New Fiction: Reviews of Books Received from Lovers by Liam Kruger
The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago
You were new to the city, and a friend of mine asked me to show you around town. She was so smitten with you it hadn’t occurred to her that she was setting us up; I was twenty and an idiot, so it didn’t occur to me either, until we were back in my shitty apartment after touring some central bars, and you’d scooted across the floor to sit at my feet. You came very quickly; I came not at all. Later, in your diary, I would learn that you were indifferent to the sex but liked kissing in my kitchen. I would see you in the city once or twice afterwards, unsure of how to interpret your pained smile, and then not at all.
Random House, 1994, 272 pages
Third Factory by Viktor Shklovsky
The next morning, looking out over the corner of your city and smoking a thick, anise-sweet Indonesian cigarette, you mentioned having a handful of copies of this thing hidden around your apartment, so you could hand them out to good people without worrying about not having an edition to hand; I was too tired to make a joke about a sex-based lending library, for which I would later be grateful, when I read the book and discovered that it, and by extension you, went way above my head. Your voice, normally deep, became girlish, shed a decade, when you ground against me in your cotton underwear, and your DVD of The Third Man played in the background.
Dalkey Archive Press, 1977, 106 pages
Spanish Short Stories: Cuentos En Espanol (New Penguin Parallel Text Series) edited by John R. King
Years before I had fumbled the end of a flirty evening with you by making a slightly drunk, slightly awful comment about a former boyfriend of yours; you got up off my lap and walked off into the woods, and left the continent soon after. So I was moderately surprised to find in my bed, in this city, in the country, waiting for news of a hip operation. Surprised, too, at how limber you were. When next I saw you, you were getting rid of your old stuff, told me I should get another language, and threw this at me.
Penguin, 1999, 256 pages
Letters To A Yong Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, with an introduction by Lewis Hyde
You were back from London for a little while, and we had gotten drunk about it. You had convinced me – without much difficulty -that we should break into your little sister’s school and find the swimming pools. You stripped, which told me that it was probably okay if I stripped too, and we got through maybe one length of the thing before your improbable mouth was against mine, and you were whispering between breaths “this was bound to happen.” Already I knew that I was too drunk to make all of this that it could be; it was with some small regret that I pushed you back against the wall of the changing rooms and kneeled. We stopped when your father called; our clothes found their way back onto our bodies, and I walked with you for a block. We kissed, and you tasted chlorine and your own sex, and remarked upon it. I think I left my underwear at your sister’s school.
Penguin, 2013, 112 pagesRead it: http://theneweryork.com/reviews-of-books-received-from-lovers-liam-kruger/
Porn is Much Less Stressful by Steven Rineer is now available as a poster (designed by nilsjawa).
New Fiction: The Slave by Julia Long
Nate was looking at pornography on the computer. The girl in the photos had hair down to her ass and an awesome squiggly body type. There was enough variety:
At the top of the page it said AMBER’S PLAYHOUSE in a glittery hot pink font.
Lamb let himself in and found Nate in the basement. Lamb was Nate’s friend. “This is my cousin,” said Nate. Amber was not Nate’s cousin. Nate was showing Lamb a video of Amber roleplaying with a man. “He’s going to pretend to be a chiropractor now,” said Nate. The man in the video pretended to be a chiropractor. “He’s going to nut on her face,” said Nate. The man ejaculated on Amber’s face. Nate said “Got damnnn” and Lamb had no opinion about the video. Lamb was fantasizing.
He was thinking about a sandwich:
He’d eat the whole thing in one bite.
“It turns POV now, it’s good,” said Nate and Lamb had no opinion. “Oh hell yeah,” Lamb said on autopilot. Nate’s sister/housemate Stephanie came downstairs too. She was all wet from the shower, wearing a towel. Everyone said hi.
“My friend got in a car accident,” said Stephanie, “she’s okay but she crashed her car into a utility pole. People’s power went out.” Lamb felt normal. “Should we order pizza?” said Stephanie. Pizza. Lamb’s head became sick with dirty images of ribbed to-go boxes, blushing pepperoni, and gymnast-limber cheese with conscious bubbles. He felt hot. There was no excuse for being hot. They were inside; there was no weather.
