MUSTER MAGAZINE ISSUE NO.

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Table of Contents

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2010 Ag. Booster I Had a Summer Love Once Living Isn’t Science Untitled You, Too, Will Fade The Process The Employee Package Man The Mansion and The Architect The Frozen Garden Two Empty Shells The Underbelly Untitled Untitled Untitled

Kevin Belew Elan Holdorf Kevin Belew Katherine Hall Katherine Hall Jesse G. Whitt Manuel Arredondo Daniel DeGuia John Costa John Costa Barbara O’Neal Jim Quimby Kyle Enright Kyle Enright Kyle Enright

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2010 Ag. Booster

Kevin Belew

Accompanying Mariana to her fathers birthday party at a high school Ag. Booster. Pint and wine glasses with the wealthy. We pull in and park. We walk in, old, beautiful valley oaks. Old train cars pose as the restrooms. Very nice grass area. Already meeting someone. “Hello, nice to meet you.” Find the two tables for eight that her dad reserved under birthday boy #1 and #2. Pick our spots at birthday boy #2. Meet a couple, shake hands and say, “Hello, nice to meet you, I’m Kevin.” Then the lady and I hit the bar with her sister. Most of the women drink wine, some men do as well. Some drink the beer, local micro brew. The men mostly drink it. I drink it. Not to much though. The drink tickets are expensive, and I don’t want to make a drunk-ass fool of myself. I have money in my pockets though. That’s right, both pockets. But her dad pre-bought the tickets. In fact the guy bought everything for everyone he invited, except for his presents. Well anyway, a very generous guy, if you’re into that kind of a thing. Ah, now the silent auction tables are prepared. Some things I like, A half of a wine barrel, with a twelve pack of plants inside; strawberries, onions, eggplant and some other vegetables. There is also this fake duck wine bottle holder that I like. The duck is on its back, feet in the air supporting the butt end of a wine bottle with the cork end in the between his beak. Like it’s taking a good pull, straight from the bottle. Classy. At this point I have met the other eight that are sitting at our table. I see some thin lady walking around. I then ask my girlfriend if she can tell when women are anorexic.

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She says that she thinks she can, although some times you just can’t tell I’m starving and the one beer I’ve had isn’t curbing my appetite. Only a half hour till dinner is presented. Walk through the silent auction tables some more. “I really do like that duck, I’ll have to get one some time.” Dinner is ready, the lines are long, I wouldn’t wait normally but im starving. The lady and I get back to the table to eat. Somehow questions are brought up about what I do. I tell them I work with trees and some seem impressed. One of the ladies asks for a card. I never have one on me. Nothing about the writer, artist, whatever part. They might want to see my work. The red beans and rice are bland, cold and dry. My lady says that the tri-tip is too fatty. She likes the pulled pork. I don’t really like the pulled pork. But at least the salad is good, to me. I get a couple more beers throughout dinner. About an hour after dinner is served the auction m.c. is setting up. Then we sit through the actual auction. I have never been to an auction before. I had no idea, the formalities of an auction. That all auction m.c.’s had that voice. “Seventy-five do I hear seventy-five, sevty-fie, sevty-fie, do I hear one hundred.” You know that ol’ auction m.c. schtick. I had no idea how intense it can get either. When the bidders want something they let it known. It’s like a game of poker without cards or luck, big bank take little bank. There was also a guy on the sidelines who was just as animated as the m.c. on the stage. He directs auction traffic and communicates with the m.c. with a, “HEP!!” and other yells, “SEVENTY-FIVE HUNDRED,C’MON!!” holding up seven fingers for the bidders to see. And when a bidder retaliates, he yells out a “HEP!!” or a “WHOOOOO!!” That m.c. is something else as well. I had no idea the interaction with the crowd. Not that this m.c. was particularly witty, but he interacted with crowd well enough. He even threw out jabs at some of the folks in the crowd, “Twenty-three seventy-five to the shiny head in the red polo shirt.” The most exciting part of the whole Ag. Booster for sure; The hick, auction trafficker and m.c., yelling out boonie gibberish and older folk having a pissing contest with their money (which don’t get me wrong, I would do, if I had the money)

The event is pretty much over and it was time to collect silent auction prizes. My girlfriend and I are waiting in line, she has won the half wine barrel And the twelve-pack of plants, we are hyped. Some lady cuts in front of us. I bring this to my girls attention and she notices but we say nothing. Then a lady working the silent auction collection tables yells out, “Everyone from the blue and yellow tables line up over here.” I ask Mariana, “Which table are you.” She says, “Blue.” I dart over and get a good spot. I notice the lady that cut in on the other line is behind me now. She mumbles something about something. I feel superior. Mariana notices and squeezes my arm. We have won this battle. It still takes a bit to get all the paperwork situated and us our half wine barrel and twelve pack of plants when I notice some commotion at the silent auction tables. There are two elderly women tugging at the duck wine bottle holder. “Ill be damned. I hope they don’t break it,” I thought. One of the elderly women shouts at the other, “You drunk wino bitch!” “I’ll show you a wino,” says the other one as she lets go of the duck with one hand and grabs the wine bottle from the poor duck with the other hand. The lady holding the duck lands flat on her ass as the other hurls the wine bottle well above her head. “Holy shit Mariana did you see that? That old bitch can wing a wine bottle.” “Ya, it’s probably from lifting one or two every night.” Well, the ladies’ husbands showed up quickly and put and end to that. Both walking them back to their respective cars while enduring a torrent of insults from each respective wife. We finally got the wine barrel and twelve-pack of plants and got the fuck outta there. We ended up at Mariana’s dad’s house eating cake and watching him open the last of his presents. And wouldn’t you know, Mariana’s dad turns on the television just in time to see the sharks score the goal that ends the series with the red wings which brings them to the western finals.

