Monday, July 30, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 138: dawn

And so we come at last to the close of Larry Winchester's sprawling masterwork. (“I finished it wishing for at least another thousand pages.” -- Harold Bloom, in "The Gravenhurst Review".)

(Go here to review our previous chapter. Newcomers, or old-timers who simply want to re-live the glory, may click here to go back to the very first chapter.)

Finally Dick and Daphne and Rafael walked us back, through the old streets, the old buildings leaning in toward us. The Ridpaths’ apartment was right down the street from our hotel, on Claude Bernard. Everyone kissed and hugged and shook hands goodnight, then they walked off and we went into the hotel.

Heather and I went up to the third floor in the grill-work elevator.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“They are so cool,” she said. “I wish you had friends like them back in L.A.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

We didn’t say anything specifically about Rafael. I didn’t want to torture her.

We had adjoining rooms. I kissed her good night.

I lay in bed but now I couldn’t sleep. And I didn’t mind not sleeping.

There was a wrought-iron and glass door that opened out onto a very small iron balcony overlooking the street below, the rue Broca. I went out onto the balcony, just wearing my boxer shorts, and I put my hands on the railing. I looked out at what I could see of that bunched-up, crammed-up old neighborhood, and I looked up at the sky. It was a pale bluish grey. A few tiny stars. I breathed it all in. There was a bakery on the corner and I could smell bread baking.

I had one of those moments where you become aware of your solitude in life and in the universe. Then I thought of my daughter in there sleeping in the next room. Occasionally a car drove by. Above me the sky was lightening, morning was coming on. The earth turned beneath my feet.

I heard a knocking from inside my room, and I went back in. Was Heather up too? Did she want to talk? She probably wanted to talk about Rafael.

“Be right there,” I said to the door. I hadn’t turned a light on, but I could see around the room well enough. I went to the door, opened it.

Mr. MacNamara was standing there, smoking a cigarette. To his right was Buddy Kelly, to his left was Brad. They all looked a little older, but not nineteen years older.

“How ya doin’ Harvey?”

“Okay, sir,” I said.

“Call me Mac, kid.”

“Mac,” I said.

“Gonna invite us in?”

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Come on in.”

I stepped back, they all came in. I shook hands with them in turn, Mac, Buddy, Brad.

“Good to see ya, pal,” said Buddy.

“How’s it hangin’, soldier?” said Brad.

Brad closed the door. I went over and sat down on the bed.

There was a sort of easy chair by a small table, and Mac sat down in that. There was one other chair, but Buddy and Brad both chose to stand.

“You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” said Mr. MacNamara, holding up his cigarette.

“No, not at all,” I said. “Oh, let me put a light on --”

I started to reach for the lamp on the bed table.

“You don’t have to,” said Mr. MacNamara. “It’s nice like this.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Sorry for showing up out of the blue like this, Harvey,” said Mr. MacNamara.

“That’s okay, sir, I mean, Mac,” I said.

“Do you mind if I light a cigar?” said Brad, and he pulled a leather cigar case out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “I could stand by the window.”

“No, not at all,” I said. “I’m a cigar smoker too.”

“Oh, take a few of mine, then,” he said, and, coming over, he clicked the case open.

“Cubans,” he said. “Can’t get these back in the States. Not legally, anyways.”

There were four cigars in the case. Cohibas.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll just take one for later.”

“Take three, just leave me one. I got a whole box.”

“Well, okay.” I took three from the case, and laid them on the night table.

Brad went over by the balcony.

“Me, I gave up smoking,” said Buddy.

“Good for you, Buddy,” I said.

He stood there with his hands in his pockets. Mr. MacNamara and Brad were both wearing suits, but Buddy wore a grey windbreaker and a pair of khakis, a madras shirt.

“Harvey,” said Mr. MacNamara; there was an ashtray on the little table next to his chair, he reached over, slid it closer, tapped his cigarette into it; “the reason we’re here is we have a proposition for you.”

“A proposition?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “That is, if you would like to hear it.”

