Saturday, March 31, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 51: "Alan Ladd"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by rhoda penmarq , roy dismas and konrad kraus

*Associate Professor of Phoenician Literature, Assistant Gym Coach, Olney Community College; editor of The Apoplectic Policemen: 39 Previously Uncollected Detective Stories by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press, “The Sternwall Papers”.

for complete episode, click here

Friday, March 30, 2012

quantum entanglement

by nooshin azadi


i was always there with you
on the seesaw:

you were up in the sky
chasing the wind
and picking up the stars
i was down
on the ground
looking up at the stars
and waiting for the delight

the light was concealing the dark
when we fell asleep

you were always there with me
on the seesaw:

i was up in the sky
chasing the wind
and picking up the stars
you were down
on the ground
looking up at the stars
and waiting for the delight

the dark was revealing the light
when we woke up


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"A Town Called Disdain", Episode 121: dialogue

Our author Larry Winchester now leaves us in suspense as to the fates of the earthbound portion of our cast, and turns the camera and microphone onto “America’s most lovable literary literary couple”,* Dick and Daphne Ridpath, last seen in a flying saucer somewhere between the Earth and the Moon...

(Go here to read our previous chapter, or here to see the first chapter of this third-place prize-winner of the Bayer Aspirin Award for Old-Fashioned Rousing Epic.)

(N.B.: This episode rated X for Excruciating Marital Dialogue.)

*John Updike, on his deathbed.

“So I take the pilot’s seat while Brad hunkers down and goes to work on Mr. MacNamara,** and I figure, Okay, let’s give this a shot.

“You were marvelous, dear.”

“Well, so were you.”

“Oh, hush.”

“No, you were. I mean, the poor kid, her dad’s lying there all shot up and whatnot. You were quite a trouper. You really helped."

“Right, I got coffee.”

“Well, sweety, right then I needed coffee.”

“I know. I said to him, ‘Dick, what can I do?’ And Dick says, well, he could use a cup of that joe. And I say, ‘Right, joe.’ I mean, I can do that. I can at least get coffee. And Brad looks up from where he’s holding his finger in my father’s bullet wound, and he says he could go for a cup too. So I’m there, two cups. Right. But I go over to the refreshment nook and guess what? All the coffee’s spilled. It had all just floated out during free-fall. It was then I realized that it had this special screw-on lid to keep the coffee in -- plus the bottom of the pot was magnetized somehow to keep it on the warmer-thing -- but of course we hadn’t put the lid on. And now I’m just cursing a blue streak. I mean, I just got upset and started to cry. And right then poor Harvey wakes up. Poor thing, he was just like a little boy waking up from a nightmare. Although I guess it was more like waking up into a nightmare. But he’s very disoriented, going what the f-word, what the f-word, and so on. So I go to him and start babbling about how I’m trying to get it together to make some coffee, and I’m sobbing buckets, and Harvey just says, ‘Calm down, Mrs. Ridpath, we’ll make the coffee together.’”

“Harvey was good."

“Harvey was a brick. and you know, he just sort of shook the cobwebs out of his head, got right up, marched over to that refreshment nook and started to make coffee like no one’s business.

“So, while Harvey got to work on that aspect of the mission -- and because I was standing there uselessly wringing my hands -- he suggested I get the cups and saucers and things ready. So I found some clean cups and saucers and a tray and some Oreos and put them on a plate and then just sort of hovered around while we waited for the coffee to finish dripping.”

“So -- I -- uh --”

“I kept glancing anxiously over at Brad doing that mumbo-jumbo revivification finger ceremony on poor Papa, and -- even though I was nearly petrified just to look -- a couple of times I did tiptoe gently over just to say, ‘Brad, is there anything I can do? Anything at all.’ And he’d say, ‘Just waitin’ for that java, Mrs. R.’ So I’d go back and watch the coffee drip some more. Oh, the tension. I was all a wreck.”

“You did fine, Daphne.”