I Had a Summer Love Once

Elan Holdorf

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I was still only a few years out of high school, and had not yet developed a tolerance to alcohol and weed. My heart had only been broken once or twice, so I was not as cautious as to whom I lent it out to. I was also a lot more care free and sane because I did not carry as much baggage into a relationship, or at least I knew better how not to let it show for a while. Most importantly, I still had the ability to have a great fling that felt foolishly romantic, without seeming clingy right off the bat. Her name was Carmen. It was a hot summer in Lake County. I was staying with my parents in Kelseyville, near Konocti Harbor resort and spa, and her family had a house on the lake. She was a true country princess all the way through; very sexy in that “down home” kind of way. She was of medium height with a healthy head of brown shoulder length hair that didn’t need much upkeep. She didn’t bother with makeup either, and had a perfect light brown complexion. She always wore sunglasses, and had tan lines around her eyes. When I introduced her to my mom, she said she did not trust those “raccoon eyes.” I shouldn’t have either. We met in DUI class. I looked into her eyes and thought I could trust her. Just a stoner and drinker like me, and not that much of a party girl. She’s safe, I told myself, and then started talking to her. Her body was fit, with literally only a pound or two of extra fat. She had a cute face with a sassy smile, and she looked like she had learned how to kiss but could not have had sex with more than four or five guys, and probably had used condoms or known them well at least. But anyway I guess she was tired of the local hicks and she thought I seemed like a fresh city kid, so she told me I was cute, I told her the same, and she drove me home. When I got in her car, I had the feeling like I had been there before, and I think it was because she was poor and kind or messy, just like me. She drove an old Honda, maroon in color, with a tan interior. It suited her well, and I told her so. I told her it went well with her hair, I remember that much. We drove to a scenic spot, lit up a doobie, and then I leaned in and touched her cheek. Then she opened her mouth slightly, and tilted her head back, moving her breasts in my direction, sighing gently. I took a deep breath, centered myself, then thoroughly enjoyed the taste of her tongue and lips on mine as we kissed slowly. For the next five or ten minutes, I was immersed in the luscious world of Carmen. The taste of her young, supple mouth, and of the salty skin of her neck, the feel of her dry, rough hair on my cheeks, and the smell and taste of exhaled marijuana. She was the kind of girl you could just kick back with, and soon I found myself spending my evenings at her house with her and her mom drinking Coronas with lime, eating home cooked meals, and smoking joints. We would drive around in her car, listening to her bad music, and then I would play her some of my good stuff, and she would tolerate it for as long as she could. Occasionally we would settle on a classic rock station, but she liked the fact that I was artsy, even though she hated snobs. She watched me skate in town and told me it was sexy. I met her friends and acted like a normal dude. We walked along the lake around sunset and made out wherever we could. I fingered her the third or fourth night and

sucked on her boobs right away. She was the sexiest girl I had ever hung out with longer than a day or two at that point in my life, and I enjoyed her company. She had potential. But there was something about Carmen that scared the hell out of me, and it was not her raccoon eyes. She was not one to be tied down, and I got the feeling that it was just summer love. She became distant when I asked her about her ex-lovers, and about what would happen if I stayed in Lake County. She told me she wanted to take things slow. I really wanted to have sex, but had not yet mastered the art of forgetting I was wearing a condom, so I tried to weasel information out of her in tidbits in order to figure out whether there was a risk of her having AIDS. Then one day I could not resist anymore the desire to have my way with her, so I paid for a room in a cheap motel in Ukiah, and we drove there around dusk. We walked to the liquor store after dark. It was a nice night. We said hello to the local street rats. I took her into the room and we drank vodka on oj with ice. After the screwdrivers, I laid her out on the bed, and began taking off her clothes. She wore jeans and a black tank top. She looked good that way. Her breasts were small yet perky, and tasted great. When I licked them, her nipples became tense and the hairs on her stomach rose. I unbuttoned her faded jeans and slowly pulled them off. I took off her white ankle socks and crawled in between her legs, slowly removing her white cotton panties. I leaned in and gently began licking her clit and then slid my tongue up inside of her, tasting her juices, and I became hard. But I did not make love to Carmen Marie, because I was afraid of AIDS. We had an awkward time after that, masturbating together and sleeping in fits. Then, driving home hung over the next morning, we smoked weed to ease the pain, and I told her why I could not make love to her. She became offended, and told me that she had had lots of men, and I found out that she had been with other guys the whole time. Then we had a few fights over the phone, and I left Lake County. A few months later, back home in Santa Rosa, I became sick and went to the doctor He tested my blood, and my heart sank when I discovered that I had HIV, and that I had gotten it from swallowing her cum. So I tried to do the right thing and call Carmen, but she had changed her number. Try as I may, I could not find it or her mom’s. So I was forced to make my way to Lake County, hitchhiking over the hills through the lovely vineyards of Calistoga and the wine country, past Middletown to the land of lakes. And I can still remember the looks on the faces of both Carmen and her mom, as I stood there on her doorstep in the middle of June, on a bright summer day, and related the news. I began crying as I saw the desperation creep across her face, and a tear roll down her cheek. And she became angry, and demanded I leave, and that was the last time I ever saw Carmen Marie, and the closest to a summer love, that my heart would ever know.

