The Bactrian Room

If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.




Stories for the Long Silk Road

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Donal Mahoney: A Previous Life

It was their wedding night and Priya didn’t want to tell her new husband all about it but Bill kept asking where she had learned to walk like that. Finally she told him it was inherited from a previous life, a life she had lived many years ago in India, not far from Bangalore. She had been a cobra kept in a charmer’s basket.

When the charmer found a customer, usually a Brit or Yank, he would play his flute and Priya would uncoil and rise from the basket. Her hood would swell and she would sway as long as the customer had enough money to keep paying the charmer. She never tried to bite a customer but some of the men weren’t the nicest people in the world. You think they would know better than to tease a cobra.

Being a charmer's cobra was Priya’s job for many years until she finally grew weary of the tiny mice her keeper would feed her so she bit him and he died. His family had Priya decapitated but she was born again later in a small village, this time as a human, a baby girl. After she matured into a young woman, she had a walk, men said, reminiscent of a cobra's sway.

Priya told Bill she had been married many times in India, England and the United States but always to the wrong man. She would give the men time to correct their behavior but none did. As a result of their failure, she bit them with two little fangs inherited from her life as a cobra. They were hidden next to her incisors. Death was almost instantaneous.

No autopsies were ever performed. Death by natural causes was always the ruling. Priya, however, would move to another state or country before marrying again. 

She told Bill she hoped he would be a good husband because she didn’t want to have to move again. She wanted to put down roots and have children. She was curious as to whether they would walk or crawl or maybe do both. But Bill had heard enough. He was already out of bed, had one leg in his tuxedo pants and soon was running down the hall of the 10th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel. He had his rented patent leather shoes in one hand and an umbrella in the other in case he ran into a monsoon.


Roy Dorman: It Could Have Been Anybody

Eleanor liked to tell people
that she knew everybody in town.
She would tell anybody who would listen
that she could never live in a big city.
“You wouldn’t even know
all of the people on your block,”
she would exclaim with a theatrical shudder.

Not everybody liked it
that Eleanor shared information
she had about anybody with everybody.

“Well, if you don’t have anything to hide,
you don’t have anything to worry about,”
she would spout while looking you in the eye.

Tonight, while getting ready for bed,
she was stabbed in the heart
by one of the town’s anybodys
who had been hiding in her closet.

Even as she was dying,
a satisfied sigh escaped her;
she had known her assailant all of his life.
Why just this morning
she had been talking about him
to his pretty wife, Mary.

“I’m glad I had the chance to talk to her
about his foolin’ around
with that hussy, Melissa Baines.”

As to who killed Eleanor?
Everybody in town knew
that almost anybody could have done it.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Anuradha Bhattacharyya: The Story of a Banana Tree

I was two feet tall when I stood surrounded by my brothers and sisters in the backyard of a deserted house. My mother stood huge and protective over all of us. There were mango trees and guava trees spread protectively near us.

In winters I was protected from frost and in summers from the severe sun. Whenever it was unbearably dry, it rained and I soaked in as much water as I could, to keep me alive during the issuing dry months.

One day the doors and windows of the abandoned house opened and we could tell that a family has moved in. There was a young lady and a little girl who stood at the door and gazed and gazed thoughtfully at all of us. We stood huddled together in the middle expectantly.

It was still winter. Two weeks after they arrived, in the middle of a sunny afternoon there came a hoard of men with axes and climbed up the mango trees.

Within a few hours almost all the branches of the mango and guava trees were chopped off. They carried away the logs and brushed aside the evergreen leaves in a huge pile just outside the boundary wall.

They left only the tops of the huge trees green. But it was not enough for us. We were now open to the cold blasts of the winter months.

As winter gave way to spring the ground around us was covered with many saplings of mango, guava, Jamun and many unnamed shrubs. The balsam and canna plants turned up and there were tiny shoots of tomato and brinjal too. It was a thick growth of foliage all around us.

The man of the house surveyed the backyard often. He prodded the small saplings with his big foot with curiosity. From his expression we could tell that he was trying to make up his mind.

Then our downfall began.

They hired a gardener.

The gardener came twice in a week with his sharp spade and large scissors. He began by attacking the bushes with his scissors. Then he trimmed the hedge.

One day, early in the morning, he brought along a friend and a couple of ploughs. The two of them hit the ground with vehemence and within an hour, cleared the ground of all its tender saplings. We stood there shivering with fear, but he spared us and the small litchi tree.

That day, the gardener and his friend planted selection grass all around us. The owner of the house watered the ground and very soon the grass spread all over the place in a lush green evenness.

The little girl and her mother played around us and took out garden chairs to sit near us.

We were very happy.

But our happiness lasted only for a couple of months. I noticed that the gardener was hostile towards the banana trees in particular. We heard him arguing with the lady that we were untamed plants and we did not allow the grass around us to grow thick. We sucked up all the water and hardened the earth near us.

The lady protested in our favour. She said we were venerable and we would bear fruit one day. So the gardener offered a compromise. He took her permission to remove some of us.
We stood huddled together is utter despair. It was a lonely night with no one to come to our aid. We waited for our doom.

The man of the house surveyed us the next day and pointed towards me. Leave this one, he said and went back into the house.

While I stood panting, the gardener uprooted all my brothers and my aged mother and flung them over the boundary wall, right before my eyes. That day my leaves drooped with sorrow but no one cared.

My leaves. A banana tree has a tender trunk and much of its strength depends on the balance of its leaves. I stood alone, next to a litchi tree which was just a baby. I drank up as much water as I could and shot my leaves in all directions for support.

But the horrible gardener loved the grass he had planted and hated me. Every now and then he chopped off one of my leaves with his sharp spade. Every time he cut off one of my limbs I tottered and swooned.

I was growing taller day by day. It was when I stood eight feet tall that I felt the first pangs of pregnancy. I took more nourishment from the earth. I could not bear more leaves. I leaned a little on the still tender litchi tree. It was the beginning of the rainy season. All my strength was drained in giving birth.
Finally, next to my heart there emerged a large fruit. It contained the grain of a hundred bananas. My entire focus was to give them as much nourishment as possible. My skin grew rough. My arms toughened. My roots spread out. I towered above the guava tree and stood braving the rains.

It was not easy. With no leaves to prepare my food and no shelter from the mango trees, I had to lean more and more on the little litchi tree for support. As my fruits grew bigger, I was bent by their weight.

I cried out to my brothers and sisters in agony when the rains drenched me for nights without reprieve. I pleaded with god to protect me and my fruits from imminent disaster. I prayed for more strength and more nutrition. My entire body ached with the load and everyone in my surroundings could hear the groans of my labour.

