Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the fourteenth princess - chapter 4: celine

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by rhoda penmarq, roy dismas and konrad kraus

click here for previous chapter, here to begin at the beginning

"well then, i know you have all had a long day. i will ring for the guards to take you to your rooms. "

"our cells, "said dorine. "if we have guards, they must be cells, right?"

"call them what you like," miss prue answered good naturedly . "i think you will find them comfortable enough."

"do they have bars on the windows?" asked sabine.

"why no. but i don't think you will be climbing out of them. "

"are there moats beneath the windows, with alligators in them?" asked jolene.

"no. now those are enough silly questions. two last things i want to mention. each of you will find a complete set of rules to the contest in your room. look them over, please, and if you have any questions you can ask them tomorrow when we meet in the dining room for breakfast. and tomorrow we will make sure each of you has the proper library, as we discussed before. " miss prue looked down the table. "anything else?

minette raised her hand. "can i have one of the hats?"

"excuse me?"

"you said earlier i might have one of the hats - that you pulled the pieces of paper from."

"oh. well, the last girl still has to pull, when she arrives,"

"why? there is only one left in each hat. she is sure to get them, is she not?"

"yes, of course. i suppose you can have the hats, why not?'" miss prue brought the hats back from beneath the table. she took the black hat out of the white one, then reached in and took the last paper out of the white one. it was stuck slightly to the bottom but she pulled it off without batting an eye. she repeated the process with the black one, where the paper was also stuck lightly to the bottom. she placed the two pieces of folded paper on the table in front of her and handed the hats to ameline. "pass these down to her, please." she looked down to minette. "if someone else wants one of them , give it to her"

"is that the way of it?" asked dorine. "just ask and we receive?"

"if it's no trouble, yes." miss prue reached under the table and touched a button and a chime sounded, not too loudly. after a few seconds the door opened and two young women in gray uniforms entered.

"you will be escorted to your rooms two at a time." miss prue beckoned to the taller of the two guards. she handed her a piece of paper on which she had recorded the girls assignments. "get their names as you go, and write down the room numbers you put them in."

the guard nodded. she turned to ameline and sabine. "all right, you two first." they stood up. all the girls had fallen silent, even minette and nanette, who had been trying on the two hats and giggling over them.

outside in the darkness, the trees were swaying in the wind. a few raindrops appeared on the thick windows.


all thirteen of the girls had been taken to their rooms. miss prue continued to sit at the head of the long table, with all the lamps still lit. she had her ruled notebook open in front of her, and was doodling in it. mostly pictures of cats, and trees.

muggins the maid appeared in the doorway. "the last girl has finally arrived, miss."

"excellent. bring her in, please. "

muggins opened the door wider behind her and the girl entered. she wore her coat and a smart little hat, and had a large alligator bag on her shoulder. she was a little more stylishly dressed than any of the other girls.

miss prue looked up at the maid. "thank you, muggins. close the door behind you, please."

muggins left, and closed the door.

"well, celine, you certainly took your time getting here."

"oh, there was some kind of delay coming up the mountains. but you know i love those old trains."

"oh yes."

the girl tossed her bag and her hat on one of the chairs and draped her coat over the back of it. then she came up and sat on the table on miss prue's right. she bent over and kissed her on the cheek. "miss me?"

"how can you ask me that?'" miss prue's voice wavered slightly. "you little minx."

the girl kissed her on the cheek again, closer to the lips. "well, here we are together again, duck." her eyes widened. "but under such circumstances! what a situation!"

"yes, yes indeed. i tried to give you some idea in my letters, but i had to be circumspect. of course you got all the official correspondance, like the rest of the girls."

"oh, yes. we have a year to write a novel, of what - about 130,000 words? that shouldn't be too difficult - if we have nothing else to do all day."

"actually it is 133,225 words. we can discuss all that later."

"and it is to be about what - anything i choose?"

"yes, my dear - you - you can write just about anything you like. you see, your theme - picked by lottery - is "universal" -

"ha ha! yes, i guess that is just about anything."

