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 Volume #5                     March 1st, 1998                     Issue #1
 Established January, 1994                      
                       CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1

     Editor's Notes  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robert A. Fulkerson

     Bannister . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Alexander

     My Upcoming Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Judith Chalmer

     < made in china > . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Ray Heinrich
     Europe 96 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brendan J. Robinson

     Sunburn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brendan J. Robinson
     Not a Braincell to Waste  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  John Szamosi
     < the roach and the tampon >  . . . . . . . . . . .  Ray Heinrich

     William Gibson in Birmingham  . . . . . . . . . . . Sean Woodward
     Sons and Daughters  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lou Plummer

     Claudy's Smile  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jenn Muri

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

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

 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff         Kris Kalil Fulkerson                      +          

 Submissions Editor                                          Fiction Editor 
 Amy Krobot                                                     J.D. Rummel                                   


 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 5, Issue 1.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a quarterly 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 1998, The Morpo Review.  _The Morpo
 Review_ is published in ASCII and World Wide Web formats.

 All literary and artistic works are Copyright 1998 by their respective
 authors and artists.


   Robert A. Fulkerson, Editor
                             Me and the Movies
   Three years ago, I wrote a column about Forrest Gump and how Eric Roth
   and Robert Zemeckis hit on all cylinders to deliver a very cohesive,
   touching, moving story that people around the world connected with.
   Three years later, I'm writing about Titanic, a movie that quite
   possibly has changed my life forever. I don't mean that I've fallen in
   love with and have devoted my life to Kate Winslet, or that I've
   necessarily become a "Titaniac". On the contrary, there was something
   about that movie that struck a chord deep inside of me, and I'm still
   trying to figure it out.
   As far back as I can remember, I've loved movies. During my childhood
   and teenage years, my father and I didn't get along very well. What
   teenage boy and father do? He was constantly telling me how I was
   going to end up like the messed-up kids he saw at his AA meetings.
   I wasn't a drinker, nor did I partake of drugs. My "addiction" was to
   the computer screen. As an only child, I had my make-believe
   playmates, but I found new, uncharted worlds in the still larval
   online communities. And this was where my father thought I would
   become like those zonked-out, drug-addicted kids he saw at his
   meetings, unable to relate to the "Real World".
   But when I wasn't glued to the computer screen, sending e-mail via
   crude text-based interfaces, or bringing new, programmed worlds to
   life, I was watching TV. Or going to movies with my father.
   It was a safe way for the two of us to spend "quality time" together.
   We could maintain minimal, "safe" chatter in the van on the way to the
   theater. We would share in the experience of the concession stand,
   which always brought Junior Mints, popcorn and a Dr. Pepper. More idle
   chatter would ensue in the theater itself, and then finally the lights
   would go down and we could both comfortably spend time together, which
   meant time together without talking.
   The dark theater. The smell of popcorn. The constant crinkling of
   Twizzler sacks or popcorn bags. The odd seating arrangement dance
   between male friends and first-time dates. The click-click-click of
   the projector at the rear of the theater. The previews. To me, it was
   all magical, and it was the time I got to play at being a real son for
   75 or 90 minutes, with a real father who did things with me.
   I vividly remember seeing Star Wars for the first, second, fifth and
   eighth times. My father must have been tired of, "But I was going to
   go into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!" I never tired
   of it, though. Four times in the theater, four times at the drive-in.
   Then there was "Stir Crazy" and "The Toy", which I relished because
   they were R-rated flicks. I think he had a secret admiration of
   Richard Pryor, because as a rule I wasn't even supposed to watch
   R-rated movies on cable. There was a huge donnybrook at home when
   "Porky's" came to cable.
   Family movies were a rare event, indeed. As a family, the only movies
   I can remember seeing are "Norma Rae", "The Verdict" and "E.T." Mom
   wasn't a huge fan of going to the movies, and I think she understood
   that they were "quality time" for my father and I.
   I certainly lucked out when I met my wife Kris ten years ago in high
   school. She had been raised in a good movie-going family, so it wasn't
   too hard to convince her to go to movies on dates.
   There were times when we made sure that we had seen every movie at the
   Q-Cinema 4, which became the Q-Cinema 6 and eventually the Q-Cinema 9.
   It became more difficult to keep up when it went to 9 theaters, but we
   somehow managed. It was probably skipping classes occasionally or
   going to movies instead of studying for finals that helped. Our first
   date was Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and for our ten-year
   anniversary last December, we went to As Good As It Gets.
   Last December, Kris and I went to see Titanic the Thursday after it
   was released. We arrived late for the showing and ended up sitting in
   the second row of the packed theater of the Oak View 24, the
   newfangled AMC multiplex that has been my main movie hangout since it
   opened last December. I'm not sure if it was because we were in the
   second row and the screen totally filled our vision, but as the ship
   was sinking, I felt as if I was on the ship, with the people of
   Titanic, going to my watery grave.
   As I write this, the movie is well on it's way to becoming the
   top-grossing domestic film of all time, ahead of my beloved Star Wars.
   For a movie about a ship that sinks to the bottom of the ocean, it has
   certainly risen to new heights in the hearts of millions of people
   around the world.
   I've watched plenty of "touching" movies in my time, including movies
   like Forrest Gump, The Bridges of Madison County (a rare instance
   where the movie was much better than the book), and even As Good As It
   Gets.  But I've never had an experience like the one I had when I saw
   Titanic that night in December.
   I was able to convince Kris to see it again at the end of January, and
   it moved me even more the second time. I'm confident enough in my
   manhood to admit that I cried more than once during the movie.
   Even as I write this, I'm still not sure what it is about the movie
   that touches me so deeply. I think it has to do with equal parts of my
   admiration for James Cameron's driving vision for his own version of
   perfection in the directing aspect of the movie, the excellent
   performances by Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gloria Stuart and the
   rest of the Titanic ensemble, and the fact that movie is able to
   combine a love story, an action film and a historical drama into one
   cohesive movie.
   There are people who walk away from the movie feeling cheated. They
   wanted to learn more about the rest of the people on the ship. They
   wanted a more believable love story. They wanted to be moved more than
   they were.
   Which is fine. I don't think James Cameron expected the movie to do as
   well as it has. I don't think he expected it to become a cultural
   phenomenon. I don't think he expected it to touch people so deeply.
   Let's face it, when people are going back to see a three hour and 15
   minute movie three or four times, there's something at work here.
   Which brings me back to the point I started off with. Titanic, unlike
   other movies before it, has somehow changed my life forever. For the
   most part, I wander through life, from moment to moment, not really
   planning on what I'll do next. Things always seem to work out for the
   best, whether it's getting a good job straight out of my graduate
   program, or ending up teaching computer science when I used to be
   deathly afraid of public speaking.
   But now, for the first time in my life, there's something I actually
   want to do. Something that I actually want to accomplish before I die.
   And that thing is to make a movie.
   During my years as a fan of the movies, I've always caught myself
   trying to figure out how a scene was put together, how it was staged
   and blocked, how the camera was used to get the shot. But I've never
   given it much thought beyond my obsession with figuring out how things
   Now, however, I see how a movie can touch people. I see how a movie,
   regardless of your opinion of the love story or the minor anomalies in
   historical accuracy, can bring a group of strangers together in a dark
   room to live and die with the characters on the screen. To love the
   characters. To connect with them, and to connect with the others who
   have also come to the theater.
   I want to do that. I may never make it big as a director. There are
   thousands of others trying to do the same thing. Which is wonderful.
   As long as I make the opportunity happen for myself, give myself the
   chance to try my hand at making a movie, I'll feel satisfied.
                      Morpo's Fourth Anniversary!
   This issue marks the fourth anniversary of The Morpo Review. We
   published our first issue back in January of 1994 when there were very
   few electronic 'zines on the Internet. Now we're one of a few hundred,
   and we're still going strong. Which is a testament to the dedication
   of the staff here at Morpo and to the talent of the writers we
   This year we're moving to a quarterly publication schedule. We've been
   publishing on a bi-monthly schedule for the last four years, but were
   never quite able to stick to it. Now that we've had some
   reorganization in the staff ranks, we're poised to publish issues on
   the first of March, June, September and December.
   We look forward to bringing you the best prose, poetry and essays on
   the Internet for years to come.
   As James Cameron has inspired me to someday direct a film, let the
   authors in this issue inspire you to write. My movie may never see the
   light of a darkened theater, and your words may never see publication
   anywhere. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to better
   ourselves by pursuing our passions and entertaining our dreams.
   Write. Direct. Compose. Paint. Program. Bake. Build.
   Whatever it is that you do, do it. Be inspired.