Finally, in the last days of fruit-bearing, my feet gave way and I fell during the raging storm in the middle of the night. The members in the house heard a loud thud and lit their lamps. But in the storm no one came to my aid.

I lay there till the next afternoon, when the gardener came. He and the owner cursed me, spat on the ground and hit me with their feet. They said, I was useless. I was unfit for fruit-bearing. I was a burden on the ground.

They cursed and cursed. The gardener gave vent to his pent up anger. He said, it ruined the hedge. It ruined the grass. It spoiled the beauty of the garden. It was wild.

And it hurt me most when he said that my fruits would have never been edible either.

But there I was lying helpless. A neighbour came and advised that I could be made to stand up on crutches. My roots were still alive and they may find ground again if I stood up.

But the vengeful gardener, who loved his grasses more made a wry face and declared: the tree is as good as dead. Let’s uproot it and throw it away.

The lady hurriedly said, maybe we can wait till its fruits grow big enough. But the man shook his head thoughtfully and said, No, the fruits would not be worth the price we’d have to pay. Do as you think fit. The gardener nodded with triumph in his eyes.



Anuradha Bhattacharyya is a poet of long standing. Her first book of poems was published in 1998. Since then she has been widely anthologized. Recently, she has published several short stories and a novel The Road Taken. The novel discusses many features of contemporary life neatly packed in the plot of a love story. Her other novel is titled One Word; an excerpt has been published in Indian Review. Both the novels have been published by Creative Crows Publishers, New Delhi, INDIA. 
Apart from two academic books, titled The Lacanian Author and Twentieth Century European Literature, she has published Fifty Five Poems, Knots and Lofty - to fill up a cultural chasm from Writers Workshop, Kolkata, INDIA.  She is Assistant Professor of English in PG Government College, Chandigarh, INDIA. She lives with her husband and daughter in Chandigar


Friday, February 27, 2015

Donal Mahoney: In the Wake of Technology

Forty years ago, David Germaine had been an editor with a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in a large city. After that, he had worked at many smaller papers in smaller cities because if one wanted to work for a newspaper, one had to go where the work was. And David loved newspapers.

As computers took over the newspaper business, reporters still wrote but often it was some new software that “edited” their copy, checking for spelling and grammatical mistakes but not always with accuracy. At some papers not yet fully transitioned to computers, human editors were still needed. More and more, however, as the software continued to improve, editors in cities, towns and villages grew fewer in number. And mistakes in newspapers became greater in number. 

David is now retired and living on a small farm, "far from the madding crowd," as the title of a novel by Thomas Hardy once put it. He was surprised, then, when he received an email from a publisher whose books he had arranged reviews for over the years at different papers. Once again, the publisher was seeking publicity for a new book. This time, he wanted to know if David could get in touch with some of his old friends at that Pulitzer Prize-winning paper to see if someone would review his book and generate some potentially profitable publicity. As with newspapers, book publishers, those still in the business, exist to make a profit. 

David thought about how long ago he had worked at that paper and he wondered about the people he knew there. He hadn’t heard from any of them in years. So he turned to the Internet to see if he could find some of them. What he found made his response to the book publisher easy to write in some respects but not so easy in others. 

“Mark, I’m afraid the book editor I worked with at that paper has been dead for years. In fact, an Internet search indicates the movie critic, television critic, features editor and Sunday magazine editor are dead as well. 

"The editor-in-chief, however, is still alive. I made a few phone calls and found that he is on a respirator in a nursing home in New York and will move into hospice soon. He always hired the best young people he could find and then worked them to death until they left for a better or lesser position. He was a brilliant editor but a miserable human being. Still, I’m sorry to see him go.

“I thought maybe the paper’s gossip columnist could help but he’s passed away too. He was hit by a truck while crossing an intersection. It’s true he ruined many a reputation and was mourned by few. There was no funeral according to the news item I found. His wife had him cremated. But he’s still thought of by many as the best gossip columnist ever to work that vile beat.

"Everyone else on that paper, I suspect, is dead as well or at best retired. Except for me out here in the country and the editor-in-chief on the respirator, I don’t know of another survivor from that staff. It’s still amazing how many Pulitzers they won.

"For some reason, I’m still in pretty good health, free of stents and joint replacements, perhaps because I quit drinking and smoking in 1959. That was the day I married a woman who bore five children in a little more than six years. She’s dead now too. She had a stroke in the kitchen making waffles two days into her retirement. She never got up. I saw her arm move on the floor but she was dead by the time the paramedics arrived. It’s just me in this big farmhouse now but I’m pretty good with a microwave. How did we live without microwaves in the old days, another miracle of technology?

“Although I’d love to help with the book, you can see I’m not currently in the swim of things at any paper. And as you know, it’s not a good time for newspapers. Many of them have died and others are on a respirator. People get their news on the Internet now or on television although some folks buy a paper just to read the funnies, obits and sports scores.

“If anyone I worked with back then is still in that newsroom, I’m afraid it’s because co-workers haven’t caught the stench yet or found the dust.

"I wish you the best with the book. In the attachment you sent, I can see that it underscores the role euthanasia now plays in end-of-life care. In the newspaper industry, there’s no need for euthanasia. Papers are dying regularly as a result of technology while the lives of people are sometimes saved by it. Even though I subscribe to the one newspaper still published in our area, I go online first thing in the morning to check the obituaries and sports scores. But I never did read the funnies.”


Sunday, February 22, 2015

John Pursch: Miss Rhoda Dendrite

“I feel a tarantula of sartorial toroidal backplane
Beauregardial conclave contamination girth-wide
propeller notions crawlin’ up muh backside
et this very momentous hocked-up caisson,”
mumbled Roto Stellar Plebeian Monocle Head,
the Second Pearl of Dirty Sandwich Skylight
Seashore Pasture-Blaster Quotient Filth,
alias Forthright Frankfurter the Unknown Goblet-Spewin’
Canned Testicle Tumbler From Bicuspid Salad Slouch Control.

“Whale, my simian approximation ova
hand-crampin’ crampon stew stoolie pageant
runner-up from East Side lechery’s societal embargo,”
began his sun-kissed sidekick,
Miss Rhoda Dendrite Hand-Tendon Calling Saucepan
Deliciosa en Triplicate per Furry Hound Ferocity
(told separately to flashy underarm decortication
mist enforcers from healthy huffing sway
hosiery haunts clear acrostic the floozy’s
frozen Hindlegian Hannibal Quartet
of Quicksand Island Onset Sheen).