Living Isn’t Science Getting up early looking at the clock and changing the alarm, “Five more minutes.” I do not worry about being early. I know the value of expediency, and the expedition. I don’t always have faith in either. Questionable as anything, the pin prick and the ear jerk, life looms and pain is a constant.

Kevin Belew

The matter, as it floats, sinks or sits, is broken down and collected scientifically, while we wouldn’t notice the infinite if it was right in front of our noses.

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Untitled When I was ten and you were fifty-five your one crooked finger and the thin streams of silt between the creases of your knuckles could not keep me from wanting hands like that sometimes I would lean on the shop rusty hinges wed to the curve of my shoulder one bare leg bent and snug in the glen of my knee two toes leaking into the shadow of an engine and I would ask what I could fix the ochre frame around your pale flayed palms and the slick rime of your nails hang taut with no! but the sly arc of your one crooked finger points back and beckons me under the hood

Katherine Hall

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You, Too, Will Fade When I left you the lines of your fingernails could cut right through me. Now thick charcoal trails laid up on my thighs go nowhere and your face becomes unclear.

Katherine Hall

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The Process

Jesse G. Whitt

Soaking, plumping, sucking, waiting, feeding, grinding, adding water. Pumping, heat-exchange, right then left, more heat-exchange, spinning, separating, clean hot milk, holding... Transferring, magnesium, stirring, curding, straining, removing the whey, Scooping, serving, filling, spreading, folding, assembling, pressing, waiting... Disassembling, flipping twice, cutting, organizing, submerging, removing forty and below. Building, wrapping, writing, pulling, weighing, scanning, storing.

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The Employee

Manuel Arredondo

The customer mutters jerkoff. A bodybuilder, sleeveless t-shirt, (no pain no gain in bright pink block letters) does not pretend to conceal the insult. He doesn’t bother to explain he’s in a hurry, the university of florida is playing florida state university, he expects to watch the game on the treadmill at world’s gym and he needs to get there before the smoothie bar closes. He always drinks a chocolate musclemilk smoothie while watching college football on the treadmill. A fat slob working in a walgreen’s couldn’t understand. The bodybuilder starts to form the word dumbshit in his throat, a missile to launch at the slightest further inconvenience. The employee gives the correct change. The bodybuilder walks off hurriedly, doesn’t say thank you. The employee takes in a view of black spandex tautly clenching the customer’s ass-crack. An old woman, skin white and gray, steps to the counter and unloads her shopping cart. The employee listens to the hypnotic beep of the bar code scanner as the merchandise pass one by one. The beeping conjures the same daydream: he’s six years old, alone beside his mother‘s hospital bed, a machine translating the wane of her heart into a fading metronome (beep…beep…beep…)... The employee scans groceries for the majority of his workday and as a result spends most of his waking life in this particular daydream. Overhead speakers crackle on: “blandorff, please report to Mr. Peckinsale’s office,” a voice authoritates. A pause, then, harshly: “blandorff, Mr. Peckinsale’s office.” Irritation flushes through the employee’s hypertensive veins. He hates talking to people, especially Peckinsale. He also resents the prospect of lumbering 286 lbs of digested deep fry and high fructose to the back office. He gets off the stool. A massive pot belly and size B34 tits are a part of the job, accumulated from long stationary hours snacking at the cash register. In his spare time, the only exercise he gets is planning or executing the rape of a neighborhood child. Violent pedophilia provides a reprieve from an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. The employee looks to the back of the store. It’s two hours since he downed a 16-ounce monster energy drink and bag of chili-cheese fritos. The derivative boost is long worn-off. He sighs, pulls a reese’s peanut butter cup out of his pocket. Starts the long haul down aisle #4, “detergents and cleaning supplies.” Rage subsiding in the solace of candy bar, he wonders why he is being summoned to Peckinsale’s office. Though he is the store’s longest tenured,

