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 Volume #3                    February 29, 1996                    Issue #2

             Part II of a Special Second Anniversary Double Issue!
                       CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2

     Editors' Notes . . . . . . . Kris Kalil Fulkerson and J.D. Rummel

     Unforseen Circumstances . . . . . . . . . . . . . Richard J. Toon

     * a first ode to coffee * . . . . . . . . . Bruce Harris Bentzman

     Girl Poet III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . William C. Burns, Jr.

     Me and Richie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Alexander

     Our Dead  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles T. Rogers

     So he Says  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles T. Rogers

     The Pigeon Man's Deathray  . . . . . . . . . . . Frederick Rustam

     About the Authors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Authors

     In Their Own Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Authors

 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff                Matthew Mason                      +         

 Assistant Editor                                            Fiction Editor 
 Kris Kalil Fulkerson                                           J.D. Rummel                             


 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 3, Issue 2.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a bi-monthly basis.  Reproduction of this magazine is
 permitted as long as the magazine is not sold and the entire text of the
 issue remains intact.  Copyright 1996, Robert Fulkerson, Matthew Mason,
 Kris Kalil Fulkerson and J.D. Rummel.  _The Morpo Review_ is published in
 ASCII and World Wide Web formats.  All literary and artistic works are
 Copyright 1996 by their respective authors and artists.

                               EDITORS' NOTES

   *** Kris Kalil Fulkerson, Assistant Editor
   ++ Story Problems

   Jumping through hoops. That's what earning my masters degree has
   become over the past three years. All my grandiose, albeit fuzzy,
   plans for figuring it out and making a difference have gradually been
   eroded by long hours in the library, late nights preparing papers, and
   afternoons spent in seminars arguing the Machiavellian subtexts of
   Christopher Marlowe. My high school English teacher warned me that
   graduate school would ruin my passion for reading, but I scoffed at
   the idea. Seven years later, she was almost proved correct.
   Almost, I say, because a wonderful thing happened to me in this, my
   final semester of my masters degree. I found myself in George Wolf's
   Canadian Fiction class. Scheduled at that god-awful hour of 8:00 am on
   Tuesdays and Thursdays, the class was sure to be little more than a
   hazy prequel to my 9:30 am Modern Drama class. I held this smug
   conviction for the forty seconds it took me to walk into Andrews Hall,
   past various open classroom doors, and across the threshold of Room
   121. I blinked. The frenetic movement of desks screeching, students
   milling, and coats and bookbags being cast off rejected the lethargy
   my mind and muscles had been prepared to slip into. At the center of
   this maelstrom stood a slight man, his graying hair pulled back into a
   ponytail that swung erratically against his shoulder blades as he
   addressed the students converging on him. "Take a sheet of paper and
   some markers! Spread out! No, David, you need more colors than that.
   Marta, get in the circle. Everyone, make a circle of the desks! Now
   start drawing!" And in less time than it took me to enter the
   classroom with my smug preconceptions, I found myself sucked into this
   man's orbit and jettisoned out again, markers and paper in hand and
   searching for my own place in the circle of desks forming around the
   perimeter of the room.
   The images we drew that morning of what we knew about Canadian Fiction
   are no less amusing to recall than the confused, and sometimes
   panicked, expressions on our faces as we tried to orient ourselves to
   such an unorthodox introduction to a literature class. Drawing would
   be expected, we were told, as would dramatic readings of the material
   and active participation in discussions. We received a class roster
   and were told to learn our classmates' names. Read with a pencil, he
   said, and write in your books. Do not read lying down, he said. You
   should be concentrating, not falling asleep. Unlike most syllabi,
   these standards have been enforced. We all have been required to talk,
   to call on one another, to bring favorite passages to life with the
   inflections of our voices. But most of all, we have been required to
   feel. "How does that scene make you feel?" he demands, not letting us
   hide behind discussions of themes or symbolism. And for the first time
   in many many years, I find myself being drawn into to the literature,
   responding to it on a human level rather than an analytical one.
   It disturbs me how deeply I have been conditioned to dissect first,
   and to feel second. Where I once delighted in literature for the
   understanding of my humanity that language offered, I have been
   trained to approach literature like an algebraic story problem. What
   does "x" represent? And how about "y"? What if we take the square root
   of the whole thing and multiply it by some imaginary numbers? Just as
   I regarded my neatly printed solutions to story problems with a bored
   satisfaction, I survey the multitude of papers I have written for
   literature classes with a skeptical pride that is undercut by the
   nagging question, So what? Does it really matter that I have
   pinpointed the sources of Chaucer's death imagery in The Book of the
   Duchess? Or that I recognize the importance of narrative forms in
   Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha novels? Perhaps. But my experience in George
   Wolf's class has shown me that my own feelings teach me far more about
   works of literature than these academic exercises can. In half a
   semester I have unlearned the lessons of seven years of undergraduate
   and graduate training. I have reauthorized myself to succumb to the
   emotional response to characters' joys and sorrows, to enjoy the pure
   sensory pleasure of reading aloud an especially elegant piece of
   writing. This experience has been more than just a rediscovery of an
   approach to reading. It has been a rediscovery of literature itself,
   and with it, a rebirth of my passion for reading. Thank you, Mr. Wolf.
   *** J.D. Rummel, Fiction Editor_
   ++ A Matter of Perspective, or, What I Did On My Summer Vacation
   Hemingway (Ernest, not Mariel) said we should write about what we
   know, and is there any better way to know something, than to
   experience it? More than anything, that's why I did it. It was the
   sort of thing a writer is supposed to do. It would be a cool story to
   tell, like one of those wild buddy movies, the ones where appropriate
   music accompanies the most mundane action and you laugh at the funny
   things people say while they're being shot at.
   My wild buddy John was getting married, and for his bachelor party he
   wanted us to go to a whorehouse. The Groom and I had known each other
   for many years, and although we shared the abiding bond of Foolish
   Male Endeavors (bungee jumping, parachuting, high speed car chases and
   bad, high school plays) our contract went beyond adrenal foolishness,
   each of us having held the other in pain and fear.
   He was, and is, my friend.
   Did I know what I was doing, what I was getting into? No, the word
   "whorehouse" carried a powerful flavor that tuned-out
   level-headedness. It echoed of clipper ships at sea and barroom
   brawls, of Redford and Newman in smoky, Victorian parlors filled with
   pretty women in bloomers. I must have had a dangerous gleam in my eye,
   because when I would tell people my plans, their response was always a
   wide-eyed: "Be careful."
   Oh, and I did tell people. We all did. John's sister knew her husband
   was going, she just didn't ask about it; the bride, being from another
   culture, actually told the groom it was okay, but, like her future
   sister-in-law, she didn't want to know any deta ils. Even my wonderful
   Amy knew I was going; I told her quite openly at a restaurant. True,
   it was about an hour before I got on the plane, but I'm sure I sounded
   matter-of-fact about the whole thing, like a scientist going along
   strictly for research purposes. In my heart I knew I had no intention
   of demeaning our partnership, even though tool calendar gorgeous woman
   were going to approach me with black belt bedding secrets mastered
   over years of screwing. I was just a writer, looking for a story to
   In Houston I rented a car, picked up the groom's brother-in-law and
   drove to Laredo, where the bridegroom was waiting. As we drove, the
   talk included stories of the women we'd slept with and maybe loved,
   and the women we loved now. My own sexual history was out-gunned by
   that of brother-in-law, so I tried to keep the conversation from hard
   numbers. The writer in me generalized as best he could, stretching my
   few lovers into a wider range of carnal adventure. By avoiding
   specifics I implied several women were many. I doubt brother-in-law
   was fooled, but in the course of our hormonal mission it was not
   examined. We were raging bundles of testosterone, bound by the Code of
   the Y Chromosome.
   By the time we got to Laredo, you could almost smell the musk. The
   bridegroom met us on his porch and we exchanged manly handshakes. We
   were all looking forward to The Whorehouse. John, the groom, had been
   there before. He would be our guide, the one who had ventured,
   charted, and upon coming back alive, was qualified to lead a new
   And so, the Wild Buddies set off for the whorehouse leeringly called
   Boystown. As we drove across the border, I peered down into the
   streaming _Rio Grande_. I was told the filthy depths were full of
   lethal micro organisms that had killed many foolish enough to try and
   swim across. I looked hard, but the waters looked the same as the
   Missouri back home. My imagination seized the image of this deadly
   canal separating two distinct worlds. As we paid the toll, I spied the
   uniforms and drug dogs patrolling the foreign land. My heart sped as I
   saw a place so far removed from my own reality. As we entered _Nuevo
   Laredo_ there should have been sultry theme music playing, alerting
   the audience to changes the players could not see.
   I have been asked not to judge all of Mexico by the standard of the
   border towns. Certainly I wish I had seen more of the country, for
   _Nuevo Laredo_ is a terrible memory; a place of boarded-up buildings,
   and narrow, greasy, gray streets congested with trash and begging
   children. Though I am certain it is considered home by many people, it
   reminded me of nightmares about being lost in an endless back alley
   where the ability to run is inexplicably broken. And there was a
   subtle stink, as if nearby, garbage had been left out in the summer
   We ate at a restaurant where John had eaten before. I had
   _cabrito_--young goat. The entree was displayed in the windows of the
   shop, and we joked about eating homeless spaniels.
   After dinner, we headed to Boystown, and upon arrival the name
   Boystown took on greater depth. To call Boystown a whorehouse was like
   calling the O.J. verdict a whimsical misstep. Boystown was a sprawling
   whore village, not only literally, but geographically. The compound
   itself covered several blocks and entry was accomplished by driving
   through a large gate. Incredible as it seemed to my midwestern mind,
   it was a mall dedicated to sex.
   Once inside, we steered to the light of a bar called _El Papagayo's_.
   The exterior, with its bright neon pushing back the evening, made me
   think of all the times the camera would follow a tuxedoed James Bond
   inside some exotic location. The night air was warm and loud music
   rang out of the surrounding doorways.
   _El Papagayo's_ was dimly lit inside, but not smoky as I had
   envisioned. Because it was Monday, business was slow and empty tables
   spread out before us. Even as we sat, the women drew around--like ants
   to freshly dripped ice cream. They were not dressed in the bloomers of
   my cowboy movie imagination, but in tight, unflattering Spandex and
   nylon. The powder on their faces was caked and shiny, making me think
   of dusty, waxed fruit.
   One approached me, reached down to my crotch and ran her hand
   unerringly along my length. She called me "Super Hombre." which made
   me laugh; for better and worse, years of high school rejection had
   made me immune to such tactics. Still, I was polite and explained in
   slow English that I had someone wonderful at home. When she was
   convinced that commerce was not about to take place, she moved off, no
   longer impressed that I was Super Hombre. There was a distinct feeling
   that time was money.
   I drank only bottled beer, my sophisticated brain keenly alert to what
   might be lurking in the frozen Mexican water cooling other drinks. I
   felt savvy, like a globe trotting pro. After two rounds we headed out
   onto the streets of Boystown with John guiding us. He could have been
   at the front of a tour bus: "To your left you can see..." Pointing to
   the horizon he sagely warned us to avoid that portion of Boystown
   completely. In the shadows, he explained, were men who did things,
   sick things that went well beyond the screwing and grunting that God
   intended straight, decent Americans to purchase.
   From the edges of the evening music accompanied us as we walked. The
   putrid, gone-over smell was along also, causing me to eye the tamale
   vendor's steaming cart suspiciously. As we walked, another odor
   overpowered the earlier stench. Across the walk before us, a gray
   donkey with dry, wiry hair stood amid piles of its own shit.
   I felt an electric tingle. John had explained the "donkey shows" to
   me. When the money was there, and the crowd frenzied, the donkey would
   be brought in onto the stage, and the whores would perform sex acts
   with it. Between the donkey's legs hung a long phallus, purple almost
   to blackness. I knew I was supposed to be shocked, but instead, I
   heard my mother's voice telling me not to stare at the accident.
   The inside of the donkey bar was like a hobo's living room: old car
   seats propped up between walls papered with aluminum foil. Several
   barely clad women stopped and sat with us, asking for drinks. The men
   in the room were GQ poster children. Most wore dirty denim and cotton,
   while any baths and haircuts were more likely the result of a lawyer's
   instructions than a habit. My liberal arts upbringing clashed with the
   reflexive urge to think of them as "bottom dwellers." Periodically,
   women would walk across the room literally parading for inspection,
   exposing themselves to another, seated against the wall. One woman,
   squeezed into a white paint-job-of-a-dress, peeled down her top,
   barring her breasts for a man at the bar, inviting him to examine the
   freshness. There was even one prostitute that made us confer in
   whispers. Her underwear wasn't skintight at the groin like all the
   others, and a bulge she couldn't hide was what seemed to be an Adam's
   These were the pieces of the story I would tell at some later date. I
   took them in and rolled them around, trying to disassemble the angles
   and reconstruct them so that I understood fully what I was seeing. As
   I examined the details I realized I was not a roused. There was no
   eroticism. No more than one feels when pushing cold meat between
   slices of bread. There was nothing dirty here except the glasses the
   drinks came in and the servers' hands. There we were, dropped into an
   ancient tale: women renting space inside their bodies, taking cash for
   acts of intimacy and exhibition. The "world's oldest profession" my
   education said. But this time I wasn't just coming home late through
   the bad part of town, driving past hookers at two in the morning. I
   thought about that, wondering how it felt, to be so exposed and
   vulnerable. Perhaps too briefly, injury and disease came closer than
   the evening news.
   Outside again, we walked along boardwalks as barely clad women lounged
   in bedrooms, doors open, advertising on a slow night for any
   attention. It was like a strip of film, each frame consisting of
   slight variations on the same scene: bed, female, and dim yellow
   light. Some stood outside their doors. One, ugly and drunken, walked
   up to me, cupped her hand in my groin and slurred, "I hwant to fuck
   hyou!" Her free hand clumsily groped my wallet and I pushed away the
   one palming my crotch. The same thing was happening to our fearless
   guide, who spoke to the woman in an angry tone, clearly suggesting she
   was violating some rule of fair trade.
   We returned to _El Papagayo's_ where the women again circled. In one
   hour I rejected more offers for sex than in all my other days on Earth
   combined. The Groom indulged himself, letting the women sit on his lap
   and whisper in his ear. One, whose painted face made me think of
   cartoons where a horse is drawn to look like a woman, ground her butt
   into John's lap. His face, dreamily contented, contrasted against the
   woman's bored, far away expression. It was the same face that asks if
   you want fries with your order and doesn't care about your response.
   This wasn't an adventure, it was a job.
   Looking at John enjoying the attention of women who cared nothing
   about him, I thought about the professional tone he took with the
   hooker that tried to pick his pocket. I realized my friend didn't view
   this as a Wild Buddy movie, instead, he saw the whole thing as
   business, a meeting between consumer and provider. I think I always
   knew it wasn't really a movie, nor just a story, but I never believed
   it was a business transaction. After all, we weren't going to use
   their services. None of us were going to pay these women more than a
   Eventually, brother-in-law allowed a woman to sit on his lap. They
   talked, but I couldn't hear the words. Still, I'm sure they weren't
   discussing the location of enemy headquarters, and that she didn't
   have to embellish stories of her sex life. Most certainly they were
   not discussing his life in Houston or her secret dreams. This was not
   affection, nor sex. This wasn't even the business of prostitution,
   because we were only window shopping. This was just pretend.
   For us.
   I wish I could write that sitting there I felt something under my
   skin, that I realized it was peoples' lives we were taking lightly. I
   wish that I had had some English class moment where I saw that we were
   on a Princess cruise through someone else's existence, and that we had
   no real business there, but I didn't. I was miles and days away from
   that conclusion.
   No, somewhere before one a.m. we just left Boystown. When we became
   tired and bored, we simply walked out--a freedom I don't believe the
   prostitutes shared. Thinking about it now, I understand why someone
   would swim in the disease infested waters of the river. I went to
   Boystown expecting an experience, something outside my reality to
   flavor my own life. I wanted a good story to tell.
   And I was reminded that all stories...are a matter of perspective.