                              David Alexander

   I just got out of the clinic. I'm walking down a street in Lower
   Broadway when some bum stops me and asks me if I want to buy some
   shit. Let's see what you got, I tell the bum. He sells me a gold
   detective's shield, a wallet and a holstered pistol. I don't ask the
   bum where the shit came from. I don't want to know. I just walk on
   down the street and go into the police station a couple blocks away.
   "Where's the Captain, jerk?" I ask the desk sergeant.
   "Who's asking, asshole?"
   "Bannister, jerk," I say, making up a name and flashing my new shield.
   "Lieutenant Bannister, jerk." I say it with a growl in my voice.
   "Captain's office is down the hall, first door on your right," the
   sergeant tells me. I nod and walk on down the hall until I come to the
   office where I rap on the door and hear somebody tell me to come in.
   "I'm Bannister, jerk," I tell the cop sitting behind the desk. "I was
   told to report to you."
   "Sit down, Bannister," the Captain says and nods at one of the chairs
   facing the desk. I take a seat and light a Camel. He flips through a
   manila folder on his desk and takes out a page. Then he looks me over
   carefully. "You're the wrong guy," he finally tells me.
   "Yeah? How's that, jerk?" I ask, blowing smoke out my nostrils. The
   Captain stares at me another minute, then looks back down at the
   sheet. When he looks back up he's frowning.
   "I don't like your act, that's why," the Captain says. "You got a
   reputation for bending the rules, Bannister. I don't like that kind of
   cop in my precinct."
   "So how come I'm here and not back at the 45th, jerk?" I ask.
   "You know that as well as I do."
   "Because Lederkranz bought it, jerk," I answer, making up a name.
   "That's right," the Captain says. "Because Lederkranz bought it, and
   because nobody wanted to part with anybody else. Looks like you didn't
   make a friend out of Capadocciaboca at the 45th either."
   "I can't help what Capadocciaboca or anybody else thinks," I say. "I
   do my job. So I don't take shit from punks, pushers and pimps. If that
   don't win me no prizes, I can live with that, jerk."
   "I don't have time to argue with you, Bannister," the Captain said. "I
   just want you to understand one thing. The fact that Lederkranz used
   to be your partner does not, repeat, does not give you the right to
   start a vendetta. Do you read me?"
   "Sure, Captain," I said. "I heard every word you said."
   "Good. And remember them or I'll go through you faster than shit
   through a tin horn. You got that?"
   "Sure, Captain."
   "Fine. At least we understand each other." He flipped shut the manila
   folder. "Your partner is Hennessee. Get out of here. And don't ever
   call me jerk again, you got that?"
   "Okay, jerk," I said.
   I went into the bullpen and asked for Hennessee. I got pointed to two
   desks drawn face-to-face at one end of the room. A plain clothes cop
   sat at one desk talking on the phone. The other desk was empty. I
   figured that used to belong to Hennessee's partner. I went over and
   sat in the empty chair, lighting another Camel.
   "I'm Bannister, jerk," I told the guy opposite me after he got off the
   "Johnson," he said. "I mean, Hennessee."
   "Which is it?"
   "Hennessee," he said. "Yeah, Hennessee."
   "Forget your own name for a minute, jerk?"
   "Yeah. So what?"
   "Ain't no skin off my potatoes. What lies they tell you about me,
   jerk?" I asked him.
   "They said you were a ballbreaking scumbag and that you had a speech
   problem, something to do with your brain chemistry, which is all
   fucked up due to LSD experiments you were part of in the sixties."
   "You got that right, jerk," I said, taking my seat across the desk
   from my new partner and looking around the bullpen at the cop assholes
   who swaggered around like their jobs actually had some meaning or
   purpose in life.
   "So what's on the shitlist today?" I asked Hennessee after awhile.
   "Take your pick. Captain threw us these cases. Want me to read 'em to
   "Shoot, jerk."
   "Two punks robbed a bodega. Shot and killed the owner in cold blood."
   "What else?"
   "Green Quetzal descending in feathered plumes."
   "That's the one."
   "I'm beginning to like you, Bannister."
   "Thanks, jerk."
   "I was just kidding about the green Quetzal, though," he said. "Caught
   that case last month. Here's the last one on the list. A bunch of
   creeps held up an old lady and stole her parrot right out of the cage.
   Jeez, what's the world coming to?"
   "Okay, jerk," I told him, taking the folders and dumping the whole
   load in the trash. "Here's what we're really gonna do. We're gonna get
   the fuck out of here and slam the fuckers who iced my partner."
   "Oh yeah? The Captain says different."
   "Then fuck the Captain," I said. "My first responsibility is to
   Lederkranz. He was my partner." I jumped up and waved my fist in the
   air, hoping Lederkranz was the right name. "My partner! Do you hear
   me? He saved my life more times than I can count on two fingers. Like
   the time he leapt from the top of the Chrysler building just so he
   could land on these two punks who were about to knife me."
   "Yeah, I heard about that one," Hennessee said.
   "I swore a sacred oath to his widow to avenge him, jerk, and that's
   what I intended to do," I shouted.
   "I thought Lederkranz wasn't married."
   "He was secretly married," I said, off the top of my head. "He never
   told anybody but me. She was a child bride from Guatemala. They were
   mad about each other." I stared Hennessee in the face. "And I'll
   avenge him with or without your help."
   "I'm beginning to like you, Bannister."
   "You said that already, jerk," I told him. "Let's blow this shithole."
   Outside the station, we got into an unmarked cop car. My new partner
   got behind the wheel while I took the shotgun seat, spitting out the
   "Something maybe you don't know," Hennessee said to me as he drove.
   "You mean the square root of sixty."
   "What was that?"
   "I don't know the square root of sixty, jerk. Everything else I know.
   Trust me on that."
   "You're a funny guy, Bannister," Hennessee answered, blowing his horn
   at a Chinese delivery boy on a bicycle to make him get out of the way,
   then throwing an old cup of coffee dregs at him when he didn't. "I
   meant that you probably don't know that I lost my partner, Tennessee."
   "Toot on the flute," I said.
   "Hennessee, Tennessee, toot on the flute, jerk."
   "Like I said, you're a funny guy, Bannister."
   "You guys ever toot on each others' flute, jerk?"
   "That ain't funny, Bannister."
   "Okay. I'll change the subject. Where we going?"
   "Gonna pay a visit on my snitch, Moctezuma," Hennessee said. "What the
   street knows he knows."
   Hennessee pulled the car over to the curb and killed the engine and
   cracked the door.
   "Just one thing you should know. My snitch is a moth."
   "That's okay, jerk."
   "I mean he's a really big moth."
   "Not a problem."
   "Reason I ask is because some guys don't like moths too much,
   especially the larger varieties like my snitch. Puts them off somehow,
   threatens their masculinity or something."
   "I said no problem, jerk."
   "But it's an interesting story of how my snitch got to be a moth,"
   Hennessee went on. "See, he was originally a shepherd in Greece
   somewhere who looked upon Apollo who turned him into a moth so he
   could flit through the jungle at night and spy on mankind for Apollo."
   "Just as long as he hears the street, jerk," I said. "It's butterflies
   make me nervous, you want the truth."
   "Yeah, I hear that. I fucking hate butterflies. I get along okay with
   moths, though. We got more in common."
   Hennessee's moth snitch dealt low-THC grass and bootleg prescription
   diet pills out of the back of a pizzeria on Canal Street. We went up
   to the counter and Hennessee told the guy he was here to see the moth.
   He told me to wait by the counter and keep an eye on things while he
   went in back. I ordered a slice of Sicilian while Hennessee went to
   the back.
   "The burnt piece, from the end," I told the guy.
   "You want anything to drink with that?" he asked.
   "Yeah, a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild '57, jerk," I told the
   "Hey, goombah, you tryin' to be funny maybe?" he asked.
   "Obviously I'm trying to piss you off, jerk," I told the counterman
   and took out my gun. "You want me to blow your fucking brains all over
   the plastic Jesus on your oven or you wanna give me my burnt piece
   from the end?"
   The counterman pushes my slice over to me and I start eating it,
   laughing at him because he's old and has a funny moustache, and
   mimicking his Italian while he talks on the phone. Suddenly, I hear
   Hennessee shouting from the back and I see this gigantic pair of wings
   go flying past me out the door.
   "Come on!" Hennessee yells at me as he runs after the moth snitch.
   I run after them both, shifted back to the past tense singular and ran
   after him. His moth snitch was a fast mother, even for a moth. We had
   to chase him for at least a dozen blocks before we cornered him on a
   pile of garbage in a vacant lot. Hennessee held him down while I
   punched the moth snitch in the labonze a couple of times. That knocked
   some of the brio out of the insect, but got a lot of moth dust all
   over me and Hennessee.
   "Okay, man, no more," the moth snitch said, too dusted out to mess
   with us anymore.
   "Why'd you run, you goddamm punk?" Hennessee asked, winded.
   "I thought you were trying to roust me about some of that bad shit
   made the hypes sick on the avenue last week, okay? I had nothing to do
   with that shit, okay?"
   "We know that," I told moth. "We just want the word on Tlalco. You
   seen him around?"
   "Hey, I don't know nothing about Tlalco, man," the moth protested. "I
   steer clear of bad actors like that dude."
   "Bullshit!" I hollered at the moth, having no idea who Tlalco was and
   even pretty sure I was hallucinating all this shit about moths because
   of what was wrong with my head. "We know you and Tlalco are asshole
   "Okay, okay. Maybe I seen Tlalco yesterday. Maybe he's holed up under
   the bridge. In the shantytown, man. Got himself a new bitch there
   scavenges bottles for him."
   Hennessee peeled off two twenties and handed the bills to the moth. We
   got out of the lot fast.
   "We gotta move to catch Tlalco before he knows we're coming,"
   Hennessee said. "The street knows by now we came around."
   We caught up with Tlalco just as he was trying to book. The jungle
   drums had warned him we were after him. We shoved Tlalco into the car
   and drove off.
   "Where you takin' me, man?" he shouted.
   "Someplace we can talk in private."
   "Fuck that shit, man," he hollered. "I got rights. Let me outa this
   fuckin' car."
   "You ain't got shit, punk," Hennessee told Tlalco. "You only got what
   we give you. So enjoy the ride."
   Hennessee stopped the car at an old warehouse near the docks and let
   us in with a key he had. The place was deserted and the walls were
   steel-reinforced concrete. We could work on Tlalco all we wanted to in
   a place like this. I was getting to like Hennessee's style better and
   better by the minute.
   Up on the catwalk was a steel desk and a beat-up swivel chair. There
   was also a crappy TV on the desk. Hennessee put on the TV and got some
   rope out of one of the desk drawers. Then we tied Tlalco to the chair
   with the rope.
   "Why's the TV on?" Tlalco asked.
   "So you can watch it." I said.
   "You guys bring me here to watch TV?" Tlalco asked with a snicker.
   I shook my head, then I grabbed Tlalco by his pony tail and shoved his
   face in the screen, grinding his nose.
   "We brought you here so the TV could watch you, jerk," I told him,
   mashing his face in the screen and turning up the volume.
   Finally I pulled Tlalco's face off the screen and we got down to cases
   with him.
   "You hang with Leaping Knifehead?"
   "Never heard of the fuck," Tlalco said.
   I slapped Tlalco around a little and Hennessee asked him again.
   "Yeah, okay. I know the dude," he finally admitted. "So what?"
   "So this, punk," I said, leaning close to Tlalco's face, "Leaping
   Knifehead whacked my partner Detective Lederkranz. The street says
   that you witnessed the murder."
   "Bullshit. I don't know about no fucking murder of no fucking cop,"
   Tlalco said.
   "The street says you know a lot about it. So here's the deal. You tell
   us how it went down and we'll let you walk. If you don't, we'll book
   you as an accessory."
   "I told you I don't know nothing -- "
   " -- About no fucking murder," Hennessee echoed. "Yeah. We hear you."
   "You may be wondering about why you're all trussed up, so permit me to
   explain," I put in. "In this special chair we're subjecting you to a
   simulated fifteen-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. It's the worst
   torture in the world. After even an hour you'll beg for death."
   "Still don't wanna talk?" asked Hennessee.
   "Fuck no. I always wanted to go to Turkey," Tlalco said.
   "Okay, jerk," I countered. "You asked for it."
   I nodded at Hennessee who yanked open one of the desk drawers and took
   out something he kept in there that smelled funky and had flies on it.
   "Know what this is?" he asked, holding it in front of Tlalco's face.