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the employee is an abject failure in every aspect of job performance. Customers are either disgusted by his lack of hygiene -his malodor suggesting long intervals between applications of soap- or frustrated by his gross ineptitude as a commercial servant. He doesn’t expect to be surprised by whatever Peckinsale has to say. Peckinsale is on a blue-tooth at his desk and waves impatiently when the employee arrives at the door. To the phone: “…alls I knows is, they’re using the miley cyrus cut-out display down at rite aid, and the hannah montana edition double-berry twist fruit roll-ups are flying of the cocksucking shelf!…you’re speaking to the goddamn choir, Jimmy, speaking to the choir…well look, if we don’t move the inventory soon, we’re looking at crossing the best-by dates, and then it’s straight to the cunt-fucking bargain aisle!…yeah, nobody wants that, I know…so look, see what we can do about getting a miley cyrus cut-out display…OK, OK… OK, OK…we still on for a racquetball?…Yeah?…Yeah?…We’ll I’m gonna shove that racquet right up your fat ass, you stupid monkey looking cocksucker!” Peckinsale laughs heartily. “Alright, see ya…” He pushes the hang-up button. Peckinsale’s demeanor shifts uncomfortably as he sizes up the employee. The boss self-identifies as a go-getter and has little patience for slackers. He fits into the management position at walgreen’s like it’s an andrew fezza sport coat from men‘s wearhouse; he likes the way he looks. After a moment of heavy silence, he sighs, clears his throat, “I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve called you in?” The employee nods, stares off in the distance. Reads a xeroxed line graph posted on the wall where the rapid increase in accounts receivable under Peckinsale’s management had been made evident. The text becomes blurry and unfocused. “Had a little lady call in here this morning, talking about you packed her groceries all wrong and then the loaf of bread got squished.” The employee nods. Weeks after his mother died, her old boyfriend tony beat him with a hair dryer because the initial child welfare check was late. “See the thing is, customer service is about more than just service: it’s about customer satisfaction. In fact, if it were up to me, I’d like to see it say customer satisfaction representative on your name-tag, instead of customer service representative.” The employee nods. One time he attended fifth grade in bedwet pants. The kids called him pissboy in belligerent unison. “I actually sent a little e-mail to Troy Killinger, the regional manager,

recommending we switch the title, which would give us the benefit of restructuring our employee contracts, but he said he didn’t think it was a ‘timely idea’…can you f’in believe it?” The employee nods. His high school crush amanda killinger; what are you looking at freak. “Any-who, the thing is, it’s our job to make sure the customer has a satisfying experience from the moment she pulls her car into the lot, all the way until the merchandise is safely stowed in the cupboard. Am I right?” The employee nods. Bobby pemberton’s anal cavity was completely torn apart; his anus bloodied, it hung down like it was inside-out. Like steak tartar clinging to his prepubescent scrotum. “So what I need you to do is watch this informational video about properly packing merchandise for customer transportation. It’s about 15 minutes… when you’re done, please sign this QT 5-10 Employee Infraction notice for your permanent record.” The employee nods. “You can go on lunch now and watch it in the break room.” Pickensale places the form and a vhs tape on the desk, checks his watch. . .

Package Man PART 1

Daniel DeGuia

Jacob opened his eyes and realized he was still on the plane. That damned plane, in the worn seats with too little room between passengers. Just enough room to give you the illusion of relaxation, only to rub elbows, literally, with the traveler next to you. Then there was the awkward smile and apology when in all actuality, there was nothing to apologize for. He reached up and pressed the magic button that summoned the in-air attendants. The attendant that responded had an aura of complete annoyance which was confirmed by the disposition of her eyebrows. Her voice was so fake with sugary politeness that Jacob felt the urge to reach for the vomit bag. “What can I do for you?” she begrudgingly offered. Realizing he was still fixated on the woman’s eyebrows, Jacob replied “Yes, uh, I would like a scotch. Two, if you have them.” As he spoke he held out twelve dollars in cash. “I’m sorry, Sir, but we do not accept cash.” “No cash? Who doesn’t take cash? What do you take?” “Credit only, Sir.” “Credit only?” he sighed. “Well, never mind then. You really won’t take cash?” Straightening up she shook her head, smoothed out her uniform and returned to the rear of the plane. Damn. No scotch, he thought. It had been seven hours and change since his last drink. Far too long for his liking. Jacob sat back in his too-small seat and looked out through the window. For a moment, he panicked when all he saw was his own face staring back at him. Once he remembered that it was just past 2 o’clock in the morning he felt foolish for even expecting to see something through the window, aside from the rhythmic pulse of the lights on the wings on the plane. He reached inside his coat and removed from the inside chest pocket a thick envelope. It was an aged yellow color and had a slight texture. So slight, in fact, that Jacob didn’t notice it until he had been in the air for a few hours and found himself turning the envelope over in his hands. 14

