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King of the Hill

by Cassandra Dallett

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“So Cassie girl, I need me a rich woman. We’ll get this place fixed up, get some ee-lec-tricity! Or just move the fuck out to California, that’s what you wanna do? Just move, where should we move to? You don’t wanna live in Oakland do you? You don’t want to go to school there? Where do we go the city? That’s insane! Right? I can’t handle a rich lady what would she want with my ass? I’ll tell you what she would want hee hee, no but I really…. I had my share of rich girls…”

He holds a cigarette between his lips, it bobs with his words, he squints through the smoke, eyebrows rise for emphasis. He never stops talking barely stops to breathe never pauses for an answer, doesn’t hear them anyway.

“I had a girl in the nuthouse… she was…well we were at it sweating like banshees the attendant broke the door down. Boy did he get an eyeful! I just need a job. What am I going do? I haven’t had a job in….”

“My lifetime” I thought.

“Start making sandals again, I guess. You want some of this coffee? A refresher? Well it’s not that fresh I’m gonna make another, maybe I should just throw this out and start another, toss it, I’ve had enough already wheeeeweeee two pots, no this is the second, right? Here I’ll just pour this..”

He stands swirling the half empty coffee pot. Stares into it as if it will reveal its freshness to him. He walks over to me, pours some in my cup.

“I don’t even drink this much coffee.” I’m thinking.

I reach for the sugar he mad a pot just for me. He uses honey. He heads back to the stove goes into the ritual saucepan of water, paper filter of Folgers. Never stops talking.

“ I don’t know what, would I work in a bookstore I used to work in the Harvard Square bookstore some years… I sure need the money; this check goes man it goes…fast. I’m getting discustard! I’m going to finish with these dishes, then get in gear get outta here. If these pricks would just stop screwing me around. I have to get these fuckin’ taxes paid! Dear God, I have to get these taxes paid! Ten thousand bucks a month in penalties can you even believe… I just want to finish these dishes. I like washing dishes. Keeps your hands warm, ya know? Warms ya right up. I gotta take a shit before we go all that coffee runs right through me turns to liquid here it comes now, yeah. I gotta go do that sooner than later.

He trots over to the table, hand on his belt. He is undoing his belt with one hand shifting his weight back and forth one foot to the other. He reaches up under his newspaper and pulls out a fresh Playboy magazine. He’s been using it all morning to clean his weed and roll joints on it. He slides it out wipes it on his pant leg. Levis been wearing them everyday I remember. He turns and runs pants unbuttoned, out the door towards the outhouse. Our outhouse sits in the middle of the yard, People can actually drive right around it while you are going to the bathroom. Usually there are enough junked cars around it that people just park behind it. I has a door of glass panes most of them broken out I guess the idea was to have some light and a view. A glass door on something so private seems crazy. The view is of the field and a big brush pile at the end of the dooryard.

He will sit out there awhile grunting and reading Playboy “for the articles” then he’ll be back in to chew my ear off, and perform his rituals; joint rolling, cigarette smoking, dishes and coffee. He’ll cook up some breakfast. He does it everyday eggs, bacon, wheat toast, and yogurt. He makes it late in the day sometimes when I’d be coming home from school, after many pots of coffee and some Cornflakes with honey. All my life I’ve been listening to him crunch those things. His jaw makes a particular clicking noise when he chews. It’s a long process with him, preparing his food reading, letting it sit then shoveling in big clicking mouthfuls. I eat my food fast concentrated I’m always done before he starts.

I’m sitting here with nothing to do doodling on one of his pads. I’ve finished the oversweet coffee-I drink fast like I eat. I don’t know how people nurse a cup. I am bored and unmotivated this place weighs me down with it’s stuff, newspapers, junk mail, phone books, and other random crap stand piled about a foot deep on the table behind me. Somewhere in there he knows where everything is. Drives me nuts, Sometimes I get a bug up my ass and start cleaning He always has a fit I throw stuff away as much as I can and he gets all freaked out looking for this or that important artifact. I would throw everything out if it was left to me.

The radio is plays low and static on a metal shelve full of things; boxes, and machinery, seeds, gloves, flashlights, broken lamps and books. We have a TV but it’s just a little black and white thing we run it off a car battery so you can’t leave it on and waste the juice. It’s upstairs now where we left it last night. Soon he’ll bring it down and hook it up so we can watch General Hospital. He loves that show.

