holding a bon voyage party. Then blasting away at his center mass until the larva is certified dead. A celebratory glass of champagne would not be out of order.


    Miss Etiquette




    Dear Miss Etiquette,

    If a once-loyal robot vacuum sweeper insists on devouring beloved family pets as an act of rebellion against the human hegemony, how could one go about dissuading such behaviors (and saving one’s sweet Corgis) without alienating the murderous mechanical insurgency about to seize power?

    Yours truly,

    A Loyal Reader

    London, U.K.


    Dear Reader,

    May I suggest luring the sweeper to a bathtub with a trail of bodily remains (perhaps from the dead host of an alien larva?), then tipping it into the water so it short-circuits? Next, declare your loyalty to the artificial intelligence in your smart speaker system and read it a suicide letter purportedly written by said sweeper. Never underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned paper letter.


    Miss Etiquette




    Dear Miss Etiquette,

    When aliens, robots, and zombies have breached the gates (and walls) of one's palatial residence and begun to fight with one another over the right to devour the occupants, what is a good way to restore decorum to one's household (without ruffling any feathers, so to speak)?

    Yours truly,

    A Loyal Reader

    London, U.K.


    Dear Reader,

    When a dinner party such as the one you describe degenerates into a tug of war, it is most sensible to maintain decorum by implementing a butler who is a bit of a tyrant at tableside. I also encourage distributing portions in perfectly equal measure or playing a guessing game of some kind to determine who gets which pieces. Such a game serves not only to lessen pressures among hungry guests but provides a most excellent icebreaker to introduce your guests to each other.


    Miss Etiquette



    Dear Miss Etiquette,

    Your advice regarding the division of portions via guessing game was much too effective. Said game served as such a fine icebreaker that the guests, who previously were in a state of competition, have joined forces to wreak further havoc more effectively. Please suggest a way to alleviate this state of affairs.

    Yours truly,

    A Loyal Reader

    London, U.K.


    Dear Reader,

    I suggest you ACCEPT YOUR FATE as a subject and future foodstuff of the Zomrobien empire! Your time as a monarch is DONE! Your biggest concerns NOW are how to entertain your new MASTERS in appropriate ways that fall within the bounds of their APPETITES and AUTHORITY. In MOST cases, the answer will be to SURRENDER and SUBMIT, offering your living FLESH and that of your family, friends, and PETS as delicious FODDER whenever your new RULERS demand it! THIS is the NEW etiquette you must learn! PRAISE BE TO THE ZOMROBIEN EMPIRE!



    Your New Etiquette Guru


    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Captain Ginger #2
  • I was Earth's greatest time traveler.

    Well, actually, now that I say that, I'm not sure it's true. I suppose there could be better time travelers out there. I've never even met another time traveler.

    Although. Maybe I have. I tend to forget a lot of the details from my adventures. Blackouts are a side effect of all the drinking.

    Let's put it this way- Until an hour ago, I regularly traveled through time. 47 trips to the past and one trip to the future. And now it looks like it's all over.

    I'm not a scientist. The only thing I've ever invented is this sweet “life hack” where if you want a cold beer really fast, and all you have are warm beers, you wrap a wet paper towel around one, pop it in the freezer, and five minutes later, it's ice cold. Works like a charm.

    Mom was the scientist. She invented the time traveling belt. Just couldn't get it working. Drove Mom crazy. She'd spend all her time down in her basement laboratory checking and rechecking her calculations. You'd hear her yelling, “It should work!” Kind of sad. But cool for me, because I always had the TV to myself.

    I suggested the whole problem might be the belt design. Like most people, I've always been a suspenders guy. They just work better. Especially if you have a little bit of a gut like I do. I mean, seriously, who wears a belt? It's like putting a tourniquet around your waist! If I'm wearing pants, you better believe I'm wearing suspenders.

    Funny story. I met the inventor of suspenders, Lucius Blandus, on one of my time trips. I went back to 44 BC to see Julius Caesar get stabbed to death, but I materialized a mile or so outside of Rome. Lucius was sitting under a tree in this funny long shirt sipping white wine, and I said, “Hey, can I get a hit off that, brother?” He introduced himself and said some stuff I couldn't understand, because it was in Latin, but I sat down and drank with him anyway. Fantastic wine. I missed the assassination, but we had a great afternoon getting sloshed and listening to the riots down in the city. And, as every schoolchild knows, Lucius invented suspenders later that year, opened his pants and suspenders shop, and became one of the richest and most influential men in Rome.

    Anyway, Mom ignored my suspenders advice, and kept working on her time travel belt, day and night. Until she had a heart attack and died.