"and i was able to save it for you."

"oh my dear, and how did you do that?"

miss prue picked up the two pieces of folded paper in front of her. "my little scheme
wasn't foolproof but it worked. i put just a smidgin of clear glue on these papers and stuck them to the bottom of the hats they picked from. of course one of them could still have picked one or both but they didn't."

"my, such a trickster."

"i had a good teacher."

"ha. and what is this second paper?"

"the writer whose style you are to emulate. one of the papers was 'pick your own' and that of course, is what you got."


miss prue picked up her pen. "but you do have to pick an author - i have to write it down."

"oh - how about anatole france." the girl yawned, and looked around the room and out the window.

" you must be tired. are you hungry?"

"not really. i had a lovely dinner on the train. but i could use a coffee - and maybe a little cake or croissant."

"i have coffee in my room. and some of those little cherry cakes you used to like."

"oh. so sweet."

miss prue blushed slightly. "another thing. you can have a room like the other girls, with a maid and guards - or - you can stay with me, if you like."

"oh. if i like. ha, ha! " celine put her hands around miss prue's neck and kissed her on the lips. "you mean you thought i would rather sleep alone?"

"thank you."

"so we can get away with that? how - circumspect do we have to be?"

"not very. leave everything to me."

"good. then i guess everything is settled."

"yes. but celine, listen, listen, before we go any further. you must understand how serious this is. i will do everything i can for you, but i can not do everything. i can only tell you what i told the other girls - i am not one of the judges, have no contact with them, do not even know who they are. in the end - you will be as alone as they."

"calm down, duck, calm down. everything will work out. we will prevail - you and i."

to be continued

Monday, January 30, 2012

reunion in the rain

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

originally printed in damned detective stories, march-april 1951

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Old 333 (Mandatory)

by Peter Greene

illustrations by rhoda penmarq

The Old 333 (Mandatory)

the old people
who were forced to join the Army
when their years ran out; boots bots and guns or
a mandatory  death  chamber: together
in adversity, they formed a regimental association, ex
changing tooth-brushes, dentures and orthopedic

saving the last scraps of their lives together in a little headquarters
building near the armoury on Bay; coffee armchairs and
few veterans, mostly  grizzled newcomers
grace the seats

the Old 333
doesn't have many returnees
when you go to war at sixty-five, still
alive, still
strong in heart enough to qualify, you
don't expect a
welcome home, just a cemetery

that, and a little pillaged
time for chess and tea; the only
on the battlefield
who take naps  in the fighting

repost: the  touching
old chaps and their wives doing
suicide missions
on their last night together: the
fine letters home from a grandfather
who won't be
back for Christmas but sends his love

and a jar of enemy ears,  with raisins
pickled in plundered brandy

©Peter A. Greene 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 44: flossie vs hyacinth

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas , rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

for complete episode, click here

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 112: cowboy

Our author Larry Winchester (“the Shakespeare of our age, but less boring than Shakespeare” -- Harold Bloom) now turns the unsparing lens of his Panavision eye on the rancher Big Jake Johnstone and the town physician Doc Goldwasser, driving across the dark atomic-bombed desert not too many miles from A Town Called Disdain.

(Click here to see our previous chapter. Today’s episode rated EP for excessive pulp.)

Big Jake was scared shitless as he drove the Cadillac slowly nearer to the lights and shooting, feeling like the scared little rich kid he always was deep down -- and not so deep down, either -- and he really wanted just to turn back and go home, or at least go to Burt’s for a beer, or to Mel’s Photographic Arts Studio for a blowjob and a beer, but he didn’t want the Doc to think he was a coward, or rather -- since he knew the Doc knew he was a coward -- put better, he was afraid to act the coward, even though he was a coward. And so one fear outweighed another and here he was acting seemingly courageously while he was damn near shitting his trousers in terror.