“Thank you, Dick. So, finally, the coffee’s ready, I get the cups and saucers and the cookies all nicely arranged on the tray, and to save time I’d already fixed it the way Dick and Brad liked it, black for Dick, four packets of Sweet ‘n’ low and lots of Cremora for Brad, and I bring it over to Brad who pops an Oreo in his mouth and takes a cup, all the while holding a finger in poor Buddy’s bullet hole -- he’d already finished with Papa, who was still lying there comatose, and I bring the tray over to Dick, Mr. Mad Driver here, when -- whoosh!”

“I know, I know --”

“Coffee, all over the place, over me, over Dick, over his little dashboard --”

“Yeah, well, we’d just entered the Earth’s atmosphere, sweety. Things got a little rocky --”

“Oh, I’ll say. I had coffee all over my -- my front.”

“She burned her boobs.”

“Well, I did, and it hurt.”

“Well! So, anyway, there we were, crashing into the earth’s atmosphere --”

“They did hurt!”

“I know, sweety.”

“Well, okay, as long as you know. Because I really was trying to help. And now I was just devastated and miserable and my boobs were burnt. I was wearing this purple satin dress and it was low-cut, and --”

There was a pause in the conversation here.

“Right, so I never got my cup of coffee, and --” Mrs. Ridpath gave him a gentle slap on the forearm, “so, there I am at the wheel, trying to bring this baby in, trying to aim it at North America at least --”

“And I’m crying again --”

“Well, you’d spilled coffee all over yourself.”

“I know, but I don’t think you needed me bawling about a damn spilt cup of coffee.”

“Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to you, sweety.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Darling, I was trying to land a spaceship.”

“Oh, I know. Tell your story.”

“Well, okay, so --”


“So, I --”

“I did bring you another cup of coffee, didn’t I?”

“Yes you did. And I really appreciated it, too.”

“Thank you. See, I wasn’t totally useless.”

“No, not at all. So --”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. So, there I am, zooming in. And after a minute I find North America. Great. Zoom in some more. Now -- where the hell is New Mexico?”

“Not easy to tell.”

“No --”

“No state lines, no color codes, just this undifferentiated mass.”


“Not like a map or a globe at all.”

“Yeah, so --

“Plus it’s nighttime.”

“True --”

“I don’t know how you ever found the right place.”

“Well -- um, how I found it was --”

“Oh, you are explaining.”

“Trying to.”

Sorry, darling. I’ll just sip my vin ordinaire. Don’t mind me.”

“Thanks. So, what I did was, I thought I’d try to find the Rio Grande --”

“See, I’d never have thought of that.”

“Yeah, so --”

“I’m horrible at geology.”


“Whatever. All these ‘phies’. I remember one time at Bennington I tried to drive with my friend Sophie Furness to New York and we wound up in Philadelphia. I remember seeing Billy Penn’s statue up on top of City Hall and thinking, ‘Wait, this can’t be New York!’ But go on, Dick.”

“Where was I?”

“Rio something. The Road to Rio.”

“Right. So, using my vast store of recollected, uh, geology, I finally zero in on New Mexico and the general area of this town called Disdain -- and this whole time we’re watching on one screen this whole business with Enid and Hope and the motorcycle gang -- don’t even ask me about the technology of this, how they were able to keep some sort of cameras on all this --”

“The outer space people are clever.”

“Damned clever.”

“I’m half outer space person.”

“At least. So, I could tell they were near that butte or mesa we’d been on earlier that day, the one with the atomic sinkhole under it, and so I just tried to find it. There’s lots of butte-things around there, but I remembered its position roughly vis-à-vis that atomic bomb-test town, so I found the atomic town finally, and there off a ways from it I saw the butte or mesa and I saw the headlights of the motorcycle guys streaming across the desert and I could see on the other screen that they were heading for Enid and Hope who were running across the desert, and so, well, I just held my breath and started to bring that baby down.

