Monday, December 22, 2008

Why polite conversations should never deviate from the weather.

By Ross Levere

Dinner parties, as we all know, are sophisticated evenings where etiquette and class override our basic desire for a meal in front of the television. Style magazines inform us the preparation for such an evening can be almost effortless should you choose the correct avenues and that, as always, appearance is paramount. Those wishing to make an impression are encouraged by classy TV chefs to indulge their guests with exotic cuisine and the more confusing the cutlery the greater the achievement. Wine is no longer a simple question of red or white, today we are bombarded with information regarding regions and grapes which cannot simply be over looked by the appeal of supermarket discounts. New outfits are a necessity; to wear something one has worn before just won’t do, that is, whilst fashion is too fickle an acquaintance to try and embrace. Yet despite such an abundance of horrors it is to the dinner party that people stay faithful, the reason being that a good one is not easily forgotten. The fortunes of many a millionaire having at some point been dependant on whether it was best for scented or natural wax candles. Regardless of suitability for the job, it was table manners rather than experience which caught many a powerful eye in the corporate world.

With this in mind Kate stood nervously peering through the already greasy window of her new oven door at the pink chicken entombed within which would never be ready by 8 o’clock. Her guests, by now on their way, would have to wait, their patience paid in full with a generous offer of extra wine purloined from her husbands personal collection. Having been married for 5 years Jim and Kate knew each others quirks rather well and in an emergency such as this Jim would always bury his resentment and offer up the cheapest bottle for consumption. This occasion however was rather more crucial than inviting over old friends, tonight it would have to be something spectacular, a wine of immense superiority. With Kate having toiled for three years in a job she loathed tonight was the opportunity for promotion, no more early mornings and late nights should three simple courses convince the man in a suit. So it was that Jim picked out a particular favourite he had intended to save for a more guaranteed celebration, an Italian red which had been with him for almost as long as his wife. But having never tried it before there was always the possibility that it wouldn’t appeal to him anyway and so it made sense to impress these people with the name and hope for the best.

Luckily for both Jim and Kate their guests were delayed, giving time for the wine to breathe, the chicken to cook and Kate to re-apply her makeup. In the dinner party circle punctuality is crucial, should one be late it implies tardiness and can lead to the cancellation of the highly coveted cheeseboard. Fully aware of this Kate felt it best to wave such trivialities and assign their lateness to traffic which no individual has the power to control. By 9 o’clock everyone had assumed their seat having made their apologies and offered their assistance. The wine turned out to be rather pleasant which caused Jim some discomfort at the fact that he’d now nothing more than an empty bottle for his years of patience.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


by Momar Van Der Camp

Triple the weight. Triple the score. He opened the vein. The blood rained down. In triple.

Make everything in triplicate. Every day he heard the same thing. Copy and paste. Triplicate. Copy and paste. Triplicate. Copy and paste. Triplicate. But what happens when you triplicate and triplicate and triplicate to the point where you've made nine of the same thing? Does your life then cease to matter?

Add more weight. Tally it up. Step to the edge.

He walked into the office that morning with the same notion in his mind. Triplicate. Triplicate. Triplicate. He was a god to those papers. He could create. He could destroy. He would destroy. He would destroy something. For the last 10 years, triplicate triplicate triplicate. He'd had enough.

Tie the weight to your ankles. Take a deep breath. One more step and it's over.

To the roof. He made it to the stairwell with no one noticing the heavy blocks he carried with him. The thick rope. The black sheath on the cold stainless steel blade. His clothes not even pressed for the day. Everyone he stepped by made the same motion: triplicate, triplicate, triplicate. Copy paste triplicate.

Another world, another dimension, at the same moment someone else was doing the same thing. Cutting the vein. Making their way to the edge. Changing the world.

He would wake someone up.

He took one more step as it dripped dripped dripped down his arm. Across space, another young man took the same step. And he fell. And in another world, in another dimension, he fell.

His life would end that day. And so would his. And his.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Know

by Hannibal Tabu (bio on Chores)

There's no telling how long Deborah sat staring at the screen, reading and re-reading those same eight words. As far as blog posts go, this was terribly short -- more like one of those microbursts people posted on sites like Twitter or Jaiku. But here it was, Friday afternoon with Deborah checking MySpace for interesting bulletins or messages before she made some weekend plans, finding a blog from Fred posted that same morning with two simple sentences.

