Frumple Must Die! by Alex S. Johnson

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2014 by Alex S. Johnson

“Get up,” said Frumple. “You lazy bastard.”

“Warm in here,” said Sam. “Cold out there. You do the math.”

“Already did, and it says, Sam Jones is a lazy bastard.”

“Right, ok, on the writing thing? You can do the story today.”

“Ha! What makes you think I’m going to bail your lazy ass out again?”

“Simple. You always do. It’s, I don’t know, reverse psychology. I invented you to write my stories in the event that I’m too–not lazy, that’s not the word–and no, I’m not too comfortable, ’cause comfort would imply a state of grace that is rare to never for me and might possibly indicate…”

“Blah blah blah. I see you’re hung up on intellectualizing your experience without having any. Moribund soup and no mistake! That is some slaggy shit you’re having for breakfast. I’m here to save you from yourself. If it wasn’t for Frumple–your friend, your palsy-walzy, your long-suffering rookie–you’d be sleeping in till noon and then go on Facebook and complain that you don’t have it in you today. Am I right, or am I solid?”

“You’re immaterial. I can do this myself. Just…go warm up the computer.”

“Been there, done that. I warmed your chair. You should be grateful. Fucking polar vortex out there. And the heat–it doesn’t turn itself on. You have to do that. I’m a cat. I can do a lot of things, but the radiator is your baby, baby.”

“I’ve seen you literally tie yourself  in knots. You have amazing powers, Frumple. If you wanted to turn on the heat, you could certainly do so. Hey, I hope you didn’t hide the cigarettes again.”

“You and your pathetic crutches! Man, if I get myself a day job, ciggies alone will not help you. Jack yourself up, then jack yourself off, then put yourself to bed again. I don’t care. I am Audi.”

“Fine, I’ll get up. Just got to get some coffee and…fire up the word machine.”

“Hey, what did you mean by ‘Frumple Must Die!’ anyway?”

“Huh?”

“That’s the title of the story. ‘Frumple Must Die.’ I don’t think you understand the true meaning of the word ‘co-dependent.’ You take out a Frumple, you wax yourself, bitch.”

“You mean ‘interdependent.’ That’s something entirely different.”

“No, I mean co-dependent. As in, we lean on each other to support our own weakness.”

“Then Frumple really must die. That’s it. You are history.” Sam prepared to pop a love cap in the cat’s ass.

“Did you just write ‘pop a love cap?'”

“Yeah, so?”

“Get some coffee. You’re even more random than usual. And I am personally offended at the strange fusion of eros, agape and bestiality you call affection.”

Sam sluggishly made his way to the Mr. Coffee and poured himself the first of many cups for that day. Silently, he drank. Feverishly, Frumple laid out a plot outline for Sam to fill in. 

“You sure are leaning hard on the adverbs,” said Frumple.

“Look,” said Sam. “It’s only 8:30. I can’t get that clean line this early. Already late for the party when it comes to the clean line dance.”

“That is almost clever,” said Frumple.

“Thanks for the ‘almost,’ dude,” said Sam.

“‘Almost clever’ is not a compliment.”

“I know that. Okay, so we’re locked and loaded. Got cigs, got coffee, got stubble–shit, I need to do something about the stubble.”

“You could, I don’t know, buy a razor?”

“Yeah, but it’s more fun to get those disposable blades and pick the hair out of them.”

“Why do you think they call them ‘disposable?’ Just buy yourself a real razor and some replacement blades. Save some money.”

“Ah, Christ. All these little details.”

“Yup, but you let the little details sit there while you’re rearing up on your mighty hind legs and preparing the grand plan, dude. When the time comes to actually execute the plan, the little details come in mighty handy.”

“Just go away. Go, go away.”

“Fine, I’m leaving.” The cat primly gathered its few belongings and prepared to march out the door forever. “You’ll be sorry.”

Sam sprang out of bed. “No, wait, I didn’t mean that.”

“You have work to do,” said Frumple. “Then we’ll talk.”

“Okay.”

“But you have to do the work.”

“Fine.”

“I hope you’re not just saying ‘fine’ because you think a Frumple story will substitute for some actual creative effort on your part.”

“It doesn’t?”

“Hells no.”

