Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Hate To Say I Told Ya…… By JPR

Mike awoke yet again to the screaming sounds of Leonard and Becky's newborn and didn't even bother looking at the clock, for no matter the time, he knew once that kid started crying, it would be a while before it shut the fuck up.

And as Mike put weight on his bad knee, he wanted to almost cry along with the little shit stain himself. As he staggered to his aching ass in the darkness towards the door, he hoped it was Becky and not his old drinking buddy he would be met by as he stepped out into the main house and made his way to the restroom.

Upon opening the door, he was met with a fucking python in his face.

"Morning there, Mikey; how ‘bout giving us a kiss, you fat bastard!" Leonard said, bursting into laughter.

"Lenny cut the shit; you're going to give Mike a goddamned heart attack, and you should be taking care of our son, not playing with that fucking snake!" Becky snapped as she tried to calm the screaming baby. Mike was speechless, trying to catch his breath and thanking God in his head that he hadn't crapped himself.

"But honey, Lucifer is our first child. I don't want him getting jealous of Junior or anything." Lenny replied, still holding the snake. "Jesus Christ, Mikey! Don't act like it's the first time you woke up with a man's snake in your face. Why, I'm kind of surprised you didn't just drop to your knees with your mouth open. Thought you had that ingrained in you from your last stint in prison, you fucking jailbird."

"Hey fuck you, man. I don't need this shit!" Mike snapped, shooting Lenny a look that let him know he had crossed the line, as even Becky knew her lunatic boyfriend was walking a fine line.

Mike Walker moved in with Becky and Lenny in this old farmhouse on Knotts Island, North Carolina, to help them out. And, considering he shouldn't have taken the fall all alone for that meth lab he and Lenny both had their hands in, Lenny was lucky Mike didn't pull a gun on his ass for that statement alone.

"Lenny!" Becky snapped, looking at Mike, the baby still squalling his ass off.

"I'm sorry he's drunk." Becky said to Mike.

"Well, that and I'm also a natural-born asshole. Fuck man, I'm sorry you know me."

"Yeah, I know I should keep in mind you’re borderline retarded; probably all those lead paint chips you ate out of this dump as a kid."

Lenny busted up laughing as he went to put the snake in its tank that sat in the living room, which was the exact reason Mike stayed in his room so often.

"Hey man, don't knock this dump. At least it keeps a leaking roof over our heads."

"Yeah, and keeps us on our toes with the continual worry of an electrical fire. It's truly the spice of life." Mike replied, pausing to wink at Becky, who he could tell was beyond exhausted, much like himself.

She timidly smiled as little Junior screamed. Still, at least he was consistent and a sad reminder that not just the sins of the father were passed onto the son.

As she mouthed, I'm sorry, Mike kissed her forehead. Becky stepped back, a bit alarmed, shooting him a look for which Mike didn't give a damn if Lenny saw or not.

He simply made his way to the restroom and then quickly got dressed and headed out to the garage, the only place he could find peace as he would remain there happily working on his old Harley. The same Harley Lenny had promised he would take care of while he was away, and like all promises Lenny made, they were as empty as his spun-ass mind.

Lenny was a friend in title only. It was while on the inside everything changed with Mike, but then again, prison does that to you. It had been almost a month, and still, he hadn't had a single night of peaceful sleep. The walls were always there; even within his dreams, the cage was hell to escape.

"Hey dude, still pissed?"

Mike spun around, acting as if he was going to throw the wrench in his hand.

"Fuck, man! It's me, Goddamn!"

It was now Mike who was laughing at Lenny's expense.

"I swear you’re such a pussy. If you didn't have that damn snake, there be absolutely nothing scary about you, ya fucking freak."

"Hey, Lucifer wouldn't hurt a fly, man; he just looks evil. Unlike you, ya fucking psychopath!" Lenny snapped, then paused. "Hey man, can I bum a b…?"

"They’re in the fucking fridge, and grab me one while you’re at it. I’d like to actually catch a buzz before you drink them all up, you freeloading fucker." Mike said, cutting off Lenny mid-sentence.