   "Shit, take that fucking thing away, man!"
   Hennessee ignored him.
   "This is a human jawbone found in a garbage bag near the docks," I
   said to Tlalco, grabbing his pony tail and sticking his face in it.
   "This jawbone once belonged to my partner Lederkranz, so be very
   fucking nice to it."
   "Shit, this is grossing me fucking out!"
   "First we're gonna infect you with all the excitement of preparing for
   a trip to Turkey, okay, jerk? Your destination is Istanbul, the
   Turkish capital. You plan on dealing hash. You're really looking
   forward to it. You got all these tacky new clothes, cheap colored
   condoms you bought at the ninety-nine cent store, all kinds of shit.
   Getting into it, jerk?"
   "Yeah, man," Tlalco said, as the infection spread. "This is cool. Wow,
   I'm really into it."
   "Cool, huh?" I answered, then looked at Hennessee. "Okay, hit him with
   the ebene mixture."
   Hennessee had already loaded the blowgun with the drug made of the
   bark of various South American trees and placed the blowgun's mouth
   against Tlalco's nostrils. Hennessee inhaled, then forcefully blew the
   hallucinogenic powder up Tlalco's nose. As Hennessee took away the
   blowgun the ebene was already starting to work. Tlalco's eyes went
   wide and a greenish-black mucous characteristic of ebene intoxication
   flowed from his nasal passages down his shirt.
   "Now you're on the plane," I told Tlalco, leaning close to his ear.
   "You thought you'd have room but the flight's packed. You're sitting
   between a sinister-looking guy in a turban who starts in playing
   elbow-hockey right away and a pair of Turkish lovers who pull vanilla
   taffy nonstop."
   "The movie sucks," Hennessee put in. "It's some kind of weird rerun of
   Fantasy Island, only with Turkish actors speaking highly idiomatic
   "Now the plane has hit some really fierce turbulence. It's rocking
   like crazy. You're getting sick. You call over the stewardess, who
   can't understand English and laughs in your face as the Turkish lovers
   blow vanilla taffy bubbles at you."
   Tlalco was beginning to shiver and shake. Under the influence of
   ebene, he was actually on that plane to Istanbul.
   "You got the lightning up your spine yet? Do you feel the pitchfork,
   jerk?" I asked.
   "No, shit, no!" he moaned. "I can't stand it!"
   "Then tell us what you know about the night Leaping Knifehead iced
   "No way, man. I can't. Leaping Knifehead's a bad motherfucker. He'd
   blow me away."
   "In that case we're now gonna change your head to a Quetzal head and
   infect you with a Mood of Despair. We can change your mood any time we
   want. The whole nine yards from Mood of Mirth to Mood of Apathy to
   Mood of Social Engagement to Mood of Despair."
   Hennessee put the Quetzal head on Tlalco who immediately was brought
   down. As I flipped through the channels on the TV on the desk,
   Tlalco's moods changed and changed. Between these mood changes and the
   plane trip on Turkish Airlines, we broke him. Tlalco begged us to
   stop. He'd tell us everything now.
   "Let him out of the chair, Hennessee," I said.
   Tlalco fell to the floor and struggled to stand up.
   "Something's wrong, I can't get up," he complained.
   "That's just an aneurysm in your leg," I told him. "It'll go away." I
   told Hennessee to pick the punk up and walk him around. "First a test
   question," I told Tlalco. "And you keep the Quetzal mask on. That's so
   you'll stay honest."
   "Yeah, sure," he said.
   "Okay. First a test question. The perimeter of a kitchen is forty-four
   feet and its area is two hundred and two square feet less than that of
   a living room. The length of the living room is eleven feet more than
   that of the kitchen and the width of the living room is four feet more
   than the kitchen. What is the total size of the living room?"
   "Thirty five square feet," Tlalco said right away.
   I nodded. The snitch was finally ready to spill.
   "Now what about the night that Lederkranz was iced?" I asked Tlalco.
   "It was just a bad break for that cop," he began. "Leaping Knifehead
   ambushed him in Bardo, where he was having a drink. He owned Bardo,
   okay. At that time Knifehead needed a fish to bring to Smoking Mirror
   because it was the tenth day of the tenth month. You following this?"
   "Yeah. Go on," I said.
   Tlalco began to spill and never stopped. He laid out the whole shebang
   to me and Hennessee. They needed a moth to fly ahead to Smoking Mirror
   and announce Knifehead's impending arrival. Hennessee's moth snitch
   was holed up in a cocoon somewhere so they made Lederkranz the moth by
   feeding him to a Kaiemunu, which was a twelve-foot-high wickerwork
   figure in Leaping Knifehead's TriBeCa loft.
   As the Kaiemunu devoured Lederkranz they shook it to make it dance,
   then threw Lederkranz's corpse on the floor, as if the Kaiemunu spewed
   it up. After that they cut off Lederkranz's head and scalped off his
   face, eating the brain while painting the skull with ash, ochre and
   chalk and decorating it with cassowary feathers and beads.
   The rest of the corpse was placed on the floor facing a window
   oriented toward the rising sun. As the sun rose, they walked on
   Lederkranz's corpse chanting, "All evil, all sickness and all pain
   That was two days ago. Since that time Leaping Knifehead had been
   purifying himself, drinking only muddy water, abstaining from sex and
   entering and leaving the loft through the window instead of the door.
   Tonight he'd been purified and all the taboos associated with whacking
   Lederkranz were gone. Tlalco said he'd probably be leaving for hedu,
   abode of Smoking Mirror god, in his sky-canoe that night. The corpses
   and other offerings were to keep Smoking Mirror from casting a piece
   of hedu, the abode of the cosmos, through the sky layer to crush the
   "It all hangs together," I said to Tlalco, "except for one thing."
   "Yeah, what's that?" he said through his Quetzal mask.
   "You left out the Poke Vake. The Nose Man," I returned. "There had to
   be a Poke Vake to bite off the sacrifice's nose. What kind of schmucks
   you take us for, Tlalco?"
   "I don't know about no fucking Poke Vake," he said. "They didn't have
   that shit that night."
   "We'll let that one slide for the moment," I told Tlalco. "Right now
   you're gonna take us to Leaping Knifehead's loft and get us inside.
   There's got to be some kind of code, right?"
   "Yeah, there is."
   "It's the meat hunger sound of the carnivorous wasp," he said.
   "Like, this maybe?"
   I made the meat hunger sound for Tlalco, buzzing and howling like a
   giant black wasp of death.
   "Yeah, that's it. You got it down perfect."
   I had Hennessee practice it in case something happened to me. Then I
   put the cuffs on Tlalco and told him he was coming with us. He pitched
   a bitch but he had no choice. I wanted Tlalco close, where I could
   keep an eye on him till I had Leaping Knifehead on the floor, reading
   him his Miranda rights.
   Hennessee drove us to TriBeCa and we rang the bell. We all had on
   Quetzal masks like Tlalco's to fool the closed-circuit TV cams and I
   made the meat hunger sound of the carnivorous wasp into the microphone
   by the elevator.
   "Who's there?" a voice asked.
   "It's me, Tlalco," the punk said.
   "Who's with you, man?"
   "Jose and Felix. They cool, man," he said.
   The voice said we could come up. Inside the loft Leaping Knifehead was
   putting the final touches on the sky-canoe. The canoe was at least
   sixty feet long and its sides were hung with bodies interspersed with
   big fish, like sharks and manta rays, which Leaping Knifehead was
   bringing to Smoking Mirror.
   There were a couple of goons in the place and two of them brought us
   over to the sky-canoe. Leaping Knifehead looked over the side and
   asked Tlalco what he wanted. That's when Tlalco jumped into the
   sky-canoe and began shouting that we were cops.
   The goons began shooting at us as Hennessee and me ran for cover, me
   getting behind the Kaiemunu and Hennessee off to one side behind a big
   totem pole with killer whale gods carved on it. As we shot it out with
   the goons, the sky-canoe began to shimmer, and we saw its astral
   counterpart begin to separate from the earthly canoe and go out the
   window of the loft into the night.
   By the time we blew away the four goons most of the canoe was already
   out the window with the astral selves of Leaping Knifehead and Tlalco
   "Quick," I told Hennessee, pointing at the goons. "Cut off the heads
   of two of these creeps to keep their astral selves from separating and
   I'll take care of the others."
   After we did this I told Hennessee to pull his gun. At my signal we
   both shot each other in the heart so we could draw out our astral
   selves. We did this just in time to catch the bow of the sky-canoe as
   it sailed completely free of the loft into the sky. Now we had a fight
   on our hands as I took on Leaping Knifehead and Hennessee duked it out
   with Tlalco.
   Leaping Knifehead began throwing parts of his knife-body at me, the
   knives spinning through space and cleaving off parts of my ectoplasm.
   The only way I could deal with him was to put my Quetzal mask on his
   head. Once I did this he screamed and fell over the side of the
   sky-canoe, disappearing into the stars. I leaned on a corner and
   caught my breath in time to see Hennessee boot Tlalco over the side
   too. We were alone in the sky canoe now.
   "We got the bastard," Hennessee told me, taking off his Quetzal mask
   and wiping sweat off his semi-transparent brow.
   "Yeah, but not the Poke Vake," I said.
   "Too bad, but we'll take care of him later," Hennessee returned.
   "Why later when we can do it right now?" I answered.
   "I don't get it?"
   "I think you do, alright," I insisted. "I think you're the Poke Vake,
   Hennessee. I suspected you from the moment you couldn't remember your
   own name for a second."
   "Yeah, I guess that was pretty dumb, huh," he said.
   "Why did you do it? Bite off your own partner's nose and Lederkranz's
   "You're forgetting Bannister's nose, since you're not him."
   "How fucking astute of you," I said. "But you didn't answer my
   "Leaping Knifehead was in with some Soho real estators who wanted a
   triad of human hearts to give them godlike powers. He hooked me up
   with them. The deal was, I give them the hearts of three brave men and
   I get a million dollar loft. Shitty reason, huh?"
   "No shittier than most, these days," I said. "So what now?"
   "Now I shoot you with some of these ectoplasmic bullets from this here
   astral gun. Then you're history."
   "I don't think so," I said, before Hennessee could pull the trigger,
   and I flipped a cockroach from my pocket onto Hennessee. A ball of
   green flame instantly erupted where the roach landed.
   "That roach is your noreshi animal, jerk," I told Hennessee as the
   flames spread. "It's never supposed to be close to you. When you come
   together, you both die."
   Hennessee screamed as the noreshi roach burned a hole right through
   his chest. He jumped overboard, screaming and clawing at his
   disintegrating body. Now it was finally over. Except that here I was,
   all alone in the sky-canoe on my way to Smoking Mirror, god of the
   night. I voyaged through the astral plane for a long time, maybe days,
   maybe years, maybe centuries.
   Finally I arrived in hedu, the cosmic layer, at a jungle-covered beach
   where natives attired in weird feathered headdresses escorted me in my
   Quetzal mask to a huge stone pyramid. I went inside as they bowed and
   I was alone with Smoking Mirror god.
   "I'm Bannister, jerk," I told Smoking Mirror god. "I was told to
   report to you." I wasn't surprised when Smoking Mirror turned out to
   be the Captain.
   "I don't like your act," Smoking Mirror said after awhile. "You got a
   reputation for bending the rules, Bannister. I don't like that kind of
   cop in my precinct."
   "So how come I'm here and not back at the 45th, jerk?" I ask.
   "You know that as well as I do."
   "Because Lederkranz bought it, jerk," I answer, making up a name.
   "That's right," Smoking Mirror said. "Because Lederkranz bought it,
   and because nobody wanted to part with anybody else. Looks like you
   didn't make a friend out of Capadocciaboca at the 45th either."
   "I can't help what Capadocciaboca or anybody else thinks," I say. "I
   do my job. So I don't take shit from punks, pushers and pimps. If that
   don't win me any prizes, I can live with that, jerk."
   "I don't have time to argue with you, Bannister," Smoking Mirror said.
   "I just want you to understand one thing. The fact that Lederkranz
   used to be your partner does not, repeat, does not give you the right
   to start a vendetta. Do you read me?"
   "Sure, Captain," I said. "I heard every word you said."
   "Good. And remember them or I'll go through you faster than shit
   through a tin horn. You got that?"
   "Sure, Captain."
   "Fine. At least we understand each other." He flipped shut the manila
   folder. "Your new partner is Hennessee. Get out of here. And don't
   ever call me jerk again, you got that?"
   "Okay, jerk," I said.
   I walked out of the station house back onto Lower Broadway. Fun was
   fun but I had enough of that shit for awhile. Anyway, it was time I
   got back to the clinic for my shot.