“I don’t really care either way,” said Nate. I can’t relate to you, Lamb thought. Stephanie pulled up a chair so she could look at porn too. Everyone started talking about life and what they were doing with it. “I actually got a job at the pub on 5th/Harlow,” said Nate, “I’m gonna be a bartender, I start Tuesday. I thought you need a license to be a bartender but I guess not, which is good since I don’t wanna take all the classes.” “Get paid!” said Lamb. It seemed like the right thing to say. “Those wouldn’t even be hard classes,” said Stephanie, “Try being in real school.” She was in real school. Nate just did what he wanted. Lamb paid rent with money from his dead grandma and savings from high school jobs. He had yet to do a thing. One day he would get paid, one day he would take a class, one day he would make a porno, one day he would do a thing. It all sounded like stuff he could be bad at. Lamb’s chronic leg twitch got really obvious. It was panic attack time. He said he had to go meet Amanda.
Amanda was in her ‘new’ underwear. She was on top of Lamb in bed. “They’re new,” said Amanda. She snapped the thing against her hip. It was the only thing she was wearing. Lamb felt neutral. “All I can say is wow,” he said on autopilot. “I need this us-time right now,” said Amanda, “I just went to my mom’s and met her boyfriend. He was wearing gauchos which just no. Then my mom got mad at me when she caught me in her room looking through the divorce papers.” Lamb couldn’t think of anything more dull in the world. “Sorry baby girl,” he said. Lamb wasn’t sorry about whatever the fuck Amanda said.
Amanda’s breasts were breasts. Her breasts looked like, like, like fruit. Her skin was okay and there and had no effect on the world.
“I want you in my mouth,” said Amanda. It was head time but Lamb felt normal and couldn’t get it up. “Think about me fucking you,” said Amanda, “Think about my asshole.” Lamb started fantasizing:
What was supposed to happen did.
Lamb woke up in the evening (that was normal for him). Amanda was gone. He felt a super kind of relief. Lamb went to the grocery store feeling so high. He had a sense of being outside himself, like it was a video. The door in was automatic. Lamb got a basket. In the nut butter aisle, there were USDA certified organic options as well as MSG-filled generic brands in bulk sizes. Lamb got a 40oz Family Size jar of a brand of peanut butter he knew was MSG-filled and evil. Then he went to the aisle called Snack Time. What’s the most evil thing here? he thought. Hostess Twinkies, he realized, were the most terrible, evil things ever. He put a huge box of Hostess Twinkies in his basket. In the frozen food section he found an evil TV dinner that combined pizza + wings + waffles.
Lamb was a smooth criminal. It was self-checkout time.
By the entrance/exit was a rack for an international newspaper with a cover story on bombings in Syria. Human Rights Watch thought Syria was using barrel bombs. Lamb didn’t know what a barrel bomb was and badly didn’t want to know. He had little to no knowledge and planned on keeping it that way. He didn’t read or watch the news and whatever he learned by accident he made sure he forgot on time to develop zero opinions. Barrel bombs. His black inner place flashed red and he looked away from the papers, the overwhelming world.
He felt like a baby. The door out was automatic.
When Lamb got back to his apt he didn’t take off his shoes, piss, breathe or turn the lights on. He made 100% sure the front door was locked and shut all the blinds. It was like he was about to kill himself. His resting heart rate was maybe concerning. The buzz he had going was so overwhelming he threw his head back. It was like drugs. It was kitchen time. He touched every place on his body and checked the shopping bag for barrel bombs.
He opened the pizza + wings + waffles TV dinner and made a seam in the plastic covering with his little claw. While the thing was heating up for four painstaking minutes, Lamb opened all the Twinkies and mixed them into the Family Size jar of evil brand peanut butter using an egg beater. When the microwave beeped, Lamb smothered the pizza + wings + waffles TV dinner in the peanut butter/Twinkie ‘sauce.’ It was major. It seemed like something he would go to hell for.
The plan was to eat it with his bare hands.
Lamb posted photos of the thing on an online forum for people with similar interests. Lamb’s username on the forum was Saddleup. Fellow member Partingofsensory typed to Saddleup THAT IS SO FUCKING HOT. HOW MANY CALORIES?? PM ME IF U TAKE CLOSEUPS. Saddleup typed to Partingofsensory THX PARTING BUT THIS IS GOING IN MY FACE BEFORE I CAN TAKE ANY MORE PICS LOL. Partingofsensory mostly commented on other people’s stuff but he posted his own pics sometimes too, i.e. a cheeseburger that had drugs in it.
Now it was eat time.
The Twinkie-peanut butter-pizza-wing-waffles were going to be in Lamb’s body. They were gonna go in his mouth and down his throat and through him. Lamb became very excited. This was something.
He felt like a toy.
Read it: http://theneweryork.com/the-slave-julia-long/
The soul is not some flowing shape in light and energy, it’s a square block of concrete, it’s not sitting on anything, it’s not falling, that’s it.