"Unforseen Circumstances" by Richard J. Toon

   Fay turned the oversized card face up to reveal the Queen of
   Pentacles. Deftly, she placed it in the complex pattern emerging on
   the kitchen table.
   "That's good, very good," Fay said. "You were unlucky in love, I can
   feel that, but now your future is about to lead you somewhere new."
   "I've always believed you make your own future." Ruth said. "What
   happened to free will?"
   "Nothing is predetermined," Fay said, "you can always act to change
   it, but first you have to know what's possible. How can you exercise
   that so-called free will unless you know what the future could be?"
   Ruth did not have an answer. She found herself studying Fay, trying to
   judge whether she was a fake psychic. It was impossible: she had no
   notion of the genuine article. She scrutinized Fay's false nails, the
   long floral skirt, the maroon crushed-velvet jacket, and assumed this
   was standard uniform for a "reader." Learning from Fay's face was also
   difficult. She was about Ruth's age -- early forties -- but whether
   her life was tough or easy, happy or sad, no signs were visible. Ruth
   glanced around the room at the cheap furniture and dated kitchen
   appliances for further clues. If Fay could see the future, why hadn't
   she done better than this dilapidated rented-house? Ruth was startled
   when Fay answered her unspoken thoughts.
   "I can see how things will turn out for others, but I can't do the
   same for myself. Some psychics use a personal item, like a ring, but
   the Tarot cards work well for me. It's something for both of us to
   concentrate on."
   Ruth blushed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply . . . I don't want
   you to think. . . ." She could see from Fay's puzzled expression that
   she'd made a mistake. She was getting carried away and for a moment
   confused a coincidental remark with telepathy.
   Fay scooped-up the cards and handed the neat pack to Ruth, who
   shuffled them awkwardly and two fell onto the table. Fay picked them
   up again and said, "Think about the question you came with. Try to
   "I didn't come with a question."
   "Yes you did. You just can't see it yet. Everyone comes with a
   Ruth lived in New York. Divorced two years earlier, she still felt
   fragile and alone. There was work of course; but when she came home to
   the empty apartment, a sickly darkness would move in on her like a
   fog. She worried about how she would spend the summer this year.
   Staying in the city was out of the question. Yet, she couldn't face
   going out to the Hamptons where she might bump into Simon with his new
   woman. Luckily, her sister Mary suggested she join her in Nag's Head,
   North Carolina.
   Mary and her husband Bill had retired to a beach-front property a year
   ago. The sale of Bill's real estate business made it possible for them
   to make the move while they were still quite young. They visited the
   Outer Banks when they were first married and always said they'd
   return. Ruth thought it an ideal solution, she could fly down every
   other Friday for a long weekend, and it might even cost less than the
   Long Island alternative.
   The day before the "reading" Ruth and Mary were walking along the
   beach at twilight. On the horizon they could see the flat silhouettes
   of two large tankers. They merged head on and for a moment melted into
   a single shadow-puppet. Then they became two ships again. The line
   that marked where sea and sky touched, and the shapes of the ships,
   all were shades of muted grey.
   "I've been to see a psychic, she's really good," Mary said.
   "What do you mean 'good'?" Ruth asked. "Don't tell me you believe that
   "I know what you think," Mary said, smiling, "but it's not like that.
   At first I only went out of curiosity, but she told me things. It was
   like therapy, only quicker. It was like seeing what I already knew.
   Instead of spending months struggling to talk out the issues with
   someone, she just told me about myself without asking a thing. It
   short-circuits the whole process."
   "That's useful, given how much I paid for fifty-minutes of therapy on
   the Upper West Side."
   "I thought you might like to see her. I made an appointment. She lives
   five minutes from here."
   "I didn't say I wanted to see her." Ruth snapped. Ruth always resented
   her sister's arrangements, even when it was something she wanted. For
   her part, Mary was always trying to find ways to accept Ruth's moods,
   and so said nothing.
   They finished their walk along the cold sand, close to the water's
   edge. The last of the light caught on the white-lined crests of the
   waves that roared continuously along the shore. To Ruth it sounded
   like a never-ending number four subway train entering Grand Central
   Station. Ruth knew that it would take time to leave the city behind.
   She really needed to relax, take it easy. As they entered the house
   Ruth asked, "What time did you say the appointment is for?"
   Mary was waiting for Ruth after the session. She kept the car engine
   running for the A/C. Ruth emerged and shook Fay's hand on the
   doorstep. Fay noticed Mary waiting in the car and waved. Mary waved
   back but did not wind down the window, trying not to intrude on their
   parting. As Ruth climbed in beside her, Mary asked, "How was it?"
   "Fine," Ruth said, "Fine." Mary knew this meant she shouldn't ask. It
   wasn't until the next day, on their long trip back to the airport,
   that Ruth began to talk about the experience.
   "Actually, I don't know what to make of it," Ruth said. "It was weird.
   Fay seemed to know everything: from the pain I had when Simon left, to
   that stupid yellow paint job in the bathroom, the one you've always
   hated. She knew a lot of stuff. She surprised me. Maybe you gave her
   clues without knowing it. But it was more than that, she seemed to
   know me somehow. She told me I have some big choices coming up, that I
   need to let go of the past and get on with life. What else? That I am
   analytical. Oh yes, she said I should do something connected with
   water. She told me lots of stuff. I've been trying to write it all
   down but I can't remember as much as I would like. We'll see if
   anything comes true." Ruth looked out of the car window at the trees
   streaming past by the side of the highway.
   "Well, maybe you should learn to sail Bill's boat this summer," Mary
   said, glancing over to her sister and smiling, "that's definitely
   connected with water. He always wanted a boat and now he's got one, he
   hardly ever takes it out. He needs someone to share it with and I hate
   boats. He'd love to teach you to sail."
   "Maybe I'll do just that. Fay said that once you know what's in the
   cards you should grasp the chances as they come along. I have to admit
   it, she impressed me. Was it like that for you?"
   "Yes, of course, that's why I suggested it, but how can she know that
   stuff? It's amazing."
   Two weeks later Ruth was back in Nag's Head for the weekend. She
   told Mary she had spoken to Fay several times on the phone from New
   York and had arranged to see her twice while she was in town. Mary was
   pleased it worked out so well, but was a little surprised at Ruth's
   sudden conversion to psychic readings, although she didn't say so.
   When Ruth was not visiting Fay, she was out on the boat for lessons.
   Bill had purchased the sailboat to explore the shallow waters around
   the tidal marsh behind the Outer Banks barrier island. Ruth was a good
   crew and learned fast. They would take the boat out from the marina
   under power, cut the engine, and unfurl the headsail. Bill put her
   through the series of exercises he had learned from expensive lessons
   the previous summer: stopping the boat leeward of a marker, turning
   head to the wind, and carrying toward the marker under the boat's
   momentum; and, jibing and tacking through a tight figure of eight. It
   was as if she were destined to sail: her ability to maneuver the
   craft, pilot from point to point, and read local charts, was soon
   better than his.
   The summer rolled along. Ruth took the boat out for short trips around
   Roanoke Island, first with Bill and then alone. Bill said she was a
   natural. Mary no longer consulted Fay, she felt uncomfortable. It was
   like sharing a therapist. It didn't seem right to her somehow. At
   their last session Fay turned over a card called the Emperess and
   said, "You and Ruth are much alike, but she's more willing to
   entertain new beliefs." Mary didn't like the comparison and wondered
   if it was ethical to mention other clients. She dismissed the thought.
   What was ethical Tarot reading anyway? She didn't say anything to Ruth
   and Ruth never asked her why she stopped consulting Fay.
   Ruth went to Fay religiously --twice each week-end-- but rarely
   mentioned what they talked about. One evening, while Bill was outside
   barbequing local fish for the evening meal, the sisters sat in the
   kitchen with glasses of white wine. They finally came around to
   talking about Fay. Mary didn't probe as much as she wanted to, but was
   surprised when Ruth said, "Something important is going to happen to
   me soon, something that's going to change my life. Fay, told me."
   Mary and Bill lay in bed that night discussing Ruth. "Does Ruth seem
   different to you?" Mary asked.
   "I don't think so," Bill said, "If anything she seems a little more
   sure of herself. She's really good with the boat."
   "Does she ever talk about going to see Fay?"
   "Not much. She knows I'm not into it. I leave that up to you two. I
   think she's wasting her money on those readings, but that's up to
   her." The bed groaned as Bill rolled over. Mary lay in the dark
   listening to Bill breath. Through the open window she could hear the
   ocean. The sounds blended into a steady rhythm which soon drowned her
   in sleep.
   The Labor day weekend was surprisingly hot. On the Bay side, boats
   bobbed and jostled in their moorings. On the ocean side, dogs ran in
   the dunes, couples struggled coolers to the beach, and, overhead,
   screaming gulls rode the onshore wind. Hang-gliders in primary colors
   turned on invisible thermals, high against the clear blue sky.
   Ruth took the boat out early morning and, passing west of Roanoke
   Island, headed south along Croatan Sound. She thought of the colony of
   over a hundred people who mysteriously disappeared somewhere near her
   spot over four hundred years earlier. She wondered where the Lost
   Colony was, the shifting sands had obliterated the island long ago.
   Her life felt just as ephemeral, just as shifting. A gust of wind
   could change it forever or simply blow it away. Fay had told her she
   needed to decide what to do with her life. She lowered the mainsail
   and let the boat drift. She would decide.
   "I was worried about you this afternoon," Bill said to Ruth. "I
   thought when you didn't come back for so long that you might have had
   an accident."
   The evening meal was over and they were sitting in the dark on the
   deck of the old wooden house. They faced the ghostly shapes of the
   sand-dunes, gazing toward the ocean. The night was clear and, with the
   house lights off, they could see the silver dust of the milky-way.
   "I'm sorry, I was just thinking and lost track of time." Ruth said.
   Bill was smoking his after-dinner cigar. All they could see of him was
   the end glowing red in the dark. "This is the life," he said.
   "Is everything OK then Ruth?" Mary asked.
   "I wish you wouldn't worry so much. I'm fine and I'm sorry I was so