                             My Upcoming Death
                               Judith Chalmer

   Many cuffs hung, once,
   blowing and sneezing
   from sleeves out for the long
   watch on the line, each
   having harbored a narrow,
   lined nose. Each lived
   for a while in relative health
   until one day, back inside,
   a faded sweater let go, perhaps
   in a corner. Dear family --
   the loose hems, the wailing
   from the rack and the wall!
   Blazers and skirts at once
   give in to the odor. Quick
   knees pump down the hall
   to right them. Knees stoop
   at the closet door. The worn
   sleeve lets go of its pulse,
   swings out to the bedroom
   floor. Alas. Worn sleeve,
   blow down again to the kitchen,
   mix dough in the open window,
   crack eggs, pull the bottoms off
   baked puffs, dip crusts
   in the morning, spread yolks
   and warm butter, leaving
   no stain, none, on a day, late
   in summer, when a worn sweater
   lets go of its hold, to roam.

                             < made in china >
                                Ray Heinrich

   i'm practicing my Chinese
   in a K-Mart
   i'm translating labels
   as i come to them
   this shirt says
   it was made in China
   by people who believed in free speech
   and made the mistake of saying so
   and this pair of pants was
   hand-crafted in China
   by a woman who mentioned
   Tiananmen square
   and these socks
   were produced in China
   by a man who is gay
   or maybe he's Christian
   my Chinese
   isn't that good
   and this toy
   was assembled in China by someone
   it could have been anyone
   who lived in Tibet

                                 Europe 96
                            Brendan J. Robinson

   I rose up from the underground on Picadilly Circus
   to neon signs and the bustle of night.
   All whores and tourists
   We turned the corner and
   marched down the naked streets of Soho:
   hookers and Chinese restaurants,
   homos in bars,
   sketches, artisans, poor students,
   all taken by the sins of night,
   the gluttony, the food and beer,
   sweaty girls stepping out for air.
   Welcome to our wild nights
   where we knew that we were living out
   the connective tissue of our lives,
   the stories and exaggerations
   of the too soon past, present
       We met ugly girls who would later
       become beautiful. Vomited and spun on
       a soon clear and joyous night.
   We're doing it all,
   seeing those things only read about in books,
   filing through the bedchambers of kings,
   and standing in the rooms where our empires
   were created and destroyed.

                            Brendan J. Robinson

   I am standing in the perfect, arid air
   as we sink, swift and silent to the sea.
   My fingers, scouring a small, plastic jar
   and aloe cooling the pink flesh of my forearms.
   They are marked by the first days sun in three weeks.
   We have taken a wealth of steel an fiberglass
   an set it into motion with oil and air.
   As we dive, veins of sea water coarse about us.
   Challenging the very force of nature
   our machines will twist and spin
   separating out the salt from water,
   transforming the water into air; indeed,
   we are breathing in the ocean itself
   defying her power with the perfect balance of our shape.
   Yet in this foreign land, we cannot forever sustain.
   Soon we must turn to and awake from our darkened dream,
   and after we have returned from the deep,
   once we have risen up, triumphant, bragging
   that we have survived the great weight of the seas;
   The Sun, that single phenom we could never reconstruct,
   will pain us for our disrespect,
   for our beloved chemistry and architecture,
   for our strange alchemy of survival,
   so compact and forced, so hurried and incomplete.
   I am standing in a bathroom at the bottom of the sea,
   healing my skin beneath flourescent rays.
   Inside, the air is dull and clean.
   Outside, the sun rises, and waits.