As the two friends sat shooting the shit in the dimly lit, musty old garage that was truly Mike's sanctuary, the hours passed quickly with beers. Mike wanted to pretend his old friend was truly hanging with him for the sake of just bumming some beers and telling lies. He knew better as, without fail, Lenny started in.

"Man, have you even thought about the offer?"

"To what, pad your pockets and risk going back to that shithole again? I fucking told you, Lenny, I'm never going back there, got it, motherfucker!?"

"I was just asking a question, for fucks sake; besides, man, it's what you do. Man, you're a cook. It's not like you're going to make that kinda bank you enjoy at a goddamned car wash or some shit!"

Mike lost it, grabbing Lenny by the throat and slamming into the wall.

"Look, you little prick! Don't worry about how I earn bank. I did three fucking years on my own while you fucked off free and easy, getting blasted out of your socks. We both should have went down, not just me! You know, sometimes I question why I was alone that day at the camper. Maybe you knew those fucks were headed our way!"

"Are you fucking bonkers, man? You’re my damn brother! I didn't know those assholes were going to bust us. How the fuck could I have known that shit was coming down!" Lenny said as he struggled to get free of Mike's death grip around his throat.

There was a pause as Mike looked deep in Lenny's eyes.

"You know you got a kid screaming his ass off cause you and your junkie ass girlfriend spread your toxic bullshit onto him, and instead of thinking how you can help each other, all you give a fuck about is exploiting me so you can enjoy getting spun and wasting your fucking life."

"So why do you give a fuck, Mikey!" Lenny snapped as Mike finally let him go.

"You're right. I should just go with the motherfucking flow. Hell, maybe I will go back up to the house, maybe take your old lady for a spin."

"Go ahead. I don't give a fuck about that bitch. You know that, man. She is just there like all the rest, dude. Seriously, man!"

“And that's exactly why I just can't do this shit anymore with you, Lenny! You don't care about anything but getting fucked up and that disgusting ass snake." Mike sat down in the old office chair as he cracked his last beer, glaring at Lenny, thinking maybe he did want to go back to prison. He thought about beating the rat bastard half to death right here and now.

But he knew deep down he couldn't do it. So instead, he opted to take Lenny's girlfriend's car to make a supply run, not forgetting the most important stop being a visit to the American Boys Club for a few half gallons of Jim Beam.

The ride was good; any form of escape was paradise to a degree. Mike didn't have any family worth mentioning, but Lenny, although a total fuck up was always there. And although he hated to admit it to himself, Mike did enjoy the life of continually embracing the edge.

He knew there truly was no fast money, but when it came to what he did, he was one of the best, and he knew he would earn top dollar when he decided to go back to making glass. And the perks were nothing to scoff at either; it was a trap, but it was all that Mike truly understood.

Later that night, they all sat together, catching a buzz as that damn snake sat hitting that top to that tank, almost lifting it open if not for the brick on top of it to keep that slimy bastard from getting out.

"Baby, are you sure we don't need to get Lucifer a better enclosure? I mean, he is almost getting out."

"Honey, don't worry. He just wants to visit his good old buddy, Mikey, being he never hangs out with him." Lenny laughed as he got up to take the python out of his tank to hold that massive snake as he sat back down.

"I swear to God! If you get that damn thing near me, I'm going to shoot you and it!" Mike snapped as just then, the baby started crying yet again.

"That's just wonderful! Could you assholes be any louder?" Becky said as she got up to go check on the baby.

"Hell, we could be a lot louder, but that would probably involve you getting spit-roasted honey. I mean, you know how Mikey is a screamer.

Mike had to laugh at one himself as Becky turned, flipping both of them the bird as she opened the door to the little baby's nursery.

As two friends kept drinking, the radio played two whole songs back to back while that annoying ass DJ babbled on.

The liquor, Mike had to admit, made everything better, including turning out all the what-ifs that haunted everyone at some time in their life.

As Lenny just kept playing with that damn snake. There was an awkward silence between them as Mike stared into the distance, pouring another bourbon.

"So what's the deal?"