Bet before she could even squirm out
an altered whirl of ordinary concocted syllables,
why thet thar Second Pearl of Hamwich
he chest bolloxed his fat yap clean open
and opined at tweed the spice of soundly
graven adversarial traduction:

“Queued a lewd lead-in
if I does spay so meshelf,
heaven fur such a wobbly
wand wieldin’ beautician has yerself
from lonely isthmus carrion kits
in deepest pie land tractor ruts,
whad bean owned and solid sold
so mangy times to turd party semblances
of actuarial merchant magazine salesmen
on chunky vomit junkets from Nude Hexagain
stakeout border parole confabulation trysts.”

Rhoda tugged her happy popcorn tourney t-shirt,
courtesy of curtseyed biplane miscreants
in leering Cheerio outfits
(wad with skirts clear up to their
so-balled navel engagements
in entrecotes fer fuzzy vestibular henchmen
wrench socket routines gone crampy
this dime-droppin’ time o’ the slippery old
toothless mouth of Trenchfoot March);

well, she dud indeed shabbily grab
the hopalong copper tune’s itsy bitsy flashpoint’s
iterative gerrymandered periscope ground
to say her hairpiece afore randy ole Rotating Frankfurter
could fart up another blast o’ heated peanut heresy,
but wad weed this adhering gushy preamble
tokin’ up so much oven smoke,
well I just overwrote her familial diatribe
strayed into its own redaction mythos byproduct!

Wade, wade, canoe ya nose that jest wooden be fair,
Ferris, or even felicitous, of antsy heft sway
descending author (latter loan spittle bowl me)
so here comes Rhoda ‘round the human cartwheel
of fortunate imbibement circumstellar
Punic brothel wax retardant
smothering bottle hamster tongue…

and hair’s wad she had to slay:

“Firstly, lemme tank hallow the tropes who fought
so bravely at the Battle of Scuttlebutt Bridge last night;
heavenly swan o’ ewe deserves a metallic udder
of condemnation and savory mystical
counterparts to clover fer your assets
in the hairy after partisan heifer warfare
(known farcically and wide-eyed as the
Glorious Cavalcade of Ascending Doughboy Holes).”

Here she paused to truncate
each and heavy ivory-collared short arm,
wad amounted to over a thousand headless corsets
and bloomin’ corsages of anything but bloodless
strumpet soup tureens, wet with spurtin’ sallow pustules
flowin’ ground the cock crow’s towering sin fer nose guards,
cantaloupes, and miraculously whipped
shaving crematoria vacuums.

Ceremony thus completed,
she canned her retinue and curried comely on:
“Snow whar wuz I? Whoa yeah: puddin’ that
Goblet-Spewin’ Testicular Tumbleweed
name o’ Roto Frankfurter the Second
Pearl of Sandy Hamwich
in his proverbial placemat burial clown!
Howitzer coulda hand one sever forget-me-snot
wince they gut such a juicy target inner sleight o’
ninety-nine tracer bullet bonanza blunt?”

At this admittedly long-drawn
and quarterly bastardized sled ride
of a sledgehammered lead-in,
Frankfurter couldn’t help but blanche,
quail, crap his boots, ooze the rankest
postprandial demitasse of heavyweight insipidity
known to mangy breasts from hair
to Chatty Mandarin Duplicity’s Two-Bitten
and Distraught Conquered District
(Flea to Bituminous Cuckoldry).

Bet croppin’ his hairline
black to the stunned saga
wooden-a-shaved him from
the compounding garter-foundling
(nod to menschen fondling)
tat war crumblin’ his whey.

And so good Rhoda,
Miss Dendritic Overshoe herself,
in truly dewy dime-droppin’
drag-crazin’ beer-quakin’ frenzy,
filially delivered whad can homely be culled the cure de crass,
mire than sham biologically loppin’ luft the swollen head,
green-sleevin’ that pure solid Frankfurter
oozin’ moustache mustard, mumbly-Peggity moutardant
sand feathered featurettes of sighing gland solipsism
from pier to shinnying wharf rat riot gear
in cheesy cold townhome Cleaverland,
bakin’ the eyeballs clean outa Cistern Butter Frack-along’s
snowy grifter populace entrainment camps,
‘cross burbled wire in wizened tertiary sailor nuts,
flossed to geese retainer continental scum tracts
and foul-weird thrivers on repast immortality
deduction fruit encampment drool.


John Pursch lives in Tucson, Arizona. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his poetry, Intunesia, is available in paperback at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/whiteskybooks. His pi-related experimental lit-rap video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc. He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Paul Anthony: The Breakfast Boys

The best time to go to the Little Brooklyn Diner for breakfast is about 9.30 in the morning. Situated on West Fifty Sixth Street, it is the current early morning favourite of the ‘suits’ from Random House Publishers who pop in on their way to the office. It is also a favourite of the ‘room only’ tourists who have read about it on Trip Advisor, and who to a man, woman, child order the red velvet waffles topped with banana, strawberries and blueberries which apparently are ‘to die for!’ It is finally a favourite for the fifty something joggers from nearby Central Park who order plates of carbohydrates with freshly squeezed orange juice and jugs of iced water on the side to rehydrate.

The time between these comings and goings and lunch time is known by the regulars as ‘the eye of the storm’, a time when they can sit in comparative ease, eat and put the world to rights while eating their favourite breakfast.

Larry enters just as the last jogger, filling his pockets with sachets of sugar, is leaving. He nods to Morey who is wiping the surfaces. Morey nods back then nods to the open kitchen.  The three nods in turn mean,

“Good Morning Morey. I‘ll have scrambled eggs and bacon, an English Muffin, rice and black beans”.

and

“I’m very well – not that you would notice! Thank you for not enquiring. Miriam’s back is playing up again. Muffins are off today but we have some Scotch crumpets, freshly made this morning. And would a please be too much to ask? I hope you throw up!”

and

“Get this son of a bitch his usual! Hold the muffin and give him one of last night’s crumpets. They should be nicely stale by now.”

Morey is not a morning person. He wears an expression which suggests that all his female relations and possibly himself have just been gang raped by a horde of Visigoths.  He prides himself on not knowing the names of any of his regulars. He just knows them by what they order.

‘Eggs and bacon’ settles into the cubicle. The red leather seat is still warm from someone else’s backside. He hopes it is one of the secretaries from Random House but suspects it belongs to a flatulent Romanian jogger. Anyway, he remains where he is. It is his usual seat in his usual cubical at his usual time. He likes order in his life. Morey knows this and sometimes puts his place settings the wrong way round. Morey enjoys this. Larry does not.