We all knew McDonalds was powerful but damn.
New Fiction: Stage Three by Charles Ramsay McCrory
She may have entered in the examining room, when you looked down past your gown to the cold hairless space between your knees. She may have been the willowy nurse who–did you imagine it?–stroked the inky length of vein in your arm before introducing the needle. Or Grace Kelly’s profile staring into you from the vintage LIFE on the end table. (Dr. Gupta, New Mexico’s premier oncologist, ensures his old magazines are the very oldest.) Perhaps it was simply that when Dr. Gupta read from his clipboard the words “Stage Three”–Contestant, please proceed to Stage Three– you knew you weren’t going there alone.
The clinic’s parking lot looks especially flat as you walk to your car. The visit has leveled your native topography and put down fresh concrete. Only the items on your checklist remain, like federally protected mounds–
Your questions rise as construction around them, as office parks and strip malls and hospitals:
For now you cross him off with a text: “Done with Gupta; bring home rotiss. chicken?”
At Walmart you find yourself standing in the makeup aisle. Wherever you go, there you are a kind of marketplace Confucianism. So where are you today? The shades of lipstick deepen from bled-out pink to ashes of roses. So many choices, like house paint, only the house is your skin. The metaphor agrees with you. You can get behind being a house, one with a squatter, apolitical and mooching, a colonist reaping the fields in you and burning them bowl by bowl into his pipe. You toss a lipstick into your basket and move on.You’ve choreographed a set of scenes on the drive home. Blake doesn’t dance to any of them:
There at the counter, beside the rotisserie chicken that cannot protect you now, the news strikes him as a sharp fault line between the brows. He recovers with a volley of questions:
He needs every possible scrap of data to make his decision to accept that you are dead meat. You shrug, mumble at your loafers. He pinches the spot between his eyebrows. He should have gone with you. If his father hadn’t dropped dead the week before, at another kitchen counter in Taos, he would have gone with you. He takes you firmly in his arms and presses you against his chest. “I’ll start you a bath,” he says. “Don’t you dare touch that chicken.”
The bath is a long backstage sigh. One arm draped over the edge of the tub, you fumble in the pocket of your discarded jeans and find the lipstick. Unrolling it, you watch the smooth leading edge peek slowly from the tube. Three years ago Blake hung a mirror above the tub so you could watch yourselves bathe each other. Now picture the object’s disenchantment: you paddle up to it, alone, pucker and squint, smear lipstick across your lips, your eyelids, rub tribal patterns across your cheekbones. The new face steals yours as source material for its own wild red eyes, leering gash of mouth. You gape, stretch, roll your eyes, stick out your tongue, bare canines. You unroll the tube to its base and slash your throat ear to ear.
When you are finished you expect it to simply come off in the water. You scrub vigorously, swirls of soap clinging to the red. Once when you were a baby, you ransacked your mother’s vanity, bedecking your chubby arms with her bangles, layering her necklaces around your skinny shoulders, finding her lipstick and slathering it across the mirror and then your face. When she found you she rubbed you down with olive oil and called you “My little pita” until six years later she died of what’s in you now. You wrap yourself in a Navajo blanket and tramp to the kitchen, returning with a bottle of extra-virgin and a roll of paper towels. Blake will think you’re having an affair with a Greek gymnast. The tissues come away from your face as wilted sunsets of strawberry-banana, pus and blood.
For a month she is like sugar, omnipresent and many-named. If the French had a word for the incongruous shimmy in one’s hips on the march to the guillotine, it would be hers. Gradually she reveals her name: Colette Moonflower.
Blake finds you shopping for cancer wigs on the Internet. “You know,” he says, arms encircling you from behind, “I kinda like the shaved look. It’s virile. Very Vin Diesel.”
Virile. The word is a beak plucking away your useless penis like a squirrel from a tree. You consider buying something to unsettle him, a pompadour, a Donald Trump, an Elvis. But you aren’t here for yourself. When Blake has gone you ask her what she might like. Straight, she tells you: her father’s genes. Black, from both sides. But a girl must have her options, non? You open a tab containing your latest bank statement. She complies: one long black wig, for now. You place the order and go to the bathroom and shave off all your hair. There is still a good bit left, it builds a blonde nest in the sink, but you do not miss it.