I know. I've known for a long time.

The "mood" indicator was set to "betrayed" and the blog's title was "You don't know me." "Friends" by Jody Watley featuring Rakim was listed as the music this blog was written to.

Deborah sat back in her Aeron chair, worry settling in on her like a blanket draped over a sleeping child.

It might be nothing, she rationalized. It probably doesn't even have anything to do with me. Fred ran with some sketchy characters, like that ersatz Nation of Islam pretender Khalid. No telling who or what inspired this succinct, cryptic declaration.

Fred's blog was well known amongst his keyed-in associates for its in-depth confessionals, being specific about events if not about names, often providing descriptive pseudonyms to indicate who the people really were or at least what he thought of them. It wasn't hard for most of their friends to figure out that Deborah was "Angel" based on the story about that day at Reggae Fest alone.

But this ... this was unusual. Fred's shortest blogs still always required you to scroll down at least once, even on big monitors. Even his text messages always overran the 160-character requirement, coming into her Blackberry in fractured installments.

Biting her lip, she glanced at her inbox. Nothing from Fred, just the normal chatter from national and some FYIs from Strategic Marketing that she could just as easily delete as file. The computer's clock dutifully told her it was 3:16 PM. If she followed her normal Friday night routine, that meant ending up at The Magic Carpet on Crenshaw, Deborah would surely see him there, pool cue in hand, nodding his dreadlocked head to whatever was bumping from the jukebox. Could he really know about that? she asked herself, imagining his normal one-armed embrace suddenly as stilted as when he saw Lakeshia in the dusty paths near the food court of the African Marketplace.

The sudden vibration of her Blackberry took her by surprise, and she audibly "eeped" when it started moving across the surface of her desk calendar. She reached over for it and blanched when she saw Fred's number, the smartphone's insistence to be answered or silenced.

F***, could he have found out? she wondered, considering the dilemma. I thought ... sh** ...

She sucked in a deep breath, her modest breasts rising in her white Donna Karan blouse and pressed the key to take the call.

Breathlessly, she said, "Hello?"

Friday, September 12, 2008

5 Years

by Momar Van Der Camp

5 years

5 years. He keeps telling himself 5 years. It’s been 5 years. Since it all started. Since it all vanished. Since the last heavy rains washed away his sins.

5 years.

He stood outside the home of the victim once more, retracing his steps again. Rain was heavy. Rain was pelting down all around him. Washing away the sins once more.

But they stayed in his eyes. Desperation and glee that the case had never been solved. A family sat behind sheer drapes discussing how their day would go, only a member was missing.

He had taken her from them. And he had vanished. But 5 years is a long time. A lot of people get nostalgic. A lot of people want to rehash the past and recreate the same scene again so the exhilaration comes back.

And he knows the rain will wash his sins away once more. Just like they always do. He rifles through his pockets and begins his ascent up the stairs to their front entrance.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


by Garret Tufte

A long, long time ago, I worked at a chicken factory. We pumped out chickens by the crate-full. Incredible work of engineering, really. They worked on it for years, and it got done, I was first in line. They said you had to have a degree, the tiniest bit of science understandin’ to show you were more than a bum off the street. Course I barely finished high school, as it was called in them days. Still, they took me in, cleaned me up, trained me down, and put me in the driver’s seat of that darn factory.

Work was exciting, not because I really had anything to do, but ‘cuz I got to watch the magic, every day. The factory was split into input, manufact, and output. I was right in the middle. I took watch over the processor. The chick-e-mater, we called it. Standin’ fifty-foot high and a football field long. I could see the damn thing one side to the other. Course I had screens to give me a good look at the specifics. The sludge comin’ in from the input line, scooped out of the trains bringin’ it in. Anythin’ organic, scraped off the bottom barrel. Water tubes comin’ alongside. It all spilled into the vat, a funnel-lookin’ thing, takin’ it all in.

Then, well, I don’t know what. Two-hundred foot of black machinery, steam pots, tubes pumpin’ jelly, whirly-birds, and god-knows. It all ended with a spit chute pointin’ up, and guess what come out: chickens! Every two seconds a chicken would come poppin’ out, cluckin’ and flappin’ to beat hell. He’d shoot ‘em to a big steel cage, openin’ when the time was right, and crashin’ back together. Them birds would sometimes try flyin’ out at the last minute, but that gate would come squashin’ down on ‘em. Ha, me and the boys would laugh: them chickens was born sooner than yesterday, and they try to outsmart us! Damn dumb birds.

