The Bactrian Room

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

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Donal Mahoney: Strangers in a Bar

Sammy had been sitting in the bar for four hours drinking his usual gin and tonic, one drink after another, and even he would admit he was soused if he could put a sentence together. He didn’t have to talk, however, since he was the only customer left and there was an hour to go before closing. All he had to do was tap on the bar twice in front of his empty glass and the bartender would give him another drink. The service was wonderful.

Then two men in trench coats and fedoras walked in and sat down a few stools away from Sammy. They ordered a couple of beers. They seemed to be concerned about something and Sammy always liked to listen in on other people’s conversations.

“We need more room,” the big man said. “We can hardly take any more people. But they keep coming down and we can’t send them anywhere else. You would think we were Las Vegas and the drinks were free."

“Where will we get more room? We’re not talking real estate here,” the little fellow said. “No one thinks this place exists anyway. They think we’re a figment of someone’s imagination. New arrivals are always surprised.”

Then the big man said, “Oh, some people know we exist but they think we only get dictators and used car salesmen. The common belief is everyone else goes upstairs right away, provided there is an upstairs. More and more people think there may be nothing at the end.” 

The little guy thought about that for a moment and said, “Well, I heard two women arguing the other day about where cats and dogs go. I know we don’t have any cats and dogs. Where would we put them? Pretty soon we’ll be getting Boomers. They’re a fussy bunch. We need more room now!”

Sammy didn’t know what to make of all of this. He wished he wasn’t drunk so he could join the conversation but all he could do was listen. The two men finally left and Sammy told himself he’d come back tomorrow night and ask the bartender who the hell those two guys were. Then he tapped on the bar twice in front of his empty glass.

Friday, June 5, 2015

KJ Hannah Greenberg: Power per Unit

The day eventually arrived when my little girl was no longer a child or even a student, but a parent and a teacher. Yet, the amity that I had once felt toward parenting her had gone missing. Whereas we were “buddies” during her youth, once she left for university, I was no longer privy to her comings and goings.

The grownup years that followed her schooling included family portraits, but not revelations. She offered me no glimpses into the tests she endured when planning and executing her wedding, getting pregnant, or delivering her baby.

After a while, I, too, stopped being forthright in my communications. Although my dear one had been the offspring with whom I had visited all of the missions beading the San Antonia River and for whom I had annually purchased a summer pass to Morgan’s Wonderland, she was no longer the confident I brought to amble the River Walk or to pursue antiques in Hill Country. I passed to her no more of my secrets.

That is, I barred her from additional treasure seeking among my mental nests of memoirs, poems, and similar verbal tinkerings. My personal disclosures were suddenly off limits; she had to make due with only my fictions, with only those writings that are more make-believe than reality.

Sadly, that girl expressed no loss in being banded from my confused anecdotes. During those long decades after diapers, when my writings helped me to reminisce, they meant nothing to that increasingly petulant daughter.

So, with a probe fashioned from last season’s words, I jotted down some number of my scrofulous deeds, none of which made me proud. I hoped she’d appreciate me once more if I again served her select, important details of our past shared circumstances. It was beyond my ken that such telegraphed notions might create, for that young woman, an aura of contempt.

She stopped calling weekly.

Accordingly, emotionally exiled, I recorded my memories of our lives in Military City. I wrote how, though poor, I pooled resources with those of other air force moms and managed, somehow, to make life bright and beautiful for us even though our span at Lackland was lackluster.

After reading those accounts, my daughter didn’t embrace me anew, but blamed me, aloud, for her father’s failed return.

That child can never know that Stephen was elsewhere, busily relaxing among other civilizations’ castanets, drinking from cups offered to him by smarmy civil servants, and applauding the surcease of rivalries among America’s friends. What’s more, she must continue to be shielded from the fact that her father remains with his mistress.