He also spent some time running his fingers over the wax seal that was affixed to the flap. What is this, he thought, Medieval Europe? He never knew what was in the parcels he transported and he liked it that way. Jacob had seen far too many movies where the package man was nosy, opened one of the private packages and then his entire life blew up in his face. While this was real life and certainly not a movie, what he had barely qualified as a personal life and he was perfectly content not rolling the dice. Not so long ago he had been happy. He had a life he was proud of. He had been married with two children - both boys. Then one day, about four years ago, his wife left him. No reason was given. He knew, though that his actions were not the cause of the break up. He had never cheated on his wife, was not an addict and certainly had never raised a hand to her out of anger. When she left, he was devastated. The final nudge off the edge for him, though, was that when she left she also took the boys. She also took nearly everything he had spent years working toward. The true damage was done, not in her leaving, but in the way she left, basing the divorce request on fabricated threats and abuse. He never imagined that she was the type of woman who would pick a fight in a bar to make it look like she was a battered wife. With the aid of a weaselly attorney, she took everything... the house, the boys, the one functional car they had, and even the family cat. She hated that cat! All that he was left with was two duffel bags of clothing, a couple of books, and a few personal belongings. After the divorce, he floated from one job to another. When you’ve lost everything, it’s difficult to really care about a retail job selling over-priced wrenches and screwdrivers. Jacob found himself lost in thought about that turning point in his life but more importantly, he found that his grip was tightening on the envelope in his hand. If he delivered a damaged package, he would be shot dead on the spot. One to the back of the head. He had witnessed that side of the business first hand. Hours later, when the plane had landed and was taxied to the gate, he made his way past the happy travelers being greeted by friends or family and hailed a cab outside. “Where to, Boss?” asked a seasoned cabbie, who smelled faintly of whiskey, had a half-smoked cigar wedged between his lips and huge bags under his eyes.

Jacob noticed the cabbie’s ID on the Plexiglas divider between them, “Well, Milv... Milovan...” he began. “Please, call me Milo.” interrupted the cabbie. “...Alright, Milo” continued Jacob, “Take me to The Covenant.” With a slight spin of the under-inflated tires on the wet asphalt, Milo pulled away from the curb and headed off. PART 2 He could always tell when a stranger was somehow connected to the people he worked for. Jacob knew full well that there was no establishment called “The Covenant” in this city. “The Covenant” was a code used among those in the not-so-small circle he found himself in. In this case, the weathered cabbie knew exactly where to take him. Feeling the crushing numbness of déjà vu, Jacob woke with a start. Sitting up straight on the worn vinyl seat, he looked around and realized he was still in the taxi cab, which continued to maneuver through the cold, dark streets. The only acknowledgment that Milo was still awake himself, was the slight shift of the eyes to check on the movement behind him through the rear-view mirror. “Good rest, my friend?” asked the cabbie. “Where are we? How long have we been driving?” responded Jacob. “Only about fifteen minutes, I think.” Milo’s accent was difficult for Jacob’s swimming mind to decipher. The remainder of the drive was in silence, save for the occasional slosh of fluid in a container. If Jacob didn’t know better, he would have sworn he saw quick up-and-down movements from the driver’s free hand. “Is this man really knocking back some booze while driving?” he thought. A few minutes later, with the parking prowess of a block of granite, the cab jerked to the side of the road. Milo threw the shifter into “Park” before the car had even finished slowing down. “Is there a problem?” asked Jacob. “This is your Covenant, yes?” “Oh, Covenant. Right. Yes it is.” replied Jacob.

After handing Milo money for the cab fare, Jacob exited the filthy cab by pushing the door open with his foot. Jacob nudged the door closed with his elbow and stood in the rain-soaked street. He lifted his head toward the cold night sky. With his eyes closed and hands in his pockets, Jacob breathed in the smell of the cold rain on the warm asphalt, slow and full. When he opened his eyes he could understand why, in this city at least, this place was dubbed “The Covenant” - the actual name was “Henrietta’s”. Pulling the heavy metal door open, Jacob was greeted by a swath of red light that made the night outside look bright like a tropical beach in July. Not wanting to draw attention to himself while his eyes adjusted, he walked slowly inside and moved his head around casually, as if he was familiar with this place. By the time he found his way to the bar, his eyes had adjusted to the dark atmosphere. When the bartender came near, Jacob asked for a scotch. He sipped his drink and surveyed the place as he always did when he came to an unfamiliar place. This Covenant was built of brick and Jacob could sense that the mortar holding it all together was mixed with misplaced hopes, broken dreams and lost ambitions. This Covenant certainly was not a place of worship for any god, yet it was clear that these patrons came here regularly for fellowship and consolation. Two things caught his eye as he stood at the bar, swirling the liquid in his glass. The first was a brunette sitting at a table in the back. By the looks of the table setting, she was alone and was not expecting anyone. Even through the dim red glow and the stale- almost -sour smell of the place, he could tell she wasn’t a regular fixture there. If there was any doubt about it, the quick glances shot her way from the men in the bar erased the very thought. Jacob stood watching her. As a smile, foreign to his face for quite some time, began to spread across his lips, it occurred to him that he had nearly forgotten about the undercover cop who was also there. Jacob could usually spot them with relative ease but this one might as well have been carrying a flashing neon sign. He first noticed him while he waited for the bartender to bring over his drink, because of the tell tale “cop walk” as the officer moved from the juke box back to his table, which was selected to provide a complete view of the entire room. Uniformed street cops usually walk with their arms held out from their sides so that their skin doesn’t get scratched and cut by their handguns.