   quiet at dinner. I've come to a decision I need to talk to you about.
   I've decided to leave New York. There's nothing for me there anymore.
   I need to leave that life behind, start another. I was thinking, could
   I stay here for a while? A few months maybe? It's so hard to leave the
   city and just set up somewhere else. I thought this could be a place
   to make the transition."
   "I think that's a great idea," Bill said. He was feeling good and
   generous. "I don't know why anyone wants to live in the city. There's
   plenty of room. Take as long as you like."
   Mary sat in the inky blackness feeling the warm night breeze on her
   legs. She felt a disquiet she could not put her finger on and said,
   "If you're sure that's what you want to do. I'd love it."
   "I'm sure," Ruth said.
   In just a few weeks, Ruth was back to stay. She'd managed to sublet
   her apartment, place her belongings in storage, and resign from the
   Soho gallery she managed. Mary suspected that Ruth must have already
   begun to plan well before she asked to move in, but she kept the
   thought to her self.
   Whenever the weather was fair, Ruth took the boat out, sometimes with
   Bill, but more often on her own. She would also see Fay about three
   times a week and would be gone for the whole afternoon. The rest of
   the time was spent on long walks on the beach gathering shells. She
   showed no interest in the local tourist attractions: the Wright
   Brothers memorial at Kitty Hawk, the Elizabethan Gardens, or the Lost
   Colony exhibit on Roanoke Island.
   Mary worried that her sister was brooding. She wanted to talk to her
   about it, but didn't know how to open the conversation. Mary
   considered she had a close relationship with Ruth, but thought there
   would be trouble if she interfered.
   Late morning of the third Saturday in October, the phone rang while
   Ruth was out walking. Mary answered. It was Fay. They spoke politely,
   neither of them referring to the five-month interval since Mary had
   consulted her. "Could you tell Ruth there's someone I'd like her to
   meet? We're going to the new grill on Beach Front at seven-thirty
   tonight. I'd love it if Ruth could come." Mary said she would be sure
   to tell Ruth when she got back.
   In her eagerness, Ruth arrived early. The restaurant was an
   establishment targeted to summer visitors. It hoped to hang on in
   quiet desperation through the off-season. Its decor was meant to
   recreate an Elizabethan tavern. In the entrance, they'd stacked wooden
   beer barrels in a pyramid. Olde English lettering ran across the top
   of the bar, proclaiming the names of import-beers.
   A waiter showed Ruth to a booth with high, wooden-backed seating and
   an uneven wooden table. Seeing was difficult beneath the pale yellow
   glow from the ship's lantern that hung from a chain above the table.
   The large laminated menu had an insert that told of the "romance" of
   Sir Walter Raleigh and the "mystery" of the lost colonist's
   disappearance. Ruth read the menu's mythology in the half-light while
   she waited for the others to arrive. She couldn't see into the next
   booth, but was surprised to hear Fay's voice.
   "Sure, I make enough money to get by. The woman you're about to meet
   tonight sees me three times a week, sometimes more. She's one of my
   best customers. She even moved down here from New York City." Ruth
   could hear a man's muffled laughter and it froze her.
   "Look, I perform a valuable service. The world's full of lost, lonely
   people. They shuffle the cards and I tell them what they want to hear
   about themselves. They want to know if they should get another job, or
   take a lover, have a child, or travel the world. I tell them. But I
   don't tell them to do anything they don't want to do. They give me
   money to tell them what they really already know. But they need to pay
   me because if they didn't, they wouldn't believe it. That's a real
   service. She'll be here in a minute, so stop laughing and behave
   yourself. Ruth's very sensitive, so don't go ruining it for me."
   Ruth rushed out, breathing heavily. She found her car and leaned her
   head on the steering wheel for a few moments, feeling dizzy. She
   recovered enough to drive slowly north along route twelve. She turned
   off at a side street chosen at random. She sat for a long time staring
   ahead with the engine running.
   She felt betrayed, foolish, and humiliated. The emotions replaced each
   other in waves, swelling and subsiding. She recognized their tide from
   when Simon walked out. She'd thought those feelings were behind her,
   having slowly learned to trust Fay. But she found betrayal again.
   Eventually the moving ocean of her feelings subsided to a glassy still
   lake of anger.
   Ruth slept late the next day. She managed to avoid Mary and Bill,
   who shouted into her room that they were driving to New Bern to visit
   historic houses, they would be back later. It was early afternoon
   before Ruth was calm enough to dial Fay's number. "I'm so sorry I
   missed your friend last night, I didn't get your message from Mary
   until it was too late," she said. Her voice sounded calm but she was
   jittery inside.
   "That's a shame. I told him all about you," Fay said, "Jim's gone now,
   he left this morning, had to get a plane back to Colorado Springs."
   "If it's still good weather tomorrow, would you like to go for a sail
   in my brother-in-law's boat? We could meet in the morning, say ten
   o'clock, I could pick you up." Ruth said. The boat was the one place
   left Ruth felt confident. Get her out on the boat and confront her,
   she thought.
   "Sounds great."
   "At ten then." Ruth's hand was shaking as she placed the receiver back
   on the cradle. The inner white pain obscured Ruth's anger at a world
   that could treat her like this.
   A slight breeze was blowing as they left the marina. Without looking
   at her instruments, Ruth estimated the wind speed at less than eight
   knots. They headed north east toward Albemarle Sound. The sun shone on
   the granite tower of the Wright Brothers memorial behind them in the
   distance. Ruth turned due east and the wind picked up to moderate as
   the boat sliced through small white caps that began to form.
   Finally, Ruth felt confident. She could see Fay was ill at ease, and,
   like most novices, had underestimated how cold it could be out on the
   water. Fay was shivering, hunkered down in the cockpit, the arms of
   her sweatshirt pulled down over her hands. Ruth had no sympathy. The
   wind on the water and the bright sky made Ruth feel reckless and wild.
   She was enjoying the feeling of power. She imagined it was the same
   joy Fay must have felt for all these months: the joy of exercising
   control over another person, of having a person's fate in your hands.
   Fay stood, steadying herself against the companion way. "Shouldn't I
   wear a life-jacket or something?"
   "Yes, of course" Ruth said, "I should have thought of it when we left.
   My mind was on other things. You'll find them stowed beneath the
   bench." She pointed to the seating running along the side of the
   Suddenly, Ruth was swamped in anger. Her feelings were flowing free.
   Fay leaned over to lift the seating. Ruth uncleated the mainsail and
   pulled the tiller to windward. The boom swept swiftly across the boat
   and hit Fay a crushing blow, directly on the forehead. Fay lay
   motionless on the floor of the cockpit. Without hurrying Ruth centered
   the tiller and eased out the sail. The boat continued to slice through
   small white cap waves as Ruth struggled to hoist Fay over the side.
   Fay's arms became tangled in the lifelines close to the stern rail,
   methodically Ruth pulled them free and rolled the body overboard into
   the shallow weeds and water around the boat.
   She sat clutching the tiller, breathing heavy. Now she had acted. Now
   she had chosen a path. Wasn't this just what Fay had demanded? Choose
   a course of action and finish it? The opportunity had flashed in front
   of her, just for a moment, and she had embraced it with all the free
   will she possessed. No turning back. No regret. No anger. She felt
   The boat glided into the marina. No one gave Ruth a second look as she
   fastened the dock lines. She played a sharp jet of water into the boat
   and washed away all trace of blood on the boom and the floor of the
   cockpit. She wound the excess rope into precise coils on the cabin
   roof. She examined the boat once before leaving: yes, everything was
   as it should be.
   It was some weeks later and Mary and Bill were in bed discussing
   Ruth. They agreed that Ruth took the news of Fay skipping town
   surprisingly well. There was none of the usual dark depression. Bill
   said he was glad she was gone. Mary agreed, perhaps it was for the
   best after all. Bill said he had heard a story about it in the
   barber's shop. The old guy who cut his hair knew everything that went
   on and told him the "psychic lady" had skipped out owing three months
   The Realtor was holding her few belongings in case she returned. Some
   joker had left a sign on the door, it read: Psychic called away due to
   unforseen circumstance. Bill didn't know if it was true, but he
   chuckled himself to sleep that night. Mary listened to the wind
   buffeting the windows. Ruth seemed happier, that was the main thing,
   and Mary slept deeply with her hand on Bill's side.
   Ruth told herself there was no need to fear, the body would never be
   found. She just knew it somehow. Indeed, it had been three months and
   no news. She was getting on with life and had applied to various
   colleges to study navigation. She eagerly awaited the mail each day.
   Then a letter came from someone in Colorado Springs. It contained a
   sheet of paper and an envelope inside addressed to Ruth. The envelope
   was in Fay's handwriting. The sheet of paper read:
   "You don't know me. My name is Jim. A few months ago I met a friend of
   yours called Fay in a bar. I was in town for the hang-gliding
   competition. We got to talking and she told me a lot of strange things
   about how she was a psychic. She said she trusted me to look after an
   envelope addressed to you. She must be a good judge of character
   because here it is. She said that she had written down some
   predictions on a piece of paper and that I should post it to you in
   three months. I promise I didn't steam the letter open! I would be
   curious to know, though, if she got anything right, drop me a line if
   you want to. If I ever come to North Carolina again, I hope to see
   both of you."
   Ruth tore open the envelope. It contained a note dated the day before
   the incident at the restaurant. It read:
     "Dear Ruth, I know you have begun to doubt me of late and so I am
     writing this letter. A friend will send it to you. I have asked him
     to mail it after three months. Maybe this demonstration will make
     you believe in me again. You can check with Jim but I promise that I
     have not contacted him. I cannot explain what the message means,but
     I believe in following what intuition tells me to do.
     "You will make a great discovery about yourself. You will use water
     to heal yourself of pain."
   That night Ruth had a dream that she was washing her hands in her
   bathroom sink. She looked down into the basin and saw Fay's head
   floating in the water. Her hair moved in the water like green weeds
   wafting in the shallow bay. Ruth dreamed her fingers became entangled
   in Fay's hair and she could not get free.