“Okay, you are right, just leave me alone for a second and I’ll check out your outline.”

“That’s better.”

“Now go.”

Frumple stayed.

Frumple must die.

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That Darn Frumple! by Alex S. Johnson

Posted in fiction on January 15, 2014 by Alex S. Johnson

Sam awoke from the usual tedious dreams of cockroaches to find himself intact on his bed. Frumple sat at the foot, staring at him with huge emerald green eyes.

“Whoa, shit, for a second there I thought I was trapped inside a Franz Kakfa story. Hey, how come I can see you all the time now?”

Frumple yawned and stretched his paws.

“Well, are you going to say something?” He groaned. “What time is it? I need a fucking smoke.”

“Good luck,” said Frumple.

“Don’t tell me you’ve hidden my cigs again. Look, I gave up solvents, PCP, mescaline, alcohol, shit-huffing, corpse-sniffing, even gerbils. I need a fookin’ hit, man!”

“You’ve been watching Trainspotting again, I see.”

“Yeah, because it’s a great movie. So many good lines in that thing. ‘Better than any fucking cock in the world.’ You never gave me a line like that. I had to steal it from Irvine Welsh.”

“Oh, now I’m responsible for your acts of literary theft?”

“No, no, I’m not saying that at all. Just that you sit there and look at me and it makes me feel…guilty. Uncomfortable. Hey, I thought I sold you to that traveling circus.”

“Right, now you’re selling me off. Frankly, I think you’re a lazy, lazy shit. What kind of writer are you? You used to get up at 6:00 in the morning and write these crazed sorta kinda cyberpunk like stories before the internal critic hit you and you got paralyzed.”

“Yeah, man, well I don’t know which is worse, you or the internal critic.”

“You really wound me. I should scratch the shit out of you.”

“Go on, scratch. Scratch me. Might wake me up. Damn, I feel so itchy. Uncomfortable. Nervous. And I could really use a smoke.”

“Okay, your wish is my command. Just write something.”

“I lost my mojo.”

“What are you talking about? Your mojo was just fine yesterday. Weren’t you working on that black metal gothic horror doom thing?”

“Lost it. Ran out of steam.”

“You are getting right back on that horse and no mistake. Or maybe you’re beyond the simple carrot and stick approach now.” The cat jumped down from the bed and ran into the kitchen. Sam could hear shelves being banged. Then the cat ran back with a pack of cigarettes in its mouth. It coolly lit one up in front of him. Sam sniffed the smoke. Ah, there was simply nothing like second hand smoke. Maybe it was deadlier than the first-hand version, but boy did it smell great. He began to salivate.

“You know where the computer is,” said the cat.

“You are just a pestilent arsehole with no morals or compunction whatsoever, Frumple. When I need you, you ain’t there, and when you ain’t there, I can’t write, and when I can’t write, I get on that fucking Facebook thing and by the time I’ve finished ‘liking’ every post in my feed, it’s time for lunch and then dinner and then my day is totally shot.”

“You blame me for a lot of things,” said Frumple.

“Because you are guilty of a lot of things,” said Sam.

“Such as?”

“As a muse, you’re more than inconvenient. You leave me hanging just when I’m about to solve a plot problem and then you start to play around with the narrative. You…”

Frumple yawned. “So? I think we’ve established that already. Keeps you on your toes, doesn’t it?”

“On my toes? Not exactly. More like trying to do triage after a traffic accident. I can practically smell the burning rubber and hear the screams of desperation. People are trapped down there and there’s nothing I can do. Too mangled, too ripped. Give us a fookin’ hit!”

“Hey, did you hear that?”

“No, what?”

“I think it’s your two favorite guys. Sweet and Joe.”

“Fucking soft detectives? Now? They aren’t even real police!”

There was a heavy knock on the door.

“Go away!” shouted Sam.

“You gotta let us in, dude. We’re material. How much material do you have in there anyway?”

“Look, I’ve already got the cat, and he stole my cigs! I am in no mood. I’m getting withdrawals, my hands are shaking, my brain is fuzzing over, and if you don’t go away you will learn the true meaning of the term ‘chump-wax.'”

The door eased open and Sweetback Glide stuck his head in. “Oh dude, you have got to clean this place. It’s filthy. When do you do laundry?”