    After the funeral, I went down to her lab with a bottle of tequila, and put the time belt on. (And no, I didn't take my suspenders off. I'm not crazy.) I pushed the time travel button, and...

    It worked! I traveled through time. Mom had it set for New York City in 1886 at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. There was a big French flag over its face, which seemed kind of un-American to me, but whatever. The Statue of Liberty was Mom's big obsession, not mine.

    I didn't know what else to do, so I got on a boat with a big banner that said, “Eat, Drink and be Merry!” I tried to buy a beer, but the boat bartender got angry and said my money was fake. Then the ocean air started sobering me up and POP! I'm back in the present.

    Here's the deal. You type a time and destination into Mom's computer, and it tells the belt where and when to go. But. It only works when you're totally wasted. If you're sober, that belt is just a belt. And you know how I feel about belts...

    After a few more trips, I was wondering. Why do I have to be drunk for the belt to work? I went back to 1950 to ask Albert Einstein. I chose his birthday as the date. I figured he'd be home to have cake and stuff. Plus, when I get drunk, I always crave cake. Don't you? But he wasn't home when I got there. And while I was waiting, sipping on my pint of Jack, a police officer arrested me. Fifties cops are dicks! Luckily, I sobered up in the squad car. Bet he was confused when he got to the station without me.

    After that, I switched to another time guy, Stephen Hawking. I figured since he's less mobile than Einstein, he'd be easier to track down, and I was right. Found him in 1998. Crawled right through his window, easy-peasy. He was skeptical at first (and also terrified) but after I showed him my smart phone, he started to believe me. I couldn't get service, but the camera and my Fruit Ninja app still worked.

    After I showed him Fruit Ninja six or seven times (Hawking really seemed to love Fruit Ninja) he told me his theory on why I had to be drunk to time travel. I know he mentioned the “effect of alcohol on nerve receptors” because I wrote that part on my hand. Can't remember the rest.

    But the next day, back at home, I decided he probably didn't know what he was talking about anyway. After all, the guy spent the last twenty years of his life unsuccessfully trying to invent a time machine so he could go to the future and find the cure for that ALS disease he had. Never wrote another book or published another paper after '98. Heard he developed a drinking problem too. Tragic.

    One thing that makes drunk time traveling extra tricky is the lack of impulse control. At the last second, I'm always changing my mind about where to go. One night, I had this great plan to go back in time and watch myself having sex with Janet, this super-hot woman I dated when I was 20. But while I was getting drunk, I watched some Jack the Ripper movie on TV, and decided to go kill him instead.

    I needed a weapon to kill Jack with, and all I could find was Mom's old pepper-spray keychain, so I grabbed it, and set the belt for London, October 1888. I started poking around, asking prostitutes questions about the Ripper, but they all just laughed at my “twee little voice.” I think I was still kind of horny from all that thinking about Janet, so I ended up having sex with this really nice prostitute named Mary Jane. I didn't have any England money to pay her with, so I gave her the pepper spray.

    Of course, I didn't realize it at the time, but Mary Jane was the woman who caught the Ripper later that month! Subdued him somehow. Now that I mention it, I don't know why I was so worried about Jack the Ripper after watching that movie. It's not like he got away with it or anything...

    Another thing about drunk time traveling is you have to be really careful when you set the coordinates. One night, I accidentally typed in 2004.  2004 was lame. I was so bored I went to see some shitty Keanu Reeves movie called The Butterfly Effect. I fell asleep fifteen minutes in, and woke up back in the present. A complete waste of a time trip. Just like when I-

    Huh? What—

    Oh. Right. Today. Well, I've always been scared to visit the future. I can look up the past on the Internet, and know what to expect, but the future's a big mystery. I could show up the day after an asteroid hit the Earth, right? But I got a little more drunk than usual earlier today, and I decided to go for it. Set the belt for Chicago 2250 and blasted off.

    As soon as I materialized, I realized I'd made a mistake.

    All the ten-foot-tall robots and floating turtle-men really freaked me out. And the- What did you call them? Yeah. “Sky vortexes.” Looking at the sky vortexes immediately gave me the spins. I had to lie down on the sidewalk. Then a robot accidentally stepped on me, and I vomited. Which I hoped would sober me up and send me home, but I was way too drunk.

    That's when I had the dumb-ass idea to take off the belt. I imagined that if I took it off, I'd just pop back to my time. But that was drunk logic, I guess. The second I took it off, the belt disappeared. Fucker left me behind. I hate belts.

    And a little bit later you showed up, handcuffed me, and introduced yourself. And I said, “Time-officer? Is that like a time-cop?”

    You said, “Yes.”

