Friday, February 25, 2011
I don’t have an explanation, either. Many people seem to expect one, but to me, it’s like asking someone why they breathe or why they wear a coat outside in a snow storm. It’s just the natural thing to do.
And I can see why some people don’t understand. Writing is hard. It’s hard to form a cohesive idea, it’s hard to get motivated and start writing (like this editoral), and it’s hard to continue and finish to the end. Writing is messy. Ideas don’t often come in chronological order. And most of all, writing is risky. It’s nerve-racking to put so much of yourself in one project that might fail and be the subject of ridicule for all to mock.
But, as Philip Pullman wrote, “What is worth having is worth working for.” Writing is exhilarating. There’s nothing more thrilling than saying, “Fuck it,” tossing all your fears and doubts out the window, and just facing your words and ideas. Nothing is better than just telling yourself, “That’s what revision is for,” and just watching one sentence become a paragraph, a paragraph become a page, and a page become a story. That’s what writing is all about.
Writing is my own private thrill. It’s my passion and my pain.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tainted Tea Winter 2011 is available now on Lulu.com.
For a complete list of contents and a free preview, visit the Web site.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
When I opened up the shower curtain, the thing bristled and hissed at me. It had pus-colored eyes and smelled like sewage. When I told it to get the hell out of there, it leapt up and ripped its claws across my cheek. Bloody paw prints were all I saw once my eyes stopped burning.
Returning from work that night, I heard chaotic bumping and shuffling noises in 42B. I might have suspected wild romance, but my neighbor was Mrs. Kindling, seventy-seven and sluggish. When I knocked, all the motion inside ceased. I put my ear to the door. I thought I smelled sewage. I thought I heard mewling, then a ripping noise.
There was a work party the next night. I drank too much, flirted with the boss’s wife. Decided to walk it off. Took an alley I shouldn’t have.
Six dozen of the creatures were waiting. They flew at me like bats. I saw a blizzard of fur, felt their swipes like razors.
The cops who came to the hospital didn’t believe my story. They said I was suffering from shock, trauma.
The press dubbed my assailant The Slasher. On the news I saw a reporter describe my attacker. Then she showed a “disturbing and graphic” picture of my face, covered with row upon row of stitches.
Coming home, I noticed cat fur coating the carpet like cottonwood fluff. I stopped at Mrs. Kindling’s door. Knocked. Nothing.
When I wrapped on the Superintendent’s door, he buzzed me in and the hinges sent the door swinging open.
It was dark. I stepped on something meaty and wet. I bumped into a chair. I called, “Mr. Andoni?”
The door slammed shut. The light flicked on.
A huge calico, wearing an eye patch and chomping on a stubby cigar, sat across the desk.
“What the hell?” I said. “Where’s Andoni?”
The cat burped up sandalwood and licorice notes—Andoni’s cologne! “You killed him? Ate him?”
The cat raised his paw, curled a claw. He wanted me to sit.
When I did, he flipped his lap top toward me. On the screen were four separate stories—Cleveland, Seattle, Memphis, Bismarck—about a certain Slasher on the loose.
“You gave us the idea,” the calico said.
“So, you’re, you’re attacking innocent humans?”
“You should try subsisting on rodents and Kibbles your whole life.”
“This is insane.”
I sprang out of the chair, but a posse of black felines had my passage blocked. Seated on their haunches, fangs bared, most foamy-mouthed, they looked a demonic crew.
“You can’t do this.”
“Say the secret password, and we’ll let you go.”
“Secret password? I don’t know.”
“Tough luck then.”
“Wait! How, how about abracadabra?”
The cat chortled, motioned his men forward and said, “I like mine a little on the rare side.”
About Len Kuntz:
Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as The Ramshackle Review, Blue Print Review, Troubadour 21, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
|Illustration by Byam Shaw, Source: Wikipedia|
|Cusack as "Father of the Macabre," Edgar Allan Poe, in the upcoming psychological thriller The Raven.|
Monday, February 21, 2011
Meredith was uncomfortable with their new arrangement. She thought they had become more like roommates than lovers. It seemed like a good idea to poke her head into the office periodically to ask questions about the book, something Michael hated to discuss. Head poking soon became walking in and sitting down. His best efforts to dissuade her intrusions failed. Offering only monosyllabic responses and a variety of grunts for conversation, still she came.
After her stylistically slight, almost inaudible, knock one afternoon, Michael lost it. “Can you not leave me alone for one day?”