"* a first ode to coffee *" by Bruce Harris Bentzman

examples of stone age men
enduring the rain
huddled under a granite cornice
waiting for a bus
essentially no genetic change
since cro-magnon

behind a fogged window
i eat a donut and chant
ward off sleep o tiny beans
from high colombian mountains
ground and brewed
sipped to focus ones thoughts

observe the swirling milky way
dissolve into a homogeneous blend
of brown coffee spinning slower
growing colder in my cup how was it
i believed that shifting a stone
on a beach altered destiny

does it matter that
you are reading this
that i am to join those
stone age victims of the weather
aristotle another cup
before i go


"Girl Poet III" by William C. Burns, Jr.

      She often found poetry
         in the trash
      In the curve of the sky
      The muddy waters
         twisting through the grassland
            beyond the fence

      She could find poetry
         watching an old man eat
      Huddled under the covers
         in a blizzard
      Listening to Johnny Rivers


"Me and Richie" by David Alexander

   Come on, Richie, it's not right," I said. "Don't talk shit like
   Richie was grunting on the floor. He'd done maybe fifty push-ups
   already. I watched his biceps bulge and the sweat drip off his face.
   When he was like that he exercised for days on end, pumping himself
   up. That's when I knew he was dangerous.
   "Richie, answer me, for Chrissake," I went on. "At least tell me
   you're listening."
   "I'm listening," Richie said. "What's your problem?"
   "My problem is the shit you were talking ten minutes ago, okay. You
   were talking about killing people."
   Richie stopped doing push-ups and sat up. Then he hooked the tips of
   his sneakers under the steel bed frame, bent his knees double and
   folded his arms behind his head. He took a deep breath and began doing
   "Forget what I said before," he grunted, doing his sit-ups. "I was
   bullshitting you."
   I studied Richie for a minute. I knew he wasn't bullshitting me. He
   was saying that because he didn't respect me. Me and Richie go back a
   long ways, to the old neighborhood. He thought I was weak then, and he
   still thinks so now.
   "Don't lie to me, Richie," I said. "You were serious. I saw the look
   in your eyes."
   Richie stopped doing sit-ups and slid sideways. He leaned against the
   bed and wiped his sweaty face with his tee-shirt.
   "Go fuck yourself," he said.
   "Take it easy, man, okay? Just chill. I'm not your enemy. I'm your
   "Some friend. A fuckin' drunk and a pussy on top of it."
   "Hey, watch your mouth, asshole," I told him.
   "Or _what_? Richie said as he got up. I didn't even see his hands
   move. I only felt the slap and the next thing I knew Richie had me by
   the throat and was shoving me up against the wall. "Or what, you
   fuckin' pussy. What you gonna do about it?"
   "Richie, ease up, man," I pleaded.
   He stared at me with a blank expression, and despite the way he was
   acting, I felt sorry for him. The Richie I once knew had eyes that
   could make you smile just looking into them.
   The Richie I knew had saved my life at least twice when we were
   younger, before things began to change inside him, before the bad
   stuff began to happen. It wasn't the war either. He was like that
   before he enlisted. The war just deepened it, made it worse. But I
   still owed Richie a lot and I would never forget how he had been once
   upon a time. No, there was no way I could be mad at him.
   "Lemme go, Richie," I said. "I love you, man. You don't wanna hurt
   Richie nodded slowly and eased the pressure and stepped back.
   "I'm sorry I did that," he said. "I didn't mean to hit you, okay. That
   wasn't right."
   "No problem," I said and slapped him on his shoulder. "It's okay.
   Look, why don't we go out for Chinese. I'm buying."
   Richie shook his head stolidly.
   "Not tonight," he said. "I told you what I was doing tonight."
   "Yeah, but first you were talking about blowing people away."
   "I told you I was bullshitting you," he answered. "I just wanna take a
   drive. Don't ask me again about that other bullshit, man."
   I knew Richie too well than to believe he wasn't serious about what
   he'd told me when I came in. But the way I saw it, I had one of three
   options. One, I just left and let Richie take his drive and let the
   chips fall where they might. Two, I called the cops or the veterans
   hospital. Three, I went with him and talked him out of whatever bad
   shit he was planning.
   "You sure you don't want Chinese, Richie?" I asked. "There's that new
   Schezuan place over near the park I told you about. They make a great
   lemon chicken."
   "Not tonight, man," he said. "Tonight I'm taking a drive. You wanna
   come along, you're welcome. Otherwise when I come out of the shower,
   don't fuckin' be here."
   I had a drink as I sat in the apartment and thought things over,
   watching a flock of crows spill out of the cemetery two streets away
   and boil over the rooftop. Sometimes hundreds came that way and the
   sky got black with them. Best if I just split but I couldn't do that,
   though. As sick as Richie was, I owed it to him to tag along. I had
   another drink and it made me feel better.
   "I see you're still here," he said when he came out of the shower
   naked, flaunting his muscles at me. I wished I had muscles like that.
   I worked out sometimes, but I could never get them. He probably knew
   that, and showed off his body just to piss me off. "Guess that means
   you're along tonight."
   "I'm along," I said.
   I watched Richie get dressed and take a black gym bag out of the
   closet. He got out his keys and went out the door.
   "What's in the bag?" I asked, following.
   "Nothing," he said. "Don't ask me again."
   We got into Richie's car. He fired up the engine and we sat there a
   minute letting it warm up in the cold. While we waited, Richie turned
   to me and told me to give him my bottle.
   "What for?"
   "Because I don't need you all juiced up when we hit the highway," he
   said. "I don't want you carsick and puking all over me."
   "I don't get carsick," I said.
   "Just gimme the bottle."
   "Lemme take one more drink first, okay?" Richie nodded and I knocked
   one back, glad I'd had a couple while he was in the shower. Richie
   stashed the bottle under the driver's seat and put the car into drive.
   We pulled away from the curb and I put on the radio. "Born to be
   Wild," came on. Richie told me to turn it up; he liked that song.
   We took the on-ramp to the parkway and Richie took out a fat joint. He
   lit the joint and toked up, then handed it to me.
   "You can smoke all of this you want," he said. "But no booze till
   I took a couple of hits of the jay and felt it mellow me out. I could
   take or leave pot but not whiskey. I was an alcoholic and I accepted
   it. If I could have my booze I was okay. I scraped enough money
   together from scrounging and begging on the subway to afford my crib
   and my booze. It wasn't as bad as heroin, and I never hurt anybody. I
   wasn't such a bad guy.
   "This is Thai sticks, right?"
   "Yeah," Richie said, taking the joint and smoking the rest without
   offering me any.
   An hour later, we were way out on the thruway heading north. Richie
   said we'd stop at the mall a couple of miles ahead to gas up. We could
   have something to eat if I wanted too. I told Richie that was a good
   idea. Sure, let's stop.
   I said that less because I was hungry and wanted to take a leak than
   because I wanted to delay his arrival at wherever it was he was
   heading to give myself a shot at stopping him.
   Richie hadn't said a word about where he was going, and I knew better
   than to ask him. If I asked him about it, I was afraid that he'd just
   boot my ass out of the car and go on himself, in which case I would
   have come along for nothing and have to hitch a ride back. I knew one
   thing. At the end of the line, somebody was going to die. Or at least
   that Richie intended for somebody to die.
   The booze and the Thai sticks helped the knowledge from becoming fear.
   It was just knowledge now, maybe a little more than knowledge. It was
   knowledge tinged with fear, but it was more knowledge than fear and
   wouldn't become fear until I let go of what was containing it. So far
   I was managing to keep it together. So far I was in control. No matter
   what, I had to keep that control.
   Richie gassed the car up at the self-serve and we went into the mall.
   There was a Chinese place there but Richie still didn't want Chinese
   and we both ended up having a burger and cold bottled beer. While we
   ate Richie kept the gym bag right next to him at all times. My eyes
   kept going to it because I knew what was inside.
   Richie had all kinds of weapons. He was a gunsmith and knew all about
   how to make silencers out of hunks of pipe and rubber sink washers.
   I'd once seen Richie take apart and reassemble a Heckler and Koch MP5
   submachinegun in less than five minutes, and do it blindfolded. Richie
   was good with guns. In fact, he loved guns. The gym back started to
   make the fear come on strong, and I stopped looking at it. But now I
   couldn't hold it back so good anymore. With the first shiver I knew I
   was gonna lose it fast.
   "Lemme have another drink, Richie," I said.
   "No fuckin' way," he returned. "Drink the beer."
   "Beer's no good. I gotta have the bottle."
   "The bottle's in the car," he said, looking me over and I could see he
   was saying to himself that I was starting to lose it and he might as
   well give me a drink. He got up and I followed him out to the car park
   and I had my drink as we got rolling again.
   Nothing much was said after that. We'd settled into a routine. Now
   that we'd stopped at the mall, I knew there was nothing gonna stop us
   from reaching Richie's destination. Why ask him where it was, I
   thought. I'd find out soon enough. I was along for the ride, along
   till the bitter end.
   We were pretty far upstate now, and Richie took a turnoff onto a
   secondary road that took us past a bunch of dairy farms and one small
   town. The roads were confusing, and at a couple of points I was
   bewildered because one minute we were in New York State, then next in
   Pennsylvania, and again in New Jersey. I asked Richie about it.
   "This here's the tri-state border," he explained. "We're up near the
   Delaware River. Gonna see it pretty soon on the left."
   "You been up here before?" I asked.
   "Couple of times."
   "You never told me."
   "So what?" he said.
   I didn't answer him but pretty soon the woods on the left fell away
   and I was looking down a precipice onto the Delaware River under the
   light of a full moon. It was around one in the morning by then and the
   moonlight fell on the black water and shone on the small islands the
   river flowed around and softly lit the surrounding hills. It was a
   beautiful sight to see, I thought, but Richie didn't seem to notice.
   He stared straight ahead, lost in his own world.
   We took another back road and the river was gone. On either side were
   wooded hills, dark and brooding. They filled me with a weird
   foreboding feeling, like I was looking at hell and my soul would go
   there, into the darkness beyond the trees and be lost forever. I
   wanted to have another drink then, but I didn't say anything because I
   knew Richie wouldn't give me one.
   But after another twenty minutes or so Richie pulled into a dirt
   access road cut into the woods. The car bumped along the road and he
   stopped it and an icy spike of fear and adrenaline shot right through
   me. By now the knowledge was gone and only the fear remained.
   This time Richie was the one who brought out the bottle.
   "Take a drink," he said.
   I unscrewed the cap and tipped back the bottle, watching Richie reach
   over the top of the seat for the bag on the floor. He took out a black
   weapon with a long black silencer attachment. The weapon had no clip
   but Richie took two clips out of the bag. He shoved a clip into the
   gun and pulled back the thing on the top that charged it. After that
   he did the same thing to a semiautomatic pistol that he shoved in his
   "That an Uzi you got?" I asked.
   "Uh-huh," said Richie.
   I tried to stay as calm as possible. "Listen, Richie. We can't do
   this, okay. It's not gonna work. Let's go back, man. Let's go back and
   just fuckin' forget the whole thing, let's -- oh shit, Richie please
   Richie what the fuck you doing man, what the fuck you getting both of
   us into Richie man you gonna fuck us up with that shit you gonna put
   us both in a fuckin hole you gonna -- "
   I got slapped, and then slapped again, and I could taste blood in my
   mouth where his hand had hit me in the chops.
   "Shut up! Shut ... the fuck ... up!" he growled at me and the only
   thing I could do was sit there crying and bleeding and now with the
   fear so big inside me the booze wasn't doing a fucking thing to stop
   it. He got out of the car and walked up the road and though I was
   crying my eyes out, I got out my side and went right after him.
   Up the hill apiece the road ended, but the woods thinned out, and as