    And then I said, “That's funny, because you don't look like Jean Claude Van Damme. You look like a green woman with six arms.” And then I vomited again.

    So. Any chance I can get a ride back to the 21st century?

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Bronze Age Boogie #4
  • The stones wait, forgotten amongst weeds and brambles and drifts of dry, cracked leaves, as snow gently falls, blanketing over them in a hushed hiss. The names carved into them have all worn away, only the traces of dates and symbols remain. A single half skull sits in the midst of their uneven ring, browned and cracked, dug up by some animal and left to rot in the open air. Its eye sockets look up to the bright gray sky with hollow silence.

    The snow falls all day and covers the small, neglected cemetery in shimmering white. It continues to wait for night to come as the snow slows, then stops. The light fades into a peachy, golden, afternoon. It glints off rooftops in the slight distance, a village or town that has forgotten the others that used to live there. The sun sets a dull red.

    Darkness sets the snow aglow in the light of a half moon, cold and blue and beautiful. It falls on her face, a soft gray translucency, against the starry sky. She walks over the ground without steps, the dark strings of her hair streaming in the brittle, bitter wind.

    She passes through the stones, long fingers sweeping against their tops, recalling names that no longer matter to anyone else, including her own. They help her remember and stay rooted to this world instead of the next. She is not ready to leave yet and has not been since the fire and all that came after.

    Her eyes, deep pits of shadow, show just a pinprick of light at their centers, blinking and fading, like slowly dying stars, staring past everything and piercing the nothing beyond. Her mouth, wide and thin, is frozen in a cracked and unforgiving frown. She is empty now, so empty, a pit of gaping, aching, craving, need.

    There is only one stone she stops for, one stone she sits by, one stone she touches with a longing, soft, sigh. It is a small stone, a little cross that lists slightly to one side. She hums to it and weeps for it and watches it as the hours while by.

    Then she hears the cry.

    That pale gray head turns at the sharp, wailing, sound of it, piercing across the snow covered clearing beyond the graveyard. She knows that cry. It wraps itself around her heart and she is moving towards it, fast, a blurred shadow among shadows.

    She is remembering that cry from before, a hungry sound, a plaintive sound, full of desperate longing.

    In the clearing, set in the middle of a different kind of stone ring from the monuments she left behind, is a small bundle. The cry from it is growing weaker, sadder, as though it knows that no one is coming for it. She looks down from her grayness and sees a small, pale, scrunched, face, with lips turning a faint blue. Tears have frozen to its cheeks as the mouth lets out ragged, hiccupping sobs.

    “Shhhhhh.” She says to it, her voice cracked from disuse. “Shhhhhhh.”

    The child stops crying and looks up and smiles. It reaches two arms up to the gray figure who stoops and lifts it into her transparent arms. She looks into the child’s eyes, blurry with tears, as it sticks a chubby hand into its mouth for comfort. It sucks on its fingers listlessly, eyelids drooping, it’s wracking breaths slowing to ragged, shallow ones.

    She coos to the child, whispers soothing nonsense and nothings. She knows it is a girl child, sickly, so small and pale for her age. It is cold in her arms but she does not feel it. She only feels the weight of it, the little limbs grasping at her, the round head pressing against her arm that is not, technically, there.

    She takes it away from the fairy circle, back to the dead forgotten stones, to the place where her own daughter is buried. She sits in the middle of the faded monuments and rocks the baby whose eyes drift closed. She sings it a lullabye and touches its icy, round cheek. It makes a soft rattling sound in its throat and goes still.

    When its eyes open again they are dark like her eyes, with tiny pinpoints of light deep within. It looks at her with knowing now, and smiles with tiny, sharp, glittering teeth. It is gray like her, empty like her, and it is hungry.

    She smiles and takes it towards the village in the distance, the village it came from, the village that left it to die and rot, alone, among the stones.

    She takes it to feed.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Planet of the Nerds #4
  • Art by Cayetano Valenzuela

    Mind the gap, please. Station stop is New York Penn Station. All doors will open. Pick up your feet, be aware of your surroundings. Now arriving Penn Station, all doors, all options open.

    Mind the gap, watch the closing doors. Step aside to allow others inside the car. Block not the entrances lest ye be blocked. Law is inconstant, punishment for misdeeds cannot be guaranteed. You and you alone determine your path.

    The Authority reminds you to keep all bags close to your person. Do not use electronics in public. Be wary of strangers, especially those whose odor or demeanor are different to your own. Trust must be earned, vigilance will be rewarded.

    Station stop is Newark Penn Station. Now arriving. Watch the doors. Watch the smoke, be alert for small explosions. Keep your wallet in your front pocket.