She poked her head in, “I just wanted to know if you were hungry.”
He kept his back to her, squaring his shoulders, “Let’s make a rule. I will come get you when I need something. How about that? Can we make that rule?”
She responded quietly, “I like to see you sometimes, to know you’re there.”
“Where, exactly, the hell else would I be?” His voice was too loud, and he knew it. The door closed. There would be sobbing on the couch that he planned to avoid.
That night he watched the autumn sun fade over the lake, the moon rise, and a bottle of cheap bourbon dwindle to almost nothing. He did not leave the office until morning, when the sun was bright and breakfast ready. Eggs, bacon, and orange juice had been laid on the table alongside a solitary place setting. It was the first night they had not slept together at the cabin. Anticipating an argument, he was surprised when Meredith said nothing and sat quietly in her rocker knitting a child’s blanket.
Michael wanted to thank her for breakfast, but the sound of the rocker built a wall of resentment that he could not climb. Hard wood to soft carpet went the wooden runners of the chair. She sped the back and forth and he ate quicker. The cabin began to feel like a rustic dollhouse. The rocking was faster now and he was nearly done with breakfast. The food helped sobriety to catch up to him. If only, he thought, I can get through the book. Everything will be normal if I can get through the book.
Stuck in thought, he did not notice the rocking stop until he heard a great gasp and thud from across the room.Meredith fell to the floor, writhing like a dying snake. She grabbed at her neck with one hand and her belly with the other.
“Hey,” he said loudly, “You alright?”
When she said nothing, he ran to her and lifted her head to stop it from bouncing against the floor. Her face was gaunt and her limbs were fragile and sinuous. A too small tank top showed off three-dimensional stretch marks and a navel that reminded him of a small fleshy rocket ship leaving the launch pad. He could see movement in her massive belly, and he noticed a black and blue Rorschach bruise around her rocket ship. He stroked her hair with helpless violence waiting for it all to stop. The writhing became periodic twitches, and the twitches became deep heavy breaths.
When she could breathe and her eyes found focus, her voice quivered a weak sentence, “I was thinking, and,” she paused to breathe, “It choked me.”
“What did?” asked Michael.
Her face screwed into a conflicted knot, and she corrected herself, “Nothing, never mind.”
“We should go to a hospital. I’ll get your coat.”
“No, no hospital.” She smiled at the visible motions in her belly and said, “It’s two hours away, by then I’ll be fine.”
Michael tried to protest, “It might be a seizure or something…”
She grabbed him tightly by the wrist, “I said no hospitals.”
To read "State of Nature" in its entirety, download Tainted Tea Winter 2011.
About Eric Victor Neagu:
Eric Victor Neagu lives, writes, and works as a sustainability consultant in Chicago. His undergraduate degree is from Purdue University in civil engineering, which he uses to redevelop former industrial areas. Eric also has a graduate degree from The University of Chicago, which he mostly uses to give driving directions to Barack Obama's house when people ask. Other work can be found in Simon Magazine, The National Ledger, Bartleby Snopes, Bewildering Stories, Everyday Fiction, The Write Place at the Write Time, A Long Story Short, The Camroc Press Review, and Hackwriters.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
|"Icicles," Photo by J. Toogood|
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
“I think I’m having some kind of an allergic reaction,” Trent said. His eyes were round and panicked. “My neck started itching in my office, while I was drinking my Americano, and then things got worse. The bleeding only stopped a moment ago.”
Paul eyed the bumps on Trent’s neck. Most had a white, pus-like spot in their centers.
Trent returned to dousing himself with water. His hand was shaking.
“I felt like someone was stabbing me all around my neck,” he said. “As if they were trying to take my head right off.”
Paul saw his own eyes widen in the mirror. He thought of Cynthia taking a fork to her figure, and her words: “There are so many bastards.”
Paul avoided looking into Expresso as he headed toward the tower’s exit. He was nervous about making eye contact with Cynthia. He relaxed as he pushed on the revolving door, but the sight outside caused him to tense up again.
Cynthia stood smoking by one of the thin, leafless birch trees that lined the sidewalk. She held a large violet purse covered in stitch lines that made the bag look as if it had been wounded. Paul wondered if the effigy of Trent was in that bag.
Cynthia grinned at Paul. “I was hoping I’d catch you on your way out,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” Paul said, not pausing. “I really can’t talk. I’ve got to get to the dry cleaners before they close.”
Cynthia walked beside him. “I just wanted to thank you for talking to me in the alley today,” she said. “I appreciate your empathy.”