“Of course the problem here being that Brad was still busy trying to save Buddy, and I actually hadn’t the faintest idea how to land this flying saucer.”

“You did the best you could, dear.”

**{See Episode 115 -- Editor}

(Continued here. Soon to be a major motion picture from First National, directed by Vincente Minelli and starring Ava Gardner and James Mason.)

another epi...eis...hodos...

by nooshin azadi


the moment was
the beginning of an end
and god who was always in me
was with me
and he was great
as his hands were full of fruits --
of all sorts
and his eyes were full of words --
of all souls

and we walked

and as we walked
we fell


and we conceived the world
and he bore me
and i bore him
and i was his child
and he was my child

sep 2, 2009

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Margrethe to Frederick « Pull of the Sun

Margrethe to Frederick « Pull of the Sun

42 Months

 When I turned 30, something strange happened. Call it a quarter life crisis, or maybe a crisis of faith, or maybe even the call of the road less travelled. Whatever name it went by, the result was the same. I gave up a steady, safe and easy job that I had been doing for nearly 8 years in order to take some time out and find myself. I know that may sound slightly pretentious and simple in its terms of life goals, but after turning 30 I realised that my youth was pretty much over and I had become a proper grown up man that I honestly didn’t much care for. Everything in my life was safe and predictable. I needed a change; I needed to do something stupid and impulsive.

So I handed in my resignation and happily told everyone I knew that I was doing the whole “drop in, drop out” thing for a while. The world is full of self-important people who have to do something, but in my opinion the art of doing nothing is the most glorious and fulfilling accomplishment a man can ever hope to achieve. There is nothing quite like the glorious sense of contentment and satisfaction you feel after spending a whole day just sitting, reading and listening to music. In this world we are taught to be go, go, go, to feel the Earth’s spin and to make every second count. But some people are so desperate to watch every second tick by that they forget to do anything with them. Always they make plans; 5 year career trajectory, 10 year family planning, 25 year mortgage, 50 year retirement plan. But what of today? What of this precious second we are all living in right now? Have you enjoyed it? Have you used it wisely or have you used it just as a stepping stone towards a future that will bare as much relation to the image in your head as the present does in those hokey 50’s sci-fi movies.

I don’t expect everyone to appreciate the sense of having done something worthwhile without actually having really done or achieved anything, but those 42 months were a gift to myself from the past, present and future. Without them I would not have discovered a whole new side to myself, a side of new challenges and new friends. In these 42 months I have connected with special individuals that I would never have come into contact with otherwise and that in itself was worth more than any promotion or payrise.

I have made firm friendships and connections with people from all over the world, from free flowing married artists in Illinois; to Scottish visionaries who have allowed me to be read all over the world; I have even danced with the voice of the doomed, somehow living to tell the tale of sushi knifes and duct tape. I even fought the good fight for peace and justice against bigoted idiots who are happy to support terrorism as long as it comes with a green tint and friendly accent. All of these people will stay with me in one way or another. They have helped make me a newer and better person. But after three and a half years I am ready to start again with a new outlook and belief thanks to my tranquil storm of creativity and knowledge.

Not many people will ever have the opportunity to do what I have done. The modern way of living just doesn’t allow people to drop out for a couple of years anymore. Just the cost of putting enough gas in your car to do the essentials requires you to have at least a part-time job. In an ideal world I would pass this gift on, somehow able to allow a young artist the time and means to discover a whole new world within himself.

But with every “drop in, drop out”, there must inevitably come a “drop out, drop in”. A time when the harsh realities of life must at long last be addressed. So here I sit, a few years older, a few years wiser, doing pretty much the same job I was doing before. From outward appearances you would struggle to see what exactly I had changed in those 42 months? I wish I could actually show you what I had done, but everything that I have achieved has been of a personal and internal nature. All I can offer is this short story for you to read along with the faint hope that it will make you smile in appreciation.