He listens to the sounds of the diner. The hiss of the latte maker, the sizzling of the hot plate as bacon rashers curl into submission, the clatter of the knives and forks as they are emptied from the dishwasher. It is like a well rehearsed orchestra and he is sitting in the best of the House seats. He closes his eyes for a brief moment and conducts in the steamy atmosphere.

A retired banker, he opens the financial pages of the New York Times and checks the Dow Jones. It is merely out of interest. He has little to invest after his wife has cleaned him out in a very messy divorce. His neatly pressed suit, laundered shirt, purple tie and Gucci shoes give him an air of importance which he no longer has.

‘Bagels and Cream Cheese’ is next to enter. He is Amos to all who know him and the one person who used love him. Dressed in Redskin sweat pants, baggy Yankees top and a Canadian Blue Jays cap, he is a medley of sartorial contradiction. He chews on a permanently unlit cigar. He would like to have been a sports reporter and indeed he talks of little else, but he is in fact a copy writer for the Christian Science Monitor. He works from home in a house as empty as Larry’s and met Mariah Carey once in a hotel lobby. She said “Hello” to him!

He sits facing Larry who simply acknowledges his arrival by looking up then down again. He pulls out his Suddoko book from his hip pocket, needlessly licks a stub of a pencil and begins.

“Keeps the mind active!” loud enough for Larry to hear.

“Indeed!” says Larry noticing the smell of dead Jack Daniels on his breath.

Morey brings the breakfasts and like two lovers in mid tiff, they sit apart, eat and say nothing.

‘Denver Omelette’ comes through the door just as Larry is making a mental note to watch the progress of Allied Chemicals which has traded well over the past week. He is a mountain of a man with a cowboy hat, leather and sheepskin waistcoat over a Woodstock T shirt and stonewashed jeans. Christened Harry at birth, he renamed himself ‘Toke’ in the Sixties and it has stuck. He likes to smoke stuff which increases the depth of his basso profundo voice.

“Usual please and hold the onions today,” he shouts to Morey.

This pisses Morey off as he asks for his omelette without onions every day.

He nods to the fellow occupants of the cubicle. They grunt back without moving up. He settles into a space and pulls out a well thumbed copy of the National Enquirer and notes that aliens have landed again – this time in Punxsutawney. He chuckles to himself that they will land there every day from now on!

As usual ‘Cheerios’ is last to arrive. He says his hellos and sits down next to Toke.

“Sorry I’m late!”

‘Cheerios’ is always late.

Today’s excuse is that he had to get off the subway at Columbus Circle due to a fault on the line. He rewinds his time warp Walkman and plugs it into his ear. Morey can hear the faint strains of Beethoven’s Fifth as he brings the bagels.

“Pretentious bastard”, he mumbles. “Probably thinks the John Dunbar Theme is classical as well!”

‘Cheerios’ aka Ronnie is a small tubby little man with a grey Poirot moustache, rimless spectacles and a thinning comb over. He dresses permanently in the garb of a professional golfer and has an opinion on everything. He is on the faculty at NYU but finds the time to have extended breakfasts at the diner every morning.

Morey brings the last two breakfasts and some more black coffee for the table. Toke reminds him that he takes his with milk. He does this every morning and every morning Morey ignores him and clears away the plates. Larry notes it is 10.23am, three minutes later than yesterday. 

“Well gentlemen. It’s Monday. Walk in the Park as normal?”

A collective silence indicates that they are in agreement.

They rise to go, each emptying his pockets of shrapnel to give to Morey as a tip. As usual Larry asks for the rest of his coffee ‘to go’. As usual it ends up in the sink.

“Miserable bastards”, mutters Morey as he pockets the $1.90.

They shuffle out into the harsh winter sunlight and make their way to the Wollman Rink to watch the ice skating and to commence what can only be called virtual betting. Each Monday,  they view the skaters and select the one who will fall most times. A five dollar bet is wagered by each one but it is never be placed nor collected. Larry reckons that they must have wagered more than $2,000 over the years. He actually keeps a book which notes that he is in front but he never calls in the bets. That would be crass.

The rule is that they watch the skaters for one minute then they pick the one likeliest to tumble most in a ten minute period. Larry chooses a child in a red anorak. Toke selects a pimply faced youth with a quilted body warmer. Amos plumps for a sixty something woman with a balaclava and a grey sweatshirt. Toke nominates the little kid, as black as the falling snow and ice are white.

Toke and the kid win. He has watched him the day before and knows that the kid will be WBA boxing champion long before he can skate!

Ronnie says he has a freshman class at 1.00pm so they go their separate ways. By 10.00am next morning they are seated in the diner again. Tuesday is orange juice and tall stories day. Morey is reputed to make the best OJ this side of the Pecos Mountains. They always get a pitcher with their breakfast on a Tuesday. Toke prefers grapefruit but Morey never brings him any.

Each takes it in turns to tell a story and it is up to the others to decide if it is true, exaggerated or simply a prefabrication. Morey picks the winner, purely on a rotational basis. Only Larry has seen through this, as a statistical analysis of his book of results shows that he wins every fifth Tuesday. Today he tells one about a bear and a fish and Morey declares him to be the winner. Ronnie thinks his is better but says nothing.

Wednesday is Strange Facts Day. Again Morey is the judge and his ruse this time is to make sure Amos never wins no matter how good his effort is. Amos does not mind as he always makes his stuff up while the others trawl the Internet, Guinness Book of Records and Trivia Books for hours to get their material.

Thursday is open floor day when they take it in turns to discuss a topic chosen by whoever is in the Chair. They have discussed things like the best way to make a Brandy Alexandra, the optimum Tog rating for duvets in the summer months and the pros and cons of Ronald Regan as an actor.

Today Larry is in the chair. He chooses as his topic the best way to commit a perfect murder. When Morey has cleared the breakfast dishes he begins and gives the floor to Amos. 

Amos states that it should be motiveless.

Toke adds that the victim should not be known to the murderer.

Ronnie says that the murderer should never be caught.

Larry agrees but says that it would be more stylish if the victim knew his killer.

They admit that this would give the killing the edge but are not keen on the idea.

Morey brings more coffee.

Larry asks for a modus operandus.

Ronnie offers poisoning. He could sit beside someone in this very diner and slip something into a random cup of coffee.

Toke suggests using a stiletto in the crush of the subway. The victim would fall down and people would suspect a heart attack. As they tend to him, he would simply walk away.