                          Not a Braincell to Waste
                                John Szamosi

   "Then you put a stop-cock on the glass tube and turn it upside down
   thirty times," Dr. Lin explained an important test method to his
   technician, Jerry.
   "What's the next step?" asked Jerry.
   "Nothing," said Dr. Lin. "That's it. A very simple procedure."
   The technician nodded; it was a no-brainer just like the other tests.
   Jerry was an uncomplicated guy with above-average intelligence. It did
   not take him long to develop a distaste for the primitive tests
   technicians were doing all day. One sunny morning, he announced, "I
   want to go back to school to get a degree."
   Dr. Lin was surprised. "What for? You are a very good technician,
   Jerry, that school stuff will only confuse you."
   "This testing ain't my cup of tea," explained Jerry.
   Dr. Lin gazed at his assistant. What the hell does he really want?
   "Yesterday I mentioned the school thing to Mr. Peters," Jerry added.
   Mr. Peters was the director of Research and Development.
   Dr. Lin jumped inside his office, slammed the door behind him, picked
   up the phone and dialed Mr. Peters's direct line.
   "Of course, I know about it," said the director. "Jerry was here
   yesterday, we were talking about all kinds of things."
   Dr. Lin shook the receiver in the air. What the hell's all kinds of
   things? Then he waved his hand. Who gives a shit, Peters is small
   "Seems like a good idea," Mr. Peters went on. "Jerry goes back to
   college, he'll get his degree taking evening classes. Nothing wrong
   with that."
   "What for?" asked Dr. Lin.
   Mr. Peters continued, "Yesterday I also called Personnel. Turns out,
   before he joined us Jerry'd accumulated quite a number of credits
   "So what?" asked Dr. Lin.
   "Good news, I mean," said Mr. Peters. "It's like killing two birds
   with one stone. Jerry’s been close to a college degree anyway,
   and we'll get a technically more versatile employee. Two birds, one
   stone, I'm telling you."
   "Two birds," repeated Dr. Lin.
   "You agree," said Mr. Peters.
   Dr. Lin took a deep breath. "He won't become a better technician just
   because he takes a few calculus and art classes."
   "Of course not. Jerry wants to be promoted to junior scientist
   guaranteed by a college degree. That's company policy."
   Dr. Lin hung up the receiver.
   Jerry enjoyed going to school. In lunch time he did his homework
   before he took the first bite from his sandwich. He liked to talk
   about what he learned in his classes; history, psychology, science.
   Jerry was becoming smarter every day.
   The other technicians were envious, and kept bugging him, "Are you
   sure the company's paying for this?"
   He rushed to Personnel. There they quickly alleviated his concerns:
   "Jerry, as long as you maintain a C average or better, we pick up the
   tab for your tuition and all necessary school supplies."
   Jerry began studying even harder. Now he had a book with him on the
   bench all day long. While reading, he generally messed up the
   One rainy afternoon, Dr. Lin stopped by the lab. "Jerry, you seem to
   pay less and less attention to your work."
   Jerry looked up from his history book. "Dr. Lin, d’you know what
   the Yankee soldiers told Ulysses Grant, after he became the commander
   of the Union Army?"
   "No, and I don't give a shit!"
   "They said, 'You have yet to meet Bobby Lee.' That's what they said."
   "Uhm?" Dr. Lin shook his head. "What's that got to do with the work
   we're doing here? The work we're getting paid for." He stopped for
   air, then continued louder, "Come to think of it, you're not doing any
   real work here, Jerry! You just keep screwing up!"
   Jerry nodded. "The historical comment's got nothing to do with the
   standard operating procedures we follow in the lab, I agree."
   "Then what are you blabbering about?"
   "It's interesting, though," Jerry insisted. "I mean what the soldiers
   said to General Grant."
   Dr. Lin stormed out of the lab.
   A semester later Dr. Lin demanded to talk with Mr. Peters.
   "We’ve got a fly in the ointment," Dr. Lin began. "A large dead
   fly, I might add. Jerry's going to school in evenings, the
   company’s supporting him, that's fine with me, I always liked the
   idea. But during the day he is a technician assigned to me, and he has
   to do what I tell him to."
   "He doesn't?" asked the director.
   "No, he doesn't do shit," asserted Dr. Lin. "Last week I gave him
   eighteen experimental products to evaluate. He tested only seven of
   them, used only the instrumental methods--I suspect because he could
   read his books while running the machines. On the top of it all, he
   did every procedure only once."
   "It does sound like a serious matter," said Mr. Peters. "I'm gonna
   talk to him right away. This is the kind of situation that’s got
   to be tackled early enough before it gets... you know...
   Dr. Lin rolled his eyes. "Who could’ve put it more eloquently?"
   He turned around and walked out of the office.
   Mr. Peters called the lab. The phone was only a few feet from Jerry's
   desk, but somebody else had to pick it up because Jerry was reading
   for his psychology exam. First he waved that he was not available, but
   when they told him it was Mr. Peters, he dragged himself to the
   "Jerry, how are you doing, how's school?"
   "Great, Mr. Peters," said Jerry. "And how are you?"
   "Fine, Jerry, fine."
   "Anything the matter, Mr. Peters?" asked Jerry.
   "Nothing, son, nothing at all. Keep up the good work, you hear?"
   "Thank you, Mr. Peters." Jerry went back to his psychology book.
   The director picked up the TIME: MAN OF THE YEAR mirror he had
   received for Christmas, and winked at his image. "Lin's an idiot," he
   murmured to himself. "That sonofabitch Chinaman thinks just because
   he’s got a Ph.D., he can hector us around."
   He dialed Dr. Lin's number. "I gave Jerry a piece of my mind. I cut
   him up, chewed him out and beat the shit out of that dingbat."
   A brief silence ensued. "I hope you didn't scare him away," said Dr.
   Lin. "It's hard to find technicians for the kind of salary we pay them
   "That problem will take care of itself," said the director and began
   playing tic-tac-toe on his computer. "As soon as Jerry finishes school
   and gets his promotion, we'll raise his salary by a good twenty
   "How nice," said Dr. Lin and hung up.
   Asshole, Mr. Peters thought, and proceeded to play computer games
   until six.
   More and more often, Jerry called in sick, especially before exams.
   The company's policy was that you needed a doctor's note if you were
   out for two or more consecutive days. Jerry was ill for a single day
   every time.
   Then Dr. Lin was in Mr. Peters's office again, and this time Jerry had
   been told to be there, too.
   "Jerry keeps taking sick days," complained Dr. Lin. "It's busy season,
   we’ve got lots of tests to run, and the more he doesn't do, the
   more's left for the rest."
   Mr. Peters glanced at Jerry. The technician was looking out the
   window. "What's on your mind, Jerry?"
   "The adrenal medulla," said Jerry. "It secretes both norepinephrine
   and epinephrine."
   "Who gives a shit!" exclaimed Dr. Lin. "We're talking about work here,
   like you not getting your ass to the bench any more, like you staying
   home one or two and occasionally three days a week. The adrenal
   medulla is not a subject of this conversation. It's got no importance
   here. None!"
   "Jerry, what do you say?" Mr. Peters asked softly.
   "Actually, quite important. The adrenal medulla contributes to
   directing the visceral accompaniments of emotion."
   Mr. Peters started clapping. "Son of a bitch! You really became
   smart." He turned to Dr. Lin. "Did you know about the adromar
   Dr. Lin buried his face in his hands.
   "You can leave now, Jerry," Mr. Peters told the technician. "Go back
   to the lab, do some useful stuff."
   Jerry slouched away.
   "Efficiency!" Mr. Peters yelled after him. "Keep in mind, Jerry,
   we’ve all got to be efficient. That's the only way we can beat
   the competition on a regular basis."
   Dr. Lin brought his chair closer to the director's desk. "A totally
   hopeless case. He's either flipped out or decided to drive me nuts.
   Actually, it wouldn't even matter, if he only did some real work. All
   I want is a couple hundred test procedures a week out of the guy. But,
   practically nothing!"
   The director nodded. "He's gonna get it this time, I'm telling you."
   Dr. Lin got up to leave.
   "By the way," Mr. Peters looked at him, "did you miss school when they
   were teaching about the adraman moduna?"
   Dr. Lin stormed out of the office slamming the door behind himself.
   Chinky bastard, Mr. Peters thought. He'd like us to believe he is a
   superior shit on wheels just because he’s got a Ph.D. He ain't
   that smart after all--the kid showed him up pretty good today.
   Everything stayed the same for a year and a half. Then Personnel
   tightened the screw on sick days. The new rule said if you did not
   come to work on Monday or Friday--the most popular sick days--you
   still had to bring a note from your physician, since you could have
   been ill during the weekend. Jerry immediately made the adjustment by
   staying home on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. Before exams, he
   opted for his new favorite, the Tuesday-Thursday combination.
   Jerry graduated with a B average. The section organized a celebration
   party for him, they even ordered a huge cake. Mr. Peters noted that
   Jerry was the third technician since 1982 who had entered the ranks of
   professionals in Research and Development. Dr. Lin noted that during
   his senior year Jerry had taken forty-eight sick days. The cake had a
   vanilla-frosting message on it: Jerry, congratulations for your degree
   and promotion! R&D.
   Jerry smiled. "I am ready for the easy life."