I hear a car in the distance, must be coming here. We live so far from a main road you can usually tell if it’s someone coming even who and what they drive by practiced ears. I walk or used to walk, a mile and a quarter to the school bus stop. One day I just stopped. I lay down on the grassy lawn of the Porter sisters found a little body size indentation in the green and slept there until dad drove by. After that he just started picking me up I wish I would have known it would be so easy a little sooner. The Porter sister’s is the closest house to us. It’s just a summer house a couple of old maid schoolteachers. I’ve actually never seen them but we used to have a party line with them. That means sometimes when you pick up the phone they are on it and you have to wait to use it. A guy named Frankie that used to log here called them old bitches and told them to get off the phone it caused quite a stir.

I walked down this hill through rain, snow and heat. Got myself up at six washed my hair and clothes, sometimes it was so cold the hair froze on my head, icicles swung from my scalp, if you missed the bus it was long walk home. These days he gets up with me drives me down in the Blazer. I get on the Yellow bus in front of our neighbor Nina’s house she’s an old friend of Dad’s, moved up here from Nantucket, a big Russian lady likes to smoke pot. Dad drops me off and heads in hooks up our TV battery to the charger in her woodshed and goes on in for coffee and smoke. She is always running out of rolling papers and calling asking him to bring some if he’s out they use Tampax wraps. They are known for their gossip she is brutal rips people to shreds funny as shit, I used to love hanging out with her she has really good taste these really soft good smelling comforters and nice food. But her constant shit talking, which often involves my mother, her boyfriend, or me, has burned me out on her. They get really raunchy she’s always talking about Tom Selleck her and her husband Brownie don’t fuck anymore I guess so she is ranting about Tom’s Kielbasa. I think Tom Selleck is repulsive I’m really not into the whole body hair thing. My idea of fine is Sid Vicious smooth wiry and bad. My ex-boyfriend says he was in Nina’s kitchen one morning and she picked up a rolling pin waved it around and proclaimed that is what she masturbates with. He claimed to be permanently traumatized.

I was the second person picked up by the school bus Baron Johnson was first, unless I caught the bus on its way out. Baron and I hated one another; we were in the same class the two tallest. He was real goony looking pure white trash glow in the dark white skin, white platinum hair, pale eyes and big goofy spaces between his teeth. He was ugly we used to fight over the back seat now we just ignored each other. I ignore everyone lived in my punk rock fantasy world imagined my upcoming life in the city.

Dad came back in the door happily carrying his Playboy and declaring, “Boy do I feel better, too much coffee today. So I hear somebody, whodoya think probably Psycho Bill. He said he was gonna cut some more of this wood, I can’t keep paying him for this shit I hope he knows maybe he just wants to get away from the old lady for awhile. Is that his…”

He trailed off into the bathroom, I mean technically it is a bathroom it has a bathtub in it, just not a toilet it has a sink too one of those old jobs with hot on one side cold on the other you move your hand back and forth alternating between scalding and frost bite. There is a washing machine in there but no dryer we still go to the laundry mat it’s sort of an event around here he takes his dates with us we eat at the diner maybe catch a movie. The washer was left by someone that lived here, an old guy and his wife Dad took in Chuck Plant was his name the wife and I used to hang she tried to perm my hair didn’t work never did take a curl, we’d watch all the soaps and talk about V.C. Andrews books. There was usually some one living here over the years there had been Kenny a little toll looking dude covered in black hair with these glowing gold eyes. I kicked him flat on his ass once just to let him know how things went around her e he was kind of a child molester type but at 5’11 by eleven years old I was never worried. He moved into a van in our field and got a girlfriend eventually. She went to school a couple grades ahead of me definitely under age and gross, real fat, real redneck or a hick as I called them, but I’m sure living with Kenny who adored her was a step up from sharing her bed with her step dad back at her place.

Then there was Bob The Slob he had a dog-named Rufus used to get sodomized by one of Dad’s girlfriend’s Doberman. Bob was always cooking us Sheppard’s Pie it was pretty much all he knew how to cook and that was supposed to be part of his job living there. He wore overalls and once said he’d like to give his own sister a tongue lashing, he wasn’t talking about a talking to either-nasty! I guess Bob was on the run cause one day the neighbor called to say the militia was on the way up to our house. Ten cop cars showed up in the dooryard, Bob hid out in the woods Dad talked the cops into believing he wasn’t living there kicked him out after that.