Amos chooses strangling the nun who goes for a walk every morning in the park as he takes his own constitutional. She is always alone. She would have no enemies, it would not be a mugging as she has nothing to take. 

The group like this but Toke is worried as strangling is ‘an art’ and needs to be practiced. Toke is a Vietnam vet.

Larry suggests that the most sublime idea would be that one of their little group picks off each of the others one at a time. It would be like Agatha Christie’s film “And Then There Were None”.   Morey reminds him that there is a more recent version called “Ten Little Indians” although it is not as good as the original. He has seen both several times and has read the book. He says he likes Larry’s idea but it would have to be modified and continues with the place settings for lunch. He thinks grown men should have something better to do.

Amos has to go. He has a regular appointment at this time every Thursday. The group suspect it is with a hooker but never say anything.

The group does not meet on a Friday. Friday is family day – time to spend with loved ones. They do not have loved ones! Friday is a lonely day! Weekends are lonely too. They wait for Monday.

Morey is not lonely. He has Miriam and a Miriam with a bad back and bad attitude is better than no Miriam – just!

Larry arrives at 9.31am on Monday, two minutes earlier than last Monday but later the previous Monday when he arrived at 9.30 am exactly. His average arrival time over the past year is 9.33am. He keeps a running log on a simple spreadsheet program at home in his condo.

By 9.57am Amos has still to arrive. Toke thinks he may have man flu as he did not look well on Thursday. Morey suggests that he has caught a ‘dose of crabs offa the hooker’ and has gone to see the dick doctor.  They go for their walk in the park and visit the zoo. It is not he same without their friend so they leave after thirty seven minutes. Ronnie has a class at 1.00pm anyway.

Orange Juice Tuesday and Toke is the first to arrive. He is surprised to see a small glass of grapefruit juice laid out for him as well.

“Enjoy” says Morey.

There is no sign of Amos again and Ronnie, who is always late anyway, fails to show also.

Toke asks Larry if he is playing Ten Little Indians. Larry tells him if he is, he will find out tonight. Toke laughs nervously. Morey tells him that Larry is only yanking his chain. Toke does not take his grapefruit juice. Morey is not pleased.

It is Wednesday and not only is Larry the first one to arrive, he is the only one to arrive. Morey eyes him very closely as he eats his breakfast. Larry makes no reference to his absent friends. He leaves a five dollar tip and goes.

‘Cool bastard’, Morey thinks.

It is 7.00am the next morning. Larry has not slept well. His bell rings. He shuffles to the door and opens it. It will be the super coming to fix the leaking faucet.

It isn’t

“Morey?”

“Jesus Morey….No!”

And then there are none!

Morey turns and walks away quickly and quietly. He has breakfasts to make.



Paul Anthony is a drinker. His first efforts were with beer then he progressed to a series of exotic spirits. He has settled on Jamesons whiskey and occasionally partakes of a challenging red wine. When he is not drinking, Paul likes to write.

His first book, “The Adventures of the Tricycle Kid” is a humorous account of growing up in Belfast in the Fifties and Sixties. He is also a contributor to anthologies such as “The Incubator”, “The Blue Hour”, “Crannog”, “Silver Apples” and “A New Ulster” and is proud to have his work featured in the “Big Issue”. 

He has been  guest author for “Creative Frontiers” and his is poetry has found a home in “The Camel Saloon” and “Athboy Anois”. 

At present, he is working on a book of short stories and a novel about the Book of Kells. He toggles between homes in Belfast in the North of Ireland and Clonmellon in the South.

In a former life he was a University lecturer and when not drinking likes to bowl and shoot things.

He can be contacted by E Mail……...whatabowler@gmail.com 

Also see his pages at  

https://www.facebook.com/TheTricycleKid

or at

 https://sites.google.com/site/paulanthonywriter/home


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John Pursch: She’s Cargo

Lobots copulate twelve at a throw
in shabby She’s Cargo street locales
from slobbered Yeast Side shanty town
to Nord Spore hooker blight contestant-go-fluky
picture of exhibitionist know-how numbnut
parameter pyramid of jelly control plop
to tarts on Ferris wheels shy below spurned
cat-o’-entrails movie deluxe Borax queen
in refutation angst of popped hammerhead circle.

Limbs fly off in window dressing spatter confutation proxy,
daring us to crowbar ribs from rivulets of dead probate
scheme contusion blend, slipping forlorn into time-trap dusk
of seashore aphrodisiac extortion grind to lollipop curls
on redheads lost at seizure’s pendular swoop
of crosstown planetary schism.

“Whoopee!” Clem he shout at nose-blown geyser strike
of blow-by-lobot itch release to salami entrance handyman
galore parade of daring epistemic guard dog troll platoon
in defalcation’s grisly functionary sleaze entombment.

Dozen parolees inundate the frontal odor fire escapee
via hidden halftrack backdoor neckline perpetration hatch,
flooding ontic whereabouts with muddy bootjack cataclysm
hemorrhage of bile-line inguinal incursion limps
in strongly piled circadian torsos, keyed to lowered
basket flecks of cauterized graveyard she-food fare,
canned separately for disheveled ship-to-scorecard
embolism retreat beyond animal crimes.

“Went straight because the causal chops impaired me,
fuel-hide raucous onto roto-tundra umbral ventral sensate
infiltration gauze of cheesy clothesline sex capade
in fecal cavitation socket cordite plume
to aging pterodactyl flight machine, dumbly pounding
balled smack time-groupie phlegm whey behind her
knee-hollow damping site on periscope sighs of landed
signatory waistcoat pillory seduction,”
spews Punky Ankle Anna,
Queen of Registration Globules
Nun Withheld Phlegm Mynah
Blockhouse Pardon Crumbling Swath.

(Lunge tidal surely flour wan off dementia’s flying
as studious asp finery canned sloughed madams,
blown over airy evergreens in softened thuds
of counterpart seclusion hayseed overcome
to needless quay-sag bovine territory spells,
waxing promo flush to boggy lurch
of dried lobotic eyeball crust on
incandescent sunrise baker’s boson.)