   we went over the crest, I could see our destination up ahead. It was
   one of those chalet style houses with a projecting porch, part of
   which I could just glimpse from the angle, because we were coming at
   the house from the rear, across the back acreage. A four-by was parked
   out back and the heat distortion in the cold air from the chimney told
   me there were almost definitely people inside.
   Before we went into the clearing beyond the trees, Richie grabbed me
   by the collar and shoved the Uzi in my face.
   "I hear one peep out of you, you fuckin' die. You got that, asshole?"
   I nodded. "Okay, okay, Richie."
   He let go of me and turned his back on me. A little voice inside said
   now was the time to move on him. Jump him. Knock him down and get
   those guns away from him somehow. I was just as big as Richie and
   maybe could have done it if I tried. But I guess he knew I was a
   chickenshit and didn't have the guts to do anything. I guess he knew I
   would just follow him across the moonlit clearing toward the house and
   not do shit and let whatever happened happen.
   We went quietly up the wooden stairs and Richie got the door open
   without making a sound using a set of burglar tools. I figure he knew
   somehow the place wasn't alarmed, because there was no doubt in my
   mind he'd set it up for a long time and he'd staked out the house with
   one time going inside and killing the people who owned the house in
   his mind.
   Now we were inside the house and I figured I was right because Richie
   wasn't looking around, he knew exactly where he was gonna go. There
   was a flight of stairs to the right as you came in that went past the
   ground floor kitchen area. Richie took the stairs and we were up on
   the second floor where the bedrooms were. There were two bedrooms, one
   on either side of the hall, and Richie went into the first one of them
   with me right behind him.
   Two people were asleep in the double bed inside the room, a man and a
   woman, and both were naked. The man had his arms around the woman and
   his groin up against her ass and Richie came over and put the silenced
   end of the Uzi against the man's head and shot the man, making only
   the sound of the bolt striking the firing pin and the wet splatter
   sounds of blood from the man's broken skull striking the wall and the
   body of the sleeping woman and the bedding and the both of us.
   The woman gave a jerk as she came awake and let out a scream. Richie
   pushed her down into the sheets with one hand on her chest. It took
   all his strength to hold her down with the one hand as he shoved the
   muzzle of the Uzi into her face and let her holler and thrash for a
   fast minute and then he pulled the trigger and the bolt went snap snap
   snap and the woman's head came apart and there was blood all over the
   Richie let go of the woman and what was left of her sagged into the
   man. He turned and walked out of the room and went across the hall
   into the other bedroom. A little boy was standing there with a dumb
   expression on his face. Richie hit him over the head with the side of
   the Uzi. Blood came out of the little boy's head and he fell over with
   a shriek. Richie kicked him in the head and stomped him to death. He
   didn't even waste a bullet on him.
   "Shit, I just came," Richie said and turned around. "Fuckin' came
   right in my pants."
   I looked at his groin and it was stained dark.
   "Put your hand on it," Richie said.
   "Hey, man," I said. "What the fuck you -- "
   Richie grabbed me by the wrist and forced my hand onto the wet place.
   I squirmed trying to get free, but there was no use. He was too
   strong. I felt the wetness and the hardness beneath it and I was sick.
   "Don't get sick on me, you pussy," Richie said after letting go of me.
   "I'm okay," I said, grabbing my guts to stop the retching. "I'm good."
   The spasm passed and I knew I'd be okay. "What about the blood. We got
   it all over us."
   "I brought along for myself," he said, meaning clothes. "You find some
   shit to put on." He walked off.
   "Where you going?"
   "Gonna take a shower."
   We were outa there an hour or so later. Our bloody clothes we shoved
   in a shopping bag and I found jeans and a jacket that fit me that I
   guess belonged to the guy Richie killed. In the car Richie gave me
   another drink from the bottle. I took a long one, gulping down as much
   booze as I could before he snatched it away from me. I was a little
   better afterward. Not that much, but I could at least function.
   I put my head in my hands and muttered into my palms as the car backed
   onto the highway.
   "Shit what we done you killed them Richie oh shit why didn't I stop
   you why the fuck did I let you fuckin kill them like that man it's
   unbelievable you just blew those fuckers away like nothing you just
   fuckin went and blew those fuckers away you -- "
   I realized something then and I sat up.
   "Who the fuck were they, Richie?" I asked.
   He kept his eyes on the road.
   "Nobody," he said.
   "That wasn't your ex-wife, was it?" The full horror of it suddenly
   struck me. "That wasn't Paula you just killed?"
   "Paula's sister," he said. "And her husband and kid. They come up here
   on weekends. Used to come up here," he corrected himself.
   "Why the fuck for?"
   "They fucked with me," he said. "So I fucked with them."
   "Paula and you split up a year ago," I said. "Why now?"
   "Time does not heal, it festers," was all he said. "I'm stopping for
   gas soon."
   It was after four in the morning as we pulled into the lighted gas
   stop. The station was brightly lit up but as deserted as a base on the
   moon. Richie drove up to the pumps and rolled down the window as the
   gas jockey walked over. He was one of those weedy hick types with
   straw colored hair falling out from beneath a greasy ball cap.
   "Help you," he said, looking both of us over.
   "Fill it up with no-lead," Richie said.
   The station attendant nodded and went around to the back of the car
   and I heard the creak and thump as he put in the nozzle. Richie and I
   both noticed that he was acting skittish, like he was registering our
   faces and the car. The car was old and most of the vehicles on the
   highway were new.
   Most of the faces that passed by the attendant were different too, not
   city boy faces like ours. I knew Richie was going to kill the guy too
   because he'd remember us, but there was nothing I could do about it.
   By this time Richie would blow me away too. I just sat there while he
   cracked the door and stepped out and walked around back to where the
   attendant was standing.
   A minute later, he was coming back around the front with the .45
   semiauto stuck in the attendant's face.
   "You stay in the car," he said.
   "Richie, don't do it," I told him. I was getting out, trying to save
   the guy's life.
   "Stay in the fuckin' car!" Richie yelled.
   I wasn't going to. Fuck the car and fuck Richie's orders. Who the fuck
   was he, the general? Let him shoot me. I wasn't sitting still no
   fucking more.
   "Don't do it, man," I said. "You got no beef with the guy."
   Richie was dragging and pushing the attendant toward the door of the
   men's toilet at the side of the station. He shoved open the door and
   pushed him inside.
   "Kneel on the floor," he told the attendant.
   "No don't kill me man," he begged. "No don't kill me man I never seen
   you okay I never seen you just walk away and I never seen you I swear
   it okay just please don't kill me man."
   "Listen to him, man," I said. "Don't kill him."
   Richie pushed the guy away and the attendant cowered against one of
   the stand-up urinals. Richie looked hard at him and dropped his hand
   with the gun.
   "That's good, man," I said. "Let him go. He won't say shit. Right,
   "No I won't say shit man okay I said I never seen you and I never seen
   Richie pushed me ahead of him and I walked toward the door. I held it
   open and he want halfway through it, then suddenly turned and raised
   his arm and fired two bullets straight into the guy, splattering blood
   all over the urinals and the wall. I was screaming, "No!" as Richie
   went back inside the toilet and put the gun almost right up against
   the attendant's skull and fired another three rounds into it,
   shattering the head and making the body jerk each time the bullets
   struck it and leaving a bloody mess on the floor.
   Richie shoved me ahead of him back toward the car and told me to take
   the nozzle out and hang it back up. He got behind the wheel and drove
   away, and this time I was beyond saying anything as we hit the road
   and drove into the rising sun toward New York.
   It was the start of the business week when we reached Manhattan across
   the George Washington Bridge. Rush hour traffic was snarling the
   Deagan and the West Side Highway and Midtown was a gridlocked mess.
   Richie drove the car without saying a word, though. He didn't even
   curse at the cab drivers like he usually did, and I knew he had a
   final stop to make before he was finished.
   We pulled into a parking lot in Midtown and paid the short stay rate
   and got out of the car with Richie carrying the gym bag. In the garage
   he handed me the bottle and let me drink as much of it as I wanted to,
   and I tipped it back and let it pour down my throat while he stood
   watching my Adam's apple bobbing with disgust in his eyes. He took the
   bottle away from me and pitched it into the car's back seat.
   "Where we going now, Richie?" I asked.
   "See my wife," he said.
   "You mean Paula?"
   "My wife," Richie said.
   "We can still walk away from this, man," I said before we went into
   the building. "Chances are they won't connect us to what happened
   upstate. We might be able to beat that, but there's no way we can beat
   "You want to walk away," he said, "do it."
   "I'm not walking away," I said. "But I got to tell you what I think
   and I think we went far enough with this."
   "You told me and I heard you," Richie said. "Now either shut up and
   come with me or get fucking lost."
   Richie went ahead into the lobby of the office building and walked
   through the hall toward the elevators. He got off on the fifth floor
   and walked to one of the men's rooms, using a key he had on him to
   open the door.
   He went into the stall at the far wall and opened the gym bag on top
   of the toilet seat. I stood outside the door by the sink and watched
   him snap a fresh clip into the Uzi. Then he took out a bullpup
   automatic shotgun, a clipfed weapon made mostly of plastic, which he
   slung over his shoulder. When he came out he pulled the semiauto from
   his pants and handed it to me.
   "You better take it," he said.
   "Ain't you afraid I'll shoot you?" I asked.
   "No," was all he said and I took the gun and followed him out of the
   men's room and down a flight of fire stairs to the floor below. Then
   we walked down the hall and went over to one of the offices and Richie
   pushed open the door.
   The receptionist behind the desk looked up and froze as she saw Richie
   level the Uzi at her face but then the face disintegrated and blood
   splattered the wall behind her. Richie went down a short corridor past
   some cubbyholes and rounded up a guy and a woman inside each who were
   on the phone. We pushed them ahead of us toward some open office
   doors. We grabbed a guy in suspenders and button-down shirt from one
   and added him to the group. Finally we came to another office at the
   "Hello, Paula," Richie said.
   She picked up the phone right away but Richie hit her in the face and
   she dropped the handset. He picked Paula up by the hair and shoved her
   out the door. Then he unslung the bullpup and began shooting the
   people he'd herded together. Blood spattered the walls and the carpet
   and one got up and tried to run, but Richie cut him down before he got
   very far. He threw down the bullpup and put the Uzi against the head
   of the guy in the suspenders.
   "You been fuckin' my wife, you prick," Richie said.
   The guy tried to act calm.
   "Put down the gun, now," he said. "This won't solve anything."
   "It's gonna solve you, asshole," he said. "Watch this, Paula. Watch
   what happens to this asshole lawyer of yours."
   He looked at his ex and pulled the trigger. The silenced Uzi went snap
   snap snap and the guy's broken teeth exploded out the rear of his
   skull in a bloody shower.
   "You motherfucker!" Paula shrieked. "I hope you burn in hell!" She
   knew she was next.
   "You first, Paula," he said and pointed the Uzi at her and squeezed
   the trigger and emptied the magazine of nine millimeter ammo into her
   head and chest.
   He snapped a final magazine into the Uzi and tried to charge the
   weapon but its chamber was fouled. He told me to give him the pistol.
   "You know what happens next," he said to me as he tossed the Uzi on
   the carpet.
   "Yeah," I said. I had known it all along.
   "You want me to do us both?" Richie asked.
   "You better," I said, handing him the gun. He opened his mouth and
   shoved in the barrel, then fired a bullet up through the roof of his
   mouth and into his brain.