Lenny kept petting that damned snake, not even looking at his friend as he was already three sheets to the wind. "The Wendigos are willing to set us up, man, as long as we produce only for them, of course."

"The fucking Wendigos! Seriously, Len, isn't that the MC that tried deep frying its former president and his family? Wow, great guys to do business with!"

"Well, I hate to burst your bubble, asshole, but Wal-Mart doesn't front meth labs, genius. What the hell, man? Nobody fucks with those guys; we just relocate to Scotland Neck for a while and rake in the dough; this isn't rocket science." Lenny shot back, snarky as ever, which was par for the course when he was fucking buzzed.

"Look, we all know it's me who is risking his ass here, dude, but it's not going down like before, you fucking tweaker prick. If shit goes sideways, I'm not going to the pen, and you know what I fucking mean so if you don't have my back you will just have to have my bullet instead. Are we clear?"

"As crystal. No pun intended." Lenny shot back, lost in his thoughts, whatever they may be.

The drinks continued to pour as Lenny had assured him he would handle everything tomorrow, or at least that's what he believed he said.

Becky, at last, had put that screaming little baby to sleep as she sat joining them both at the table, pouring herself a drink.

"Well, sugar, me and Mikey will be taking off for a bit soon, just so you know, but I will leave you with some cash."

"And how do you plan on doing that what you secretly hit the lottery or some shit?"

"Yeah, I robbed a bank while you were laying on your dead ass, you fucking whore!" Lenny snapped, throwing his drink in Becky's face.

Mike shot up instantly, as did Becky, who slapped Lenny, who only went into hysterics as Mike pulled the woman, rightfully lost in her rage, off Lenny.

As yet again, the baby, like clockwork, began screaming.

“Fuck this shit! I gotta get out here, you're lucky, you motherfucker. I could seriously fuck your life up, you bastard, if I wanted to!"

"Ahhh, but you already did sweetie, the moment you decided to give birth to that screaming brat in there!"

Becky threw her drink in Lenny's face and she wrapped up this action by throwing the glass itself beside his head. It shattered into a million pieces, too. Lenny paused to take his finger to check his ear, which had been cut, as he looked at the blood and then at Becky smiling.

"That's the best you got, bitch?"

Becky didn't bother with a reply as she slammed the door and was gone, and in all truth, Mike wished he had followed her.

Lenny was lost in his bullshit, but then again, he was always a worthless son of a bitch, and maybe that, to a degree, was why Mike held a modicum of respect for him for to be an honest bastard consistently along with maintaining your vices was far from an easy task.

Mike didn't bother to listen anymore to his friend's bullshit or cleaning up the mess. He just poured one last drink as he paused, looking at Lenny. "Fucking look after your kid, dude! I had enough of this night. I'm going to bed, and what the fuck did she mean about fucking your life up? What's she got on you?"

"Screw that cunt! She's just talking shit, man. Go to bed. I will take care of shit. Be ready to get out of here tomorrow."

"Umm, and your kid?"

Lenny looked at Mike, half out of it. "Yeah, man, I will check on Junior. No sweat, man, just get some sleep. Hey, want to put Lucifer to bed for me?"

Lenny leaned at Mike with that snake, and that was all the inspiration Mike needed to carry his ass to bed. He lay there listening to his friend fumble around in the kitchen as it seemed like forever his son cried out.

He almost got up when, at last, the child went silent. Mike figured he must have exhausted himself as Mike, at last, finally fell asleep. Tonight, unlike the rest, his forced slumber was peaceful and mired not by a single noise’s intrusion.

It was perfect. It was in some senses like death. Free of everything, free of the simplest burden of existence as he kept hearing a dull sound that grew in volume. He was awoken that morning violently to the sound of the front door crashing in. Soon so was his bedroom door as the SWAT team forced him to the floor, his hands zip tied behind his back.

He heard Lenny yelling out and then the strangest sound as the officers were all yelling, and soon he heard Lenny screaming in the most unnatural voice he had ever heard.

"What the fuck’s going on?"

"Shut the fuck up and remain where you are!" Some SWAT pig yelled at Mike.

He could hear Lenny crying as even the officers themselves sounded distressed.