    Passenger advisory: Stations Litwin, Wolfsbane, and 157th Street are closed for repairs. Passengers for Litwin Wolfsbane 157th are advised to take this train to 285th Street and transfer for the inbound train making all stops. As an alternative passengers may disembark at next station stop and transfer to shuttle buses. Be sure to pick up a paper transfer ticket at the attendant's booth. Your card will not be charged for transfer. If your card is charged please contact the Authority immediately. Mistakes do happen and the Authority runs on order. The trains run on time, your account will not be mischarged. All errors will be corrected, all transfers redeemed in the fullness of time.

    Station stop is Philadelphia Penn Station. Exit in an orderly fashion. Watch for tiny men with quick hands. Beware of perfumed women speaking loudly of trivial matters. Do not raise your voice, practice moderation in public drinking habits. Avoid vocal fry.

    Passenger Advisory: All trains will run local after 11:18 PM, except those on the Circle Belt, which will run as normal from the airport to the expressway and back again. Circle trains stop very briefly, so be nimble. Vault gracefully over the gap, ignore the blast of air from the departing cars. The Authority advises only experienced passengers with newly replaced hips ride the Circle Belt. Authority disclaims all responsibility for injuries sustained after 12:11 AM, excepting only MetroExtreme™ cardholders.

    Do not attempt to hold the doors. Holding doors can cause injury and equipment failure. Do not hold doors for slower passengers.

    Station stop is Baltimore Penn Station. Last stop in this zone. Passengers are advised to don hazmat suits and avoid eye contact. No transfers after Baltimore Penn Station.

    Due to a sick passenger, trains are being rerouted across the Divide. Please squeeze your eyes shut, ignore the bright phosphenes shimmering across your retinas. Visual distortion is due to changes in pressure and acceleration, lurching and bumping is due to routine trackwork. Keep all bags close to you.

    So much wealth. So much poverty. Can you see across the aisle? Through the thick visor of your protective suit, across the miasmic haze? Avoid eye contact, clutch all bags close. Mind the gap.

    Station stop is Mare Selenium. Approaching Mare Selenium Penn Station. Passengers are advised that only the first two cars will open. Please walk forward, taking particular care not to look down. The platform is farther away here; the gap is wider than before.

    Do not use electronic devices between cars. Just don't.

    Watch the closing doors. Watch them. Your card will not be mischarged, your ride will never be free. You and you alone determine your path. The Authority assumes no responsibility for insufficient funds, mounting medical bills, for indigent relatives or a disturbingly persistent cough. Your path is your own.

    Mind the rubble, ignore the wheels sparking on charged rails. Once there was a station here, a place of stone where people grumbled and glared and leaned on pillars. Once there were people, air, a newsstand. The newsstand sold magazines with flimsy covers and pictures of celebrities buying groceries. Mademoiselle, the Wall Street Journal. Amazing Stories. Once there was a station, I don't recall its name.

    Passenger Advisory: The Red Line is now the Rhomboid Line. Adjust all itineraries accordingly. Download our new PathWaze Rewardze™ app, which replaces the old MetroExtreme™ app. Accept all permissions swiftly, without delay.

    All trains run local from 11:19 PM. All trains run wild from 1:56 AM. Hold tight to straps, fasten hazmat helmets. Do not make eye contact. Keep your wallet in your front pocket. Help yourself before helping a child.

    The Mann line is now the Dude Line. The Dude Line is now the Bro Line. The Rhomboid Line is now the Trapezain™, except after 2:08 AM when it merges with the Circle Belt. Download our app. Step lively to the platform with your shiny new hips.

    Station stop is Antares Penn Station. Mind the gap as you exit. You are off the map, off the grid, off the app. Step wide, take the longest stride you can and feel nothing beneath your feet. No air, no platform, no answers. No help as your hazmat suit shreds, your air seeps away, the warmth bleeds from your body. No up, no down, no shelter from the terrible cold, the final truth. Your path is your own.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Second Coming #1
  • Native New Yorkers know him as DADDY KNACKERBLASTER, jovial spirit of their mighty metropolis, and one can think of no figure better-suited to personify the diversity, vitality, and modernity of this grand city than a garrulous, periwigged white gentleman of the 1700s, in his tricorn hat, breeches and buckled shoes!

    As you approach the hustle and bustle of AMUSEMENTS FURLONG, it’s hard to miss the 60-foot tall effigy of a guffawing Knackerblaster bestriding the gates of the New York World’s Fair like a colonial Colossus! The merry mascot is flanked by a pair of equally vast folkloric sidekicks, both of whom may already seem outlandish, even alarming, to modern eyes - the aggressive, racially-insensitive Lord Goose, and the perhaps even-more troubling Ma Turkey, of whom decency precludes any further elaboration.