"Our Dead" by Charles T. Rogers

We do not bury our dead,
the man says,
but prop them up, in suits,
in parlors and cocktail bars
and build them shrines
photographs of family and
a lonesome stench,
formaldehyde and caviar.

he's right, i have seen them,
sessile and waxen,
suffocated under layers
of airless sky.

"So He Says" by Charles T. Rogers

she says
do you believe in god?
and he pretends he's sleeping.
she kisses
the back of his neck,
do you believe?
in god that is?
and her face --
well, who's to say?
he's never seen her in the light
so he says maybe

"The Pigeon Man's Deathray" by Frederick Rustam

   Billy was tired. He had spent the whole day panhandling, while
   constantly watching for the cops, yet had little to show for it. He
   knew that times were hard now, of course. Back in '29, when he was
   serving his apprenticeship with the Spike Williams gang, the marks
   were more generous. Spike had taught him how to work their emotions by
   taking hat in hand and making a few tears to accompany his hard luck
   He had refined the story into a few, carefully chosen words. He didn't
   have much time to make his pitch. He had learned that the attention
   span of most marks was short---especially now that their own children
   were having to do without those things they wanted for them.
   "Sir, can you spare somethin' for an orphan. My parents was killed in
   a accident, and my old gram'ma is havin' trouble feedin' me and my
   sister." If a mark seemed interested, Billy could embellish the story
   until there were tears in THEIR eyes. He could usually tell by the
   mark's expression if he had made a hit. These days, even when he was
   convincing, he often got nothing better than sympathetic words for his
   The cops had nabbed Spike and most of the gang in an alley, while they
   were standing around a barrel fire---roasting the wieners they'd
   stolen from Lemburg's Market. After that catastrophe, Billy had been
   thrown back on his own. He had to panhandle and find shelter, too,
   entirely by his own efforts. He yearned for the days when the gang,
   functioning like a well-oiled machine, could turn an abandoned
   building or out-of-the-way nook into a comfortable digs.
   The yellow light of early evening meant that he had a couple of hours
   left to work the area, unless he was going to stay out after dark. He
   found himself at the little park behind the public library. He turned
   into the south entrance. Parks like this were a good place to
   panhandle, because he had the marks trapped on the benches. But, they
   were also places frequented by plainclothes cops, looking for purse
   snatchers and perverts.
   Although it was late summer, and still warm, the park was almost
   deserted, except for a few bums. There was a nanny with her babybuggy,
   just inside the entrance. Nannies were a lost cause. They usually
   looked at Billy like they thought he was going to snatch the baby....
   He moved on.
   He stopped before two well-dressed businessmen who were engaged in an
   animated discussion about investments. When they ignored him, he began
   his spiel. Short as it was, he received a "Get lost, kid," before he
   could even get to the part about his poor granny.... Again, he moved
   Ahead, seated on a bench beside a bag of grain, was the Pigeon Man. He
   was a real old guy, maybe even sixty years old. He was surrounded by
   the dirty pigeons that hung around the parks. Some were on his legs,
   two perched on his shoulders, and others were jumping up and flapping
   their wings to attract his attention. The old man didn't show any
   favorites, though. He threw down the grain so that every bird got
   Billy sat down on a nearby bench to watch. He couldn't figure out why
   a well-dressed man would cover himself with dirty pigeons. Of course,
   Billy did appreciate the man's skill in winning over the suspicious
   birds. They usually gave Billy a wide berth---almost as if they knew
   he was hungry most of the time. As he watched the restless birds, he
   remembered watching Spike roast one of them. He had learned to eat
   dirty old pigeon after Spike showed him how good it tasted, especially
   with stolen---and baked---potatoes. Since the breakup of the gang,
   however, he hadn't eaten one bird. He had tried, but couldn't catch
   them, like Spike could.
   "Do you like pigeons, young man?" The old man's high-pitched, accented
   voice interrupted his thoughts about better times.
   "Yes, sir. But, they always run from me."
   "Well, you just come over here, and I'll show you how to make friends
   with the doves."
   Billy walked over and sat down near the Pigeon Man.
   "Here..." He handed Billy a handful of grain. "...Drop it slowly onto
   the sidewalk. Don't make any sudden movements." Billy did as he was
   advised, and the pigeons rushed from the old man to him. "Be sure to
   spread it around. They may only be birds, but they know when they're
   being slighted."
   When he had given away his handful of grain, the Pigeon Man gave him
   another. This time, an eager red-and-white flew up to his knee, and he
   held his hand out for it to feed from. He jumped at first when the
   bird's beak pecked at his hand.
   "She won't hurt you. Her bill's too soft to penetrate your skin."
   "How do you know it's a `she,' sir?" Billy was being ultrapolite, not
   forgetting why he was here in the park. He figured the more he pleased
   the old man with his good behavior the more the guy would give when he
   hit him up.
   "Only a pigeon can tell for sure. But, I've seen that one being
   displayed to by the cocks, so I know she's a hen---and a pretty one,
   Billy decided to give the old boy a chance to be an expert. Flattering
   people in subtle ways was something Spike had taught him. He began to
   ask all the questions he could think of about pigeons. The Pigeon Man
   was glad to enlighten this young fellow about his second-favorite
   They sat in the park until the sun had set behind the tall buildings,
   and the pigeons had thinned out by wandering away to their roosts.
   Finally, the grain was gone, and Billy had become kind-of-expert on
   "I'm glad you like them, too, young man. It's getting dark, though.
   Your parents must be worried about you." It was time for the pitch.
   Billy delivered an enhanced version, certain that the man would not
   cut him short. He could tell in his sad eyes that the Pigeon Man
   believed every word he heard from the Pigeon Boy, so he laid it on
   "That's terrible---to be hungry.... For a time, I was poor and had to
   dig ditches; but, even then, I always had enough to eat---although not
   from the best places." Billy waited for the man to decide to do his
   good deed for the day.
   "Why don't you come with me to a diner. We'll order what I used to
   have in those bad days. It'll remind me how grateful I should be for
   my successes."
   The old man and the ragged beggar-boy started to leave the park. The
   man stopped and walked over to a trash can to discard the grain bag.
   After he tossed the crumpled bag in, he walked partly around the can
   and reached in to examine a folded newspaper. He returned it to the
   can, but then, he circled the can three times. He didn't explain this
   odd behavior as they left the park, and Billy knew better than to
   inquire about it.
   On the way to the diner, the Pigeon Man talked about himself. Billy
   wasn't bored because he could increasingly see that the old-timer was
   an unusual person.
   "I've been poor; I've been rich; I've been a gambler; and, now ...
   now, I've come upon hard times, like so many others. Mind you, I'm not
   starving. I still get an occasional royalty check from one of my
   inventions, and they keep me from being put out on the street."
   Billy, who knew about the famous inventors like Edison, was curious.
   The man had introduced himself, but his name didn't ring a bell. He
   was a foreigner who spoke, in an unplaceable accent, the words of a
   man-of-class from the Old World.
   "You're an inventor, sir?" Billy hoped the old fellow wouldn't take
   offense because he hadn't heard about him.
   "My whole life has been spent in laboratories---when I wasn't begging
   funds from some financier, that is." Billy could understand about
   begging, alright. And, there had been a few times when even he had
   been flush, too---but not very many. This man was a kindred spirit, he
   "What did you invent, sir." The man didn't seem to mind being
   addressed respectfully, so Billy kept it up. Some people felt
   uncomfortable when they were addressed that way, and gave him money to
   get rid of him.
   "Look around you. The very energy that makes this city run was my
   finest concept. I designed the motor that powers the wheels of
   industry.... You know, I was paid a million dollars by a big company
   for my electrical patents."
   "Wow! A million dollars.... You were a rich man, sir."
   "I was, Billy, but it didn't last long. I spent it all trying to
   develop new ideas.... Ahhh---sometimes I wonder where it all went....
   If only I had asked for fifty cents per horsepower---or even ten
   cents---I'd have a fine laboratory, now." The Pigeon Man seemed lost
   in the dark web of his failures. Billy actually felt sorry for him.
   "Are you in the schoolbooks, sir?" After he asked this, he wondered if
   he'd gone too far. But, the man's grandiose memories were not to be
   squelched so easily.
   "Some of them.... They all mention Edison, of course---that thief of
   ideas. But, in the main, I've been deprived of my true place in the
   history of electrical technology.... I guess it's because I'm a
   foreigner." He fell silent. Billy's mind raced. He had to get the old
   man back into the clouds.
   "What else did you invent, sir?"
   That inquiry brought the man out of his blue funk. Down the street,
   into and out of the diner---and out on the dark street, again---Billy
   had no trouble in keeping him talking about himself. His descriptions
   of his ideas quickly became more elaborate and fantastic-sounding,
   until Billy's head swirled---overloaded with concepts and terms he had
   never heard of.
   Their dining, however, was not accomplished without an unsolicited
   demonstration of the inventor's odd obsessions. He vigorously wiped