The Doc for his part had the opium working well now in his bloodstream and his brain, the weird internal voices and noises had gone away, there was only this world, this life, maybe it would end in a few minutes, maybe it wouldn’t.

Jake stopped the car. They were maybe a half mile from the circling lights and the shooting.

“Y’know what, Doc? Just remembered I got me a pair of bi-noculars in here somewheres. Let’s just take a little gander ‘fore we go any closer.”

Jake popped open the glove compartment, pushed aside the latest issue of Playboy, a couple of packs of Marlboros, three fat joints of fine Panama Red, a half-consumed pint of Old Forester, half a roll of Lifesavers, numerous traffic and parking tickets from other towns that he hadn’t gotten around to getting Sheriff Dooley to fix yet, and finally he pulled out a pair of German army field-glasses, left over from the lucrative Nazi souvenir business he had run back in ’44 and ’45 while posted as a supply sergeant in Paris.

Jake lifted up his hat, looped the binoculars strap over his head, and then pulled his hat back on, tilted a bit to the back. As he put the glasses to his eyes and adjusted the lenses he thought back to those good old days and the fortune he had amassed in girls and in black market goods during the war. Yep, V-E Day certainly had been a cause for celebration for a lot of folks and he had to admit he’d made quite a penny that day himself with his booze concession at the OSS officer’s club, but it had also spelled the beginning of the end of one of the best goddamned money-making set-ups he was ever to have. Why, by May of ’45 he had over a hundred people in his employ, not only regular GIs but deserters, Kraut PWs, Limeys, Frenchies and DPs, and this weren’t even counting a stable of twenty-five to thirty fine fillies of all nationalities and faiths --


“What is it,” said the Doc.

“That looks like Miss Enid’s truck. And it’s got them damn Motorpsychos circlin’ around it and firin’ guns like a pack of wild Injuns.”

The Doc sat and watched Jake adjusting the binoculars.

“Shit, damn, and pigfuck.”

Jake lowered the glasses and turned to the Doc.

“That’s my baby girl in that truck. Her and Miss Enid.”

The gunfire continued.

“We gotta go in there, Doc,” said Jake.

The Doc just looked at Jake.

“We got to, don’t we?” asked Jake.

“You up for it?”

“Up for it? Sure I am. Sure I am. What we do, what we do is, we just drive right in there, drive in, drive on in, drive right on in there and get, get, get my daughter, and, and Miss Enid too, and just drive right on outa there, drive on, drive right on outa there, I ain’t ascared, I ain’t ascared of them Motorpsychos,” said Jake. “They wouldn’t do nothin’ to me.”

The Doc knew that Big Jake did drug business with the Motorpsychos.

“And,” said Jake, “and, and, they give, give, give us any trouble I ain’t, I ain’t ascared to use this-chyere Colt neither.”

He patted the bulge under his arm where the gun was and the Doc saw the sweat staining right through the jacket material.

“All right,” said the Doc. “Let me take the wheel then. I’ll drive, you wave that thing around if you have to.”

“Yeah,” said Big Jake, “sure.”

And he opened his door and got out of the car and shut the door, then walked around the front, weaving just a little, like a drunk man trying to act sober. He looked very pale in the starlight.

The Doc slid over to the driver’s seat. Big Jake got in the other side, breathing heavy and sweating and licking his lips. The binoculars hung around Jake’s neck, moving up and down with the heaving of his big gut. Jake reached his right hand down past his gut and rearranged his balls. He rolled his shoulders and his head and then took his hat off and wiped his sleeve on his forehead and ran his hand through his crewcut. He lifted the binoculars strap up over his head and shoved the binoculars back into the glove compartment. He tried to shut the glove compartment but part of the strap was still hanging out. He said “Fuck fuck fuck” and pushed the strap into the compartment, then slammed it shut. He sat back and fanned himself rapidly a few times with his hat and then put it on backwards. He took out his gun again and checked the cylinder. His hands were shaking.

“Your hat’s on backwards, Jake.”

“Oh. Thanks, Doc.”