I see the world with new eyes, eyes that are now open to new possibilities and adventures. For 42 months I slipped the straightjacket of conformity and society and did whatever the hell I wanted.

If you ever get the chance to do the same….. I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

l'amour, part 18

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part eighteen of seventy-eight

for previous chapter, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

part 19

Sunday, March 25, 2012

the fourteenth princess - chapter 6: olga

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

for complete episode, click here

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bertrand Russell was wrong about this

by Peter Greene

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

Bertrand Russell was wrong about this

what if:
we had developed a drug
able to produce biological immortality: what then, if
the only thing punishable by (the slow) death (of ageing)
was the intergenerational accumulation of wealth? What cachet: no
other penalty, no restriction: just a cutting off
from the body social
of a certain type of limb: what then

would the scene be like in a fine
restaurant, where only monied scions
could afford to meet: what romance, what
farce, what tragedy. Bittersweet, the
marriage between childhood lovers
who have inherited land: grand, the
inevitable uncle
who holds his gold in square iron fists, who
wears his grey as a sign of
true victory.

©Peter A. Greene 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 120: shitless

Our author Larry Winchester* now cuts to the bold sculptress/café owner Enid and the ethereal rancher’s daughter Hope, running across the desert on this fateful night in September of 1969, somewhere near a dodgy little town called Disdain...

(Go here to read our our previous thrilling episode; curious newcomers may click here to return to the first chapter of this third-place prize-winner of the 20 Mule Team Borax Award for Sprawling American Epic.)

*”The Sergei Eisenstein of prose.” -- Harold Bloom

As they ran Enid saw the station wagon heading towards them fast at an angle from the left. She grabbed Hope’s arm and they both stopped, sweating and panting. (They both smoked entirely too much.) They stood there and watched as the car approached. Enid saw with some alarm that Derek was driving. Then Paco brandished a rifle from the passenger window, leaned his head out, and let loose with a mediocre war cry which abruptly collapsed into a coughing fit.

Enid suddenly realized that the shooting behind them had stopped. She looked back and saw that the Motorpsychos had now remounted their bikes and were wheeling out noisily.

She heard a horrible screeching and turned to see the station wagon veering off to her left as Derek apparently floored the brake. The car skidded and swerved, then turned left full circle and headed once again full speed straight at her and Hope. She didn’t know which way to duck. Then about six feet from the women the car U-turned brutally to the left again, rising up on two wheels and blowing exhaust and dust in a great cloud, then it turned on its side and skidded for about twenty yards with a sound like an enormous jagged chalk scraping across an enormous blackboard; and then it lay there, its tires spinning and its motor groaning like a dying elephant.

Enid and Hope looked at the wreck and beyond and through its cloud of dust they saw the Motorpsychos roaring and surging towards them across the desert.

Derek was such an ass.


“Oh, shit, Doc,” said Jake. He stroked the barrel of his Colt. Despite that good dose of the Doc's laudanum he was scared shitless again now. “Shit, fuck and double-damn, I can’t do this!”

They were about five hundred yards from the overturned station wagon and Hope and Enid. And maybe half a mile farther beyond came the roaring swarm of Motorpsychos.

The Doc lit up a cigarette with the dashboard lighter.

“They gonna kill us, Doc!”

The Doc shoved the lighter back into the dashboard and floored the accelerator.

“Don’t worry about it, Jake.”

They could see Enid and Hope pulling someone out of the upturned passenger side of the station wagon.

“Awww, shit!” whined Big Jake, putting one hand on top of his cowboy hat.

“Just think, Jake, Hope will think you’re a hero.”

Enid and Hope had gotten the guy out and he was sitting next to the station wagon holding his head.

“For maybe two seconds she’ll think I’m a hero, ‘fore them Motorpsychos kill us all!”

“Two seconds of glory, Jake.”

Enid and Hope were now apparently trying to get someone else out of the car.

“Don’t want two glorious seconds! Want a billion glorious seconds! Wanta live!”

“We all gotta go sometime, Jake.”