“Haven’t done laundry since you guys made off with all my Tide.”

“Hey, that was some good shit. Sold it to these Albanians. Made a clean profit and bought some more. It’s all good as long as you don’t poach your own stash. And there is no way I’m getting a Tide jones. That stuff will rot your brain in no time.”

Joe chuckled.

“Oh, what, you think that’s ironic? Didn’t you get the memo? Just noticing a disparity between two apparent facts and commenting on it does not make you a clever motherfucker. It just makes you annoying.”

“Since you let yourselves in and you’re here anyway, why don’t you make yourselves at home?” said Sam. “I’m going to hop in the shower and then I’m going to the market and stock up on cartons. Man, I can practically taste them. That is what I am talking about.”

“Is Jesus your niggah?”

“Huh?”

“I’ve heard that kind of talk before, and the cracker always winds up praying to Jesus for guidance. Why would you need Jesus when you’ve got Frumple? Or us?”

“Are you saying you’re better than Jesus?”

“Not better, but more here and present. Me and Joe, we’re the new Jesus.”

“So much for not poaching your own stash. Anyway, I have to shower. Could you guys like, make me some breakfast or something like that? Eggs and bacon. And none of those runny eggs. And the bacon needs to be crisp.”

Sweetback laid his purple pimp hat on the dresser drawer next to Sam’s bed and shrugged off his jacket which was lined with what looked like real Jaguati fur. “Joe, the man wants breakfast.”

“What do I look like, a short-order cook? Homey don’t play that.”

“Are you guys going to sit around and squabble and basically waste my time?”

“You wanted material. Oh, so now you better than some material just walks right in your front door and gets comfortable. Man thinks he’s better than the material.”

Joe plunked himself down in an easy chair. “If we ain’t material, what is?”

“I’ve got the fucking cat!” screamed Sam.

“Imaginary cat,” said Joe under his breath.

“So, he’s an imaginary cat, but I claim him.”

“I always look better in contrast, don’t I?” said Frumple. “You take me for granted. I should just walk right out this door and never come back.”

“Don’t go,” said Sam. “Look, I’m sorry, again. I’m just frustrated. Every day I get up and I swear to myself I’m going to write. Stick to one project. Get that cannibal story out of the way, maybe, or the sequel to that western, or my horror novel…”

“The problem with you is,” said Sweetback, “is simple. You think you’re better than genre. So you make fun of genres. But then when it comes time to prove that you can actually do it, whether it’s a western or cannibalsploitation or horror, you start throwing out the rules. Laughing at them. You think genre likes that? You think you can just play around with pulp fiction?”

“You may have a valid point,” said Sam. “But I’m in no mood to argue it. Right now I just want to get myself clean and dressed and maybe, just maybe, Frumple here will give me a smoke. Just one. One cigarette, and you can hide them again and do whatever you need to do to annoy the shit out of me until my nerves are frayed and I’ve lost even more hair and I’m basically crazed.”

“Frumple, you happy here?”

“Not really,” said Frumple.

“Let’s leave this sad sack in the mess he made for himself,” said Sweet.

Frumple jumped on Sweetback’s shoulder and Sweetback, Joe and Frumple left.

Sam walked over to his iMac, reluctantly tapped the left-hand button on his silver mouse and began to type. “Sam awoke from the usual tedious dreams of cockroaches…”