                        < the roach and the tampon >
                                Ray Heinrich

   you don't
   want to hear this story


                        William Gibson in Birmingham
                               Sean Woodward

   The roadways are trying
   To behave
   As if untired cyber cowboys
   Were hotwiring Ford Mavericks
   Loaded with shiny
   New hardware.
   Even the wide open glass fronts
   Of half-empty cafes
   Were waiting
   For some Bladerunner lovely
   To shatter their facade.
   And me,
   I have a small stack of books
   These 20th Century antiques
   That the master
   I can see the weeks of humility
   In his gentle calligraphy
   No laser pen, no geostationary download
   Of chip encased personality maps,
   Just a black biro.
   And now I know
   William Gibson in Birmingham
   Its the same
   As Count Zero`s brainscan
   A tight knit plan of Tokyo
   A man
   harbouring secrets.


                             Sons and Daughters
                                Lou Plummer

   I will never be as old
                  as he was when he was young
   I will not have to
                  dig a hole in the ground,
                         sleep there, in the rain,
                                  after eating eggs out of a can
                                           with a plastic spoon
                                                   While people try to
   kill me
   No one understands a drowning man
                Except the drowned
   Honor Thy Father
         Do not leave YOUR child
                small paragraphs in dusty books
           "This was my Father
            I never knew him
            And he lived 10 miles
   Do not listen to silence
         Nor pass silence to your son
                Or teach him not to listen
   For: John Plummer, Ben Chitty, Tony Murzyn, Lee Westbrook, and Bobby
   Dew (November 11, 1948-August 30, 1970)