He focused his attention back to the brunette sitting alone and walked over to her table. Without saying a word, he pulled out a chair and sat with his back toward the door. He was struck by how smooth and soft her shoulderlength black hair looked. He wanted to reach out a hand and run his fingers through it, just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, still asleep in the back of Milo’s cab. Without saying a word, the brunette took another sip of her drink. He could tell by the lack of wet rings on the wooden table top and the unmelted ice cubes in her glass, that she had only just arrived herself. Sitting there sizing the other up, Jacob and the brunette sat in silence until, after what felt like an eternity, she said calmly, “Watch my things, will you please, Jacob? I’ll be right back.” Putting his hand atop the brunettes, to stop her, Jacob quietly said, “Before you excuse yourself, it might interest you to know that there’s uninvited company here. Second table from the front door, on the left.” The brunette glanced over Jacob’s right shoulder. “There’s a diner four blocks east of here. I’ll meet you there in a half hour.” she replied, just before getting up from her seat and moving toward the back of the room. Jacob paid for the drinks and as he walked toward the front door, he thought about the worn wooden floor beneath his boots and about all of the spilled beer and tears that kept it’s protective lacquer intact. “The Covenant,” he thought, smiling, “The union of a person and the temporary remedy for their troubles. Only those downcast souls could tolerate the smell and stickiness of the bar, which no doubt serves as both pulpit and confessional.” “Good riddance. Let them have it.” he said to himself, as he pushed aside the metal door and stepped into the dark, sodden night. PART 3 He arrived at the diner with the flashing “OPEN 24 HOURS” neon sign in the front window and pulled open the first of two glass doors. As Jacob crossed the threshold, he was enveloped in air that smelled of pancakes and burnt coffee. Jacob stepped through the small enclosed entry area, careful not to wake the homeless man who was asleep, stretched across all four of the waiting area’s padded restaurant chairs.

At the counter, Jacob waited for someone to notice he was waiting for a seat. “Table for two, please. A booth, preferably.” said Jacob and he was escorted to a booth on the far side of the diner. As he followed the diner hostess, trying to ignore the squeaking noise her shoes made on the laminated diner floor, he noticed the place was empty, save for three other customers. He took off his coat and hung it from the coat hook on the outside edge of the wooden partition, separating his booth from the next and then settled into his seat with his back to the wall and his legs stretched out on the booth’s seat. “Hey there, Hon, what can I get ya?” asked the aging waitress as she walked up to his table, holding out a menu. Jacob ordered his meal, without even glancing at the menu, “I’ll have a Monte Cristo sandwich. sweet potato fries, a side of ‘slaw and some coffee. Thanks, Doll.” He wasn’t sure why he called her Doll. He had never called anyone that before. “Maybe it’s the diner aura,” he thought. He placed his hands on the slick table top, “What is it about this damn town?” he wondered. “Everything in this God-forsaken place is grimy.” In true greasy spoon fashion, even the air felt thick with grease. As Jacob waited for the brunette, he tired to remember the name of the song he could just faintly make out. Doing so was a welcome challenge, due to the tin can sounding talk radio program blasting out from the kitchen area, in a language completely foreign to him. Jacob hoped that the burnt coffee smell was not the same batch he had just ordered from. He was trying to decipher the strange artwork in the frosted glass embedded in the wooden booth partitions, when the waitress arrived with his coffee. “Here ya go, Hon,” she said as she set the cup in front of him. “Cream? Sugar?” “Yes to both “ replied Jacob. “Alrighty. Comin’ right up!” After the waitress delivered the cream and sugar, Jacob prepared his coffee. He liked his coffee on the sweet side. Once the coffee made contact with his taste buds, Jacob knew at once, “Ah, yes. That was my coffee burning.” He swallowed the gulp of coffee with a wince and as he did so, he saw the brunette walk through the front doors. Once inside the diner, she stopped,