He turned the hat around.

“Get your shit together, Jake.”

“I’m tryin’, Doc.”

The Doc put the car in gear.
“Do me a favor, Jake, will ya?”

“Yes, sir, Doc.”

Jake’s eyes were wide, he was sweating like a pig in the cool air, his teeth chattered audibly.

“Just keep that cannon pointed away from me.”

The Doc stepped on the gas and they pulled out.

Jake squirmed in his seat, holding the pistol with both hands across his massive chest.

“Jake,” said the Doc, “point the gun away from me.”

“Yes, sir,” said Jake, obviously not really hearing what the Doc said. “Yes, sir. Yes sirree, sir, Bob, sir. Bring it on. Bring it on down, bring it on down the line, with a dosey doe, and a whoopty-do, bring it on home, yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes.”

“Jake,” said the the Doc, much louder, “point the fucking gun away from me.”

“Woops!” blubbered Jake, “Yes, sir.” He pointed the gun rigidly upward, his elbow against his gut. “Firearm safety! Firearm -- man-stopper! Colt .45. Gun that tamed the wild west. Don’t point it at a man unless, unless, unless -- oh shit. Oh shit, Doc, we gotta stop. We gotta stop, Doc.”

The Doc stopped the car.

“What is it, Jake?”

“Doc, this is real embarrassin’, real embarrassin’, but, but, I gotta, I gotta --”

“What? Take a shit?”

Jake pulsed up and down on his seat like an excited sea lion.

“Yeah,” he rasped. “I gotta go, Doc.”

“Here,” said the Doc. He took his little brown bottle out of his jacket pocket. “Take a couple swigs of this.”

“That gonna help?”

“It should. I only shit about every other day, myself.”

“Gimme it.”

Jake put his pistol on the dashboard, took the bottle, unscrewed the cap, took three good swigs and then sat back with his eyes closed.

The Doc lit up a smoke and gave Jake a minute.

Up ahead the motorcyclists still swirled around the stopped truck, their weapons flashed and popped into the night, like firecrackers, like guns.

The Doc looked over at Jake. The big man’s breathing had calmed, his eyes were closed, he was no longer streaming with sweat.

“How ya feelin’, Jake.”

Jake opened his eyes.

“Feelin’ good, Doc. Feelin’ good. Floatin’.”

“Give me that bottle before you spill it.”

Jake slowly held out the bottle and the cap, and the Doc took them and capped the bottle.

“Still gotta shit?”

“No,” said Jake. “No, I think I got my bowels under control now, Doc, thank ya.”

“Don’t mention it.” The Doc put the bottle away in his jacket and put the car in gear again. “All right, Jake, better grab your gun. It’s cowboy time.”

“That’s right, Doc. That’s right.”

Jake slowly picked his gun up off the dashboard and held it, pointing straight ahead, in both untrembling hands.

(Continued here. Stocking up already for next year’s stocking-stuffers? Be sure to buy some Town Called Disdain™ Action Figures, now marked down another 75%, exclusively at Kresges 5&10s. Cash only, all sales final.)

there's a light...

this is the fifteenth

of a series of poems by nooshin azadi

derived from drawings by rhoda penmarq


there's a light
in the window
perhaps the faraway star is a window too!
who's standing there behind it?

does the light from a gun come from a window too?
will the one standing behind it shine like a faraway star too?

a light in a window
and a light in a heart
a faraway star always travels with me

with me

with me

how lonesome is the one
who's got no light in his heart!
how sad!

yeah, the faraway light
might be a window!
who's standing there behind it?
could it be you?

can you see the lightless hearts
invading the land?
can you hear the marching boots
chanting hand in hand?

i kept a light on
for you to come
but you didn't

you betrayed even the moon
who lit the road all night long
for you to come

you didn't come
but they did

the lightless hearts
are invading the land
i can hear them

soon they will come to me
soon they will

i should take the cat
and flee into the dark
i'll take no light with me
i'll take no light

a faraway star always travels with me