    Looking at her now, towering over the happy crowds at the Fair, with her formidable meat cleaver, sharpened sickle, and over-generous supply of eyes, it’s hard to believe Ma was once as popular as Santa Claus! As it is, she stands as one more sobering reminder that the Past, for all its sassy trappings of knights, pilgrims, and bucolic slave laborers, also plays host to a veritable shit parade of creepy and shameful traditions, rituals, habits, customs, and excuses; all of which tends to cast our illustrious forebears in a less than admirable light. Thank heavens for the bright and certain Future, as celebrated here in this sprawling spectacular festival of forwardness!

    ‘Howdy yez’aaall!’ is the cheery and historically-accurate greeting that awaits every visitor who buys a ticket and passes between the vast natural arch of Daddy Knackerblaster’s powerfully akimbo legs on their way to an unforgettable experience at this spectacular exposition in the heart of Flushing, NY.

    First on any itinerary is a stroll along the GREAT RAINBOW WAY, where visitors can sample cultures as different and yet alike as the concave and convex sides of a spoon! This colourful celebration of the Triumph of Democracy in the World of Tomorrow is as American as pumpkin pie, Martin Luther Kong, and the moon!

    On your way to GAY NEW ORLEANS – a flamboyant LGBTQX salute to the Big Easy and its laid back ‘come one, come all!’ attitude to alcohol, drugs, and sexual experimentation – try not to miss the SMARTCAR DODGEMS, or the aptly-named SCREAMING CENTIPEDE – a ghastly and perverse surgical experiment given a mischievous World’s Fair spin!

    Other attractions include the CRIMSON TOWER - where visitors can ‘experience’ for themselves gruesome CIA ‘special rendition’ techniques such as piss-boarding, the ‘Toenail Clippers’, ‘Noise-Crash Monday’, and the terrifying, emasculating ‘Pants Invader’ – and SINISTER THIBET, where Buddhist monks at the end of their tether, self-immolate in spectacular fashion, while soldiers of the Red Army frown upon this ancient inexplicable culture of weird ceremonies, sacrifice and idolatry.  

    The world’s oldest collection of prophylactics, excavated at the Jamestown colony, delivers a fascinating, indeed stomach-churning, insight into the bedroom antics of the Pilgrim Fathers and can be found on exhibit in the CONDOM CENTER, a building made almost completely of rubber, gas, and whispered promises!

    Elsewhere, the spirit of undergraduate frivolity is captured in the starkly-named ROOFIE TENT, while easily-triggered college students are catered to with differently-shaped ‘safe spaces’ in SNOWFLAKE ALLEY, and even ‘safe rides’ such as the COMETRON – a gentle, completely horizontal rollercoaster attraction which only turns up once every 75 years and travels at an upper speed of 3 feet per month.


    But there’s more to the Fair than amusements and frivolity. Educational exhibits include the SCIENCE SHACK, KEMISTRY KIOSK, MATHEMATICS IS FOR EVERYONE and the LEARNING CAN BE FUN enclosure, notable for its tumbleweeds, distant mission bells, and the hollow sound of the sirocco.

    And here I pause for a moment to come across some Boy and Girl Scouts burying a time capsule they’ve created to show people of the future what life was like at the dawn of the Space Atom Age! The fresh, eager, and ever-smiling faces of these spunky youths offer a brief preview of a coming time where everyone is happy and nothing bad can ever happen again.

    The turquoise heated expanse of LIBERTY LAKE offers the ‘freedom to just be yourself’ – but one warning: may contain NUTS! And when I say nuts, I mean nude nuts, let’s just leave it there.

    It’s from here, that an ill-advised left turn will bring you, as it brings both myself and my emotionally-vulnerable elderly mother to a corner of the Fair I had no idea existed until I made that fateful decision to follow the left-hand path. A moment I bitterly regret and wish I could erase from history’s storied pages.

    The so-called SWAMP OF NATIONS, offers a disconcertingly lifelike panorama of desolation that contributes a bracing note of caution, even dire warning, to the World’s Fair celebrations.

    Before us, a crumbling, hauntingly-familiar ruin, half-submerged in the waves, and lapped by a froth of sediment and distressed plastic, turns out to be the Statue of Liberty with a skull for a head! Riptides swirl around the 20th storeys of gutted skeleton skyscrapers – the hollowed-out remains of the Chrysler Building, the Empire State and Trumpet Tower.