“Thet Juan dare be goin’ peduncular!”
gestures Chary Attic Maelstrom Chunky-Chunk-Alike,
Hairy Force Majeure of Slobbered Beast Slide Quotient’s
flexible pummeling yard, blockaded jest sloth
of She’s Cargo’s wurst bane of sallow neighborhood
gazette gazebo quadrant cesspool undertow,
wherein none buddy varied mostly despicable
hand froggily desk-hutch inching pestilential rotifers
and emotive villainy care to proffer their somewhat bruised
bottom-fleecers in courts-o’-pallid barrier quaff-line barkeep
fleabag keg-cracking retrograde to discotechnique blunt enthrall
of slathered cornball mockeries of bobby schlock extraordinary
shy school churlish coffers filling burned saliva into vanities
of fairly haltered tail shod sapientially by leering shoeshine malice
hailstorm queens on streetcar sidebar bridle grease commotion
elocution carts, wheeled sensibly into the dawn.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Todd Mercer: The Retail Battle of Big Rapids

We can see them coming for us. 

They roar out of the night-dark in their pre-embargo SUVs and their armorized patch-togethers. Hundreds more of those savages are running behind the advancing line of vehicles. They’ve got weapons put together from Lawn & Garden and Hardware: wrought iron pikes, hydraulic nail guns, that kind of thing. We took heavy casualties last month. We’re weak little bitches at the moment. They might have rolled right through and wiped us out this time—and it is still going to be ugly—but we have a chance. An informer who shops both stores tipped us. Thank God. Here’s hoping the informer didn’t tell them a few things too. 

We have the entire road frontage along with part of the flank of the lot edged with six foot picket privacy fencing. Their scouts saw us putting the fencing in, yet they still came. 

“Nick! How many?” calls The Greeter from down on the ground.

I lower my binoculars, lean over the edge of the RV’s roof we use for a lookout post. “It seems like all of them.”

“Well come on then. Let’s get to the fence and see what we can do about it.” Down the ladder quick with my heart in my throat, but I’m not showing my fear. I trained myself to never show fear—I’m a goddamned mail carrier, after all. 

The Greeter’s wheeze is crackling. “This all started with Reaganomics,” he manages to say. “That’s how it all went to shit.”

“Reaganomics? What the hell is that?” 

He knocks his glasses off his nose by accident, and stops us to find them on the asphalt. 

The store goes dark on the inside. Then the parking lot lights are cut too. The Store Manager’s helicopter takes off from the roof, heading wherever all the managers live. Somewhere that isn’t Big Rapids. Which means we are on our own. It’s been a long time since they tried to squelch one of these fights with police. Now it’s will versus will, the people that live in their cars in the WalMart parking lot versus the people that live in their cars in the Meijer parking lot. I hear other towns have the same standoff with at the Target-Depots and AppleShacks. We work at these stores, we live there, we stick together.

“Forget ‘em, these guys are going to slaughter us. Come on.”

“I was going… off shift… in an hour,” he huffs, damned unsuited for these conditions.

“Collect yourself, old man.”

Even before we reach our spot, we hear the staccato thumps of nails impacting the fence fronts. If I wasn’t a mailman, I’d say we’re going down this time.

*         *         *

I used to be Unaffiliated and out of work. I’m not proud to admit this, but I used to shop at a few different places. A long time ago most people did, but now try it and no one trusts you. 

There’s no way I could have been doing as well as now, without the help of The Greeter. Four years ago I parked my old ’23 Buick beater in one of the few spaces that wasn’t claimed long term, and walked in the WalMart with a short list. I hated to leave the car, since I was traveling alone, and—goes without saying these days—everything I owned was in it. You hear what happens to the unattended vehicles of the Unaffiliated.

He was doing his Greeter thing in the front entry when I first saw him, holding his price-coding wand. 

“Welcome to WalMart. Let’s scan that arm, shall we?” 

And of course my data is in there, everyone’s is, but sometimes the whole thing feels inorganic.

I asked, “What if you don’t scan it?”

He looked over the frames of his glasses. “Then you can’t be assigned a price class. You would actually have to pay the whole cost that’s printed on the price tags.”

“Okay. So what?”

“Sir, nobody pays the full tag price. Unheard of. I simply don’t see it here.”

The eroding morality behind the price class system felt too compromising to be complicit in. Not that I hadn’t gone along over and over before. Almost everyone else does. But I couldn’t that once manage it.

The price coding people don’t let it be known, exactly how their structure works. But I know. I have to tell this guy.

“There are at least five discount classes. Maybe six. The first discount goes to the Affiliated. “

“Oh I don’t know about that sir, they don’t call me into the management meetings. Can I help—“

“Another discount class is for those who don’t mind that the goods they buy were made with child labor.”

“Sir, all I do is scan the arm, and tell you where the Housewares are located. I’m not political.”

“Another discount class—“ 

Before I said more the Greeter reached forward abruptly; he put a business card in my hand. Thinking of all the cameras on us, I turned around and went back outside before I looked to see what I had. A card with a name and a number on it, nothing else. I climbed in the Buick and hung shirts over all the windows, and called the number.

It rang twice.

“You want to work for the Vehicle Postal Service?” the woman who answered asked immediately. 

“When can you start?”

“I think you’re mistaken.”

“Did a greeter at our Big Rapids store give you a card?”

“Yes.”

“Are you already with another outfit?”

“Do you mean, am I Affiliated?”

“Are you?”

“Not at the present time. I am considering my options.”

Are you wanted for any felonies or misdemeanors?”

“If you know who you called, you must already know the answer.”

“Okay then. We’ll need you to report to the Receiving Manager, if you’re ready to work today.”

“This doesn’t even make sense.”

“Last chance. I’m busy. Affiliated mail carrier with a free parking spot and some dental coverage, or we’ll call someone else and give it to them. We don’t hire often.

Within minutes I was delivering postcards and enforcing the lot rules. The lot rules part is the hard part.  I don’t even want to talk about that side of it. A week later, I had a regular meal.

*         *         *

In about ’28 the post office changed their longstanding notion of what a legal residence entailed. They started delivery to people whose addresses are vehicles. 

Wherever you go now, you see the same thing—houses stand empty, sometimes blocks of houses, while nearby people live in their rides. Oh, you hear of squatters camping quietly in empty places, but that’s not worth the years of jail time, in my view. 

The surest way to end up locked up as a State guest now is staying Unaffiliated, trying not to pick a team. Don’t get me started on the pathology of the times.

I started out living in rental homes. Then I landed a surprisingly good job and kept it for a long enough to ratchet back my constant background panic.  So I signed a mortgage on a Tudor with shade trees. Three bedrooms. That situation didn’t last. I reverted to renting. Then later—well, I neither bought nor rented. More and more people were getting out of houses. The government gave up trying to save the country from the abyss.

I stopped kidding myself, before the last money was gone. Bought the Buick and improvised.