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s hear it.”

The End

(Thank you to everyone who has read this far, and many thanks for the many kind comments and e-mails.)


by nooshin azadi

illustration by rhoda penmarq


"how are you?" doesn't make sense anymore 
you may ask, "what are you?"


Sunday, July 29, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 66: williams

by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas , rhoda penmarq , and konrad kraus

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

williams was a night person, and found his employment as butler with the collinsons congenial. all the members of the family expected immediate service at any hour of the day or night, and an unspoken agreement had evolved that he would be available at night, and that the under-butler or one of the maids would be sufficient during the day after breakfast (when they - the collinsons - tended to be asleep or absent). williams had found that the collinsons expected prompt, but not constant service, and so he was free to spend most of his time at night daydreaming, looking out the windows at park avenue or 86th street, doing crossword puzzles, or doing absolutely nothing at all. especially since the demise of old colonel collinson, who had hired him after the war in which williams had served him as a driver, the nights had passed like a parade of peaceful dreams.

such slight duties as he had to perform at night never bothered or surprised him. so it was with perfect calm, and only a twinge of curiosity, that he observed mister conrad - the most resolutely nocturnal of all the collinsons - exiting from a cab below the window, followed by two persons he had never seen before. conrad was always bringing guests home, usually, but by no means always, young persons of his own class. the brief glance he had of the man and the young woman who were following conrad to the front door led him to surmise that the man, at least, did not fit that description. conrad would let them in with his key, and given the lateness of the hour, would not necessarily expect williams to greet them immediately. but, having nothing else to do, he turned from the window and was heading for the stairs when the telephone rang. he crossed swiftly to the telephone stand and lifted the receiver.

"collinson residence."

for complete episode, click here

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Fallen Beast & the Roadkill - YouTube

The Fallen Beast & the Roadkill - YouTube

the invitation - 1. the castle

by celine de courtot

illustrated by rhoda penmarq , roy dismas and konrad kraus

the comtesse souvine de x----------- had been forgotten for years, following a scandal which had itself been long forgotten. she had lived alone, with only nine or ten servants, in a castle in the eastern marshes which she had inherited from a barely known cousin of her mother. so it was with some surprise, and a small tremor of anticipation, that she received the news one morning from her personal maid, that a visitor - a woman no longer quite young - had arrived the evening before, claiming to be a niece.

"and this person gave her name?"

"i am sure she did, madame, but you know i can never remember names so i did not enquire after hers. i am sure william can enlighten you on that score."

"and she was placed where?"

"arette told me that william put her in the west tower, and assigned little margaret to her."

"assigned little margaret to her? surely she had her own servant?"

"apparently not, madame. she arrived without one."

"i hardly know what to think. and william accepted her claim to be my niece?"

"i think he will leave it to you to decide who she is. it was very late, and we all know madame does not like to be disturbed."

"no... no, of course not. it is very curious."

"will madame go downstairs at her usual time?"

"of course. why would i not?"

"and of course there is no guarantee that the young woman will arise any time soon."

"young woman? i thought you described her as 'no longer quite young'"

"madame is so particular. and so quick to notice the most minute discrepancies in the most innocently intended statements. i would describe her as neither young nor old - perhaps young but mature for her years. "

"so you saw this person yourself?"

"indeed i did."

"and she arrived when"?

"just after midnight."

for complete episode, click here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 65: "Mr. Zilch"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by roy dismas, rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

*Associate Professor of Latin Literature, Assistant Pep Rally Coördinator, Olney Community College; editor of A Sense of Dread: Six Short Novels of Suspense by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press, “The Sternwall Initiative”.)

It was just another cold November day on the Lower East Side. 

As usual I rolled out of the sack around two in the afternoon, threw on my best and my only suit, and went down to the Chinaman’s for my usual breakfast of chop suey and three or four pots of lapsang souchong. 

Outside the window the afternoon was grey, and some rain started to fall as if it had nowhere else to fall and it might as well be here. 

After I ate I poured another cup of tea, lit up a cigarette and took out my little black book. 