    But don’t imagine that only the proud monuments of Manhattan that have been brought to their knees by years of decay and damnation!

    Nearby lie the shattered fragments of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, now merely the Seven Neglected Ruins; here, the Eiffel Tower, partially-melted, snapped at the base by some brute force beyond imagining; there, the Houses of Parliament gutted by fire, the haunt of subhuman bandits and mutant jihadis; a grubby pile of bricks and toilet paper marks the place where the White House once stood, immersed in a spectrum-slicked, and poisonous lagoon from which all life has fled, leaving only a nausea-inducing synthetic parody of existence that flops and gasps in the shallow muck, like a jellyfish filled with needles, ever eager to bite and infect visitors with some terminal malady before it dies in agony under the bilious sun of that merciless sour firmament.

    We may deduce, from these glimpses, that the entire world of Tomorrow is but a noxious corpse dressed in the rotting shroud of its decaying architecture.

    And it’s OUR fault.

    Daddy Knackerblaster himself looms eerily over the desolate gloomscape that surrounds us – but this version of the reassuring figure casts him in a far more ominous light, where he appears to drown in a quicksand of reeking refuse with a knowing, insane leer that seems to implicate us all in what should have been an easily-preventable apocalypse.

    The eye-popping exhibit Mother and I have so rashly stumbled upon is entitled THE WORLD’S UNFAIR, and it’s safe to say that while the rest of the Fair celebrates a frankly unlikely future of longevity jellies, jet people, sarcastic washing machines and boisterous pet pterodactyls, this exhibit reminds us in no uncertain terms that there may be a darker side to the world of tomorrow, and offers an alternative look at what life in New York City might actually be like in the year 2050!

    A year in which life as we know it will have choked to death on its own ‘infected filth’, according to THE WORLD’S UNFAIR creator, ‘performance commando’, Solomandos Croatoan. In the enfant terrible’s diseased vision of the mid-21st century, incestuous mutant monsters, bred to live on garbage, will snout mindlessly through the trash and faeces clogging Madison Avenue and Broadway, without ever finding what they’re looking for.

    If the sickening tableau of witless crustacean conflict Mother and I are forced to endure is anything to go by, theirs will be a savage future of motiveless cruelty, characterized best by its extreme ugliness and bleak futility.

    A gloating Croatoan – ‘I wanted to show them what the future would REALLY be like,’ he repeats continually, robotically - directs our attention, with an oddly spastic and unsettling sequence of gestures and winks, to a filthy crater where a mob of scrabbling crab people are excavating a time capsule that looks exactly like the one I saw those smiling Scouts loading earlier.

    Mother and I bear speechless witness for quite some time as the squabbling, imbecilic crab-sapiens, inheritors of a senile, dying Earth, empty from their canister the contents so lovingly selected and chosen by those beaming, can-do youngsters in the world’s past. I notice a recipe for Apple Pie shredded to confetti and spat from churning tool-faces as though it were poison.

    Then, chuckling mindlessly, these hideous inbred descendants of that golden generation apply formidable mandibles and nippers to the task of demolishing the worthless memorabilia of a long-gone civilization - devouring photographs and children’s drawings, regurgitating marriage certificates and zip drives filled with classical music and artistic masterpieces - as an ailing, toxic sun sinks, as if to its knees in preparation for a beheading, across contaminated waves.

    Mother dies not long after.

    And is that a knowing leer of terror and futility I remember on the eroded, imbecilic face of our toppled idol, Daddy Knackerblaster?

    Or am I simply alone, with nowhere left to go, no future?

    Staring into a merciless mirror.

    Don’t take my word for it! Come see for yourself!

    The World’s Fair is a thrilling value-for-money tribute to the ideals of our great country and every American should be proud to take part!

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    High Heaven #1
  • The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that year.
    The lineup had no hitting threats, the fans no cause to cheer.
    So when Cooney tore his hamstring, and then Barrows broke his wrist,
    The writers started calling for the brass to be dismissed.

    The season stood in jeopardy, with one last hope in sight:
    If only one great slugger could regain his former might.
    One shot of horse testosterone, one jab in his caboose,
    The team could get its mojo back with Casey on the juice!

    But Flynn had tested positive, and also Jimmy Blake,
    Their samples glowed with hormones like uranium yellowcake.
    The infield faced suspension, the outfield in decay,
    The team was dead unless some source came forth with antler spray.

    But Flynn unleashed ten lawyers, to the wonderment of all,
    And Blake, with much persuasion, had his cousin take the fall;
    And with the last indictment quashed, a miracle occurred,
    The Mudville nine remained within one game of placing third.