You never become her, exactly; nor does she possess you. You’ve lost both the imagination and the abandon of your first childhood; in this new one, demarcated by naptimes, vitamins, confinement, you can know her only through a kind of visitation. She can reach you only from the outside in. You feel like Emma Bovary, wantonly throwing your cancer’s money at cocktail dresses, press-on nails, lip gloss, Nair, stiletto pumps, a nail gun. In the Goodwill changing rooms, beneath the sliding, shedding busts of her dresses, your chest is her tabula rosa. The plastic bags begin to pile up in your bedroom. “Is there some blackmailing daughter I don’t know about?” Blake asks.
You cook breakfast in a kimono and pearls, swaying and warbling to Edith Piaf on the kitchen radio. Blake sits mute at the counter. He checks his watch, shifts his weight from left to right cheek. “What’s going on with you?” he says finally. He is concerned, on your way out, that you are suddenly not the kind of man he’s pegged you to be all these years. “I never knew you were into drag.” But this isn’t drag; or it’s more of drag than drag can be. A trompe l’oeil that as you step closer emerges as the real thing, offers you life-giving oranges out of the canvas. You say nothing. You’ve given yourself to the smug silence of affliction. Colette smirks from the window. What’s the tea, cherie? She is mocking him. You love her for it. Blake pinches his forehead in a way you think will leave a mark. Your exuberance needles him more than even your depression, but he takes a second venison crepe before leaving for the office.
“You’re smoking?” he asks one afternoon, appalled, holding up her cut-glass ashtray jammed with filters rimmed in scarlet. Because you can’t possibly explain, you look down and murmur into your pumps, “Sorry.” He jerks toward the trashcan, then thinks better of it, as if to the ashes would degrade him. He won’t be scattering yours, then–not if there’s any lipstick left uncharred.“You’re stubborn,” he says at length, “and not in the easy way. You don’t stamp your feet and tell me to get fucked. You slink around, quiet as a cat, and do the exact thing you know you shouldn’t.” He doesn’t know about her grasshopper and butterfly pipes, her baggie of American Spirit tobacco packed in the false bottom of her jewelry box, her hookah in a shoebox. You keep your eyes downcast; it feels more powerful this way. We women have cast down empires with our eyes. We have slain generals with our heads bowed. We have stabbed kings in their baths with a curtsy.
He sits naked in bed, laptop between his knees. His elbow jiggles at his side. You watch from the doorway. There are more painful things than this–your last biopsy, for instance. At her urging your spine straightens, your bathrobe whispers to the floor, you slink into bed beside him. He flicks his eyes to you and then back, as if to acknowledge a late seat-mate at the theater. Two rugged men are fucking in the video he’s watching. They are tossing their ruggedness back and forth, each a mirror of the other, neither ever losing ground. You drop your head, careful not to block the screen. Her hair enfolds you like a voting booth and you are alone with it, this thing you love for its immutability, its stalwart sameness while so much, yourself especially, is metamorphosing, denaturing, melting down and splitting up and amassing. Colette has many things, but no gag reflex. They taught her things on the Left Bank about the very base of the tongue. For a minute Blake leaves you to it. Then he plants his hand hard in her hair, and you lose track of how many of you there are down here. You focus on his cock. It is the axis of everything clouding and shifting. It rests still and capable in your mouth while your lungs extend and flatten.
You wake gagging against the rim of the toilet. In the mirror behind you Blake looks worried. He thumps one hand against your back, the other still holding his cock, saving it like a page. He hates interruptions; you seem to be full of those lately. You bat the hand away. “No, finish,” you gasp. “I’m finished, so you might as well.”
Mastication: more like nastication, she lectures, helping you chop strawberries for a shake. A lady must never be seen chewing. The way she monologues, you’d think she hadn’t been with you these toilet-clutching nights as your body rejected all solid foods. Who’s holding back whose hair here, anyway? She shrieks. You check to see if you’ve cut your thumb. Cherie, regardez! Look at their little red faces, their green headdresses. You’re scalping them! My people, they bleed! Look at their little pink trail of tears. She is terrible and you tell her so.
Lately you wonder if she has come merely to torment you. Is she nursemaid or harpy, gold-digger or soul-sister? Her lurid grin spills out in the mirror, jelly from the punctured donut of your chemo-puffy face. Your cheeks hollow and her blush deepens in this widening gyre. Perhaps she is mocking you. Her perfect hair and false nails and silver hoops (Mon Dieu, these hoops, they consume me, you could shoot an arrow through them!) remind you of a certain theory of technology, that it will ride piggyback over humankind until it develops a means of reproducing on its own. And why should you care? You won’t be around to witness this next stage of her parasitism. What good is it to feel betrayed by a future that does not contain you? Life goes on, even if you are not it.
