Let Them Have Dominion

April 29, 2009

by Norm De Plume
Illustration by Jackson Powerfight

bpeelThe zookeeper gently fluffed the plume on his ceremonial fore and aft zookeeper’s hat before carefully placing it on his head.  He meticulously aligned the zookeeping medals on his left chest, adjusted his scarlet sash, and hiked up his jodhpurs.  He pulled a lacy silk handkerchief from his sleeve with a flourish, and used it to buff a nearly invisible smudge from his shiny knee-high leather boots.

Moving slowly, he gathered himself to his full height and with visible disgust removed a banana peel that had gotten stuck to his Prussian blue tunic when he landed in the gutter.  He took a quick pinch of snuff, and, mustering all the dignity he could, flipped his middle finger at the glaring bouncer.  He staggered down the street, never to return.  There were other zookeeper bars in this city, goddamnit.


The Accomplice

April 27, 2009

by Mr. W

He hefted the last crate into the truck bed and clapped the dirt off his work gloves. That was it; the last of this year’s bumper crop of carrots was on its way.

It was unusual to sell out so early in the season. The buyer had paid in cash, also unusual. He figured that the buyer was trying to break into the distribution business without joining the union. None of his concern.

Seventeen days later, the Philadelphia Carrot Bomb toppled the day’s headlines. The phone handset was slippery in his sweating hand; he couldn’t remember how to dial Information. Then, on the TV, the remote cameraman zoomed in on one of the devastating carrots lying on the sidewalk, drizzled in blood.

He relaxed into his easy chair. It was a completely different kind of carrot than the ones he grew.


The Masterpiece

April 24, 2009

by Jackson Powerfight

Grant stepped back from the canvas to survey the almost finished painting. The tart smell of pigment and oil filled his nostrils. Deep within his chest his heart swelled with well-earned pride. Before him stood what was, undeniable to all, a masterpiece. For the first time in weeks Grant allowed himself to quietly tremble with emotion.

Depicted in the work was a simple yeoman’s home, no more than a thatched hut, really. Rendered with the utmost care, it was nearly lost within a jagged wash of browns and greys. Above this rock strewn landscape of isolation the sky hung sagging from the weight of it’s own choking atmosphere. Behind that, perhaps, the sun was still alive and burning, but there was no way to tell. All was sadness. All was despair.

And yet the painting was somehow uplifting. Perhaps it was the way that, despite everything, light seems to find the little stone and thatch home, giving it a subtle glow of warmth and security. Perhaps it was the baby pig who danced in circles before the doorway of the hut. Perhaps it was the brooding warriors, gathered manfully around a simple cooking fire, who shouldered the indignity of life with no loss of pride or collective strength.

Still, Grant was not entirely happy with the painting. Some issue of balance plagued him at the back of his mind. He took in his hand the smallest, finest brush he owned and, with care, dipped it into the still damp patch of reddish brown colour on his palette. He then turned back toward the canvas and with all the force of a dying whisper drew the engorged tip of the brush gently across a little corner of the immense canvas. He took a step back to see what he had done.

The painting was ruined! Screaming with furious sorrow Grant grabbed the work and sent it cartwheeling across the room where it hit the far wall with terrifying force. It fell to the floor as a pile of shattered wood and torn canvas. Grant crouched low on the floor and covered his face with his arms. For a long time his body shook with his great heaving sobs.


The Cost of Perfection

April 21, 2009

by Mr. W

After a lifetime in the craft, he was startled to find in his rough hands the perfect dust brush. When he had made it, there had been no flaw in the polished mahogany handle, of course, but the wood grain swooped and curled more elegantly than he had realized. The fine horsehair had only subtle, but necessary, variations in its hue, and the brush flared from its compact base to a beautiful sweep. It was impossible that this dust brush could scratch a surface, no matter how delicate.

He knew then it was time to retire from the craft.

He built a grand, illuminated case with a glass front to display the dust brush. Several weeks later, he noticed (with professional eye) a thin film of dust on the glass. To use the dust brush itself would be sacrilege, but to use another brush in its presence would be an insult. At a loss, he shifted his weight from one foot to the other and blinked back tears.


The Mysteries of the Road

April 17, 2009

by William Goldman

The gold Oldsmobile sped along the blacktop of King’s Island Drive, Doug gripping the gold steering wheel and humming tunelessly while Mallory fiddled with the gold air vent near the side mirror. They’d been on the road since breakfast. Mallory had eaten an Egg McMuffin sandwich; Doug had wolfed down two, with a side of hash browns, and now seemed agitated and aloof.

Mallory felt fine, but for the regret of not ordering a second McMuffin. His stomach growled gently, and he reached out one gleaming gold hand and flipped on the radio, which emitted an unpleasant detuned country music station. Doug and Mallory winced at the sound, for gold men are seldom patient with trivial imperfections.


A Scandal in Applebee’s

April 15, 2009

by Norm De Plume

“… ‘The dog did nothing in the night-time,’ he said, so I says to him ‘That was the curious incident.'”

“Oh… uh, ha ha.”  Juanita took a huge, bracing gulp of her mangotini so she wouldn’t have to pretend to laugh any longer.  How did she end up on a blind date with a guy so boring he tells stories about dogs NOT barking?  Mrs Hudson, of course.  That old ass bitch was always getting her into stupid situations.  He took a dainty sip of his mudslide and looked at her expectantly.

“So, uh…” she began.  “You some sorta cop, right?”

“Madam, I am the world’s first, and as far as I know, only consulting detective.”