                               Claudy's Smile
                                 Jenn Muri

   "Hey, don't throw those rocks so hard, you'll hurt him!" Eugene yelled
   down the alley at Maurice. Even though Maurice was at a distance, and
   looked like a toy soldier that could fit in the palm of the hand, the
   rocks he'd thrown flew fast and landed hard, just barely missing
   Maurice moved closer, reaching into his pouch and picking out a bigger
   rock, then threw it even harder than before. This time the rock hit
   Claudy on his forehead, right above his left eye.
   "You dumb sucker!" Eugene yelled as he kicked a neighbor's fence post,
   causing the wire fence to vibrate loudly.
   "Your mama's dumb! My ma says people like Claudy shouldn't be running
   'round the streets, no ways. She says your mama ought to lock him up
   somewheres, keep him out of sight," Maurice shouted as he reached into
   his home-made belt pouch for another rock.
   "Hey! He ain't hurting you none," Eugene yelled at Maurice. "You tell
   your ma he don't hurt nobody lessen they hurt him first." Eugene ran
   over to his brother, grabbed him by his arm and led him back into the
   "Sissies! Sissies! Go and run behind your mama's tail!" Maurice
   When Eugene got home, his mother walked past him and looked at the
   thin line of crusted blood on Claudy's forehead. She ran her fingers
   across all the old scars on Claudy's face, almost the way a child
   would run his fingers over the mountain areas of a relief map. She
   then quietly took Claudy by the hand and led him into the bathroom.
   From the kitchen, Eugene could hear the bathroom door slam, followed
   by the faint sounds of running water and Claudy's laughter; he could
   hear his mother moving about the bathroom, talking softly to Claudy,
   telling him to stand still or to bend over the sink. Claudy responded
   with his usual grunts and spurts of laughter as he stomped around the
   small bathroom, as if trying to escape the demanding voice of his
   mother. Eugene laughed to himself; he imagined Claudy and his mother
   trapped in the bathroom forever, each one endlessly playing their
   At fifteen, Claudy was four years older than Eugene, but everything
   was still a game to him. His mother said Claudy would never grow up,
   that emotionally he would always be about three years old. As Eugene
   wiped the kitchen table with a soiled dish rag, he wondered what it
   would be like to be three years old again: would his mother talk
   softly to him again?
   When his mother finished with Claudy she came into the kitchen, stood
   under the doorway and rested her weight against the rotted wood frame
   while Eugene noisily placed the dinner dishes on the table.
   "Eugene, you know you're supposed to watch him. Why do you let him get
   all scratched up like that?" she asked. Eugene started to answer but
   noticed that his mother's eyes were closed. He hated the sudden
   silence -- he always thought he could feel death in silence, or
   whatever it was that made people go away and forget about the ones
   they left behind: He wondered if his mother was thinking about his
   "Answer me!" she demanded, opening her eyes. Startled, Eugene let one
   of the dinner dishes drop to the table, then placed his hand on top of
   it to stop the rattle.
   "He keeps falling down and bumping into things. I can't make him
   stop," Eugene said helplessly. The plate stopped rattling beneath his
   hand; Eugene smiled at this small act of control.
   "Well you'd just better find a way to make him stop! I see you ain't
   got no scratches on your face. How come he's falling all over the
   place and you just standing around watching? I told you to watch him
   -- not watch him fall!" she said. Her body arched slowly forward, the
   way it always did when she was upset with him. It used to frighten
   him, but ever since his dad left, her arched body only seemed to make
   her movements look slow and heavy -- as if moving her body took all
   the strength she had.
   "Mom!" Eugene said in defeat, as he reached into the table drawer for
   the dinner utensils. The silver had rubbed off all of the knives and
   forks, leaving little black spots everywhere. When he was younger, he
   used to search the drawers for the missing silver.
   "If only your father were here . . .," her voice caught in her throat
   where it stayed for a moment then came out hoarsely. "But he done
   crossed over to the other side and I know he's burning in Hell. Even
   the Good Lord can't help him no more." She sighed, shaking her head,
   her mouth drawn tight in anger. The 'other side' was really
   Georgetown, or 'Gomorrah', as Maurice's mother often called it. Eugene
   loved to listen to Maurice's mom tell stories about the white folks
   sinning in the streets of Gomorrah. She often told Eugene to "Praise
   Jesus that your soul is black." He, of course, assured her that he
   When Claudy came into the room he bumped his hip against the table's
   edge as his mother pulled out a chair for him. The top of the table
   was the color of a pea when its mushed and lightly soaked in chicken
   broth. His mother sat down next to Claudy and gave him a playful pinch
   on his arm while Eugene brought the huge pot of beans and chopped hot
   dogs to the table, making sure he placed it close to his mother. She
   scooped up a spoonful of beans from the pot and placed it on Claudy's
   plate, then she started to fill her own plate. As Eugene sat across
   from her, she placed the large spoon back inside the pot. From the
   small radio on top of the refrigerator, he could hear Sam Cooke
   crooning, "Summertime, and the living is easy . . ."
   Eugene looked at his mother and asked, "Mom, how come I gotta take him
   out every day?"
   Claudy was contently trying to stuff his mouth with as much food as he
   could. His mother quickly reached over and tried to slow his
   movements. "Not so fast, baby -- you don't want to choke, do you?" she
   said softly to him, then looked over at Eugene. "You know I need some
   sleep before goin' to work at night. I can't watch him every single
   "Why don't you put him in a special home or something? Some place
   where they got people like him. I'm sure he'd be happier there."
   "Would you be happier if I put you in a home, too?" she asked as she
   picked at the food on her plate.
   "When can I go?" Eugene asked with mock enthusiasm.
   His mother sat quietly at the table, her eyes focused on the hot dogs
   and beans in her plate. Eugene waited for her to say something.
   Instead, she poked her fork slowly around each bean on her plate, as
   if somehow what she felt inside could be defined by this careful
   probing. Eugene felt the hardness of his fork between his fingers --
   it felt cold; he held it firmly for a moment longer before placing it
   quietly next to his plate. He patiently waited for his mother to break
   the silence.
   The next day Eugene sat outside and waited for Claudy. The early
   morning sun had warmed the porch steps and he could feel the hot
   concrete against his bare legs. He picked up a twig and snapped it
   into little pieces, his patience growing thinner with each snap of the
   twig -- snaps that grew louder and more insistent as the twig became
   smaller and harder to break.
   "Eugene, you can take him out now," his mother called out from inside
   the house, her voice sounding pained and thinned.
   Eugene got up off the porch steps; the dirt clung dryly to his legs in
   an oval shaped cluster on the back of his calves. He opened the screen
   door for Claudy. At four feet eleven inches, they were almost the same
   height -- but Claudy's body appeared to press against the ground with
   movements that seemed forced and uneasy, giving him an unbalanced
   posture. Claudy looked at Eugene and smiled, as he always did, with a
   wide, toothy grin. Eugene turned away and walked toward the alley way;
   Claudy followed behind with short, uneven footsteps that scraped out
   odd rhythms against the dirty bricks. Eugene tried not to focus on the
   sound, but it was all he heard. At the base of the alley Eugene saw
   Maurice waiting for them, his long spidery arms and legs in constant
   motion; Eugene laughed as he focused on Maurices' movements.
   "Hey Claudy! Can you catch me?" Maurice shouted as he ran and gathered
   rocks from the back yards that lined the alley. He threw the rocks in
   quick succession, hitting Claudy on his arms and mid-torso. Claudy
   screamed as he dashed after Maurice.
   "Hey Maurice -- no rocks, okay?" Eugene shouted.
   Maurice jerked the pouch from his belt and dumped the rocks on the
   ground; he held the empty bag in the air and waved it about, as if in
   a gesture of surrender.
   "Okay, I'll give y'all a break this time," Maurice said. "I know you
   can't help being such a wimp -- it runs in your family. My ma says
   your daddy ain't nothing but a wimp -- that's why he done run off with
   that white woman. And your mama's so shamed, she only comes out at
   night. Ma said your daddy ain't nothing but an oreo cookie and you
   just one of his crumbs!"
   Eugene knew Maurice was only trying to hurt him -- what did they
   really know about white folks anyway? To him, they were just faces
   that stared back at him from the t.v. screen. But Maurice's mother
   talked about white folks a lot, and from her he sensed a certain evil
   -- like the forbidden fruit -- and he knew, by the look on her face
   when she talked about them that somehow his dad had been tempted by
   the serpent.
   "Anybody ever tell you your ma ought to shut her fat mouth!" Eugene
   Maurice didn't hear him because he'd already taken off down the alley,
   still waving his empty belt-pouch, caught up in his own excitement.
   Eugene sighed and shook his head, thinking "that's my buddy!" -- and
   after a slight hesitation he ran after Maurice, joining him in
   shouting, "Hey Claudy! Over here! I'm over here -- try and catch me!"
   Maurice and Eugene ran in and out of back yards full of rusty car
   parts that laid hidden under overgrown hawkweeds and fallen black
   locust pods. A few of the yards had wire fences they could jump or old
   garages, made of stone and sheet metal they could hide behind. When
   they got tired, they climbed a willow oak tree in one of the back
   yards, and watched Claudy from above. Claudy wrapped his arms loosely
   around the base of the tree as he jumped up and down in an effort to
   push himself up.
   "Hey Claudy? You tryin' to pick up this tree or somethin'?" Maurice
   taunted. "It won't work, Claudy Claude Claude! You ain't that strong,
   ole boy! You ain't got what it takes, ha ha ha!" Maurice rolled with
   laugher as he balanced himself on a tree branch by holding onto an
   upper branch with both hands. "Hey Gene, your brother thinks he's
   Herman Munster or something. What you been telling him, my boy?"
   "Hey Claudy, you want me to push him down for you?" Eugene yelled down
   at Claudy while shaking the tree branch Maurice was holding onto.
   Maurice started to laugh even harder as he and Eugene playfully shook
   tree branches while pretending they were about to lose their balance.
   From below they could hear Claudy laughing along with them.
   "Time-out Claudy! We're gonna take a lunch break. You gotta let us
   come down," Eugene shouted. They climbed down the tree and began
   walking home.
   "Hey Gene," Maurice said before turning toward his house, "My dad's
   going camping this weekend, and he said I can bring someone. You wanna
   "You know I can't go nowhere without Claudy."
   Eugene picked up a rock and threw it high in the air, thinking about
   how much he hated his dad. At least when his dad lived with them,
   Eugene knew he could leave Claudy at home some of the time. The rock
   spun high up into the air; he watched as it came down and landed with
   a thud on the roof of an old Pinto.
   "Well, ask your ma anyway -- maybe she'll let you go."
   "Yeah. See ya after lunch."
   "Mom!" Eugene yelled as soon as he reached their back porch steps.
   The house remained quiet and for a brief moment Eugene thought maybe
   his mother had left him too, but when he entered the kitchen, he saw
   her making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He walked up to her,
   and even when he stood next to her, she didn't look away from the
   sandwiches on the sink counter; when he moved closer to her, she moved
   away, as if to give herself more space. Eugene sensed at that moment
   he was without meaning; at least, he couldn't figure out what he meant
   to her. Dragging his feet, he walked over to the radio and turned it
   on, and the WOL dj's voice cracked the silence with a voice deep
   enough to fill the room. Eugene's mother still did not turn to look at
   him, so he sat in a chair facing her backside and watched her go
   through the motions of preparing lunch. He silently directed Claudy to
   sit in the chair next to him.
   "Maurice wants me to go camping with him this weekend. Can I go?"
   Eugene asked.
   "No, you can't go. I need you to stay here and watch Claudy for me. I
   can't give up my weekend job just so you can go running off like a rat
   in the woods."
   "Least rats have fun," Eugene said. "I never have fun."
   "So whoever said life was fun?" his mother asked, still not looking at
   her son.
   She slapped peanut butter on top of week-old bread and placed that
   slice on top of a jellied slice. When she turned around to give Claudy
   his sandwich, Eugene got up from his chair and ran out the back door.
   He heard the sound of the screen door banging loudly behind him,
   followed by the voice of his mother yelling, "Eugene! Eugene, come
   back right this minute, you hear!"
   When Eugene turned the corner from their back yard, he saw Maurice at
   the base of the alley; the pounding of his heart slowly began to ease.
   "Hey! Where's my buddy, Claudy?" Maurice shouted. Before Eugene
   reached the base of the alley, Maurice started to jump up and down,
   his arms waving wildly.
   "Claudy's at home," Eugene shouted back, slowing down to a fast walk,
   his head held high. "I can go outside without Claudy, you know!"
   Eugene noticed that Maurice had already gathered up his supply of
   rocks; he could see the bulge in the belt-pouch. Maurice reached into
   his pouch, took out a large rock and threw it at Eugene, hitting him
   just above the knee. Stopping in mid-stride, Eugene bent over and held
   his knee in exaggerated pain. He began to hop about on one foot,
   making sure Maurice realized he was hurt.
   "Hey Maurice, I'm not Claudy! Ain't nothing wrong with me!" Eugene
   "You his brother, ain't you?" Maurice shouted back as he got another
   rock from his pouch and threw it at Eugene, this time scraping his
   "My ma says . . . , " Maurice began.
   Eugene didn't wait to hear what Maurice's mother had to say. He turned
   around and ran back to his house. Inside his house he confronted his
   mother, who was standing near the back screen door.
   "Why'd you go running off without Claudy?" his mother yelled at him.
   "I just . . . " Eugene stammered.
   "And what's the matter with you, running in here like a wild cat?"
   She looked down at the cut above his knee. "What happened to you?" she
   "I fell down," Eugene lied, then looked down at his leg. He held his
   leg up for his mother to examine.
   "Well you'd better go clean yourself up," she said as she turned and
   walked away from him.
   The following day Eugene refused to go outside at all. By the weekend
   he grew tired of pacing the floor and started to pound his fist
   against the wall.
   "I'll get him -- wait till school starts. I'll get a gang of kids to
   jump him and pull his tongue out. That'll teach him," Eugene said to
   the wall.
   Claudy walked over to Eugene and handed him his toy spinning-top.
   Eugene jerked the toy out of his brother's hand and flung it hard
   against the wall. It cracked into small pieces, scattering the black
   floor tiles with multicolored shapes. Claudy screamed and rushed over
   to  his crushed toy, then fell hard to his knees. From the corner of
   his eye, Eugene watched his brother's shadow on the wall; Claudy's
   chubby dark shadow-fingers moved in agonizingly slow motion as he
   tried to fit together the pieces of the broken toy.
   By the following day, Claudy no longer came up to Eugene; instead he
   hovered in the corner of the room until their mom came in, before
   going off to her night job, and prepared him for bed. During the long,
   warm nights Eugene began to hate the sound of his brother's heavy
   breathing. The rasping sounds would rise up and down in uneven rhythms
   that seemed to hold onto the stillness in the air and make the time
   stand still. Once, when he heard his brother sputter and groan,
   knowing it meant Claudy wanted to use the bathroom, Eugene just
   covered his head with a pillow until it was too late for him do
   anything. When he finally heard his mother's key in the lock, he shut
   his eyes and pretended to be asleep. His mother came into their
   bedroom and angrily shook Eugene, asking him, "Don't you smell that?
   Why didn't you help him clean himself up?" Eugene looked up at his
   mother and sleepily replied, "Smell what?"
   One day, after Eugene had been indoors for almost a week, his mother
   stood in front of the TV set and turned it off, loudly jamming the
   power button with her knuckle, then she turned around quickly and
   looked directly at him.
   "Why don't you go outside? I'm tired of looking at you!" she yelled.
   "I don't want to go outside anymore," Eugene stated flatly. He wished
   she'd turn the TV back on; he wanted to see if Mr. Ed could outsmart
   Wilbur again.
   "Does this have something to do with that camping trip?" she asked.
   "No, I didn't really want to go camping with Maurice."
   "Oh really? What's wrong with Maurice all of a sudden?"
   "He's just a jerk, that's all. He's always throwing rocks at Claudy
   just 'cause he's different from us," Eugene said, hoping this
   information would allow him to remain inside. He was also somewhat
   annoyed at the sudden attention his mother was giving him.
   "Throwing rocks? At my baby! Lord, Jesus!" His mother covered her
   mouth with her hands, then sat on the sofa and stared into space.
   "What's wrong, Mom?" Eugene asked, alarmed at his mother's reaction.
   His mother was silent for a long time. Her lips began to twitch and he
   thought for a moment she was about to cry. But he knew better: to his
   mother, silence was only an empty space to fall into when she didn't
   want to be bothered with him anymore. This he was sure of.
   "Can I stay inside?" Eugene asked meekly.
   "No, you can't stay inside!" she said, jerking her head up. "There's
   nothing wrong with being different -- don't you ever let someone
   else's stupidity make you hide away!"
   "But Maurice's ma said you hide away 'cause Dad ran off with that . .
   . "
   "Maurice's ma is a fool! And so are you if you think I'd let those two
   hell-bound heathens . .  " There was a long pause, then, "Oh Lord,
   forgive me for what I'm thinking," she said, looking up at the ceiling
   as if that posture would be enough to rescue her. She then looked at
   Eugene and yelled, "You get on outside and take Claudy with you!"
   "Mom. I don't want ... "
   "Am I askin' you what you want? Did you hear me? I said get on out of
   this house right this minute!"
   Eugene reluctantly got up and walked toward the door. When he turned
   around, he noticed that Claudy was standing directly behind him. For a
   brief moment Eugene felt as if he were standing next to himself, or
   next to some alternate part of himself that he never knew existed
   until then. It was a strange feeling, this doubleness -- this sense of
   seeing yourself outside yourself -- that his first instinct was to
   run. But then Claudy smiled, and Eugene reached over and lightly
   punched his brother's shoulder.
   At the base of the alley they saw Maurice.
   "Hey! Claudy's back!" Maurice shouted. His shrill voice carried with
   the wind up the length of the alley. Eugene felt his body tremble.
   Maurice picked up a rock and threw it at Claudy. Eugene watched,
   motionlessly, as Claudy ran directly into the rock, then off towards
   Maurice. Eugene's vision blurred as Maurice and Claudy dashed up and
   down the alley, and for a moment he considered standing in that spot
   until the ground gave up and took him under. Instead, when Maurice
   came running toward him, Eugene moved to block his path, forcing
   Maurice to stop. The sudden stop caused Maurice's rock-pouch to fall
   from his belt and some of the rocks rolled out  nto the alleyway. In
   his confusion, Maurice looked at Eugene briefly before he stepped back
   and threw a hard punch that landed just below Eugene's left eye.
   Eugene staggered and fell backwards onto the broken alley bricks. He
   could hear Maurice moving toward him.
   "You come any closer, I'll kill you!" Eugene screamed up at Maurice.
   Maurice backed off, staring curiously at Eugene who lay in the center
   of the alley with both hands covering his left eye. After a few steps
   backwards, Maurice turned around, spat on the ground and said, "Not
   behind my mother's tail," the way they always did whenever they saw a
   dead rat. Maurice laughed as he walked away down the alley. Eugene
   stayed on the ground, listening to Maurice cursing and laughing out
   loud, until finally all was silent.
   Eugene stood up and waited for his brother to stop running about. In
   the confusion, Claudy seemed not to realize he wasn't chasing Maurice
   anymore. With a quick motion of his hand, Eugene gestured for Claudy
   to come with him, and finally they were walking side-by-side up the
   alley. Eugene picked up a rock and tossed it up in the air. As the
   rock came down, he kicked it with the tip of his sneakers and watched
   it fly up the alley. Claudy laughed when Eugene looked over at him.
   "Hey, you wanna try it?" Eugene asked. He picked up another rock and
   threw it up in front of his brother. Claudy kicked wildly, with one
   foot then the other, his arms flying out at his sides. He missed the
   "One day maybe I'll show you how to do it, okay?" Eugene laughed as he
   looked over at his brother. Claudy walked beside him in silence.
   "Say Okay. Ohhhh - Kaaay. Can you say that?" Eugene demanded. Claudy
   grunted and fell behind.
   There seemed to be something in the air heavier than words; something
   that his mother and Claudy knew a lot about but could never seem to
   make him understand. He wasn't sure he wanted to understand. After
   all, what power did they have? Wasn't it words that finally drove
   Maurice away? And wouldn't words bring his dad back? How could his
   mother and Claudy ever expect him to know what they wanted of him
   without words?
   Eugene looked behind him at his brother and frowned, as if to say
   "Well, what do you want?" Claudy smiled at him, as he always did, with
   a large toothy grin. Eugene noticed an almost sickly sweet scent
   coming with the warm breeze sweeping across the willows, the alley
   garbage and the dry summer dirt; he noticed the feeling of hard rocks
   rolling easily beneath his sneakers, and the soft play of wind against
   his skin, and he knew that there was nothing he wanted to say at that
   moment. Instead, he slowed his pace so that his brother wouldn't have
   to lag too far behind.