I had six pick-ups to make, and after them I was free until 8:30, when Big Moe had asked me to meet him at the Mobambo Room. 

Big Moe never asked me to meet him at the Mobambo Room. 

For that matter Big Moe hardly ever asked me to meet him anywhere, and why should he? 

I was strictly small potatoes, so far down the chain of command that you couldn’t get any lower, except the gutter or the grave.

But maybe Big Mo asking me to meet him at the Mobambo meant something. 

Maybe after all these years Moe had me in mind for a promotion.

Maybe I could move out of that crumby shotgun apartment on Hester Street and get something classier. 

Maybe I could buy a new suit. 

Maybe I could even get a car. Nothing fancy, nothing new, maybe just like a ‘41 Ford, one of them two-door coupe jobs maybe. 

for complete episode, click here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

pastoral - 3. the escape

by quinette de quieroz

illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

from renaldo, marquis of y----------, to daphne, countess of v--------------:

my dearest friend -
the delight i feel on hearing from you is sorely tempered by the distress i feel on your behalf. and on poor colin's and clovis's behalf! i recall many happy hours spent with them. please assure them, and the other swains and shepherdesses, of my most heartfelt sympathies.


your friend,


p s inspired by their plight, i was moved to compose this attempt at verse in a centuries old tradition. i fear we may be entering a new dark age, in which such civilized amusements are no longer even attempted, and i lay this humble sprig upon the pyre of art and beauty.

sunset: a pastoral

see how the little bumblebee
flits from flower to flower
all too unsuspecting
this is his final hour

before the fleecy cloud above
has crossed the placid sun
our industrious little friend
his labors will have done

ah colin! as you pipe your tune
cast your wandering eye
upon your humblest companions
beneath the cerulean sky

and sigh to know
and sigh to sing
the pitiless truth
the setting sun will bring

for complete episode, click here

when it's empty...

by nooshin azadi

illustration by rhoda penmarq


it was early in the morning and i was tired of dreaming... the sun was
shinning amicably so i decided to walk my dog to the beach... there i
unleashed her and we played... i found some pieces of driftwood and
threw them for my dog to fetch... we had a lot of fun on the beach...
everyone did... but the waves rose higher and higher... all of a
sudden i noticed the beach was empty except for the waves washing the

my dog was lost... i called the police... when they came,
they asked me about my dog's name and her breed... i thought for a
long time just to remember i never had a dog... but the leash?! i
showed it to the policemen... they shook their heads and left... in my
hand there was just my bag... my bag was so heavy... i opened it to
see what i had in it... it was full of banknotes... to lighten my bag,
i decided to spend the money... i got a taxi and went to a good
restaurant... i had an excellent meal and gave a big tip to the waiter
but my bag was still heavy...

i started to walk down the street giving
each pedestrian a banknote... i even dropped some in the mailbox...
but my bag was still heavy... i thought it was better to hand the
money in to the police... when i got to the nearest police station, it
was midnight... i told them the story... they opened my bag just to
find it was crammed with some notebooks... they turned over their
pages one by one which were all closely written with lines of poetry
except for one... they returned the bag and the empty page to me... my
bag was empty now...

so i left... the beach was empty too... i stood
there for a long time with the empty page in my hand... listening to
the waves... a man appeared on the beach out of the blue... staggering
toward me... he had an empty bottle in his hand... "when... it's
empty... throw it... away!", he stammered and threw the bottle into
the waves... but they tossed it back at my feet... the man looked me
in the eye and asked for my bag... his eyes were vacant and gray... i
hesitated for a moment but handed it over... "when it's empty, throw
it away!", i repeated the man's words with a smile... he opened the
bag and gasped joyously... "i will! i will!", he shouted at the top of
his voice as he ran away and vanished in the dark...