Frumple by Alex S. Johnson

Posted in fiction with tags on January 13, 2014 by Alex S. Johnson

His hands typed but his mind was elsewhere. He was thinking of the spectacular mess he had come home to the previous night. The last thing he needed after a night of partying was to be confronted with the leavings of Frumple, the imaginary cat. It was almost inconceivable what havoc an imaginary pet could wreak, at least to Sam’s friends, but to Sam the inconceivable had become a daily affair. His cigarettes and coffee went missing, which was intolerable, and even with a bloated stomach and a head that kept shifting size he was obligated to make another run to the liquor store that was open until liquor couldn’t be legally sold. The man who owned, Marv Plotken, was a fierce old bastard and the cash register was a rusty and recalcitrant antique. Sometimes the Plotken aimed his finger at the cash register like a gun and pulled it for no apparent reason. Was he getting back at ancient enemies by some metaphysical means or had he simply lost his mind? Sam didn’t care. Cursing Frumple and the circumstances that bound them together, he wearily rose from his writing desk, shrugged on his jacket and opened the door. The icy wind hit him full in the face. There was a part of him that even blamed Frumple for the weather, which might seem peculiar if you didn’t know Frumple as well as Sam did.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” said Plotken, squeezing his index finger. Sam thought he saw the cash register shake and a tiny puff of smoke curl out from the drawer, which opened of its own accord. Plotken banged the drawer shut. Sam was used to this kind of contrary behavior and just pointed at the stack of his favorite brand, Deadly Strikes, which sat on a countertop of its own as though waiting for him. Ploken took Sam’s money and handed him his change, tattered one dollar bills and green coins. There was no use arguing that the currency was on its last legs and he’d have trouble exchanging it for anything. Sam took the small paper bag containing the instant coffee and two packs of Deadlies and was about to leave when he thought he heard a cat’s faint mewing from the back. Plotken glared at him as if telling him to mind his own business, but Sam was curious. He had long suspected Plotken of fobbing Frumple off to him some time ago under similar conditions in a paper bag not unlike this one.

He wondered if other writers had similar problems. Did Harlan Ellison have his own Frumple, and if so, how did he handle it? Frumple was not the worst imaginary pet anyone could possible have, except that the cat usually appeared when Sam was right on the verge of solving a narrative problem or untying a knot in the plot that hadn’t been there five minutes ago, when the characters had begun to talk to him and the dialog was flowing like a clear mountain stream. Perhaps the cat was not his nemesis at all, but simply a fucked-up postmodern variety of muse. But in that case, the owner of the liquor store took on a different aspect. And that was supposing that the owner had indeed snuck Frumple into the bag along with the smokes and the coffee only two months previously.

Imaginary cat or no, the two months had been murder on his creative flow. No sooner had he introduced a new character than the character developed insane quirks and insisted on relating an entirely new story, or suddenly inserted a frame into the narrative that required another frame to accommodate it, and so forth, until Sam was headed in the direction of yet another mis-en-abyme. He had sworn off the hall-of-mirrors approach to writing but the cat was very much a fan, and as long as Sam was stuck with the dreadful feline he was forced to work through the animal’s channels.

Sam considered again his theory about Plotken and Frumple’s origins. If the cat were indeed imaginary, then it stood to reason that its characteristics could be adjusted to a new owner. Sam knew little about Plotken except that he was a nasty old bugger with straw-colored patches of hair sprouting from his wrinkled pink skull and that he smelled of exotic essential oils. His gnarled hands were frosted with tiny white scars like little mouths and he usually wore a neatly knotted red velvet bow tie. There was nothing unusual about him aside from the mind games he played with Sam over cigarettes and the shooting at the register, but his eyes held something uncanny. If that something was a stronger imagination than his own, then the cat would need extensive retraining. The trouble with that plan was manifold: first he would have to find Frumple, and Frumple was invisible except on Sundays when he appeared to be a fat tabby with wicked green eyes who lived in the closet.

Firing up a Deadly Strike, Sam faced the blank screen again. He thought he could hear something scrabbling in the closet. He shut his eyes. The sound stopped. He began to type: “His hands typed but his mind was elsewhere.” It seemed he had written this sentence before. Standing up, he walked over to the closet and violently pushed the door along its hinges. “I know you’re there, you shit! Don’t think just because you’re imaginary I can’t have you put down.”

“Oh yeah?” Sam whirled around. Now the cat was sitting at the desk in front of Sam’s computer, pounding the keys with his claws. Sam stood over the cat to see what he was writing.

“Frumple’s problems with Sam were never-ending. The man appeared to suffer from the delusion that Frumple was interfering with his creative flow, driving his plots into endless divagations, also known as ‘hall of mirrors syndrome,’ and either acting as a problematic muse or a complex problem that Sam could not solve on his own. From the cat’s perspective, it was the man who was ceaselessly trying to correct very elegant and deliberate riddles Frumple had introduced into the narrative. Frumple was only trying to help, because the man was hopelessly committed to a linear approach and the cat was well aware that linearity was not the man’s strong suit. Had he been born in different circumstances, perhaps, but the seeds of a baroque fashion of writing modeled after Bach’s keyboard concertos had been sewn in his childhood. Frumple missed the relative simplicity of the liquor store, where he sat in the stock room on a crate of chartreuse dreaming of Swiss monks. The old man left him alone, and in return, Frumple did his accounts, although he couldn’t help but play tricks with the cash register–as a kitten, he had been fascinated by this very same, antique model.”