“I know that! But I don’t wanta go now! Wanta go later! Lots later!”

The Doc pulled the Caddy up to the side of the station wagon.

The guy on the ground was Paco, the Indian. He had his hand on his head and blood was pouring down his face. Enid and Hope were trying to pull that English rock star kid out of the car and he was shouting and cursing. He also had blood all over his face. The station wagon’s uppermost headlight was still lit and it laid an ever-widening silvery carpet across the desert for the Mortorpsychos roaring closer and closer at top speed.

“Bloody fuckin’ Jesus fuckin’ bloody fuckin’ Jesus fuckin’ fuckin’ Christ!” yelled Derek.

“Shut the fuck up, Derek, we’re trying to get you out,” growled Enid.

“Hi, Daddy,” said Hope, over her shoulder. She was hoisting Enid on her narrow shoulders as Enid struggled with Derek.

“Get in this goddam car, girl!”

“In a minute, Daddy.”

The Doc had put his cigarette in his mouth and grabbed his black bag off the floor, and now he got out of the car, leaving the ignition on and the door open.

“Now where the fuck you goin’, Doc!”

The Doc walked around the front of the Cadillac and over to the wreck.

Jake lurched his big ass over to the driver’s seat.

“Hope Johnstone, you get in this auto-mo-bile this instant!”

“Fuck you, Daddy, you’re a coward.”

She and Enid had finally gotten the groaning Derek out of the station wagon and they were lowering him to the ground.

“Don’t you call me a coward you little wetback!”

“Fuck off.”

Jake slammed the driver’s door shut.

“All right, then,” he said. “Fuck all y’all!”

The Doc turned around and flicked away his cigarette.

“Calm the fuck down, Jake. You’re not gonna outrun those guys anyway.”

But Big Jake was thinking if he took off now maybe the Motorpsychos would concentrate on doing whatever they were going to do to Hope and Enid and the Doc and the Indian and the Limey, and while they were picking them over he would be zooming away across the flats at the highest speed this old high-powered hunk of Detroit steel could muster, yessiree Bob, and maybe he could live, live God damn it, live, and he jolted the car in gear and turned it around one-eighty, and that’s when he saw it swooping down out of the night sky, first as tiny as a little green star and then getting bigger and bigger till it was just this big fucking green glowing saucer that looked like it was going to slam right into them all and paste them right over the desert floor.

And Jake had never been much of a praying man but in that moment he addressed the Lord:

“Lord -- if You’re up there Big Buddy and I ain’t sayin’ You are and I ain’t sayin’ You ain’t but right now I sure hope to hell You are -- Lord, if You see fit in Your almighty wisdom and mercy to get me out of this here scrape with this wretched old heart of mine still tickin’, why Lord old buddy You are gonna see one brand new changed Big Jake Johnstone and that’s for sure, an’ not the mean vile selfish nasty and concupiscent asshole I been for more’n these past past fifty years but a good man, someone folks’d see drivin’ his Cadillac down the road an’ say that man there, that man is not an asshole! No sir! No sirree Bob, sir!

But saying this heartfelt prayer as he was driving at top speed abandoning his only daughter and them other ones to their fates as that old fuckin’ flying saucer just kept on coming straight at him with that rabid pack of bloodthirsty motorcycle bandits roaring up to the back of him, Big Jake just couldn’t help but adding:

“But shit damn, good Lord, I ain’t a one to criticize your works and ways, but God damn it if this precious gift of life you have given us don’t eat shit sometimes!”