"Captain, we have a situation; repeat, we have a situation!" He heard come over the officer's radio.

Mike stood up, shouldering the cop, knocking him off his balance into the wall as he made a bull-charge to witness a cluster of people, Lenny included, standing at his son's door.

Nobody stood in Mikes's way as he ran towards the door to catch only a glimpse of that huge python's tail leading into the crib.

Mike was grateful for whoever had taken him down, as the events that followed were a blur. Even as he was being loaded into the back of the cop's cruiser, he was numb or, more fittingly, put in total shock to the screams of Becky Sherman's or Lenny's pleas to the cops to do something which all seemed equally as lost.

That night in a cell, Mike thought only of those cries and the infant's sudden silence as Lenny had just passed out. Apparently, where none had answered those cries, that snake had made its way into the crib to silence those cries forever.

In that same silence, Mike would be forever reminded as now he was a prisoner in the worst enclosures known to man: the eternal entrapments of the mind for which there was no escape. Hell’s torments know the living far better than the dead.

Beware not of what goes bump in the night; fear when everything goes silent.

The End.

JPR is a Southern Gothic writer. His work has been published in Horror Sleaze Trash, Piker Press, The Dope Fiend Daily, Impspired Magazine, It Takes All Kinds Literary Zine, Fixator Press and Medusa's Kitchen. His work is often dark and always unfiltered.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Worm Moon By JL Huffman

red wrigglers

                full moon
                pulls on tides
                unsettles minds

defecate, aerate

                wilding unleashed
                loups-garous emerge
                mutilate, feast

boost nascent growth

                night crawlers
                writhe through remains
                revert stiffs to dust


JL Huffman is a retired Trauma Surgeon/ICU doctor with three published poetry books Almanac: The Four Seasons (2020), Family Treasons (2021), and Voyage: Vista and Verse (2022). Individual poems have appeared in The Pharos, Asahi Haikuist Network, Haiku Dialogue, Poetry Pea, Cold Moon Journal, The Pan Haiku Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Paddler Press, and others.
Website jlhuffman.com; Twitter @JoanHuffmanMD

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

I was 28 By Alan Catlin

and living the good
like working the hot-
supper club

Was basking in
the glory of being
everyone’s favorite

Even the cops liked me

Smokies hung there
then and once word
somehow got around
I’d published a little
some of them wanted
to tell me stuff

Attica stuff:

Stories about all
those mutilated on the yard
bodies, gang rapes
and torture chambers
that used to be cells
and the equally as awful
retribution exacted later on

Stuff they wanted
ghost written in blood
Stuff that was so outside
my skill set I didn’t want
to think about any of it
I had to stop listening,

Had to turn them down

Sometimes I wonder if
they ever found someone
who would listen

if they ever
slept at night


Alan Catlin has published in journals from the days of the mimeo revolution, in small press venues, to larger, more mainstream presses, to the internet poetry journal scene. He has three full length collections coming out in 2023 from Kelsay Books, Impspired and Roadside Press.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Inhumers By Shamik Banerjee

Two men condole, doffing their hats,
Affixed-eyed, to the mound of soil,
Beneath which are entombed, four cats;

Has gone the monthlong cyst and toil,
Which chewed their knees till bones were seen-
They sleep here now with no turmoil;

Since our housing, cats have been,
The sole custodian from woe,
Fate has left us three from thirteen;

To my parents, eldern and slow,
Cats semble like daughters and boys-
I'm employ-bound and barely show;

In their pouncing, parents rejoice,
Who form a frolicsome brigade,
Of nails and screeches, leaps and noise;

'Now is childhood', cats persuade,
Expunge the thought- there comes decay
And like them, we will one day fade;

And since I am so far away,
Caring for cats, Maa cares for me,
In serving fish, passes her day;

Once thirteen were, now there are three,
Each hearsed by father and a kin,
This home has lost activity.


Shamik Banerjee is a poet and poetry reviewer from the North-Eastern belt of India. He loves taking long strolls and spending time with his family. His deep affection with Solitude and Poetry provides him happiness.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Diagnosis By Keith Pearson

there is a black hole

where my palm should be

the portal to a field of stars

a place where i will never travel.