“We appear to be stuck with one another,” said Sam after reading the cat’s paragraph. Puzzled, the cat leapt down from the chair and disappeared through the half-open door into the night.

He decided that instead of erasing the cat’s work he would save it as a separate file. As he had never interacted with the cat to the extent he had that night, he wondered if the cat usually returned. He lifted the keyboard and shook free the wiry black hairs that Frumple had left, then started another file.

“Perhaps,” Sam wrote, “the cat who had just left him wasn’t Frumple after all, but a copy-cat of some kind.” The thought tormented him in actual fact. He saved the sentence and shut down the computer.

When he awoke, he saw immediately that the computer had been restarted and a fresh file created. Wiping the crust from his eyes, he eased himself into his chair, lit up a Deadly Strike and read.

“Not only can I copy myself, I can add, subtract, multiply and divide. A Frumple by any other name is just a goad, a spike, a kick in the pants. You think you can avoid me by giving up the writing game, as you do regularly whenever you face a challenge. I am here to remind you that there will always be challenges. Try to write a straight sentence, and you may see a twist coming that you never intended. Try to write a twist and it may just smooth itself out. Regardless, you cannot quit and as long as you create I will be here. As a torment sometimes, a guide when you least expect it, and the pattern of symbolic ink on paper. There is no need to berate me, to argue and complain that you can do without me, or crave my attention or try to summon me in a tight spot or rid yourself of my presence when you feel the flow come. If it weren’t for my claws and tail and sparkling green eyes and yes, the occasional spray, you would have no desire to place word after word, sentence after sentence, symbol after symbol and theme after theme together until something strange and wonderful emerges from the torture you have chosen as a career. The damn cat will always be back, my friend. And incidentally, you asked for me when you first entered that store. Sure, you wanted stimulation, but for what? To agitate your spun nerves and squeeze out yet another chunk of verbiage that nobody may ever see. To strike the keyboard and wait and puzzle over the noun that seeks a verb that waits to pounce upon an object, like a cat with a mouse. Or a Frumple with an imaginary writer. Well, you may not be the luckiest fool who ever aspired to be a scribe, but you’re damn near close. I’m there saving those sentences you delete and binding them together as you sleep, until one day you will arise and all those aborted phrases and clauses will spring to life again, stretching at first, looking around, realizing that there is no impediment that stands in their way and that nothing prevents them from becoming–the poem, the story, the novel. Or at least the first chapter. By the time you read this you will have completed your first real lesson in writing. Take it from me, as I can take care of myself. Yours, Fondly, Frumple.”

New Year’s Resolutions by Elle Dergod

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 by Alex S. Johnson

1. Assume definite form and stick to it. Nebulous, inchoate, etc. not cutting mustard.

2. Spread chaos and madness among mankind.

3. Get shit together. Dead but dreaming has worked for aeons–now time to punch through astral prison and do #2.

4. Get proactive.

5. Find inbred hillbillies, primitive tribes, etc. and force to worship Elle.

6. Leave cryptic messages, signs, etc. 

7. Look into social media. What is a Twitter, how does one Tweet?

8. Vocabulary power. How say “Eldritch” other ways.

9. Consider breaking #2 into micro-steps. 

10. Eat more fiber.

11. Eliminate insalubrious from diet.

12. Assume friendly mask, the better to really sell #2.

13. Get life–lots of it.

Why Heavy Metal?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 12, 2013 by Alex S. Johnson

When I was in high school, music was one code that separated social groups. The popular kids–beloved of teachers and administrators, bound for glory, destined for Ivy League schools, winners of academic achievement awards–listened to New Wave. Or R&B. The New Romantics. Duran Duran. Music that fairly popped with bright pastel colors and cheery messages about love, life and the future. The popular kids, who were also for the most  part upper middle class, already had the attitude and self-assurance that bodes well for success.