“I don’t know if I’m so empathetic anymore after I saw Trent suffering like that,” Paul said.
Cynthia was quiet as they neared an intersection. Paul interpreted the silence to be evidence of her guilt.
“What are you saying I did?” Cynthia asked in a cautious voice.
Paul stopped on a corner, and he and Cynthia became obstacles for throngs of 5 o’clock commuters.
“I don’t know exactly what you did,” Paul said. “I do know something terrible happened to Trent this morning, and I think it was your sculpture that made it happen.”
Cynthia glanced down at the sidewalk, as if she were considering something, and then her eyes met Paul’s again. Her eyes brightened. “You really think my art has that kind of power?” she asked.
To read "Barista" in its entirety, download Tainted Tea Winter 2011.
About David Massengill:
David Massengill’s short stories and works of flash fiction have appeared in various literary journals, including Word Riot, 3 A.M. Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, and MicroHorror, among others. To read more of his work, visit www.davidmassengillfiction.com
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
This issue features stories by Eric Victor Neagu, James G. Piatt, David Massengill, Richard Godwin, Marshall Moore, and Sharon Goldner. With art and photography by Kristina Gehrmann, Kris Fossett, Tim Yockey, and CAT. Tainted Tea is a quarterly ezine that publishes dark fiction, poetry, and art.
For a free preview and more information, go to the Web site.
Monday, February 14, 2011
The Rabbi looks at the picture and pushes it back in the eleven o’clock’s direction. “You are a bright young lady. With all of this enthusiasm and spark, you should consider finding a cure for a disease along with a nice husband and lots of grandkids for your parents.”
She points to her proof. “This is a photograph of Paul Bunyan’s foreskin, Rabbi. Naturally, the entire thing is colossal so this is only a partial picture of the fossilized foreskin. Carbon dating. Lab analysis. We’re right on target with this.”
Though his Judaic studies were much more intensive than those secular in nature, the Rabbi knows this: “Miss, Paul Bunyan is legend. He was never real.”
The eleven o’clock was hoping the Rabbi wouldn’t be like everyone else. “Okay. Well then. How do you explain the foreskin, Rabbi? I mean, it’s huge. DNA testing proves that it’s from Paul Bunyan, and the only men to routinely get circumcised back then were the Jews. Christian settlers and colonists did not; they kept themselves in one piece. Come on, Rabbi. Just think—when word gets out to the media and the public that Paul Bunyan’s foreskin has been discovered, it’ll shed a whole new light on Judaism. I see an exhibit, Rabbi. A traveling museum all across this country: Paul Bunyan: The Myth, The Man, The Frontier Member.
“People will look at the Jews differently. Everyone loves Paul Bunyan, so everyone will love the Jews. Articles. Hollywood will be scrambling for movie rights. Some of the biggest box office names will want to play Paul Bunyan, Jew with an ax. Oiy vey, right? Who knew? Broadway could turn this into one heck of a musical. And then Hollywood would turn the Broadway musical into a movie version of the musical. Paul Bunyan will do for Judaism what Jesus Christ did for Christianity. Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Am I allowed to say ‘Jesus Christ’ in front of you?” The eleven o’clock is flush with her own fervor.
The Rabbi is gentle. “The Jews do not need a PR campaign. We’ve existed thousands of years without one. We have our heroes: Moses, Judah Macabee, King David...but Paul Bunyan? He’s not mentioned in the Bible.”
The eleven o’clock tells the Rabbi that had the biblical writers continued writing, Paul Bunyan surely would have been mentioned. “One day they’re chronicling events, the next day, nobody’s writing anything anymore. I mean really, what’s up with that?”
The Rabbi shakes his head.
The eleven o’clock looks away from the Rabbi. The foreskin picture looks blurrier as her eyes fill. She has all her years of education, study, and devotion. She probably hasn’t had a home cooked meal in years. No date since forever because what boyfriend wouldn’t feel threatened by a woman immersed in her academic life? And well, the foreskin is just so damn huge.
She grabs her stacks. She grabs her briefcase. “I’ve been to all of the other synagogues in the state. I’ve written letters to synagogues all over the country. They all said they’re not interested. You were the last one. I almost didn’t know you were here. My friend, she’s working on Alice’s Wonderland. They think it was an ancient city…on another planet! I mean if they can find water on Mars...Anyway, she got lost driving and passed by your poor little synagogue. ‘This is the one,’ she said to me. ‘This one will believe.’ You have to believe, Rabbi. And I’m not leaving until you do.”