I watched that sludge and them chickens for fifteen years. Didn’t get no pension though. Factory closed when they came in with talk of how “people don’t wanna eat chicken no more” and “too much chicken out there already”. Bunch of Ivy-league bullcock if you ask me.

Now? Well I been doin’ pretty well for myself. Wife and kids took off to do whatever they’re doin’. Ain’t seen ‘em in few years now. But I been takin’ to these new incentives they got for them surveys. And get this, all I gotta do is watch the tee-vee here and tell ‘em what I think. Easiest job a bro ever did know...

Friday, August 8, 2008


by Garret Tufte, who has a degree in Creative Writing (and traditional literature as well, but apparently the jackasses won’t let you get 2 English degrees) and minor in Film. Likes: Eatin’, drinkin’, smokin’, and lookin’ pretty. Dislikes: anything that gets in the way of Likes.

A worm creeps. He stops for a second, lifts his unmistakable head, peers sightless, then creeps further. The ground feels mushy and moist; it is perfectly suited to his homely needs. Not to say that his needs are homely, they are merely needs of the home variety. So he finds his place and excavates a tunnel. So the happy worm did this and did that and la-dee-da all the fuckin’ way home.

You know what happens next? He gets his liver ripped out by a happy little robin, going on his merry way. He brings the liver back to his squawking birdlings, feeds them disgusting regurgitation, feels pride that he’s done his part to perpetuate the species, and gives thanks to holy hell that he ain’t a fuckin’ worm.

But guess what? The robin gets popped in the head by a hypocrite because he done took the worm that’s supposed to aerate the dirt for his fuckin’ azaleas. So the robin drops like a rock, a disgusting mess of a rock, to the bituminous asphalt of a cul-de-sac at the end of Red Bud Lane.

The happy squirrel surveys his winter nut-stash: plenty of black walnuts, obscene amounts of acorns, but only a few pecans. He’s got to have more pecans. I mean, once he gets sick of walnuts, and then sick of acorns, what’s he gonna eat? More walnuts? I don’t fuckin’ think so! So the happy squirrel, after much deliberation, finally decides to head out for more nuts. He pokes his head out of his tree-cranny, checks both ways, and zeeiip!

The happy squirrel deftly maneuvers his body through branches and leaves, crotches and knobs, utilizing the tail-paw coordination perfected over eons. He makes no sound and does not sway the tree. A stone’s throw away, a rabbit farts. They exchange glances and a nod. The happy squirrel hops onto a picket fence and sits up for a cursory survey. Bing! Pecan tree at 10 o’clock. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! he thinks, but he does not lose his head. He keeps an eye out… Man with rifle, 9 o’clock! He panics and bolts. Pow! The gun fires, the squirrel runs, the bloody mess plops, the squirrel slips… and the UPS truck flattens him like a rolling pin.

Silly squirrel, you should have known: a convoluted set of circumstances could lead to your destruction through no fault of your own.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Maternity Mayhem

By Patrick McCormack (Bio on "Choices")


Jerri sprang into action with no time to spare. The hospital was evacuated after Dr. Chaos’ bomb was discovered. Who made that maniac Head of Maternity? Jerri wondered. There was no time to lose – that baby was coming, and quick.

“I need you to push,” Jerri said calmly.

“I can’t!” she replied in agony.

“Either you push or we all die!” Jerri shouted.

Painfully the mother pushed, popping the gooey infant into Jerri’s arms in one push.

“He’s out!” Jerri shouted. “Now let’s get outta here!”

Jerri threw a stuffed bunny, Mr. Fluffy, at the window, shattering it. She jumped out, pulling the mother and screaming infant with her. Suddenly the entire hospital erupted into flames.

Lying on the ground Jerri sighed. “Now that’s what I call a distressed birth,” she said grinning.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


by Hannibal Tabu

His foot stayed steady on the criss-cross pattern of the accelerator pedal as his silver Chevrolet Lumina glided purposefully down stretches of pockmarked asphalt. He felt oddly comfortable in the glow of sparse streetlights, the angular surfaces of his face illuminated and darkened like a strobelit wall in some sultry dance hall. The night held him close, like a long lost love.