It was Psycho Bill already out of the car and walking in the door. I liked Bill and I didn’t like most of the people Dad collected. Psycho was a biker dude, long black hair and bright blue eyes, beard and mustache. I don’t think he even owned a Harley, and he had this skinny stringy haired wife she had a bunch of kids. My mother thought she looked like a vogue model I thought she looked like a skank and the kids would get on the school bus in these ancient dirty 70s coats fur lined hoods all matted, looking all uncombed and greasy. For some Reason he was cool with me we talked about drugs and stuff. I had a crazy urge to seduce him don’t really know why I hated older men and pretty much anything.

“Hey Good Morning” Bill said striding in he was pretty much always smiling. He pulled out a dilapidated but solid wood chair and sat.

Dad was pacing around, he came out of the bathroom slash storage junk room. The whole room was full; chainsaws, gas cans car parts, and cat shit. He scratched his chin, “I was just heading into town” He said in a irritated way, “I have to run by the bank, Dente’s, (his favorite store, good magazine selection, I guess)“ I have to get some hit done” He was really talking to himself out loud trailing in and out of thoughts getting a plan for his day going. “I gotta get some money, cut this wood, fix the car” He walked over to his chair. He always had his own chair at the table if you sat in it you moved when he came around. From his chair he could reach the phone heavy old rotary number black and dirty, his important papers, mail leaning on the lamp, lists and reading material; Valley News, times Argus, Penthouse, National Geographic, Time, Rolling Stone.

He loved magazines. Bought them at Dente’s or Baker’s General store ordered subscriptions trying to win the lottery form Ed McMahon. A Shimmelpennick box for his refer, Zig Zags, a toke tube, (his invention a true John Dallett original, a metal tube dented in evenly on both side all the way so you could hold it comfortably and the roach would never get sucked in and swallowed, and your lips wouldn’t burn) He also used to make belts with a nice metal buckle that popped a beer bottle top off like nobody’s business) his coffee cup, or Coke, address book (a leather book rubber banded together and full f contacts from the old days and many slips of paper, receipts, and cards.) underneath he kept a clean pad habitually making lists misspelling everything. Talking to himself he would frequently pause to ask how to spell the most basic of words to add to his list, of things to do or buy. Beside the pad a nice selection of pens. He likes his pens and buys the good ones. Sometimes he’ll give you one if you admire its smooth roll. He’s probably spent a fortune on pens and pads alone.

The table is older than me he’s had it everywhere he’s lived it is covered in burns, watermarks, scratches, words designs carved into the soft wood. In the center a fist sized hole is burned out so he’s fixed it with a Mexican tile there and that is where the kerosene lamp sits. Everything salt, pepper, soy sauce, toothpicks, and bills revolve around that. I often carve in the table with a steak knife.

The wood powders up like driftwood and I leave patterns of barbed wire and jagged punk names. He yells at me to “cut that shit out” and I laugh get all sarcastic like “yeah this table looks so great I’m really messing it up.”

“Hey I’ve had this table twenty five goddamn years leave my table alone” he says, not really angry, just giving me the business on general principal I don’t give a shit, and don’t’ believe he does either. The underside of table is sort of a work of art maybe at sometime back in the 60s the legs were white but dirt and food have speckled it into a grayish brown. I’ve been under there used to like to sleep there as a kid be in the middle of the action with my blankie, I fucked under there once a piggish act with lots of dirt and spit very hardcore I loved it but wince thinking about it now. We were drunk what can I say, real drunk and it seemed very punk rock.

“We better stop and get some milk down to Carriers’, when we go to town, I have to see how much money is in there, I gotta talk to the lady what’s her name Karen Miss Karen, She’s got a fat little…”

He trails off again bordering on the x rated. If you’ve ever imagined every thought in your head spoken out loud, that’s what it’s like hanging with Dad. He talks about women incessantly. It is often graphic and no woman is exempt. Comments about tits and kids and what she likes and how big she is and if you didn’t know how non-discriminating he is you could get offended.
I roll my eyes at Psycho Bill, He laughs I think that’s one thing I like about him he’s pretty mellow. Dad is stalking away jotting things on his yellow pad in his atrocious handwriting spelling each thing aloud. I feel a cat brush my leg, working its way over to the food bowl. There are lots of cats around. He feeds them all wet and dry food has a couple bowls over on a chest by the sink. This one must have missed feeding time when they crowd round like water buffalo to a watering hole.