Yesterday, I walked alone at SeaWorld, where, I watched porpoises and dolphins dance.  They performed measure for measure.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dominic Ward: Trial of an Aesthete

The warm water of the bath eased the pain that had infected my meat, the grave worms that had been gnawing at me temporarily stilled, their business with my earth momentarily halted.  But the fever was still on me.  I could feel it.  It was all over me, the water that washed me boiling in small bubbles against the goosebumps of my summer skin.  My body shook gently, creating delicate patterns in the water, ripples that went up and down the tub.  The itch that ran right through me – emanating as it was from the deepest of my fibres – was quiet, for the moment, but only just.  I knew that as soon as I took my body from the sedation of the warm water, I’d be forced back into motion.  Aimless motion.  Motion from which there was no relief.  The itch would kick my body to every corner and nook and cranny.

Another ten minutes of fevered daydreaming passed.  I saw my life as it truly was – a mess of pain, anxiety and despair comingled with the irrational hope of my longings.  I had places to be, things to do.  

I decided to finally leave the comfort of the bath.  I couldn’t hide from the pain forever; I knew sooner or later I’d have to face it down.  But before I left the tub, I made a note to describe the sunlight as it streamed in through the solitary window, large though it was.  This light was soft, winter yellow, warming and heartfelt.  It had a soothing presence, slowing down the traffic along my nerve fibres to a lazy one hundredth their normal speed.

I got out of the bath, got dry and got dressed.

As I walked by the kitchen, I saw through its large bay windows the neighbour’s Japanese homestay girl sunbathing in their backyard, only just an arm’s reach.  She was just turned twenty, a decent age for a girl, and she was all alone, set out along a blue beach towel, headphones piping her whatever music it was she liked.  She was tastefully arranged in a delicate bikini with tie-side bottoms and an asymmetrical top that gathered over her left shoulder.  She was beautiful.  Of course she was.

When we finished later, I made her promise me that she would be waiting in my bed for me when I returned from my night out.  I told her it might be a long wait but that that didn’t mean I wasn’t coming.  She should definitely wait for me, I reiterated.  Sometimes you just had to be straight out with it.

Brisbane was a horrid place in 2014.  The city itself was a total snooze and the speed and E that had fuelled us in the 90s were now long gone, replaced by bath salts and other ridiculous novelty items.  Hell, even the dealers had all been in and out of jail and had long since started families and settled down in suburbia with steady work in sales.

Fuck me!

That’s all there was to say as I looked up and down the street as it bled with battery acid and cheap wine.  My neighbours were cluck cluck clucking like battery hens and I knew they all wanted me dead.  It was just that sort of day.

My good friend Ben was an octopus, or at least he was in the process of becoming one.  Ben was my best friend, how dare you suggest otherwise.

Memories floated down onto me like a heavy February rain.  We get our weather here in February, March and even into April.  The Pleiades is in Taurus.

Islands of granite had formed where volcanoes used to be.  That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it.  Like night is dark and day is bright.

I saw this little creep walking up the street.  He was with his boyfriend.  I did my best to belittle them, coming at them hard like a soldier.  I rubbed my dick and balls as a gesture of peace.  They didn’t seem to understand this however.  Oh well, you just can’t please all the people all the time.

Should I buy a packet of cigarettes?  I didn’t smoke but it could be fun.

Which is worse – a man slapping his wife; or a man slapping another man’s child?  What happens when the evergreen forests all dry up and the lakes and the oceans are all cut down?

Asthma is a drug you can buy over the counter.  Asthma is much worse when the patient has bad breath.  Can you imagine that: you’re a nurse just entering the final hour of your third consecutive night shift and some little peckerhead comes in with asthma and breathes his foul stink all over you…sometimes life just ain’t all that fair.

I have friends who read the bible and not ironically.  I don’t get irony.  I just don’t get it.  That makes me kinda dumb.  Well, I have been robotripping every day for five years now.