Where was he going? After 4AM, only illegal speakeasies and private gatherings were still going. Plus, it was Tuesday night, and most of the workaday world had retreated into slumber. Still he drove on in silence, considering.

For the third time he drove past the left turn which would have taken him home, where the spectres of arguments and his wife's indifferent back turned towards him loomed as the most likely scenarios. He'd find his way there before the sun peeked over the edges of palm trees and the normals emerged from their tedium and complicity.

For now, he had the night to hold him like she wouldn't, and the road to keep them company.

Check out the website to learn something so secret, it has been driving me crazy for a month. Thanks Hannibal. Just gotta wait til Monday now.


by Ross Levere

Had John known what was being asked of him on that lonely evening in September 3 years ago he would have run a mile without stopping.
Three years ago John was miserable, sat answering a phone that never stopped ringing from 9 to 5 with only a weekends salvation to recuperate. A weekend spent shopping, paying bills, cleaning, washing, gardening and masturbating, this wasn’t what the brochure had promised him after university. The life we desire, so often gathered from images in the media, is a pale comparison to the one offered by those who allegedly care for our well being. Early aspirations are met with the stark realisation that we have to accept work in a ‘similar’ field to our chosen profession. Being an artist John had once held an ambition to work on graphic novels, to see his art bring to life a world that existed only in those pages. Reality however took away this dream with relish when his mother told him to stop drawing silly pictures and work somewhere with a decent pension. That day saw his favourite dream die as he could no longer envisage himself being questioned by fans eager to bemoan the Hollywood version of his work. He was no longer an artist, no longer destined to marry Milla Jovovich and no longer living with hope in his heart.
It was here that John found himself at the leaving party for a work colleague he barely knew. The inevitable oversized card had been around the office filled with vague and impersonal sentiments scratched into it by people who would struggle to recall him the moment he left that Friday afternoon. A faceless drone in a nest of brainwashed individuals. The drinks after work little more than an excuse to try and make sense of it all by intoxicating the senses with something created in a lab rather than a distillery. For John there was not even the primeval urge of other men eager to try their luck at sleeping with a co-worker on a boozy night out.
Except … Except the woman looking at him from across the room, her green eyes piercing straight though him. That moment frozen in time, impossible to describe but infinitely resonating in his heart. A stranger in which he felt no fear or disgust in imagining a future with - love, sex, even marriage. Everything and nothing making itself clear in an instant.
What was asked of John on that night 3 years ago was never ascertained, whether or not he even spoke to the woman with the green eyes remains a mystery. Some of us run a mile because we’re running from something, it is also true that in running we reach a destination. We see the world through our own eyes make our own decisions and live with the consequences. John made his decision 3 years ago.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


by Hannibal Tabu (bio on Chores)

Clearly, there had been some kind of clerical error.

The list was very thorough, and was audited on a monthly basis to make sure that just this sort of thing never happened. There were literally thousands of criteria that got people of every stripe and strata on the list, which had been maintained since before the very first human fingers scrawled crude images on blank surfaces.

But the last department head had gone through a really emotional breakup, and there was that thing that happened at the solstice party, which all left room for errors to be made. That was clearly what had happened, leading to all of the screaming and rubble and ambulances.

Glenn ran his fingers through his thinning blond hair, looked over the file and tried to figure out how to fix things. Rayvon "Lil' Ray" Carver was a self-hating nihilist of the highest order, a seventeen-year-old junior high dropout filled with enough hate and suffering contained in his neurons and dendrites to blot out entire galaxies. The monitor kept chiming with updates and complaints from other departments, looking at probably hundreds of years of cleaning up this mess.

Rayvon Carver had been on the list since the day he saw his elder brother Alvin gunned down in their front yard, Rayvon's sibling's blood splashed across his favorite white Bugle Boy sweatshirt. That was clearly the event that led him to his teenaged pattern of driving around in a dented Oldsmobile Cutlass with his neighbors K-Dog and Voodoo Child, a sawed-off shotgun on his lap and murder dancing in his eyes.

As Glenn reviewed the photos from what was being called "the January event," he remembered the very first and most important directive of the department:

"Some people can never, ever get their wish."