The day I found a spot in the lot, and a friend in the store, and lucked into the mailman position, that’s the best day I’ve had since the year my family left out on me. After a day like that, the shoulders are a bit squarer. 

You have to make a little stand somewhere. You have to have pride in facing up to life.

*         *         *

The mail arrives at the last bay of the receiving dock, around back of the building on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Management takes pictures of all materials. I sort it, bundle up any company add-ins, and generally by noon start weaving my way through the lot. It can come to a long walk criss-crossing a short distance.

The mailman knows everybody. If I don’t know you and your car is in this lot more than an hour or two, be sure that I’ll find out what you are about. And if you’re wrong, you’re gone. If you’re wrong, I’ll know it when we talk and I look you in the eye. I’ve got a reliable knack.

I don’t put up with serious criminal activity on my lot either. Still, please lock your car when you aren’t in it. I see locks left up and I field theft reports. It keeps happening.

We get by better with diminished expectations. I tell the people in this parking lot to be glad that mail still runs at all. 

There’s an afternoon carrier who delivers to the people busy working first shift inside, the Day stockers and cashiers with preference or seniority. That’s who delivers my mail, if I ever get any. And she did. She did great. Today she brought a letter from my son who I’ve been worrying about for years. First word from him in forever. 

He’s fine, he says. Doing real well. His mother is in Florida with her improved husband. He wants me to know he finished his MBA. He’s going to be one of the managers, live wherever the managers all live. He says, don’t worry, Dad, I’ve got it all figured out.

I can’t say why I’m crying and smiling both.

*         *         *

The expectations: try to carve out a life and a space to live it. You go ahead and dare to experience love for other human beings, and keep yourself on the best path that’s open. Even doing right, some night ‘They’ may come for you. I know how it got this bad, but not what to do to make it better. For a few years the ’They’ of concern were the police, always coming, carrying people away from their families. Now it’s the other poor folks. We’re divided into tribes, and we’re at each other’s throats. 
In this town, I’m afraid they‘re hungrier than we are. 

They’re here, looks like all of them. Vehicles grouped in a tight wedge, they hit our barricades a few dozen yards down, accelerating to at least fifty or sixty miles an hour. Fencing and plywood fly backwards, skitter down the pavement, letting them on in. 

They hate us deep, they won’t show mercy.

The Greeter turns his back to the section we’re braced behind, the one other vehicles are almost upon. 

“Run!” he shouts at me, “Save yourself!” He pushes me back in the direction of the store. Before I don’t see the old man anymore, he’s standing there in his blue vest, which will surely catch him negative special attention, somebody’s grandpa who had to return to the workplace.

There’s a flare overhead. For a moment the area around us is day-bright. I see the lettering where his name tag reads, “Todd Mercer.” He’s smiling and waving at those Meijer bastards over the fence, doing his job, Greeting. He calls out, “Welcome to WalMart! Can I help you fiiiiiiinnndd anything?” when they bear down and roll right over the top of him.

It’s heartbreaking, but even so, someone’s bound to live through this attack who resides in one of these cars out here and is praying for a Greeter job. 

I’m sprinting faster than the Canadians did, back when we invaded them. I don’t care if you think I’m a coward—I’ve got mail to deliver tomorrow, assuming there’s anyone here left to receive mail. If you ever luck into a quality job like that, you keep it ‘til they bury you. That will happen soon enough, don’t help them do it to you.

Fuck those guys. We still have the lowest goddamn prices in Osceola County. 



TODD MERCER won the first Woodstock Writers Festival’s Flash Fiction contest. His chapbook, Box of Echoes, won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press contest and his digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, is forthcoming from RHP Books. Mercer's poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, Blink Ink, Blue Collar Review, The Camel Saloon, Camroc Press Review, Cease, Cows, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, East Coast Literary Review, Eunoia Review, Falling Star, 50-Word Stories, The Fib Review, Gravel, The Lake, The Legendary, Main Street Rag Anthologies, Melancholy Hyperbole, Misty Mountain Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, theNewer York, One Sentence Poems, Postcard Poems and Prose, Postcard Shorts, Right Hand Pointing, River Lit, The Second Hump, and Spartan.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

John Pursch: Buncle Slim

“I what plump fergot to warsh off the ink
from muh stumpie hafta-go-lurchy peninsular spoutin’ pin,”
chuckled H. Prerogatory Q. Nappie O’Wrangler the Pith,
fifteenth Earl of Shampooed Hamwitch,
Deaconate of the Touchy Toupee of Norse Umbrian Flaregun.

He smoked long and lean bicuspid fillings
of juiced encaustic tonic notary pulp city
flagon destruction compartment moths,
what flipped their mythologically impacted wings
from mating rituals known clear across Louvered Swobodia
for their grout-wrenching performance narratives
of bulimic sod and tarts in disrepair,
flung from torn fishnet undergarments
outa store-bought frontier delusions,
pasted to your brainpan by emerald daydreams
of popcorn movie head and stick-figurine incendiary
plow horse blowtorch defibrillation,
courting debilitated deputies
of Pyre Sighland lug-alike canned detestation,
clear from Sloshing Foam, P.C.
to Scuppered Downhome Outhouse Pisregard
(piling place of D.T. Ponereport,
dirtiest sniveling whore genital contrail remover
ever found in the heinous annals of twirled hysterical sunsets,
steered navel-wide from pluperfectionist magisterium
to bailiff broadsides fired county cluck-wise
in bullfrog buttress imitation’s filial possum
of ostrich custard election know-how).

Show me how far we’ve come
from umpteen umbrella shots in Pealing Drama, Taxes,
you syrupy sudsy slurper of deep-fired
slattern-crookin’ creek-bred rusty Aphasians,
plied what with plopped cycle breasts milked by
inert shoddy lop-of-the-two-piece
boardroom snooker jock set,
imploding hourly on chunnels ground
to clockwork Styrofoam pajama spurts,
confronted belles o’ battling bleeding litigants
he daubed with heisted creepy cradlers
from hovering hilltop feudal larders,
fueled to foveal floating rotation bilge,
sloshing over the wobbling epiglottal eyesore
of precedents becalmed to rows of stimulated sheet petal Sundays.

Datelines glide to comely home front stowaway illusion meals,
accepting ptomaine heat erasure by the handyman’s
expressly mobbed contusion grease fanatic semblance,
propped in worrisome decibel emotion proxy snooze belief
for gulch-cowing cooler chatter,
recollected sideways by Buncle Slim,
Carbuncular Capsizer of Defenestrated Tailors
Swirled Canticle-wide and Chopped Sousa Doozy
Infant’s Peduncular Nerdly Emblem Grazer.