Then there was that other group–the smokers in the parking lot, the ones who braved our fiercely clueless vice principals, disciplinary suspension and the disgust of the same teachers that worshipped the preppy kids to flee campus at lunch time for recreational drugs and beer bashes at a local park. Their music? Heavy metal. Scorpions. Priest. Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden.

I did not belong to the first group. For one thing, I wasn’t rich. I didn’t live in a prosperous neighborhood. For another, I struggled with school. Many subjects did not come naturally, especially math. I dreaded tests. Socially, I was marginal. Hell, I was an outcast. I couldn’t wait for school to be out so I could go home and crank up the music. And it wasn’t going to be that fucking “Our House” song.

You see, I may not have been cast from the mold that spelled a quick rise to prosperity and comfort, the two car garage and the networking on the golf course. I may have spent many hours in a depressive funk when not actively wishing for death to visit me and deliver me from a chronic sense of futility and despair. But I did read. A lot. And I followed politics. And I came to a few conclusions in regard to the popular kids, the cheerful ones who dressed in preppy clothes and listened to The Stray Cats, Adam Ant and Huey Lewis. For all their optimism, they didn’t understand one crucial thing: that the future hung under the Damoclean sword of nuclear holocaust.

This was the Cold War. People like Ronald Reagan were in charge. His Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, was a radical, fundamentalist Christian who freely admitted that, as a believer in Armageddon, his job was to help corporations dig up, exploit and pollute the planet to their heart’s content before the whole thing went KABLOOEY and Jesus returned in triumph to judge us for all eternity.

The Russians had weapons. We had weapons. There were enough weapons in the nuclear arsenal to destroy the Earth not just once, but again and again. And all that stood between peace and a hot smoldering mass of radiated globe were a few men who thought of the future in terms of eschatology–that branch of theology which deals with the End Times.

The popular kids listened to the “Our House” song. Not me. I listened to Ozzy. Unlike the rappers and the New Wavers and the technopop crowd, Ozzy seemed to be in tune with the actual state of affairs–that if we continued to despoil Nature for the sake of corporate greed while clinging to a metaphysics that almost guaranteed world holocaust in the not-too-distant future, there wouldn’t be an “Our House” to come home to. Hell, there wouldn’t even be a neighborhood. Just block after block of blackened, steaming death.

Unlike the musical artists beloved of the prepsters, Ozzy wasn’t a happy camper. He sang about depression and suicide and addiction. He celebrated the value of smoking the sweet leaf to lift one above the fear of an electric funeral precipitated by war pigs. He wondered if the children of the future weren’t simply children of the grave. And the sound–the sound was powerful. Metal didn’t fuck around. You couldn’t slow dance to it. You couldn’t move cheek to cheek with your partner as the mirror ball turned and scattered magic dust on your prom night. With metal, you banged your head, acknowledging reality. You thrust the sign of the horns in the air, assenting to words and music that reflected how you felt: angry, doomed, frustrated, longing for love and affection and fearing it would never come to someone as fucked-up as you.

A few years after graduation, I was at a party with some of the popular kids. I still didn’t fit in. The guy whose birthday we were celebrating made a point of noting how “stupid” I looked in high school when I wore my hair long and was “into metal.” I was trying to change myself, adjust to different values that I thought would take me down the path of success. I thought if I tried to look at things in a more positive light I would feel better about myself and be more socially popular. But you know what? That didn’t happen.

After all these years, my heart still glows when the metal plays. It’s loud, fast, powerful and, most important, authentically emotional. Thirty years after I graduated from high school, I still find the truest reflection of my feelings in Judas Priest, Manowar, Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Still a hermit, still marginal, and ever-more-thankful that my sojourn into denial land was brief-lived. The war pigs are still around, more firmly entrenched than ever. The planet is still threatened by the same End Timers, who now deny that the rapid destruction of the polar ice caps and the escalation of extreme weather might have anything to do with the ideology espoused back in the 80s by our Secretary of the Interior. Metal has a lot more respect now too. Turns out we might have been on to something after all. –Alex S. Johnson

Tales from the Glory Hole by Jeff O’Brien: A Book Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on November 27, 2013 by Alex S. Johnson

Tales from the Gloryhole by Jeff O’Brien, 218 pages, Dark Space Publications

So I am asking myself, what is it about Tales from the Gloryhole, a collection of short stories and one novelette by Jeff O’Brien, that made me power it down like a chocolate milkshake in one sitting and temporarily forget the queue of writing tasks set before me? O’Brien’s bailiwick is funny horror, and once I finished the first story in the book, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist another one, and another one. Right down to the glorious cream in the center, “The Frankenstein Fairy.”