to my surprise,
the empty bag was full of banknotes once again... i came to myself by
the empty bottle hitting against my ankle with the waves... the tide
was rising... i put the empty page in the empty bottle and capped it
tightly... then i stepped cautiously into the sea and threw the bottle
as far as i could... i felt the sand under my feet sliding toward the
sea... i liked that feeling of instability... as if i was getting
ready to fly... i just let go of myself... giving in to the waves...
when suddenly i sensed a tight grip on my sleeve... dragging me back
to the shore...

it was my dog... i rose to my feet... staring at her
incredulously... she got up on her hind legs and put her paws on my
shoulders... licking my face and barking happily... the sunlit beach
was crowded now... "let's go home, faith!", i told her as i patted her
on the head... it started to rain lightly... we returned home under
the rain... i found my bag on the doorstep... it was empty again...


april 6, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 64: closing time at al's

by manfred skyline

illustrated by konrad kraus , roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

for complete episode, click here

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 137: the movie

What’s better than being in a smoky jazz club in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in the company of old friends you haven’t seen in nineteen years? Nothing, that’s what...

(Go here to read our previous chapter, or click here to return to the beginning of this Parade Magazine People's Choice Award©-winning epic from the 1950 Royal portable of Larry Winchester: “Perhaps the only novelist working today who can be mentioned in the same breath with giants such as Tolstoy, Dickens, Balzac, Sternwall, or Arnold Schnabel.” -- Harold Bloom, in "The Cape May Pennysaver"..)

After a while Dick asked me what I knew about the old Disdain gang, and I filled him in, what I knew. Paco and Doc Goldwasser were still alive, amazingly, last I heard. But Derek, the English dude? He had OD’d on alcohol way back in the early 70s..

Dick kept saying, “Do you ever see…” or “Do you ever hear from…” and I had to keep saying no, no, sorry, no.

“Even your friend, what was his name, Skip?”


“Tip --”

I told him no, you know how it is.

“Yeah. Yeah, people wander --”

“Or they don’t wander,” I said.

“Yes, there are those,” said Dick.


“We meet people sheerly at random,” said Dick. “Circumstances throw you together for a while. But then the circumstances change.”

“And we change.”

“Yeah, we change,” he said. “We get older, anyway."

I suddenly realized that he wasn’t smoking; so, yeah, things change.

“What about Hope?” I said. This was the first time that I had asked about someone.

Dick said, “Oh, Hope,” and I suddenly remembered what I had not thought of when I asked the question, namely that she was Rafael’s actual mother. And I had no idea what, if anything, Rafael knew about her. I leaned closer to Dick.

“Am I being indiscreet?” I said, low.

“Not at all,” said Dick, also speaking low. “But may I ask you another question?”

“Consider me an open book.”

“Do you still get high?”

“Are you holding?”


“Let’s go,” I said.

“Darling,” said Dick, to Daphne, who was still deeply in conversation with Heather and Rafael. “Harvey and I are going to step out for some air.”

She waved at us, and went back to her conversation with the kids.

Dick and I went out, he suggested we go down to the bridge that was right down the street, and we did.

We stood in the middle of the bridge and leaned against the rail on our elbows, looking down at the river and at the cathedral of Notre Dame off there to the left, beyond another old bridge. Dick pulled a joint out of his shirt pocket, we lit it up.

We had chatted about the neighborhood ever since we left the club, nothing heavy, but now, after four or five tokes of this extremely powerful weed -- and really, would Dick have any other kind -- he said, “So, you were asking about Hope?”

I was so stoned already I said, “I was?”

“Yeah,” said Dick.

“Oh, right, now I remember,” I said. “Hope. The dope on Hope.”

“Right,” said Dick. “I suppose you didn’t hear about her?”


I was expecting him to say she had died. Overdose? Suicide? But no --

“She went insane.”


“I’m afraid so.”


To tell the truth I wasn’t surprised.

“How did she go insane?” I asked.


“Stupid question,” I said.

“No,” said Dick, “not really.” He toked, held it in, then he let it out slowly, the smoke drifting off upriver. “She went insane kind of slowly and sporadically at first, and then all at once.”

“When was this?”