Keith Pearson lives in southern New Hampshire and works in the math department at a local high school.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Storm Clouds By James Lilliefors

The smudges on the glass
resemble storm clouds
this morning.

But no one asks,
‘Which side?’
We just assume

the storm forming
there cannot be erased
from here.

Each side calls
for emergency

‘In case of emergency,
break glass,’
say the politicians.

No one considers
the smudges
are on both sides.
No one sees

that maybe all the world
really needs
is a good cleaning.


James Lilliefors is a poet, journalist and novelist, whose writing has appeared in Ploughshares, The Washington Post, Door Is A Jar, Snake Nation Review, CandleLit magazine, The Miami Herald and elsewhere. He is a former writing fellow at the University of Virginia.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

I Want to Write a Poem By Allan Lake

I want to write a poem that’s a meal for
the hungry while constricting throats of
those who grab more than they can use.

I want to write a sharp-toothed poem that
can’t be muzzled, a poem that’s a balm
to the powerless, a bomb to warmongers.

I want to write a poem that frees dazed
slaves as it relegates troublesome gods
to knickknack shelves to gather dust.

I want to write a poem persistent as
dandelion that likewise has medicinal
properties and brightens earth.

I want to write a poem that leaves home
empty-handed but can make its way
wherever it happens to land.

I want to write a poem that’s solar-
powered as it swiftly slithers through
leaves of grass.

I want to write a poem that feels at home
in virgin forest and allows the ancient
ones to share their forbearance.

I want to write a poem without ambition
that falls from the tree because it is ripe,
in tune with Ma Nature’s agenda.

I want to write a spry poem that can hop
an electric fence to get where it needs to
go on a frosty morning.

I want to write a poem that, once born,
is neither complacent nor afraid
to take a side.

I want to write a secret poem that,
carefully folded, fits inside the secret
pocket of your favourite bag.

I want to write a poem that loves
what is, does not fear death but
may have more to say hereafter.

I want to write a poem without any
packaging that requires disposal in
some distant or non-existent state.

I want to write a poem welcome
in your bed, touching you just how
you’ve needed to be touched.

I want to write a poem with a sweet
aftertaste. Let’s say rosewater
Turkish delight.

I want to write a poem that finally
floods and carries the leaf of your life
to the forgotten island of Renewal.

Allan Lake, originally of Saskatoon, Canada, has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton Island, Ibiza, Tasmania and Melbourne. Lake has won Lost Tower Publications (UK) Comp, Melbourne Spoken Word Poetry Festival & ELwood Poetry Comp. Latest poetry chapbook (Ginninderra Press) ‘My Photos of Sicily’.

Friday, October 6, 2023

A Broken System by Taylor Dibbert

When she showed him
The text messages
And the emails
And talked about
The guy’s behavior,
He knew that
They were dealing with
A top-tier narcissist,
But he knew nothing
About the problems
Of family law,
Turns out there are
Some big ones.

Taylor Dibbert is a writer, journalist, and poet in Washington, DC. He's author of the Peace Corps memoir "Fiesta of Sunset," and his debut poetry collection is due out later this year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Under Backwards By Curtis Blazemore

Six days before my 13th birthday
I got my first kiss—
I was a cloud of pixie stick dust
and he was skateboard.

He’s even cooler now at 36
living from summer to summer
with his newest lover.
His is under-backwards happiness.

I drove them to Santa Monica
from Oklahoma—
I heard him say to her in Arizona
A thousand miles on one kiss.

Yesterday we talked on the phone
and he said giddily
they might make rent this month
or they might drink it up.

We didn’t say a word about how
I know he’s lost—
sadness is a kind of judgement
and we know better.

Last thing he said was, To find
your dolphin name, lick
your fingertips and rub a balloon.
Like I was still a pixie.


Curtis Blazemore has been on the planet far too long, publishing various works in between having bad luck and making people rethink their faith in humanity. No matter. He sees sentences in the exhaled smoke and scribbles furiously. He hopes someday to be able to afford a Greyhound bus ticket to Graceland.