Gloryhole delivers pure reading satisfaction, with stories that run the gamut of familiar horror tropes such as serial killers and nightmare clowns, but with a twist that is all O’Brien. Not only does he clearly know the landscape of fear, his ironic sensibility lends the tales something extra. Much like the early work of filmmaker Peter Jackson, or Sam Raimi in the good old days, O’Brien mingles the shocks with the laughs and had me nodding, smiling, flashing mental metal horns and wanting more–living glory holes, vagina monsters, pretzels made of human intestines, vengeance demons, fish gods and babies tossed in wells. His prose is vivid, clean and unpretentious.

Capping off the collection, “The Frankenstein Fairy” reads like a cross between The Breakfast Club and The Faculty; it’s an allegory about the monstrousness of conformity and the power of love to overcome division. Beneath the Bizarro flourishes and the helicopter-spine blades, the mutants and hybrids and glow-in-the-dark Goth chicks, O’Brien makes an important point about honoring difference and celebrating those qualities that make us unique.

If you want a guaranteed good time in book-land, Tales from the Gloryhole is just the ticket. Get yours today.

–Alex S. Johnson

Miles Walker Gets a Job by Charie La Marr

Posted in Uncategorized on August 3, 2013 by Alex S. Johnson

Thanks to New York City’s budgetary issues, the hospital where Miles Walker worked was closed down—leaving him and over one hundred other nurses scrambling for work.

Some of them left the state in search of greener pastures. Others found work as Dominatrixes. But most of them scoured the papers and followed the listings; going from interview to interview. Often, they literally bumped into former co-workers interviewing for the same position. As a male nurse, it was a little harder for Miles. More than once, he heard those words, “Oh you’re a nurse!” with that certain intonation that receptionists who read too many romance novels always seem to have. Men are always the doctors. He could tell that behind his back, they were giggling at him wondering that if, as a child, he had been the doctor or the nurse when playing doctor.

Some temp work helped, but Miles was quickly draining his savings account just paying for rent and necessities. He figured he had about two months left before he would have to move back home with his mother. And that was a fate worse than death. He would take literally any nursing job to spare him from that indignity.

Then it happened. Miles got a job at an outpatient surgical clinic as a recovery room nurse. The pay was less than what he had been making, but it was enough to get by with an occasional private duty nursing on the side.

And so on Monday morning, dressed in neatly pressed purple scrubs, Miles reported for duty at Dr. Steve Cunningham’s GLT – Gastroenterology Testing Lab. His duties were fairly simple. He was the guy who patted you on the hand, woke you up and told you to fart after a colonoscopy. Not the most dignified job in the world, but it paid the bills and kept him out of his mother’s house in Brooklyn.

Day after day, Miles walked up and down the aisles of recovering patients, checking on his patients and listening to farts of all kinds from tight little toots to rippers that literally peeled the paint off the walls. By mid-afternoon, the smell in the room was so bad that Miles often snuck into an empty cubicle and helped himself to a couple of whiffs of oxygen just to keep from passing out.

One afternoon, a scheduling problem with Dr. Cunningham’s receptionist had the lab severely overbooked. Dr. Steve was literally pushing cameras up backsides and back out as fast as he could. Extra cots had to be set up in the recovery room and Miles was waking them up and sending them home as fast as he could to make room for more. He was so busy that he didn’t even have the time to sneak off for a little oxygen. He wasn’t sure if the place smelled more like the Staten Island landfill or a meadow of sheep in New Zealand. Methane levels were creeping up steadily.

Finally, it was break time and when his coverage arrived, Miles could hardly wait to get out onto the sidewalk and have a cigarette. He took a deep breath and lit up and that was the end. Pieces of Miles could be seen for miles.