“I guess it was about five years ago that she went totally cuckoo. We hadn’t heard from her for a year or so, and then one day I got a call from Big Jake. He wanted me to find her, because she had been calling him at all hours, raving, apparently, about, uh, beings. From the, uh, sky. From the heavens.”



“Maybe she wasn’t raving,” I said.

Dick sighed.

“Jake wired me some money, and I went looking for her. I found her on Mount Olympus, in Greece.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I wish I was.”

“What was she doing on Mount Olympus?”

“Waiting for the gods to come down.”

“Oh. So she really was, uh --”

“Yeah,” said Dick.

“So what did you do?”

“I called Jake. He came out to Greece. We managed to get her into a hospital in Athens. Jake stayed, I went back to Paris. After a while he he got her transferred to a sanitarium in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She’s been there ever since.”

“Damn,” I said. “Even my mother didn’t know about this.”

“That’s because Jake keeps it all on the QT. But it’s a very nice place she’s in. We go to visit her there every year. Daphne and Rafael and I.”

“And what is she like? I mean --”

“She seems happy enough. She’s in her own world. Spends a lot of time working in the garden.”

“Damn. So -- Rafael -- he knows that she’s his, uh --”

“Oh, yes. He’s always known she was his real mother, since he was old enough to understand, anyway. And she would come to visit us every once in a while, before she went completely wacko.”

“And how does he -- how does Rafael --”

“Deal with it all?”

Dick had been bogarting the joint for a while, and I took it out of his fingers.

“Oh, sorry,” he said.

I toked.

“What did you just ask me?” said Dick.

“I was wondering about Rafael,” I said, holding in the smoke.

“Oh, right. Well, I guess he just accepts the situation. What else can you do?”

I let out the smoke.

“You can piss and moan,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not Rafael,” said Dick.

“Good,” I said. "Nobody likes a pisser and moaner.”

“No, not unless you can be funny about it,” said Dick. “Entertaining.”

“Right,” I said, staring up along the gleaming river, past the bridge up ahead, staring at the electric-lit spires of the cathedral. “Um --”

“What?” said Dick.

“I just had a really disturbing flash.”

“Lay it on me.”

“Remember how that Frank dude said that the human race was just like this big entertainment industry for those outer space guys? Well, what if everything that happened to us back then, including the whole business with Frank, those motorcycle guys, all that shit, what if the whole thing was, was just a big movie for those outer-space people. I mean, it might not have been completely scripted, but, who knows, maybe Frank and those guys were like actors, improvving, playing off what we did, while the whole thing was being broadcast back home, like a movie, or a mini-series --”

“Wow,” said Dick. “That’s fucked up.”


It was me who was bogarting the joint now. Dick took the joint gently from my fingers, took a small toke, held it in, let it out.

“Here’s a thought,” he said. “What if the movie’s still going on? What if this is part of the movie?”

He waved his open hand. The bridge we stood on, the river, the church, the city, the stars, the world, and us.

We said nothing for a while, then Dick put out the roach, put it into his shirt pocket, and we headed back to the club.

(Concluded here, at long last. “One of those books you want never to end, and it almost doesn’t.” -- W.H. Auden.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

the immaculate wall in front of me

by nooshin azadi

illustration by rhoda penmarq


the immaculate wall in front of me
is blotched by my shadow
all beauties are reminiscent of
an ugliness
nothing's perfect


Thursday, July 12, 2012

fenwick - 4. violence

by minette de montfort

illustrated by roy dismas

the sun was now in its zenith. i think.