                             about the authors

   David Alexander ( )
   David Alexander's short fiction has appeared in several Web
   publications recently. He has also been reading his stories at venues
   in New York City, where he lives, works and rides the subway. Among
   his current projects is Death and Venice, an anthology of poetry and
   fiction concerning Venice, Italy that he is editing as a print
   installment of the journal The Literary Review. He is currently
   accepting email submissions at:

   Judith Chalmer ( )
   Judith Chalmer teaches literature and creative writing at a
   low-residency, computer-mediated alternative college, New College of
   Norwich University in Montpelier, Vermont and at a day center for
   frail elders in Morrisville, Vermont. Out of History's Junk Jar, her
   first book of poems, was published in September, 1995. She has also
   published short fiction, personal essays and is currently at work on a

   Ray Heinrich ( )
   Ray Heinrich is an ex-Texas technofreak and hippie-socialist wannabe
   who writes poems for thrills and attention. Over the years his work
   has appeared in many small, insignificant publications. In real life
   he repairs computers, has always been married, loves dogs, owns a blue
   fish, and relishes getting email at or having
   people visit his web page at

   Jenn Muri ( )
   Jenn Muri Received a B.A. degree in Creative Writing from San
   Francisco State University in 1992 and is currently working on her
   fourth novel.

   Lou Plummer ( ) writes:
   "I'm a thirty-two year old father of three, an ex-cop, once a a peace loving poet employed as a technical writer for a
   Fotune 500 widget making company somewhere in the beautiful south."
   You can visit his personal web site at
   or his anthology of veterans poetry at

   Brendan J. Robinson ( ) writes:
   I am a 21 year old Undergraduate Student at the United States Naval
   Academy, where I major in Systems Engineering. Originally I am from
   Hurley, New York. I have appeared in the Autumn 1997 issue of The Wolf
   Head Quarterly, and the 1995 and 1997 issues of Labrynth.

   John Szamosi:
   John Szamosi is a scientist, fiction writer since college, and a
   fitness-and-fiber fanatic. His shorts stories have appeared in
   100WORDS, Satire, InterText, Villager, Catholic Digest, Stiches,
   Reader's Digest, and others.

   Sean Woodward ( ):
   Sean Woodward is an English poet, editorr and digital artist who seeks
   to make manifest the unseen through these media.  You can visit his
   websites at

                             in their own words

   Bannister by David Alexander
   "Bannister's a personal favorite of mine. I consider it a good example
   of the type of story I call a 'snowball' because you try to get it to
   snowball as you go along, hopefully with a big rock in the center.
   Bannister is also one of the few stories I've started, then put away
   unfinished, then picked up again at a later date and completed. I
   began the story in 1995, finishing about a page, then filed it. I
   picked it up again in 1997 and wrote the rest of the story more or
   less in one pass."

   < made in china > and < the roach and the tampon > by Ray Heinrich
   About < the roach and the tampon > : "It's a true story."
   About < made in china > : "I wish this wasn't."

   Europe 96 by Brendan J. Robinson
   "Europe 96 is a collage of memories from a trip I took in March 1996.
   Using military airlift, we were stuck accidentally in London. After a
   night which began in a gay bar and ended fleeing from a brothel, we
   moved on to Paris the next day. As I walked through Versailles, I
   began to jot down some notes. So this poem came to be."

   Sunburn by Brendan J. Robinson
   "This poem was written below the surface of the sea. I had taken one
   day ashore in Ft Lauderdale, and neglected to wear sunscreen. Compared
   to my distrust of the equiptment surrounding me, my sunburn made for
   an intersting comparasin."

   Not a Braincell to Waste by John Szamosi
   "Education, work ethics, attitude!"

   William Gibson in Birmingham by Sean Woodward
   "The poem was written after a book signing by William Gibson and as a
   response to the dramatic edge cyberpunk gives emerging technologies."

   Sons and Daughters by Lou Plummer:
   "I recently wrote this poem for my father, who served two tours in
   Vietnam, and for three other men, one of who died in the war."

   Claudy's Smile by Jenn Muri
   "This story was inspired by my brother, Jimmy, who was classified as
   100% retarded. I recall the very moment, as a young kid, when I saw
   him as a person, and not as a retarded person who couldn't talk or
   dress himself. I was so overwhelmed by that moment that I gave him a
   handful of m&m's."


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