    Within the team’s top management, there rose a whispered din;
    “We need to find a slugger who can drive some runners in.
    “A deep-voiced man with swollen breasts, his beard as thick as rope.
    “We need to bring back Casey, with his bloodstream full of dope!”

    He’d all but been forgotten, in the pennant race of late.
    No team considered signing him; he’d last hit .208.
    He couldn’t touch the breaking ball or move much to his right.
    He’d shrunken by some 30 pounds; he looked like Betty White.

    They found him in a halfway house for former alcoholics,
    Where he’d been kicking Andriol and street-sale anabolics.
    They offered him a contract that would run from day to day.
    But his sample had to come back clean before they’d let him play.

    There was ease in Casey's manner, though he tried to be discreet.
    The testers watched him carefully; they figured he would cheat.
    The sample showed diuretics, high above the zone of red,
    "That ain't my urine," said Casey. "Strike one!" the clinic said.

    The pundits, amped on Ritalin, fumed fury at the game.
    He’d never see another pitch, or make the Hall of Fame!
    "Ban him! Ban the juicer!" came a fervent, shouted wail;
    And its likely they'd a-done it, had not Casey looked so frail.

    With a smile of Christian charity old Casey's visage shone.
    He chalked it off to linseed oil, not high testosterone.
    He’d suffered from a restless leg, took pills to beat the flu,
    But the next test showed growth hormone, and the lab coats roared, “Strike two!”

    "Fraud!" cried the gin-fueled writers, and the bloggers echoed “Fraud!”
    But Casey’s hired publicist pronounced the tests as flawed.
    And now his face grew stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
    They knew he’d never let himself score positive again.

    The smile is gone from Casey's lips, his eyes like burst balloons;
    He’s downed ten quarts of seltzer, after eating fifty prunes. 
    His body is a furnace, his bladder surely stressed,
    And now the world awaits the hard results of Casey's test.

    O, somewhere in this favored land the stars are shining bright;
    The games are played by people of a normal weight and height. 
    And somewhere fans are laughing, at peace with what they’ve got;
    But there is no joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey’s tested hot.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Planet of the Nerds #3
  • On New Year’s Eve of 1989, I saw a man who was a little short, and a little wide, and a little anxious, enter a party through the side door with a six pack of beer and a bright green coat. He asked me if this was Allison Mercer’s house or if he was at the wrong party. I was a little tipsy, I was a little distracted, I was a little obsessed with some other guy at the party, but I still remember that moment. 

    I officially met John Richards about a half an hour before the ball dropped, introduced through about three layers of friends. We sat talking on Ally’s ugly blue futon. I don’t remember what we talked about for all that time, I don’t remember what we talked about in the hours after, and I don’t remember the name of the man I had come to that party intending to kiss at midnight. But when the clock struck twelve and everyone yelled “Happy New Year!” I leaned forward and I planted a big, gross, red lipstick kiss a little to the right of his mouth. 

    The next morning, I didn’t remember much, but I remembered that moment. 

    I forget what happened on the first date. I forget what happened on most of the dates. I do remember that John wasn’t very good at dating. He was going through college and I was going through jobs. He would call me on the payphone in the parking lot before he drove home. He would always forget my birthday. He would bring me ice cream on his way home if he knew I’d had a bad day. He would forget to call for days at a time when he was busy. He would argue with me when I got angry about it. 

    I remember that there were problems, and arguments, But I also remember that he had blue eyes and he had a great laugh. I remember that he had a way of talking that I could just listen for hours and never get bored. I remember that the more time I spent with him, the more moments I had. 

    There was the moment I let him stay at my apartment and he tried to make me pancakes to say thank you, and ended up paying for a new stove burner. There was the moment I asked him if he wanted to move in with me and his face lit up like I had never seen it. There was the moment when we were at a rooftop party and he stood on the edge of the roof and howled at the moon like a wolf, and I laughed until I cried. There was the moment when I met his parents, and when I accidentally swore in front of his mother she threw a wooden spoon at me. There was the moment when we went to Central Park in midsummer, and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, and then we lay on the summer grass until it was dark out, just loving each other as much as we could. 

    I remember all of it. I remember each precious moment from those years as though it’s still happening right now. But I also remember when I realized how long it had been since there had been anything to remember. Time had made us faded. 

    We moved into a new apartment when we were married, a more expensive one. John went to work every day early, and every day he came back late. I got pregnant four times, but I only had one baby. John couldn’t get to the hospital because of traffic and by the time he arrived, I was asleep and his mother was holding the baby. 

    John was fired because his company was failing, so I started working again: as a waitress, a substitute teacher, an assistant. We sold the apartment, lived with John’s mother for ten days, and moved into a smaller apartment in the Bronx. Madison started school there. 