"zenith" mean high point, i believe. i am never sure about such things. words and abstract definitions are not among my strengths. in any event, the sun was high in the sky. it was hot. i was suddenly very thirsty. my feet were sore. my walking stick felt heavy in my hand, to the point that i was tempted to throw it away. i had absolutely no idea where i was going or why i was going there. i was thoroughly miserable. all in all, a typical day of my so-called existence.

at least, i thought, i was rid of costermayne and fenwick. i could now barely hear the echoes of fenwick's angry shoutings and costermayne's desperate whimperings . and another sound. the sound of a walking stick on thrashed human flesh? a hot wind had sprung up and was blowing in my face. it seemed to be blowing their noises away from me also. perhaps i had not left them so far behind as i thought? i was afraid to look back, lest this fear prove too well founded, and i increased my pace as best i could.

my curiosity about fenwick , which had brought me to this wretched pass, had more than totally evaporated, and i rued the day i had ever seen or thought about him. i set to walking with a will so as to put more distance between them and myself.

for complete episode, click here

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 136: the world

Our previous episode found Dick and Daphne re-united by chance, after almost two decades, with the no-longer young Harvey (with his eighteen-year-old daughter, Heather) in Paris, in the summer of 1988...

(Click here to start at the beginning of this Ladies' Home Journal Award©-winning masterpiece from the battered Smith Corona portable of Larry Winchester, “The last of the giants.” -- Harold Bloom, on The Charlie Rose Show.)

We had been sitting outside the café for almost an hour after lunch, and Daphne and Heather were really hitting it off, just chatting away. I had fallen into a contented fade-out, sipping my beer and smoking a cigar, watching the people go by in the sunlight.

Then Dick leaned over toward me and said in a low voice:

“She looks just like Attie.”

“Except for the braces on her teeth,” I said.

“You’re a lucky guy.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“Excuse me for asking, Harve, but -- you’ve never gotten married?”

“I’m seeing a woman back in L.A. It looks like we’re headed in that direction.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

Right about then a very handsome and tall young guy wearing a backpack over one shoulder came strolling up to the table. He looked like an Italian soccer star.

“Rafael!” yelled Daphne.

He bent down and he and Daphne kissed each other French-style on both cheeks. Then he punched Dick on the shoulder American-style and Dick feinted with a left and punched Rafael with a right to his shoulder.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hey, Rafe.”

“Rafael,” said Daphne, “I want you to meet one of our oldest friends and his simply stunning daughter: Harvey and Heather.”

I shook Rafael’s hand, which was about twice as big as mine. Rafael’s eyes were having trouble not darting over to Heather.

Rafael and Heather then said hi to each other, and shook hands. They were both blushing. Rafael looked around, saw an empty chair at another table and pulled it over. Daphne and Heather wordlessly made room between each other, and Rafael sat down between them. He started to take off his backpack and Heather helped him with it.

“This is too perfect,” said Daphne.

Rafael and Heather started to chat together, about school, where they were going to college that fall...

Daphne put her hand on my thigh. This felt good.

Yeah, it was all too weird, but what else was new? I half expected Old Mr. MacNamara to come strolling up.

Speaking of:

“Hey, how’s your father, Daphne?” I asked.

I was very jet-lagged, and on my fourth glass of red wine. I put my hand on her hand on my thigh.

“Oh, Papa died, I’m afraid. Again.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

She drew her hand away. Too bad, I’d been enjoying that.

She put the ends of her fingers on her wineglass. White wine, shining in the sunlight.

“He was on some sort of expedition, in the Gobi Desert, along with Buddy Kelly and that Brad person. Remember Brad?”

“Brad Dexter? Sure I remember him.”

“Brad,” she said, and she paused a moment. “Well, anyway, apparently, they all went out in their jeep together, the three musketeers, out into the Gobi, and then they got lost and ran out of gas and, well, their jeep was found out there in the wastelands, but -- no Papa, no Buddy, no Brad. Nothing. Neither hair nor hide.”

She took up her glass of wine and took a sip, swirled the wine in the glass, then put the glass down again.

“It was -- a very Papa way to go,” she said.


After a while Heather and I went back to the hotel and took naps, and later we all hooked up again and had dinner at some Moroccan joint in the Quarter. Then we all walked around showing Heather the sights.

Finally we wound up in this very smoky basement jazz club. A band led by an American trumpet player was playing, and Daphne and the kids were all leaning together on the other side of the table; I couldn’t really follow their conversation over the music.