The widower beat his grandson with a copy of the DSM.  Bipolar, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety rained down on this poor kid as his grandad whipped himself into a faggot-hating rage.  The child wasn’t gay – the old man simply had secrets to hide.  Bury them deep, he had.  I ain’t no faggot, he would say to himself each night as he brushed his teeth in the bathroom mirror.

Nonsense aside, it was Ben that I was meeting this night. He’d already called to confirm a time and now I had nothing to do but grab something out of the fridge and lock the door on my way out. I lived alone; that’s the way it had to be. I couldn’t stand to be in the same space as anyone else for longer than a few hours at most. I needed a lot of space and time to myself, time to go slow, waste on nothing or spend on everything.

Ben and I were going to meet in the valley.  He knew a crazy little side-alley bar just off the main drag.  It was the kind of place you could have a rum and coke, get stabbed, then order another round.  But first I had to walk my withdrawal down to the bus stop.

Dominic Ward lives and writes in Esk, Australia.  He is married with four children.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

John Pursch: The Baroness of Brickbat Bollocks

Archibald Tincture,
Turdly-Turd Precedent of ArchandTina,
tuna capital of the whirled, flexed his
artificially brawny biceps and chortled:

“Wharfore ye be stragglin’,
O mightily mangled and maniacally mangy
flesh o’ fishes on the proprioceptive proverbial
rod n’ reelin’ counterpoint pith of nylon phylum
stockyard inklings of goodly impending cacciatore
breastplate extravaganzas,
spoiled surreptitiously betwixt thine western
hemispherical mandate of manly festooned
dusty kneelers and plutocratic tinkling
carthorse capsizers of dyed heuristic
corrugated dumplings?”

His whiffle bull noodnik hound pardner
in grimy guffaw-given grifter calumny,
the Crown Tessa de Vitalia cum Gloriosa
Plumb Numb Knockery Sand Twitchium
Flavius Blond Super Eggnibus Quid Prong
Fallacium Quiribonquenule E Pleurisy Magnum,
snorted justly and spoke between
successive codpiece snuff blots:

“Eye spay, bleariest Starchy,
thine semi-prevaricating quotient
of stygian handy semantic pestilence proceeds
from your dubiously effaced habilitation drift
in swarms of surviving car parts,
oily and speckled with mechanical grit
of a sooty metallic tinge,
sashaying from booty gall to totally fruity
lung compartment floss in shot pursuit
of Shetland paunchy shorthair cake and
broad stirrup crumpet stew on furlough
from terrier retrieval camp,”
tamping down another bowl of flightiest
corn-cobbian chimerical deodorant smog,
sloughed off by the tiniest of pearly inhalers.

“Quite a Cored Waiting Sea beatitude
you’ve quibbled forth and quietly quoted,
or dare eye slay, misappropriated,”
Archie’s piebald prefecture of palimpsest
and interminably insensate sectarian
somnambulance soliloquized in crap
tour house defenestration’s alluvial
bloodhound best of bestial blockage.

Her Majesty’s inestimable captivity
of hindered skimpy delectable frumpery
limped and blanched at this somewhat
tempered consequential bow shot.

Nothing for it bet to bust an altered
snuffbox slat straight up ciliated rostrum septum,
deviating periodically in frontal tune’s imperious
slim phonic towel moorings of hambone hip-check
hospitality suede.

Nasal twang in drain eruption thus excited,
she rejoined in almost cunning cannery contumely’s
costumed grace of grazing brazier bon vivant:

“Dearly bedeviled Precedent
of this fondly gored and shackled
Nubian nation of notational lotioned yearlings,
your savory disheveled world laid bare
so grandiloquently by yore and sea and
bland discomfiture’s deciphered malaise
of underbelly crouton faith and intestinal
statuary belches, strewn with filched hyena
droppings of a cranky feasibility study into
the warehouse attributes of your lately cratered niece,
the Baroness Bivonia the Blockhead of Brickbat Bollocks
(the nth Brigadier of Beauregard Broth);

how cometh you to slouched sandy screeds
of reliquary remonstrations and peculated
perspicacity in pompous pisspot tusky
swordsman currying plover unbeknownst
to simian ham sisters of hull-busting
king-of-the-cesspool stipulation headwaters?
Hansel me tryst, ewe fuelish Brahmanic stoker
of knifed heretical parodies!”