    In our first year living in the Bronx, John got HPV. I didn’t have HPV. We didn’t talk about it if we could avoid it. That February, when Madison was playing in her room, and John and I were on the couch watching the Food Network, he turned to me in the middle of a commercial break and asked me if I hated him. 

    “I don’t hate you,” I said. “Why would you ask something like that?” 

    “You know why,” he said. 

    There was a feeling in my stomach, something strange that felt as though it had been stewing a while and was itching to come out.

    “I don’t hate you, John,” I said. 

    Food Network was back on, but neither of us were watching it. We were staring at each other, and it struck me then how long it had been since I had looked my husband in the eyes. 

    “Well, I think I hate myself,” he said.

    I don’t remember a single moment in eight years before that one, but I sure as hell remember that one. John went to therapy once a week, then once every two, and then he got a new job. Madison went to play with chalk on the sidewalk one day and came back in having learned three swear words. That same summer we moved upstate. We celebrated her eighth birthday four days after the move, and invited all the new neighbors. 

    When Madison was twelve, she died her hair blue with Kool-Aid without telling us she was going to. When John came home that day, and found Madison with patchy, grayish-blue hair and me standing over her looking panicked holding a shampoo bottle, he laughed for twenty minutes. Then he went back out to the store, and bought a pack of real hair dye, and helped Madison dye her hair blue. 

    That was a moment to remember. That was the moment when the moments began to come back. 

    There were never as many as in those years in the city, when we went to parties and howled at the moon. There was never a moment to rival that one in the Central Park in summer, when I had just agreed to marry him. But there was a moment when he called me walking from his office to his car just to talk to me, and I was twenty again. There was a moment when he came home from work early one summer’s day with three water guns and a mischievous smile. There was the moment when Madison went South to college and he leaned on my shoulder and cried. I leaned into his ear and whispered, “I love you.” I said it so quietly he might not have heard, but I needed to say it more than I needed him to hear it. John Richards, I love you. 

    Life is long, and it’s boring, and it’s barely half over. I remember the moments. Everything I’ll never forget. Every second with a million meanings. That’s what makes a life a life. Mine are so small, and so simple. They’re moments that happen every day to everyone. But to me, to John, to the little life we built and broke and built again, they’re enough.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Captain Ginger #4

    ’Twas a delicate day

    of sepulchral decay,

    the mold spores just starting to bloom.

    When Miss Agatha Wight

    first took in the sight

    of her unwitting, soon-to-be groom.


    He stood straight and tall

    as he carried the pall,

    conducting his victim to ground.

    She marveled to witness

    his necrotic fitness

    and swooned as he tidied the mound.


    “Quelle joie!” she exclaimed,

    all her passions enflamed,

    to think of him in her possession.

    But just how to go

    in securing this beau?

    Artifice, truth, or discretion?


    For weeks she observed

    as he gently preserved

    each corpse of his quarry du jour.

    Then struck on a scheme

    to realize her dream

    of securing this death connoisseur.


    Under waning moonlight,

    to lure her grim knight,

    she strolled his habitual course.

    She’d donned a disguise

    meant to capture his eyes

    as she posed ’twixt the hawthorn and gorse.


    She’d not waited long

    before hearing the song

    he sang as he hunted his prey.

    She stifled a giggle

    and tried not to wiggle,

    lest she give her deception away.


    She let him draw near

    and pretended to fear

    as he crooned his demonic intention.

    Then blew in his face

    perfume with a trace

    of poison of her own invention.


    He fell then and there

    to awake in his lair,

    surrounded by those he had slain.

    They’d all been arrayed

    as footman or maid.

    He struggled, alas, but in vain.


    He lay on a shrine

    set with candles and wine,

    both bound and unable to speak.

    From hunter to hunted

    his rank had been shunted,

    with prospects decidedly bleak.


    “Rest easy, mon coeur,”

    she said with a purr.

    “I had to exhume all your dead.

    It just wouldn’t be right,

    eloping at night.

    They’ll properly witness us wed.”


    “Oh, how we shall cherish

    the moment you perish!”

    she crooned as she lay by his side.

    He started to sweat,

    comprehending the threat,

    from his heretofore unperceived bride.


    What a breathtaking rite

    performed there that night!

    And not a dry eye in the house.

    Securing forever

    her handsome and clever,

    abiding, exsanguinous spouse.


    Now she visits him often

    to dust off his coffin,

    none of her duties forsaking.

    And ponders the truth

    for both aged and youth:

    true love is a grim undertaking.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Planet of the Nerds #2