(Continued here, and on until the bitter end.)

the corsair - 1. the lighthouse-keeper

by paulette popolescu

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

there are stretches of coast in the north of brittany so desolate that lighthouses seem almost superfluous, as it can hardly be imagined that any vessel other than those blown there by the deadliest storms would ever come near them. and yet so vast and unyielding are the bureaucracies governing france that dozens of these edifices are still to be found, that have not warned away a ship for generations. lighthouse keepers have been born and died, and had their humble stipends - barely enough to sustain life even in the best of times - delivered to them by that most admirable of our bureaucracies - the postal service (a subject dear to our hearts, but which we will give the attention it deserves elsewhere), without ever seeing the ocean disturbed, except by the wind and rain.

old morneau had been the sole occupant of one of these lighthouses, in the barely populated province of c---------, for longer than anyone, including himself, could remember. on the second day of every month, when the tide was low, he would descend the steps of the lighthouse and, leaning on his stout wooden stick, make his way across the rocky beach and down the twisted path to the village of f------------, thence to the postmistress's to receive his pay from the department of coastal defense ( a sub-department of the war office, established by m carnot himself).

he would then have a half a glass of wine at the local pub and arrange to have a months supplies delivered from the general store, which was located not in the village itself but in a slightly larger village some leagues away. he would linger over his half glass of wine, giving himself just time to return to the lighthouse before dusk.

for complete episode, click here

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

fenwick - 1. on the trail

by minette de montfort

illustrated by roy dismas

i had always been curious about fenwick, as he was a rather mysterious fellow, and also somewhat resentful, as he seemed to be held in somewhat higher esteem by his fellow creatures than i was. so it was with no small feeling of delight when i was taking my morning constitutional by the quayside that i beheld fenwick himself emerge from the dragon and mussel pub. and by the look of him, in no mean hurry.

i immediately made the decision to take this heaven-sent opportunity to follow the celebrated gentleman and learn something of his mysterious ways.

i have always been a forthright walker - as indeed, i always endeavor to be forthright in all things. one foot in front of the other, one foot, then the other, that is good policy i have found, and will get you where you are going. no one walks as boldly and briskly as i, depend upon it. and yet, on this fateful morning, damn my eyes if fenwick was not keeping up almost as brisk a pace as i was. almost, mind you, almost. no one walks as i do. and yet fenwick was keeping up a good pace, one foot in front of the other, one foot, then the other, looking neither to the right nor left, no, neither to the right nor the left, very proper, quite sound in technique he was, and at the rate he was going would be in open country in no time. this is treacherous territory, i thought to myself, if he should reach open country, if he should reach open country and happen to glance around.... damn me, the whole glorious enterprise would be dashed to pieces, properly dashed to pieces for want of proper precautions and preparation.

for complete episode, click here

Sunday, March 18, 2012

gertrude - 2. the first archangel

by dorine de santos

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

gertrude rarely saw other human beings, but she talked to almost everything she did see - the sky, the clouds, the trees, the rocks and her sheep, and when she got close enough to it , the river. for the most part, only the river and a few of the sheep talked to her. a few mornings after her encounter with st james, she was standing on a ridge about a quarter of the way down the mountain, watching the sheep - who were unusually well-behaved - and talking to the clouds. the clouds almost never responded to her observations, so she looked around uncertainly when she heard a voice. sure enough, the voice had come not from the clouds but from a creature standing behind her, a little higher up the hill. the creature looked like herself, a human, but with two wings of moderate size, reaching from its shoulders to its waist, and each about the width of the unwinged portion of its body.

"greetings," the creature addressed gertrude. "a beautiful morning, is it not?"

gertrude thought before replying, as she always did. "most mornings are like this."

"the sky is very blue."

"it usually is blue, except when it rains."

"allow me to introduce myself. i am jehudiel, the archangel. one of seven archangels in heaven."

"i am gertrude, a shepherdess. i am the only shepherdess in the valley."

"i am pleased to make your acquaintance, gertrude." the archangel moved a little further down the slope. he looked uncertainly at a couple of sheep who moved closer to him.

"they won't bite you." gertrude guided the inquisitive beasts away with her staff.

for complete episode, click here

Saturday, March 17, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 50: enter cosette

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas, konrad kraus, and rhoda penmarq

editorial consultant: Professor Dan Leo

for complete episode, click here