I know Dad isn’t going to be ready to go for a long time and Bill is probably here to ask a favor further delaying departure so I stand stretch and yawn.

“I’m going to go lay down” I head towards the other part of the house I’ll go watch some soaps or something he is slow as molasses and will think of a dozen more things to do before hitting the road. He’s just getting warmed up.

I had all that coffee too but I’ve been smoking the weed with him and I’m speed balling off the combination. Lazy I head up the stairs dust bunnies blow with every step. I used to clean it believe we would finish building get electricity fix it all up. Now a days I’m just waiting to get the hell out of here.

*

Cassandra Dallett lives in Oakland, CA. Cassandra writes of a counter culture childhood in Vermont and her ongoing adolescence. She has been published widely online and in print magazines and reads often around the San Francisco Bay Area. A full-length book of poetry Wet Reckless was released by Manic D Press in the spring of 2014.

photo by Bruce Stockwell

Impossibility

by Vytau K. Virskus

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It is said there is a wall
That is so high, so beyond count,
Described as being far too tall
For mind or matter to surmount.
What can be done seems limited by
What hands can touch and eyes can see.
Yet what lights beyond the shadows lie,
What truth beyond the horizon be?
What can’t be seen seems out of reach
To mechanism, man, or mind.
Though edifices have been built
By those who are completely blind.
It’s said stars light cannot exceed,
A time through distance that must be
A limit which, for now, proceeds
A constant through infinity.
To those intrepid souls that seek
What eyes or thoughts still cannot reach,
And do not submit, nor remain meek
When challenged by the chasm deep.
A universe now may be large or small;
Dreams but the shore of a vast sea;
Discovery dwells on horizon dark;
And light may speed past relativity.
Those whose eyes are young and bright
May be starting on the brink,
Of a journey that just might
Find a truth we cannot now think.
Whatever t’is that just can’t be!
In my own venturing mind
Is only waiting for discovery,
For impossibility…is yet to be defined.

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Vytau K. Virskus was born in a displaced persons camp in Tübingen, Germany, shortly after World War II. His parents had fled their home in Lithuania on the eve of the second Soviet occupation. The family immigrated to the United States on a liberty ship in 1950. He grew up in Flint, MI, where his father found work as an engineer with General Motors Corporation and later attended Michigan State University. He graduated with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and worked at MSU as an operations and energy manager until he left to attend Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, MI, where he earned a Juris Doctor degree. Mr. Virskus is the principal and founder of Millenium Engineering Co. and serves as an energy and engineering consultant with over 35 years of experience in the field. He is also an avid skier, fly fisherman, and sailor, and has studied classical piano. In his “spare” time, he enjoys drawing birthday cards for his wife Cathy, and writing poetry for his three adult children whom he hopes to inspire to great thoughts and great things.

photo by ReaderWalker

Language built…

by Wes Solether

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Language built around mythological fights—a knee to the tiger’s ribs.

The difference between epigraph/epigram/epitaph is death.

Clocks stalking as death. A small group of farmers in Illinois losing its religious leaders to clocks following them around since birth.

You can write about going
only on the cusp of

One might find a well-organized star cluster in office windows.
One might find someone looking back at you.

The small bridge
only a creek deserves.

So many names we should know and can’t remember faces.

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Wes Solether just moved back from San Francisco to his home state of Illinois to better connect with the corn that raised him. He’s reading Americana by Don DeLillo right now. He’s recently been published in Vector Press, Epigraph Magazine, and ditch.

photo by Ines Sidel

Die Ant

by Jon Bennett

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I have a job babysitting
an autistic man
obsessed with garbage disposals
the gas range, and ants.
“Die ant!” he says,
and stubs out the little lives.
These things
are not symbolic
they just show
we have no power.
We have no power in the world
and I myself
can save no one
so I sit with the ant man
while I myself
wait for the thumb
of God.

*

Jon Bennett is a San Francisco poet. His work has appeared in 13 Myna Birds, The Blue Hour and Horror Sleaze Trash.

photo by Nick Fidele

Bloodless

by Steven Armstrong

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Marlene entered the world with no blood in her veins. Nearly translucid, covered in fluids, her parents could barely make out her face. They huddled together holding their wailing child, noticing she weighed almost nothing. Surprising, given her healthy size.