Sin deed, hit war quiet a jolly
happenstance of gustatory testament,
twitly sax per teased heirloom
nutsack crematoria whiff,
and coverall syllabic froth.

Shaven this impious oddity oven haughty
other canoe wanders howl Starchy the Piebald
clan soporifically menage a troika due reply.

Swell tan, high mired ash wheedle sled ewe know,
he took a steep breath and crumbled ride
in weed dish tyrannical pomade:

“Foist of awl, mine steer Crown Tessa,
isle dispense wit yer noose whence removed,
yes my niece two pea exultantly expectorant,”
hand hear he pawed the groin, leading fly with
nod an insignificant gob of spittle.

“Yes, that’s broth for the Baroness of Brickbat Bollocks;
be grateful it weren’t derived from beeswax behind
the bedridden trap-door blunderbuss of backside
cannonade catastrophe bilge!

“Now to spansule your ignoble and ill-timed query
as directly and synergistically as only ewe deserve:
eye come to sloppily scrunched scrotal scurryings
through phonetical decades of subtly scuttled decay,
burrowed smiles beneath the Samsonite Jungle,
swaying bank-to-blank-to-blinkered bunk bed bingo
on the good ship Lazy Popeye’s perennially
submerged poop deck, snorkeling in olive oil,
taking canned tuna for mercurial lunchbox
gruel strayed drown the plastic spigot’s
unregulated mosquito setting in set-piece
scuttlebutt rumpled two-tone unicycle stilt
machinery of baffled skimpy kin.

“Too terpsichorean for ya?
Moan adder, try these when haul hulls flails:
far above tea heady waiters hover chesty bought
antsy smattering of deified deistic tribulation
in brittle tarrying sunset trivia man-o-whore
will sever from mounted heinous crotch repeal
to kneeling mealtime Clorox infestation nibs
of Inkan festivals or Youran time-reversal blues
or Chunky de Mylar holiday binge
or national dungeon bath
or Plexiglas hamster flotilla rapacity
or sagacious lilac gristle
in flayed snore Speedo necks.”

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 His pi-related experimental lit-rap video is at He’s @johnpursch on Twitter and john.pursch on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Michelle D'costa: The Newscaster

When Dai was young she would stare awestruck at the news channel, in love with the newscaster’s confidence. How they relied on their memory to announce the news! She was bad at remembering lines. Even though later she did learn of teleprompters, the magic of the newscasters didn’t fail to awe her.

“Dad have you noticed ‘Priya Mirza’ is no more reading news for DTV.”, Dai said this and looked behind her shoulder at Mr Rathore who was having his evening tea, the tea cup precariously balanced on the teapoy.

“Yes I have. Why do you think she left?”

“No idea. Maybe she got poached. Anyway, Let us google it. I’m sure others have noticed it too and are wondering about it.”

‘Former newsreader of DTV, Priya Mirza is keeping a low profile nowadays after she left the leading news channel. We wonder why.’

Dai frowned, she had missed her so much already.

 ‘What could have happened to her?’, she asked her Dad who was now peaking over her shoulder, at the mobile screen in her hand.

‘For all you know she’s doing it for publicity, making others worry for nothing.’, he said and shrugged.

‘She is famous Dad,’ Dai rolled her eyes. ‘Besides she didn’t do anything controversial…. she just disappeared. And that’s a big risk. You can get easily replaced and forgotten nowadays.’

‘You think she will be replaced so soon? Not if people like you keep her alive through media.’, he winked and left to change for work after glancing at the grandfather clock they had in the living room.