“So you always, like, chasing bad guys and shit? That sounds pretty tight.”

“Sometimes, but to me, the true excitement is in the mental chase, if you will, the intellectual…”

There was the “i” word.  She tuned him out with every fiber of her being and drank for dear life.

“… but occasionally, between cases, I am forced to keep myself stimulated through the injection of a 7% solution of cocaine.  Have you heard of it?”

“Uh, yeah. I think I heard of that before.”

A junkie? What the fuck?  That does it.  Mrs Hudson was as good as dead.

There was yet another awkward pause.  “So, uh,” he began.  “I see from the wear on your heels that you never gained your father’s approval, which would suggest… Ah ha!  It appears our Chicken Parmesan Tanglers have arrived.  I deduce that the accompanying Sweet & Spicy Honey Dijon Sauce will be delectable!”

She slammed her -tini and ordered another, and another after she finished that one.  The rest of the evening was a drunken blur.

Juanita awoke the next morning plagued by vague memories of pasty white flesh, awkward, birdlike thrusting movements, and a series of profuse apologies.   The other side of the bed was still warm, but the angular English detective and his weird front-and-back-billed hat were gone.

She never spoke to him again.  But you best believe she told that Mrs Hudson bitch off good.


What Benefit to Society?

April 13, 2009

by Mr. W

To his defense, it was agreed that he did indeed make the best Bloody Marys. It wasn’t the ingredients themselves (tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, et cetera) so much as the perfect, eyeballed proportion of each.

“Ladies and gentleman,” the jury foreman declared, “if we send this man to prison, we guarantee that we will only experience watery and bland or pointlessly spicy Bloody Marys from here on out.” The jurors nodded, looking at the beige jury-room walls or the gleaming oak table but not each other.

“He did burn down all those orphanages,” quietly said an elderly woman. The only sound was the muted tinkle of ice cubes as her neighbor to the right gently took her Bloody Mary from her.

Fueled by silver trays of fresh Bloody Marys, deliberation continued into the night.


Pure Johnson

April 10, 2009

by Jackson Powerfight

Pure Johnson was the meanest son of a shit to ever set foot in Tamford’s Roadhouse. “Hey Pure!” the people said one day. “Why do you only ever set just the one foot in here?  Why don’t you come all the way inside?”

“Because I hate you all so much!” Pure responded from out on the porch.

“Well then why don’t you leave altogether?” the people said, and Pure thrust his great booted foot a tiny bit further into the room. Nobody told Pure Johnson what to do.

Pure brooded for awhile, when he finally spoke it was with a deliberate pace and carefully chosen words. “Hey,” he said, “could somebody get me a beer or something? I’m powerful thirsty.”

“Sure, Pure, We’ll get you a beer. You just wait while we go get it.” Said the people. Then they just sate there and didn’t do anything.

Hours later, with not a peep from Pure, someone looked over and say his boot still poking through the door. “Hey Pure!” they shouted, “You ok out there?” No answer. The people got up to investigate, walking silently on tip-toe and peeking with stealth around the door. What they saw nearly made them shit their pants. “Why there’s nothing out here but an old boot!”

It was true. A single boot, battered and gray with the dust of the road stood empty at the threshold. The boot was picked up and passed around. “Well don’t that just beat all? There was never no such thing as Pure Johnson. He was just an old boot the whole time.” And as everybody stopped to think about this Tamford’s Roadhouse went quiet for a good long time.

Meanwhile, miles away, a lone man ran through windswept fields of corn. He laughed as he ran and leapt with wild abandon. From time to time the man would backflip like a karate master; his body spinning end over end; his legs swinging high over the tops of the corn. For a moment, for just the space of a breath, his feet hung silhouetted against a humid moon. The laughing man wore only one boot.


The Jackal in Velour

April 8, 2009

by Norm De Plume

The Smooth One, also known as The Jackal in Velour, emerged blinking from his hideout deep in the tribal area of Pakistan. His two closest lieutenants flanked him in the cave’s entrance as he addressed his followers.

“Brothers,” he boomed in a soulful tenor voice. “We are Never Givin’ Up. We will not become Distracted. Yes, my fellow holy warriors, I say to you that We’re In This Love Together, and when I say ‘love’ I mean our just and holy jihad against the American devils!”

His followers cheered and fired their Kalashnikovs into the air.

“’Teach Me Tonight’ you asked me. ‘Tell Me What I Gotta Do’ you pleaded. Well, now I answer you: you must bring the jihad to the Americans like Raging Waters. And our brothers who are Moonlighting in sleeper cells in the west must strike at the heart of the devil like a Blue Angel. Yes, my brothers, L Is For Lover, but L is also for lecherous, lying, leprous America!”

His final words were drowned out by the roar of his followers, which gradually coalesced into a steady chant that shook the very mountains themselves. The Smooth One smiled and pumped his fist in time:

“Long live Al Qaeda! Long live Al Zarqawri! And long live The Jackal in Velour- Al Jarreau!”


Alternative Energy

April 6, 2009

by Mr. W

He twiddled the gleaming, silver socket wrench in his fingers and sighed. The cogs and gears snicked along, the leather restraining straps were oiled and crack-free, the massive pendulum razor-sharp, yes. But–he checked his watch again–the damn victim-fueled clock just couldn’t keep a steady time.

He had spent too many years on this. It was time to pack it up.

From the basement of the castle echoed the rattle of chains and a guttural, whimpering scream. He rolled his eyes. Now what was he going to do with all these victims?