Slim what shot up add mirely demotion’s causal mannequin
of his churlish dame’s devotional membrane and claimed
in terrified desultory infusion breath:

“Who’d savory grafted android rights
of wayward billowing Beluga breast
inspection torts to anyone,
ladder lonely slum underfed corpse
of inclined planet placard plaque
derision numbnut criminologist
wud you mired obey pee-cullin’ year shelf
in mah courtyard gloomy vestibule,
figurin’ tea cup a pleasant spleef afore ya mentioned
the hummed hymnal intentionals
of smugly played imbibement daze
gone festerin’ likely into puissant comedy of terriers?”

Wheedle know,
this candle figure eight o’ nine trailing tongueless crab tree,
ferried along the groin grain gloss of homespun chattel pie
by anyone but Buncle Slim,
whale eet waddled nut fairly furor than say a gantry mire
before laughing in sway bar munificence
to country island lug nut slake,
contested sliding follicle delusion
set to porous gravy overshirt of dung
in fair heathered henna implants.

Showering humps every switched day
from cylindrical nightstand sloop
to jib to jabbering spinnaker buboes,
the crowded Doctor Mastiff staggered outa timed machinery’s
pubescent portal chest into naked timesheet numbing gents,
kneed ‘em to submissive postulates
of Oilskids Reproductive Surgery Repair Service
(manned by one furious rattler biding nautical
his shipping gyration’s motivated clime),
and cobbled two gasping thunderheaded blonde rodeo queens
to form the next great preener of shore
and screaming sliver of screen shot chunky flesh
to salivate a dousing seizure’s pinochle entendre,
planting the Americon phlag, all plastic and purple,
from middle C to lower intestinal bucolic rage,
right in the rectilinear rectal mulch of down-and-shouted
towny frowsy whorehouse continuity’s newly elected
Precedent Hearball O’Bunky,
worldly peasant extraordinaire,
founder of most android nude colonial pederasty societies
on cheesebag planetary discursive entrails
strewn atop the Asstoroidal Bleat,
flaunting Dearth’s mythical prowess,
full candy canard petroleum petard infarction dog,
just tarrying to stultify Chupacabra Peter’s frozen waistline
into mordant extraluminal humping oblation.


John Pursch lives in Tucson, Arizona. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his poetry, Intunesia, is available in paperback at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/whiteskybooks. His recently released experimental lit-rap video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l33aUs7obVc. He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.

Donal Mahoney: The Button Workers

Since the United Nations passed the Universal Right to Work Law in 2093, Skewer International has brought back from other planets thousands of migrant workers on its company spaceship.

On the last trip, Manfred, an interloper, somehow boarded the ship even though he lacks one of the prerequisites for a United Nations green card--namely, a button in his navel that can be turned off to prevent him from speaking. 

The navel button is a requirement of companies on Earth for any interplanetary worker. Manfred talked incessantly while the company pilot flew from planet to planet taking on board hundreds of other migrant workers, all equipped with navel buttons. His job was to bring them back to Earth to work in potato fields all over the world.

"Manfred, will you please quiet down," Wally, the pilot, said. "You're keeping the others awake and it's tough on my concentration. There are lots of planets and I wouldn't want to land on one that has no workers waiting to get on board. I'd waste a lot of fuel taking off again." 

"I'll do the best I can," Manfred said. "I never got a navel button like the others so it's hard for me to keep quiet. But I'm a darn good worker. All I want is a chance."

The United Nations' version of a "green card" allows migrants to work in any nation. Talkative Manfred is unaware that he will be sent home on the next spaceship that leaves Earth to pick up more workers. Once he has a navel button installed, he can apply again to come back to Earth for a job.

"No navel button, no job," Wally whispered to himself. "A long day's journey into plight."

In 2093, the demand for button workers continues to grow among farmers in the United States, Italy, China, Tajikistan, Moldova and Belarus. Other countries are expected to begin hiring them as well. 

The workers are valued by institutional farmers because migrants don't complain about working conditions or low salaries the way domestic workers often do. And the button workers don't need health insurance or retirement benefits. If a button worker gets sick, he or she goes back to the home planet on the next spaceship. And when they are too old to work, it's back to the home planet as well. 

"They're always surprised," Wally thought to himself, "when they get sick or old and home they go, the same way they came. It saves companies a lot of money. If they die in the fields, however, they're put on a company pyre. It's a cookout, as one manager calls it."

At the present time button workers, no matter the nation in which they work, do only one kind of labor. They plant and harvest Yukon Gold potatoes 12 hours a day. During their workday, they have their navel buttons turned on so they can say yes to the foremen on horses overseeing their work and giving directions.

"Let's get a move on" is typically what workers hear from foremen. And they respond by working faster. Domestic workers don't respond like that. They're apt to protest, maybe even picket. And pickets around the potato fields won't get the Yukon Golds planted or harvested. The button workers can be counted on to get the job done. They have no idea what "unions" were before legislation led to their disintegration.

At night, with their buttons turned off, the workers head back to their sheds for a bowl of cabbage soup before they bunk down for the night. Libations are limited to water. On Sundays, each worker gets two bowls of cabbage soup and a Pecan Sandy cookie.

Monday through Saturday, reveille sounds at 4 a.m. when the foremen on horses blow trumpets, ready to lead the button workers back to the fields.

"Let's go, you buttons," the foremen yell between blasts on their trumpets. "The potatoes are calling."

Research is under way at several universities to fabricate navel buttons for domestic workers who perhaps can then be hired to work in the fields. The media remains critical of industry because the unemployment rate is so high among domestic workers. 

But, currently, domestic workers are not an attractive pool from which to seek new employees because of the tumult created for many years by fast-food workers seeking a living wage. Their wages have never gone up but the workers now get an extra sandwich for every 8 hours they work. 

"Some of them are barely skilled enough," complained one company president, "to put a pickle slice on a hamburger, never mind adding condiments as well."

Industry predicts that eventually farmers from every nation on Earth will hire interplanetary button workers and that they will soon work in factories as well. Manufacturing jobs will then be brought back to the land of the free and the home of the button worker. 

Stock Market savants say the Dow Jones average will rise dramatically as a result. What more could anyone want in a free market economy.



Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo


bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east


I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

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This tavern invites original and previously unpublished fiction of between 1,500 and 7,500 words.

All bactrians, ghosts and travelers on the Long Silk Road with a story to tell are welcome.

Send a single work per submission as a word attachment in an email addressed to: editor.camelsaloon@gmail.com

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