   the silverware, emptying the dispenser of beanery napkins---and
   prompting a dirty look from the counterman. He mumbled figures to
   himself over the soup and milk, into which he crumbled crackers. He
   explained, without being asked, that calculating the cubic capacity of
   the bowl and tumbler helped him to enjoy the soup and milk, more. When
   a fly landed on his plate of crackers, he recoiled in horror, and
   ungracefully pushed them over for Billy to finish.
   Finally, on the street, as Billy skillfully wielded a toothpick, the
   Pigeon Man reached the climax of his presentation, which was
   interrupted only once---when a woman with a long pearl necklace passed
   by. The old man stopped talking and pulled a face at the sight of the
   pearls, but recovered and continued.
   "Yes... yes... I set buildings shaking. I lit lamps without wires. I
   used water and steam to spin wheels for power. I transmitted messages
   afar, before any other man.... I brought the very fire of the gods
   down to earth, and I received a golden medallion for my
   accomplishments." Momentarily spent, he fell silent. Billy dared to
   question the old man---displaying his fourth-grade, and terminal,
   scholarship as he did so.
   "I thought Sig-nor Marconi invented the wireless, sir."
   The Pigeon Man stopped and drew himself up to his full six-and-a-half
   feet. "Son ... Marconi was a donkey."
   Billy was shocked. The books he remembered in school all praised
   Marconi for giving radio to the world. They didn't say anything about
   this---what was his name?---obscure man.
   They walked along in silence for awhile. Then the old man spoke
   quietly and gravely.
   "They're following me, you know."
   "Who's following you, sir?" Billy looked around, fearful that it might
   be true. He didn't want to get involved in anything rough.
   "I don't know.... But, I do know what they want."
   Billy wondered if he should inquire further about this. He looked
   around, again. Was that black sedan, moving slowly behind them, really
   following them? He considered thanking the old guy for the eats and
   quickly moving on, when the man clarified his remarks.
   "They want my particle-beam projector---my deathray device. They've
   read about me in the papers. I shouldn't have said anything about it.
   It's too sensitive a subject."
   "Wow! Do you really have a deathray thing?"
   "I can build it, if I receive enough financial support.... My old
   friend, J. P. Morgan is gone now, and I don't know these new men of
   wealth.... Oh, if I could only get the funds, I could ... I could talk
   to the stars."
   "You knew J. P. Morgan?" Billy was so impressed, he forgot the "sir."
   But, it didn't matter. His question was not to be answered, anyway.
   Suddenly, the black sedan he had momentarily forgotten about pulled up
   next to them. Before Billy could do anything but stare, two men jumped
   out of the car. "That's him," one of them said, in a foreign accent.
   They grabbed the old man and---as if they did this every day for a
   living---shoved him into the back of the sedan. He didn't resist. As
   the car pulled away from the curb, Billy had the presence of mind to
   memorize the license plate. He was good at memorizing things---even
   Spike had been impressed. He repeated it over and over to himself,
   aloud, as he watched the car enter traffic and speed away.
   They kidnapped him, officer!"
   "What're you talking about, kid? Who kidnapped who?" The hulking cop
   stopped twirling his club and frowned down at Billy.
   "The inventor that feeds the pigeons behind the library." Billy
   squirmed, impatiently, and this impressed the cop.
   "You mean the old geezer in the park?"
   Billy resisted the urge to yell, "Of course, you dummy! That's what I
   said!" He had learned, the hard way, to show cops a careful respect.
   He was almost sorry he had put himself at risk, this way, on behalf of
   a crazy old man. Maybe, it was because the guy had treated Billy so
   "Yeah.... They jumped out of a big car and grabbed him and drove off
   with him."
   The cop stared at him, trying to assess the veracity of this ragged,
   dirty street-urchin.
   "I got the license number," Billy added.
   "You did, did you?... What is it?"
   "Was the plate New York orange?"
   "No.... white, with green letters."
   "I guess he's gone for good, then."
   "Why?" Billy couldn't understand the cop's seeming acceptance of this
   heinous act.
   "DPL.... That's a diplomatic plate. They've got immunity.... They
   could put him in a burlap sack and ship him out of the country on the
   Queen Mary, and nobody could do anything about it." He noticed an
   anguish in Billy's face he wasn't accustomed to seeing in homeless
   "He was your friend, huh?"
   Billy decided that, if he was to save the Pigeon Man, he would have to
   put on the Act of His Life.
   He began bawling. The cop bent down and tugged his arm. "There, there,
   "He taught me about pigeons.... And---and, he bought me some eats. He
   didn't have much hisself, but he fed me." These words, punctuated by
   sobs, did the trick.
   "Okay---stop crying. I'll see what I can do." He took Billy over to a
   callbox. Using his key, he ceremoniously unlocked the box and picked
   up the phone. "Sarge, I got a kidnap complaint.... Yeah---right off
   the street."
   Billy was in a quandary.... He was anxious about his new friend, the
   Pigeon Man, but he was traditionally wary of the police. He was afraid
   to hang around the precinct house. The cops might decide he'd be
   better off in the care of the State. That prospect deterred him from
   keeping tabs on the investigation.
   Instead, he visited the park behind the library every evening---
   hoping the cops would, somehow, free the old man from his captors. He
   wished, for the umpteenth time, that Spike were around to tell him
   what to do.
   As he resumed his usual modus operandi, he found himself remembering
   that magic day with the pigeons in the park---and the great meal the
   old man had bought him, afterwards.
   At the end of the day, when he visited the park, he fed the pigeons a
   little. He felt sorry for them, since they seemed to have become
   dependent on the Pigeon Man for their sustenance. In these hard times,
   they would never find anyone else to give them grain. Billy, of
   course, had no grain to throw down. Only a few stale pieces of
   bread---which he should have eaten, himself. You could say that the
   Pigeon Man had succeeded in teaching Billy something no one else
   A few days after the kidnapping, Billy was walking down the street,
   sizing up the swells, when he saw the cop to whom he had reported the
   kidnapping. Normally, he would have steered clear of a badge, but
   today his curiosity drew him to the object of his fears.
   The officer, who was leaning against a lamppole, felt a tug at his
   jacket. He looked back, fiercely. Recognizing Billy, his expression
   "Hi, Billy. Heard the news, yet?"
   "Your friend.... Haven't you seen him?"
   "Where is he?"
   "I dunno. Try the park."
   Billy ran almost all the way. His hunger-weakness made it necessary
   for him to slow down before he reached the entrance. Panting, he
   scanned the benches.
   There he was! He was feeding the pigeons, as if nothing untoward had
   happened. Billy moved forward to the bench, waving his arm, weakly.
   The old man looked his way.
   "Hello, Billy. I haven't seen you for awhile."
   Billy couldn't believe his ears. The Pigeon Man acted like the
   kidnapping had never happened. He had a bandage on his forehead,
   though, and a few other marks of rough handling, as well.
   "You... they kidnapped you.... What happened?"
   "Oh, that.... Well, when they realized I didn't have anything they
   could use, they let me go.... I think the police may have helped, a
   "Did they hurt you, sir?"
   "I do ache a little... If I only had my laboratory, I could warm my
   tissues with high-frequency currents, like I used to do."
   "What did they want, sir---the deathray?"
   "Of course. A lot of interests want a deathray device.... They
   questioned me about atomic energy, too. Pshaw!... That showed me,
   right away, what incompetent fools they were."
   "But, you said you had a ... particle ... something."
   "They took me to my hotel room, and I gave them a concept note I had
   made about the projector. In fact, they took several boxes of my old
   laboratory notes.... Then, they let me go."
   Billy found the old man's explanation somewhat difficult to
   understand, but he persisted, determined to get at the truth.
   "You mean ... they got the deathray?"
   The Pigeon Man smiled at Billy. "Sit down, and help me feed the birds.
   The red-and-white hen is waiting for you."
   Billy sat down and went through the motions of feeding the birds. He
   itched to ask more of the old man, but he decided to wait for him to
   speak in his own time.... He was not disappointed.
   "They got nothing---nothing at all ... nothing they can use, that is."
   "But, the notes..."
   The old man smiled, again---a secret smile, which Billy, a skillful
   reader of facial expressions, understood.
   "I never put much down on paper, Billy.... Just a few things to jog my
   memory.... If I did, people would use my ideas. These days, you can
   hire fellows to steal anything, you know."
   Billy lost eye contact with the old man at that point. Didn't he
   realize that Billy was a thief?... Billy hoped not.
   "I see what you mean, sir."
   The inventor seemed to have completed his explanation. Man and boy sat
   in the strong light of the midday sun, enjoying a shared experience
   Billy would remember for the rest of his life.
   "You're getting better at this feeding business, Billy.... You know, I
   really should have somebody to take over when I'm not around, any
   "Oh, you'll probably be around for a long time." From then on, Billy
   stopped calling the Pigeon Man "sir." It was the beginning of a new
   and more equitable relationship.
   "I hope so, Billy.... The `soiled doves' are my special friends--- and
   so are you." Then, he looked thoughtful.
   "In the final analysis, all we animals are just meat machines."
   Billy considered this surprising bit of philosophy.... But, he decided
   that the Pigeon Man hadn't really meant it the way it sounded.