The Rabbi says, “I walk home for lunch every day, young lady. Shainamaidel leaves to count her children. You’re going to have to go. Her husband is a rabbi and a urologist. I’ll have her mention this to him. Perhaps you can switch your sights to the medical community, and they can use your work in a prostate commercial. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
The eleven o’clock undoes her hair. It falls from the bun on the back of her head like streamers down her shoulders. She shakes it out, feeling it the way it is meant to be felt. “A prostate commercial? Why do you insult me, Rabbi? I need for you to believe. I need you to embrace Paul Bunyan as a Jew.”
The Rabbi apologizes. He cannot.
The eleven o’clock braces herself against his door. “Well, then. I’m not leaving until you do. I put too much into this to get a final rejection. There’s no one left. There’s only you.”
Read "The Eleven O'Clock" in its entirety in the Winter 2011 Issue of Tainted Tea.
About Sharon Goldner:
Sharon Goldner is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her short stories have been published in literary journals across the country & in England, and her plays have been produced. She resides in Baltimore, MD where she lives out her life's lunacy, sometimes days at a time. No letters were harmed in her manipulations of the alphabet.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
But how do we spot these intricacies in real life and get them onto the page? What moments take our hands and close them around the electric fence of terror? They’re easier to spot than you may think. So much of a writer’s life is spent as an active observer, it is of the utmost importance to keep our eyes and ears open, and our damned mouths shut.
You see a man on a train, brown eyes glazed, newspaper propped on one bent knee. He’s there in the morning when you board, and he’s sitting in the same seat when you get out of work nine hours later. Normally, you’d pay no mind. There are hundreds of people on the train everyday, but look a little closer; stretch your memory banks to the day before, the week before, and if you were paying enough attention you’d notice that the newspaper in the man’s wrinkled hands has a headline declaring “Crazy Train: Man Dead for Days Without Notice.” The picture below the heading details the same scene viewed from your eyes. A man on a train, brown eyes glazed, newspaper propped on one bent knee.
The above story is a fictional representation of why it’s important for writers to pay attention and notice details that others would surely overlook. The next fragment is autobiographical, but pertains to what we can do with our imaginations to turn simple coincidence into something strange.
For an entire summer, there was a young girl, probably twelve or thirteen, who would ride her bike around the shop where I worked. Cindy was a gangly creature. All legs, arms, and a head of hair beauticians would deem ‘frazzled’. She was a sweet girl, waving to me every morning that I drove in the parking lot. Nice as she was, after awhile, she became a little too nice. On multiple occasions she had tried to hug me and my co-workers, which we dismissed as politely as possible. This minor inconvenience turned into something worse rather quickly, as she rode her bike into the building and narrowly escaped being swatted like a bug by a thousand pounds of hard steel.
Cindy was barred from the premises; a liability for sure. I’d still see her riding her bike in the middle of the road from time to time, and on a Friday late in July, she cornered me in the parking lot as I walked toward my truck. She said hello and I smiled, opening the silver door of my pick-up, hoping she would understand that I was on my way out. No such luck. She pounced between the opening and put both arms around my neck. I kept my hands planted on the steering wheel in shock. She loosened her grip, backed up just enough to kiss me on the cheek, and said, “Be careful.” She giggled and closed the door to my truck. By the time I finished making sure no one had seen what may have been mistaken for some perverted activity, Cindy was gone.
I made it about a hundred yards before I saw the first car accident. It was only another mile before number two. By the time I reached my house, twenty-five miles and two hours later, I had witnessed six accidents. Ambulances, police cruisers, fire trucks; black bags, white sheets, red and blue flashing lights filled my sight, but all I could think about was Cindy and her cryptic message. How many others had she told? Better yet, how many others did she tell something different? Was her presence akin to the “Kiss of Death” or just the opposite? The answer to these questions is what drives me to write, and the instances that provoke them are what makes writing horror so rewarding.
About Derek Hayes:
Derek Hayes is a graduate from Goddard College’s BFA in Creative Writing program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at his Web site www.silentepitaphs.com
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
"Barista" by David Massengill
"Foolish Anger" by James G. Piatt
"Mother" by Richard Godwin
"A Balloon Party" by Marshall Moore
"The Eleven O'Clock" by Sharon Goldner
"State of Nature" by Eric Victor Neagu
"Last Man Remaining"
'Taking Home the Bride"
All pieces by Kristina Gehrmann