Dai’s brother, Jayant, was a regular viewer of Priya’s show. He missed her too.

“ She had a pleasant face. It was easier listening to her. Her replacement sucks.’’, he said.

A day passed….then two….Priya was forgotten…she was occasionally remembered by her loyal fans…like Dai…

 Dai was at Kol’s- her favourite ice cream parlour.

Its blue and white exterior reminded her of Twitter’s theme and she felt at home there.

Dai got out of the parlour with a strawberry scoop dripping from the cone, snaking down her fingers.

She had her eyes fixed on a group of people crossing the road approaching her side when she saw Priya or she thought she had seen her...

She had heard that Priya lived nearby.

Priya crossed the road cautiously and the veil from her face slipped just enough for Dai to spot her tarred cheek. Dai recognised Priya from her thick fringe and cloudy eyes right below the veil’s hem. She didn’t look very different from TV except for her cheek.

But before she could shout out or say anything Priya slipped into a car and disappeared from sight.

Dai cursed her fate, on days when she had to reach somewhere urgently, the traffic had a stubborn match with her but today when she had just spotted her idol, she had been betrayed by it.

But she didn’t give up, her eyes couldn’t have played tricks on her, could it?

She hailed an auto rickshaw and on the way she tried to digest what she saw.

She was so pre-occupied with her thoughts (Priya’s tarred cheek kept flashing in her mind) that she forgot to pay the rickshaw walla and sprinted off as the rickshaw halted by her house.

The driver came out of the vehicle cursing about how customers were always ungrateful for all that the drivers went through, a long list.

She had almost reached her gate when she heard him, she wasn’t in the least embarrassed as she was still pre-occupied, paid him and said, ‘Have a nice day!’

He stared at her as if she had just apparated from thin air.

She reached her main door and slipped her slender fingers into her pocket when she realized her pocket was flat, where was the bulge that her key bunch created in her pocket? Oh damn!

She must have forgotten it in the rickshaw?!

But she didn’t run after the rickshaw.

Her fingers were itching to find the truth about Priya.

Atleast she still had her phone with her.

She sat down on the stairs, the sun rays fell directly on to her eyes, she rose a bit and parked herself on the step above.

She checked for the wifi connection. It was on. Thankfully, once when she didn’t regret not switching it off before leaving.

Her weapon-Twitter was accessible to her. She immediately tweeted


She instantly received various reactions from her numerous followers who enjoyed media as much as she did or even more.

So no one knew the real reason. Was she attacked with acid by a jealous viewer? If not what had happened suddenly?

Maya started a twitter campaign to force DTV to reveal the real reason for her resignation and that her supporters wanted her back.

After millions of followers and appeals, DTV arranged to have a live session with Priya just for her viewers.

Live On air,

‘What is the real reason for your resignation?’

The planned answer was ‘I suffer from a skin disease and I wish to stay at home.’

Instead she said, ‘I was asked to leave as I look hideous now.’


‘I would love to continue to be a newsreader as long as I’m allowed to.’

This brought out a cheer from her fans as they didn’t mind her scarred face. She was the best at her work.

However the rest of the world protested, ‘How can she? She’s so ugly..’

Anyway thanks to social media she resumes duty.

People got used to it or they didn’t. Life went on and Dai realized the change that she had created.

She thought it would be the right time to send her C.V. to news agencies to apply for a newscaster role.

She did and one agency replied, ‘You need to be good looking for this role. You will be the face of our agency. Sorry you do not fit the criteria. Maybe consider using a fairness cream or maybe a surgery, that is if you really want the job that much.’ 

Michelle D'costa has had her work published in journals such as The Bombay Literary Magazine, Hackwriters International Magazine, The Commonline Journal, Big River Poetry Review among many others. She blogs at

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


As of June 25, 2015, The Bactrian Room is closed to submissions.


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