                                      About the Authors

David Alexander ( collects packs of sugar from
restaurants all over the world. 

Bruce Harris Bentzman ( was born in the Bronx in 1951. 
Without it being his goal, he seems to have found himself an accidental
member of middle-class suburbia with an all too secure position as
Communications Technicican with AT&T.  Still, he's sure it can be undone
with time.  Meanwhile, he is in an outrageously successful relationship. 

William C. Burns, Jr. ( is an Artist, Poet and
Engineer (APE).  Poetic and illustrative works have appeared on the cover
of _Ebbing Tide_, _The Morpo Review_, _The New Press_, _Beyond the Moon_
and _Sparks On Line_.  Having no shame, Bill has held public readings at
the local Barnes & Noble and Open Book book stores.  He is indigenous to
the eastern part of the planet and sustains his family teaching electrical
engineering courses. Other occupations have included pumping diesel,
mining coal, peddling heavy equipment and fixing traffic lights. 

Charles T. Rogers ( was born in 1972 on the day the Supreme
Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.  This has had virtually
no effect on his life or work.  He prefers fiction writing to poetry but
tends to write stories so short they could be epic poems.  He's currently
working at IBM, doing something so boring it would put you to sleep just
to hear it defined, but intends to go back to school one day for his
Masters.  He'd like to teach college-level creative writing so he can be
just as stifling and useless as his professors in college were. 

Frederick Rustam ( is a retired civil servant. He
spent his thirty years of government service indexing technical reports
for the Dept. of Defense, learning a little about many subjects. He now
writes short stories---mostly science fiction---as a hobby. 

Richard J. Toon ( was born in England where he
studied and taught philosophy and religious studies. He lived in New York
City for ten years before relocating to Scottsdal e, Arizona two years
ago. He works as a consultant to not-for-profit organizations on program
evaluation, information system, and computer-related issues, and writes
fiction as much as possible. 


                                          In Their Own Words

"Unforseen Circumstances" by Richard J. Toon:

"In many of my stories I deal with classical philosophical issues: in
_Unforseen Circumstances_ it is the problem of free will and determinism.
My aim is to provide at least two possible interpretations of events and
let the reader choose. Did Fay know what was to happen? Did Ruth act
volitionally? The understandings readers have of the events in the story
depend upon their beliefs about free will, precognition, determinism,
etc.. The story is also meant to be fun." 

"* a first ode to coffee *" by Bruce Harris Bentzman:

"The poem grew out of some very old notes that go back twenty years.  In
that time I have made a zillion attempts at writing a 'coffee' poem
without success.  Finally I split the ideas and images for the original
poem into two poems and found myself satisfied with both of them.  What
you have here is the _first ode to coffee_.  There is also a _second ode
to coffee_ not being published here.  There is even enough flotsam left
over to maybe evolve an eventual third 'coffee' poem." 

"Girl Poet III" by William C. Burns, Jr.:

"This should be read while listening to the Johnny River's song: Summer
Rain.  I have a niece who is artistically gifted. This has been no small
burden for her to bear.  She appears in several of my poems, notably _Girl
Poet_ and _Girl Poet II_." 

"Me and Richie" by David Alexander:

"Some of my principal objectives in writing the group of stories from
which the present contribution comes were to create fictions that resisted
easy categorization, crossed boundaries of style and form, and preserved,
as far as possible, the rhythms and cadences of spoken language. Most of
all, I was interested in writing stories that were epiphanic, revelatory;
that challenged conceptual norms, and that avoided the studied
irrelevancies of most contemporary commercial fiction. Privately, I coined
the term 'rap fiction' for some of these stories, 'enigmas' for others,
and one or two more for the rest. But lately, I don't like tags. I would
prefer to let the stories stand on their own and speak for themselves." 

"Our Dead" by Charles T. Rogers:

"This was written my junior year in college.  I couldn't help but observe
how small most people's lives are.  This poem came out of that feeling,
that most of us spend our lives waiting to die, or already dead." 

"So He Says" by Charles T. Rogers:

"A friend of mine in college used to do this to men she brought home for
the night.  She would ask them if they believed in God, or other questions
too deep for the moment, just to get their reaction. I thought it was
hilarious, but when I wrote this throwaway poem about her habit, it
stopped being funny.  At the time, I was also quite fascinated by people's
inability to communicate with each other." 

"The Pigeon Man's Deathray" by Frederick Rustam:

"I've taken some facts about the electrical genius, Nikola Tesla, and
woven around them a tale by which readers can view the later years of this
man's unusual life through the eyes of an imaginary child.... Tesla was
never kidnapped to learn his secrets, but after his death, his papers were
confiscated by the FBI---who feared that some of his boasts to journalists
about deathrays might be true." 


                        WHERE TO FIND _THE MORPO REVIEW_

Back issues of The Morpo Review are available via the following avenues:

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                       ADDRESSES FOR _THE MORPO REVIEW_ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robert Fulkerson, Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Matthew Mason, Poetry Editor  . . . . . . . . . . . .  J.D. Rummel, Fiction Editor  . . . . . . . . . .  Kris Kalil Fulkerson, Layout Editor . . . . . .  Submissions to _The Morpo Review_ . . . . . . . .  Requests for E-Mail subscriptions  . . . . . . .  Comments about _The Morpo Review_ . . . . . . . . . .  Reach all the editors at once


                         SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR TMR

Q: How do I submit my work to The Morpo Review and what are you looking for? 

A: We accept poetry, prose and essays of any type and subject matter.  To 
   get a good feel for what we publish, please read some of our previous 
   issues (see above on how to access back issues). 

   The deadline for submissions is one month prior to the release date of 
   an issue.  We publish bi-monthly on the 30th of the month in January, 
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   If you would like to submit your work, please send it via Internet 
   E-mail to the E-mail address  

   Your submission will be acknowledged and reviewed for inclusion in the 
   next issue.  In addition to simply reviewing pieces for inclusion in 
   the magazine, we attempt to provide feedback for all of the pieces that 
   are submitted.

   Along with your submission, please include a valid electronic mail address
   and telephone number that you can be reached at.  This will provide us with
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   regarding your submission.

   There are no size guidelines on stories or individual poems, but we ask 
   that you limit the number of poems that you submit to five (5) per issue 
   (i.e., during any two month period).

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   text.  If you are converting your word processing document to ASCII, 
   please make sure to convert the "smart quotes" (the double quotes that 
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             Our next issue will be available April 15th, 1996.