Dick and I had been doing some more catching up through the evening. He’d never heard the whole story about Attie finally dying back in 1980, the letter I got from my mother, and me dragging my ass back to Disdain and taking custody of a daughter I hadn’t known I had.

“You never knew,” said Dick.

“I never knew. I’d never gone back home again. I wrote Attie a few times after I left, but all she ever sent me were like two-sentence post cards, and then after a while even those stopped. My mom used to write fairly regularly, but she never mentioned a baby.”

Dick and I were leaning close to each other. I had been gazing through the smoke at the band. I turned my head to look at him. He was looking intently at me.

“I realize now I was a complete asshole,” I said. “Never even going back for a visit to my mom. But I just couldn’t do it.”

“How is your mother?” asked Dick, moving on.

“Fine. She moved out to L.A. to live with us, actually.”


“Yeah. It’s good, you know, to have a woman around for a kid.”

“Of course.”

“I mean, what did I know about taking care of a kid?”

“Right. And how does your mom like L.A.?”

“Fuckin’ loves it. She wanted to work, so I got her a job with a craft services company at MGM. Fuckin’ loves her job. Everybody on the lot loves her, too.”

“Well, that’s really nice, Harve.”

“Yeah. And it kinda makes up for all the years when I wouldn’t visit her. I guess.”

“I’d say so.”

“Y’know, I thought Attie was barren,” I said.

“You did? Why?”

“Because that’s what she told me. She told me she was barren, from radiation exposure.”

“Oh,” said Dick. “So -- she was mistaken --”

“Either that, or -- or she, uh -- she --”


“She wanted to have a kid, but she didn’t necessarily want me to know she had a kid. ‘Cause she knew I wanted to travel around, see the world, experience life. All that shit.”

“Oh. I see.”

“She didn’t want to tie me down.”


“Yeah,” I said. “Well, you know.”

“Sure,” said Dick.

We both shut up for a bit then, and listened to the music.

(Continued here, and for just a little bit longer. Based on The Philco Television Playhouse original drama starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Skip Homeier.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

frankie and johnny: a villanelle

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by roy dismas

frankie pulled out her gat
her eyes were pools of hate
johnny put on his hat

don't look at me like that
johnny saw it was too late
frankie pulled out her gat

on the window sat a cat
silent and placid as fate
johnny put on his hat

you dirty stinking rat
you was always second-rate
frankie pulled out her gat

why don't we have a chat
our differences are not so great
johnny put on his hat

a breeze wafted through the flat
"you had your chance to be straight"

frankie pulled out her gat
johnny put on his hat

Sunday, July 8, 2012


by nooshin azadi

illustration by rhoda penmarq


they disappear
in the blink of an eye
or by hundreds 
without me ever knowing
who they were
or what they dreamed of
you are still here
with me
dreaming of
what i dream of
all through these years
which fade away
or by hundreds


Friday, July 6, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 63: "hoo boy"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

artistic supervisor: rhoda penmarq

*Associate Professor of Classical Literature, Assistant Home-Room Coördinator, Olney Community College; editor of A Girl Named Trixie, a Guy Called Spike: 27 Short Stories and 4 Novellas of the Slums by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press, “The Sternwall Archive”, made possible in part by a generous grant from The Pep Boys™, Manny, Moe and Jack: “Serving your automotive needs to the best of our abilities in these trying times.” This week only, mention “Horace P. Sternwall” and get a free bottle of Turtle Wax© with every purchase exceeding $100. (Offer void where prohibited.)

for complete episode, click here

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 135: reunion

We now raise the curtain on the final act of Larry Winchester’s beloved epic, presented here for the first time in all its uncut glory...

(Click here for our previous chapter, or here for the beginning of this Woolworth's Literary Award©-winning masterpiece. “This book never leaves my bathroom.” -- Harold Bloom.)

Paris, August, 1988

After checking out our rooms we were heading out the front door when who should we practically bump into on the sidewalk but, hardly the worse for wear, Dick and Daphne Ridpath.