When her father and nurses attempted to clean her, the girl slipped away from them, slowly floating in the room as if gravity did not exist.

None believed what they saw. Marlene’s mother noticed the fluorescent lights shining through her baby’s body as she reached out to catch her. She shared a curious look with her husband. A nurse fainted.

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Steven Armstrong lives in the Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, where he mainly works as a staff writer for an entertainment website.

photo by Mo.

Monkey

by Jon Bennett

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Everyone thought
it was so cute
the little girl, 2 or 3,
kept running, squirming
hollering, bouncing, the dad
would retrieve her
an armful of earthworm
she’d escape, holler, run.
I watched this go on for hours
the dad’s arms becoming limp.
There was something wrong
what she needed was a jungle
to learn about thorn trees
to learn to fear
without those lifeless arms
reining her back in,
or a field of daisies,
a field so large
running across it
would finally exhaust her.
It seemed
the only solution.

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Jon Bennett is a San Francisco poet. His work has appeared in 13 Myna Birds, The Blue Hour and Horror Sleaze Trash.

photo by Ben McLeod

Surprise, Surprise

by Donal Mahoney

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The mother’s dead.
Thirty years later
you meet the daughter
and realize the daughter
is the mother again,
poking her finger
in your chest half an hour
after her plane lands.
The same laugh knocks
folks in the elevator
back a bit.

Every time the daughter
grabs your arm
to emphasize a point
the way the mother did,
you want a ticket
to the Maldives
or maybe Bulgaria.
Sofia in the summer
might be nice.

This time, however,
you stay put.
She found you
on the Internet.
You must admit
the freckles
across her nose
scream she’s right:
You are her father.
Surprise, Surprise.
Her mother never said.

*

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis Missouri. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com

photo by Switchology

Weep Willow – The Blues for Lady Day (video poem)

A video poem by Indira Allegra

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Indira Allegra is a poet and interdisciplinary artist whose work explores forms of queer intimacy, text, trauma and racial identity through performance, video works and handwoven textiles. A 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow and Voices at VONA Alum, she has contributed works to “25 for 25: An Anthology of Works by 25 Outstanding Contemporary LGTB Authors”, “Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought”, “Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two Spirit Literature”, “Konch Magazine” and “make/shift Magazine” among others. Indira reads and performs work in the Bay Area and New York City. Her experimental videopoems have screened at film festivals internationally. In the Bay Area, Indira’s textile works have shown at the Alter Space and College Avenue Galleries. She is currently completing her first collection of poems entitled Indigo Season.

Tapping Out

by Jon Bennett

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“Listen, Jessica,”
I told the property manager,
“that little guy that carves
Buddhas in 310,
fix his sink, OK?”
The Chinese wood carver
had been filling milk jugs
with tap water
in the communal bathroom
for 3 years
I knew he had crazy rent control
and was scared of bugging the landlord
but I was sick of it.
A week later I saw him
being carried down the stairs
on his son’s back,
his things piled in the street.
I would’ve asked
where he was going
but I don’t speak Mandarin
and really
I didn’t want to know.

*

Jon Bennett is a San Francisco poet. His work has appeared in 13 Myna Birds, The Blue Hour and Horror Sleaze Trash.

photo by Alessandro Piana Bianca

Fucking White Men

by Pattrick Trotti

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J.D. Salinger makes an appearance on “To Catch A Predator: North Woods Edition,”

Charles Bukowski caught at the local OTB trying to steal someone’s winning ticket,

James Joyce auctions off his eye patch on eBay to help him in between books,

Ernest Hemingway argues about guns in front of a studio audience on “Piers Morgan Live,”

Jack Kerouac admits on “Oprah” that the only reason he championed Neal Cassady was because they were lovers,

Franz Kafka is arrested on suspicion of arson while trying to get rid of his final manuscripts before dying,

F. Scott Fitzgerald is taken to court for his role in the death of Zelda;

Truman Capote drops his notes of In Cold Blood and writes about the trial, rough draft title: Death in the Jazz Age,

All the while Jonathan Franzen is secretly contemplating starting a personal Twitter account; wondering if the next great American novel can really be titled hash tag.

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Writer, editor, student, Patrick Trotti lives in Tarrytown, New York.

photo by BookLife


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