looked around and then made her way past the empty tables and booths to where Jacob sat. She hung her purse on a coat hook, then removed her coat and hung that up as well. When she took a seat, Jacob noticed a very subtle trace of citrus. It pierced through the thick diner air like beams of sunlight after a hurricane. She sat there in silence looking over the menu for a few minutes until Jacob’s curiosity got the best of him. “So, uh, who are you and how do you know my name?” questioned Jacob. Without looking up from her menu she replied, with a slight English accent, “My name is Eleonore. You can call me Elie. And I think we both understand how I know who you are.” “You know Dante Minus?” Jacob insisted. Elie looked up from her menu with a bright smile, “Yes, Jacob. Dante is a mutual acquaintance of ours.” The smile caused her deep blue eyes to light up like a spotlight on a handful of diamonds. Jacob’s mouth opened to respond out of habit but no words came. The only thing that brought him back to reality, from the comfort of her gaze, was his own confusion over his bumbling, pre-pubescent reaction to this complete stranger. He tried to cover up his speechlessness by taking two large sips of burnt coffee. After he had set his coffee cup down on the sticky table, he fidgeted with it, slowly turning it in his hands. He stared into the caramel-colored liquid inside the cup, imaging how hard his former wife would be laughing if she could see his sheepish behavior right now. Mustering his best c’est la vie tone of voice, Jacob continued, “Elie. A beautiful name for a gorgeous woman. You know who I am, but I can’t get over this nagging thought of mine. How is it you became caught up in this side of things?” “I had my reasons, Jacob, just as I’m sure you had your own after your divorce. Your package, please.” “My ‘package’? Already? I like to move fast but I my meal hasn’t even arrived yet.” quipped Jacob. “You know precisely what I’m referring to.” “How about this. I have the package but I want to eat my meal first. You order your meal, it’s on me, and let’s pretend we care about good conversation. After that, we’ll talk shop. Deal?” Jacob offered, desperately

hoping she agreed. How he longed for just a good conversation with a beautiful lady. Since the divorce, he’d had his fill of one-night stands and seedy motel room escorts, many of whom were provided “on the house” by an associate of his employer, Dante Minus. What he hadn’t been on the receiving end of lately was actual conversation that wasn’t conducted at one end or the other of a gun. He tried not to remember how many times he had sat alone in a sleazy bar, a grimy diner like this one or on some form of transportation and listened in on the conversations of those around him. Not to pry or try to glean some information, but because he sometimes felt so alone that he wondered if he even knew how to hold a conversation with another person. “That would be nice...” Elie began, just as the waitress arrived with Jacob’s food. After placing her order and waiting for the waitress to leave, Elie continued, “You don’t seem like the others I’ve dealt with before. None of them had ever noticed my protection at The Covenant, let alone remain calm when I used their name prior to introductions.” Jacob’s stomach knew the food had arrived, judging by the acrobatics it performed, as if it felt obligated to earn its meal. He wanted to start eating but he heard his mother’s voice echoing up from the wrinkled recesses of his mind, from far too many years earlier, scolding him, “A gentleman always waits until a lady has her food and has taken the first bite! What’s the matter with you?” He hoped the short order cooks would work fast on this order. Jacob and Elie talked about typical topics like the weather and the local sports team until her food arrived - a club sandwich and an iced tea. Even with the run-of-the-mill subject matter, he enjoyed the conversation so much he felt slightly disappointed when her food was served and she began to eat. As Jacob spread strawberry jam on his Monte Cristo sandwich, he tried to remember when, other than right then and there, he last felt like a real person. He took a slightly too large bite, chewed fast and looked up to find Elie watching him with an amused smile on her face. For the next few minutes, Jacob was able to forget entirely the instructions he was given as he was handed the package to deliver. To Be Continued...

The Mansion and The Architect

John Costa

They first toured the house in late autumn, a woman of middle age gave the tour. She dressed elegantly and had a powerful demeanor. “This is the main hall. Notice the cascading stairs and balcony of the second floor.” She held her hands against the thick violet curtains hanging from the second floor. “The mansion itself was designed by a brilliant architect named Drakel, a native to the Holy Roman Empire. As you can very well tell he put much time and energy into it.” She said looking up at the painted dome ceiling as we walked up the main staircase. They started down the hall, the couple smiled. “The art work, all chosen by the architect himself tells a lot about the man, most of it is very dark.” The man put his hand down on an ebony sphere on the upstairs column as they reached the top of the stairs. “This one is my favorite” She spoke quietly and reserved. They looked at it together with a blank expression not knowing what to think or believe, an oil painting of a muddy brown canyon with contrasting gold and blue flames burning heat, a gruesome beast with tentacles, reptillian scales and insect wings stared directly into them with a finger pointing directly into flames. The man faked an akward smile to the realtor as the wife passed indifferently. He gazed down the balcony as the chandelier flickered. He was taken aback by a statue of a knight in the fashion of Arthurian legend standing on the first floor he hadn’t noticed as they came through. He shook his head in disbelief, quite shocking. He started to think of his father passing, a great man. The realtor passed placing a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Let’s move on.” The realtor walked them out. They stood under a waning twilight in the autumn breeze. “It is really quite an offer, fortunately for you the interests are down and this is truly the best time to buy.” She held out her hand and they left. It was a cold windy afternoon not two weeks later when they pulled up with their things. The gable peaked high towering over the huge double doors, we stood on the lawn scattered with untended gardens and fallen leaves. The mansion, with its stone façade loomed down at the earth, the windows staring, lined with hanging plants and ivy.