They walked right past us and they looked older of course and they were wearing sunglasses, but I knew it was them all right. Neither of them quite caught that it was me, and after all I was wearing my shades too, but, fuck, let’s face it, I’m just not all that striking-looking. But they did both glance back. And I said, “Dick? Daphne?” And they stopped. I took off my sunglasses. And Daphne goes, “Good God. Soldier boy.”

And then she comes over and puts her hands on my arms and kisses me on the mouth.

“Harvey darling.”

She looks at Heather.

“And please don’t tell me this is your girlfriend.”

“This is my daughter, believe it or not.”

And I did the introductions.

I was amazed but come to think of it not surprised at how well they looked. Dick’s hair had gone grey but as opposed to me the fucker still had most of his hair, and he was even slimmer than I remembered him being back in ’69. Daphne had some lines at the corners of her eyes but she still had that body, a little bit more filled out but still firm looking. The pixie haircut was gone and her hair was long and lustrous, a little reddish now, and piled up on top of her head with little tendrils curling down the sides of her face. Her lipstick was a deep brownish red. And both she and Dick had very white teeth that even looked real.

Back in the old days they looked just like a pair of movie stars, and fuck them now if they still didn’t. Just older.

We all retired to an outside table at a café nearby on the rue Mouffetard called Le Bateau Ivre. This had been one of my hangouts when I spent six or seven months in Paris back in ’71, or was it ’72, whatever, it was the year Jim Morrison died, whenever the fuck that was.

Daphne told us how beautiful Heather was.

“You look just like your mother, darling.”

Heather for her part was obviously enthralled with these two, and I could tell I’d risen a notch or two in her estimation.

I hadn’t seen the Ridpaths since that September back in 1969. We had said we’d stay in touch, but that hadn’t worked out too well. I moved around a lot in the seventies, and Dick and Daphne never seemed to stay in one place longer than a month, so after a few years the correspondence dwindled away to not-quite yearly Christmas cards; and then, for the past six or seven years, nothing.

Daphne asked me what we were doing in Paris, and I told her we were on vacation.

“What about you guys?” I asked.

“We live here now,” said Daphne. “We’ve finally taken a form of root someplace. You see we wanted Rafael to have some stability and a decent secondary education.”

Rafael -- pronounced the Spanish way -- was Dick’s son by Hope, Daphne’s adopted son.

“Um, I should know this,” I said, “but, uh, did you guys ever have any other --”

“I can’t,” said Daphne. “I had a couple of miscarriages, and one almost killed me, and I had to have an awful operation where they removed half of my insides, and -- well --”

“Oh my God --”

“Oh, it’s all right now, supposedly. But it was very boring there for a while, and the upshot was I couldn’t have kids.”

“Shit, I’m sorry --”

“On the positive side it all scared me enough to get healthy. I gave up smoking, and, you’re not going to believe this, I gave up red meat.”

“Get out.”

“No, seriously. Also I practice chi kung on a daily basis, this tedious Chinese discipline that I used to make fun of Dick about. I’m absurdly healthy now. Except I do drink wine. There are limits.”

So we had lunch, and we caught up a bit. I told them a little about my show-biz career, but I didn’t want to bore Heather, so I just kept to the broad outlines, and then turned the conversation back to Dick and Daphne. They had an apartment right up the street on Claude Bernard. And amazingly, they both had day jobs now, taking American and Canadian tourists on bus tours through Paris and its environs…

But something was happening, and it had only happened to me once or twice before, this thing where you’re with someone you haven’t seen in a very long time and yet it feels like you’ve just seen them last week. Almost nineteen years and a lot of shit and here we all were again, and it felt right. A little weird, true. But weird felt normal.

(To be continued. Tickets now available for the Olney Film Society’s annual Larry Winchester Film Festival at the Fern Rock Theatre, featuring a 48-hour marathon of Larry’s masterworks, including the first showing in over fifty years of Too Late The Wiseguy {1953, Dane Clark and Martha Vickers} in a brand new 35mm print restored from the original negative, in Dolby mono sound.)