Weak one night you rest your forehead against the stove, too close to a lit burner. You wake to the smell of her hair, burning. When you reach up to touch it you find a brittle clearing over your left temple where the fibers have scorched together. She feels your fingers fumbling for a conclusion at which she has already arrived. Then she tells you, the only way she can, by piping in a slow, fluid ache from your ribs down to your shins. She is dying. You go out for a bottle of sauvignon blanc, carton of Parliaments, pint of rum raisin–your favorites and, you’ve discovered, hers too. You glut yourselves and sleep together all night. At dawn you wake to the damp of Blake daubing off her makeup with a warm cloth, drowning her. Just call me Ophelia, mon coeur. It is then that you know his mercy, how it is pungent and efficient and erasing like the astringent, and that when the moment comes he will not hesitate.
By plug or by pillow or pill, he will do what must be done.
(b. 1976) Love-child of a Parisian hooker and a Pueblo medicine man. Colette is smoke and incantation, cabaret and spirit world, a spritz of camp in a jigger of soul. Loves: Edith Piaf, hummingbird brooches, Jules et Jim, earthenware pots. Hates: feather boas, BalzacRead it: https://theneweryork.com/stage-three-charles-ramsay-mccrory/
New Fiction: Landlord by Kelly Stark
Voices lilt down dirt roads through heavy heat jolting the old man sober. He rests his eyes to fake sleep. Sweat beads in the creases. He holds tight a damp rag, fights the urge to wipe off. Drops drip down split lips and a salty taste lingers. The sisters take their time, tiptoe past. Words fall to whispers just loud enough to trace. They close the door quietly behind them. Through window cracks they catch flashes of a smile spreading folds in the old man’s face. Silence fills the thick air.
The old man stretches upright, shakes harsh light from his lids. Last few drops of a warm can coats his throat. He kicks the empty at passing furred flesh. The sweet smell of wheat fields in the distance. A train’s droned hum. He looks at the house, tilting toward dirt, rotting years dead. His reflection blinks back, blurred and oblique. He struts toward the door, slow, unsteady, readying himself for what waits behind it.
The sisters hide in a clogged closet. Shit-soiled layers of crystal clay litter. Spring school dresses clinging clumps. They wait for footsteps to stop, hot light to shoot through. Trade deep breaths on each other’s necks. Between the silenced steps and violent bright burst, fingernails scratch slow circles outside the closed closet door.Read it: http://theneweryork.com/landlord-kelly-stark/
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New Fiction: Template For a Memo Regarding Missing Me-n-Ed’s Pizza and Hmong Pepper Sauce, Written in Fresno, California by Michael Gray
FROM: Another Fresnan
DATE: A 100°F+ Day
SUBJECT: Missing Pizza and Pepper
This opening paragraph includes this memo’s purpose, the context and/or the event/problem, such as the absence of my Me-n-Ed’s and pepper from the fridge. (Rotisserie chicken from WinCo and rice from Asia Supermarket remain untouched.) Then, before providing details about toppings or seasonings, or context, I’ll provide a brief overview of this memo’s content. Introducing the purpose will clarify the reason you are reading this document. This intro should be brief, like the speed at which my pizza and pepper disappeared into gaping maw(s), and should be approximately the length of a short paragraph or a small-sized crust.
I’ll establish the brick overlay of the oven, the City or State students playing Candy Crush behind the cash register, the slice-poke gouge-scrape-slice-snip-flip, and how the plastic booth stuck to my thighs. I’ll use a few sentences or a paragraph to establish the off-color paint job of the background and state the problem/issue.
Then, I can describe what I am doing to solve the problem, to write my name on the box or carve something into the styrofoam with a plastic fork or next time add an excessive amount of salt from a shaker somewhat resembling a kawm. I will include as much information as is needed, focusing on the most important topics, such as the count of pepperoni picked off with bare hands.
A summary. Not necessary for short memos. A list of ingredients.
Key findings and recommendations. How to solve the problem of pizza and possible zaub txhwb disappearance, with general measures to specifics, such as installing security cameras and electric shock or employing the use of tasers. I’ll use strong points and arguments to defend these drastic measures and the last bottle of Three Crabs brand fish sauce.
After you absorb all this information, your tongue(s) thoroughly numbed, and the grease soaks the empty boxes, I end this memo with a friendly yet courteous ending greeting, according to the nature of this memo’s intention, either deterring further secretive consumption or explaining changes made in the community kitchen.
Let me know if you have any questions or would like some Parmesan cheese or crushed peppers or oily garlic dipping sauce or BBQ or Honey Mustard or Hoisin or Sriracha or some of that delicious Me-n-Ed’s ranch dressing.