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“Well, we are here.” he said. The wife looked around at some sculptures and a fountain. Her gaze fell beyond the property at a high elm tree in the distance poking branches over jagged rolling mountain tops in the distance past the hills. The first few weeks they spent getting settled in and becoming familiar with the house. They discovered a garden bower out back, where on the days when the sun came out, they enjoyed spending their days. It started to feel like home. They kissed arms around each other under the hanging ivy and wildflowers. “I feel so at peace, we have entered a new world.” They laughed. “Gabriel.” One day before the winter solstice the man was walking through the wrapping halls on the second floor for no particular reason and he noticed a door, it was locked. He went for the handle and tried again. Not given a key he grew frustrated. He called the realtor later that day. She assured him she had no idea. Three mornings later a package laid rest on the front doorstep. It had no postage, just a small brown box with a ribbon tied around. He opened it on the stairs, a skeleton key wrapped in cotton and silk with a note and in calligraphy saying only two words: “THANK YOU”. He put it with the other keys in the pocket and threw out the box. He walked up the hall and reached for the key and grabbed the handle, it slid right open unexpectedly and he stood still. Looking around in silence the door was somehow already unlocked. He crept into the pitch black. He reached for a light, wondering what is this room. A library with a great wide window staring out distant at the mountains, he walked passed the piano touching the keys, he browsed the shelves various titles then sat at the desk. He looked in the drawers, the top had a few pencils and pens and a notebook. He sat at the desk and read a while, it turned out to be journals of the architect, Drakel. Not thinking much of it he put them away and turned out the light, and started to feel groggy as he walked back down the hall toward his bed. They laid awake a while, talking about nothing, when the rain started to pick up and a storm began hitting the roof like galloping horses. The lights blacked out and a quick chill ran up their spines. “What was that?”

“It sounded like footsteps…” He went to check out the sound telling her to hold tight, he walked out the hall and the darkness swelled in silence and despair. Creaking noises on the wood from the mansion a melody began to flow to his ears. As he passed, shine of the moon outdoors landed on the knight and the painting lit up, it was all he could see for a frozen moment in time. A soft elegant aeonian mode, flowing from the library, and he knew it. He stared at the ebony sphere on the column. In the dark in the dungeon, the background of the flames lit wildly. He knew. His arms and feet in chains in the form on an X. His body felt weak. Insane sounds of insect wings and flashing movements of shadow flickered on the stone wall. “Adramelech has fed.”

The Frozen Garden

John Costa

Deeply gaze into the sands of time, To the frozen garden of your existence; Watch as it melts to so many puddles, See as the sun rises from the other side And tends to unforseen possibilities, And synchronicity collapases your perception of self, being, and consciousness, Transmuting you to the infinite spiral conscience, Do the waters hit the earth like crystalline memories? Are you reborn yet again, only to awaken to one? The resonating ring of your circulated bliss, In the frozen Garden of the own existence…

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Two Empty Shells

Barbara O’Neal

The moonlight darkened the vast country road. His trembling subsided long enough to catch a moments glimpse of her subdued sigh. Her thoughts were focused on the thick layer of lust bellowing within her. His mind was adrift as he steaded his racing heart. The night owl turned his eyes towards the glowing crecent moon, half deserted by the effervecent clouds. A single star twinkled in her eye as they passed by a pair of loney hitchhikers doomed to the chill in the air. He penetrated deeply his mind for the appropriate words and yet remained silent in their absence. She beckoned him for a sweet and tender kiss. He pulled off to the side of the road for an endless embrace. Two empty shells collide beneath the sunroof, enduring. A pulsing tremor of ecstasy while overhead a shooting star embarked through the blackness imbuing just a faint shadow upon their faces. The moonlight awakened their vast empty hearts.

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The Underbelly the underbelly can be so cruel when you don’t know who you’re talkin’ to and you put on your walkin shoes but still you do not move so you wanna get a lil buzz but drinkin doesn’t feel like fun when you can’t connect with any one you’re just an army of one so you look around for something more but the party’s a drag you just feel bored it’s a part of you you used to ignore what’s wrong with you you don’t seem right every conversation leads to a fight but c’mon now it’s friday night you can’t cut loose when you’re wound so tight so you wanna get a lil buzz but drinkin doesn’t seem like fun when you can’t connect with any one

Jim Quimby

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Untitled the hands shake the body restless asking for forgiveness dark figures form from shadows cold sweats, hot flashes “why do you do this to me?” the body begs, pleads a pain in the stomach welling up with blood comfort has left this place lungs choke out black smoke the heart beats too fast soon to not beat at all this hollow form dying faster faster gone

Kyle Enright

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Untitled A nod is a promise not just acknowledgement or a friendly greeting a nod is an agreement that you mean no harm and no harm is meant to you and after that nod your lives will be the same passing in peace to nod again

Kyle Enright

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Untitled Words should be Short and to the point Life should be as well We are not here for a reason We do not have meaning With words we give both To a life that has neither Otherwise it’s absurd long and drawn out Like a drunk giving a toast Rambling on forever And no one wants to hear it But when you save your breath And only speak the truth Then it does not matter How short it is

Kyle Enright

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