The Whiskey Mule Diner (on Caroline Street) by David L O’Nan
I was wandering out of Whiskey Mule, the night began fading The city is falling all over itself and dude, you smell like onions Taxis are hissing passing by just pissing, ripped pantyhose legends prancing drunk. Just ask the crooked mayor, he’s had his share of temptations. He’s burned all his morals and held his head high as he’s collapsing. Three women all believe that he’s dedicated, but he’s living deep on the tip of the Dead-End hill. The diner’s lights are blinking an epileptic fury. The faithful and the shrinks are washing their cuts in the sink. They have been harassing their soldiers through the flesh wounds of thunder. Bullets and promises go damp with the blood circling the city streets. Just another cup of coffee surrounded by dust, rust, and feathers. Our minds remember the times as a child of walking with family and preaching God to unlit skyscrapers Bring light to this city you damn bawdy building! Nasty voices call down to teach us new sinning that we never knew would go past the blinds of those windows. The cobwebs in the corners of the Caroline and Market Street are doing a Cain and Abel waltz. Across each other, intertwined while the poisoned neon glow of the Whiskey Mule hits it. Old men walking crooked onto the sidewalks with lust in their eyes and itchy coats and itchy crotches. They want to see the man play something from the 1950’s ‘til he is out again poisoned, asleep on the jazz piano. Lifting Jesus to the ceilings, the waitresses are all crying except for the one who’s always smiling and fetching her phone number to a plumber, a priest, or a pariah that wandered in from the subway. Sometimes this place has felt closed for hours, sometimes it feels like it never stops breathing. The fevers in this place is imminent and you walk out with hash browns in your hair. Feeling like a motherfucker stuck in the drain. At Whiskey Mule you began your marriage to a suicidal levitation. You want to sit on the back of a 1969 boss 429 mustang and pull at the corners of the hairs on your head. Wailing to a friend that’ll die with you in the end, "buddy, Let’s create some shooting stars tonight” And you’ll battle the fog in your stupor, and you’ll wish you had more pancakes and in circles you’ll go, pushing and shoving hobos until you’ll step on a broken bottle and crawl back into the diner ...And some Barbara Mandrell will be playing Sleeping Single in a Double bed. You’ll feel like the stomach bugs are carving through your skin. Go home to the wilderness of a quiet apartment building that is surrounded by demons running around your head. Drop the needle on the fading night. Another day stalks in and abruptly gathers energy from the lightbulb sun. Watching the squalor fight the dandy with the curly hairs falling out of your itchy scalp. No longer a village wimp. You’ll take the bait to the next offering. Tracy will shake the bottle and you can’t resist the bounce and the waves in the glass to the swarming through your throat And you’ll dream of the fandango on a cobblestone bruising and the sunsets will sound like a sultry one night stand. Forget that crippling walk for just a little while and cut that rope from the sky, little man. Your asking to be certified, Your asking to be hypnotized, but you keep asking to be recast as something that doesn’t reflect in a puddle’s mirror, Jack. The Whiskey Mule Diner on Caroline Street has good food and sometimes bad. It has murmurs of grandiosity and mistakes to be had. It has the memories, the merging from man to fallen angel. It has the lazy eye blinking, It has the wisdom of a desire to escape the straitjacket. And perform magic that illuminates from the squeezing. My mind is heading to a new home, Whiskey Mule Pinot Noir by David L O'Nan 1971, Bakersfield Cold day, cracked around the edges but laying sweaty under itchy blankets. After 3 A.M. drinking Pinot Noir with mustachioed confessions. Can’t trust sidewinders walking when their sliding on slick brick roads blinding- The regular man walks around with sociopathic confidence and he dreams of all the wars ending long enough that he can find him a lady. He wants a family And he wants to die from the cigarettes, he wants to live on nothing but pennies. He wants it all to be wrapped up for him like a present, but does he know how to praise. So he decides not to fear him, he shall not be dismayed. He walks with him on a sunset through the meadows- looking for that new wave. Drinking Pinot Noir and thinking outside the box. He’s that same old man he was yesterday. He’s invented himself excuses, he’s playing fast and loosely. Calling all the phone numbers in his paper wallet. Which lips will he kiss tonight, or will he be just biting on his? Chapped up and feeling cold- boned, drunk and sad. He drops out a few dollars for dinner with a nobody he knew from 19 years before. She didn’t like him then, she doesn’t like him now. But he’s already got images of him pushing up her purity veil and calling her his forever. More pinot noir for the dipshit. Close your eyes and wake up with the phone dangling from the phonebooth and a hard-on grin, jazzed up and creepy. Your brother’s wife and kids find you there. She is laughing pitifully. She has never cared for you really. The children hide behind an umbrella and a mask of ass and back covering their face to hide away from Uncle Stranger. He’s just a drunkened wolf wandering the streets, howling between the sheets of both polars he must face, day after day. He never really knows his eyes and can barely feel his face. He’s just molded full of lines with pinkish skin cheeks with an early morning yellow pickling through. Boy, he’s a pinot noir away from chasing Jesus to the cross. He wants to be crucified first, and let the city wash away his sins. That olive green mattress and his wino schemes has lead him to three divorces and one incredible night that he relives over again and tries to regain back in his pulsing mind. Bio: David L O'Nan is a poet, short story writer, editor living in Southern Indiana. He is the editor for the Poetry & Art Anthologies "Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art. and has also edited & curated other Anthologies including 2 inspired by Leonard Cohen (Avalanches in Poetry & Before I Turn Into Gold) and Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Inspired by Bob Dylan. He runs the www.feversofthemind.com website. A wordpress site that helps promote many poets, musicians, actors/actresses, other writers. He has self-published works under the Fevers of the Mind Press "The Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers" "The Cartoon Diaries" & "New Disease Streets" (2020).”Taking Pictures in the Dark” “Our Fears in Tunnels” (2021) a collection of poetry called "Bending Rivers" a micro poem collection "Lost Reflections" and new book "Before the Bridges Fell" & "His Poetic Last Whispers" (2022) His latest book is "Cursed Houses" David has had work published in Icefloe Press, Dark Marrow, Truly U, 3 Moon Magazine, Elephants Never, Royal Rose Magazine, Spillwords, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cajun Mutt Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Voices From the Fire among several other litmags. He doesn’t enjoy the process of submitting constantly, however. Twitter is @davidLONan1 @feversof for all things Fevers of the Mind. Join Facebook Group: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Arts Group .
Atonement by Clive Gresswell
In the switchblade of the night The freezing jewel of barracuda delight The tempting fate of failing light The falling rhythm of dismay from this train Of thought to obey the trunk is hidden in the back of time The amulet is prised in line The liberation a dance of swans Some with beacon some with songs A marching army of choruses Bitter winds of self regret From sands of time the tidal wave The room of being the bloody knave The haunting of the bloody cave From which the nazi hunter gave The Jew his freedom’s only grave Atonement splendid in the light of days. https://feversofthemind.com/2022/09/12/a-fevers-of-the-mind-quick-9-interview-with-clive-gresswell/ The Summer of '89 by Lynn White The ice-cream man appeared at frequent intervals on the corner of the street near the large grassy area in summery Sochi. He had no van just a barrow and two cardboard cartons of paper wrapped briquettes. He had no fridge, didn’t need one, everyone knew Russian ice-cream to be the best, the best in the world and so never got time to melt! The evidence was all around. The grass was full of people enjoying the lazy sunshine, sharing their music, smokes and iced creamy kisses in the Sochi summer. The perimeter of the grass was edged with signs. ”Keep Off The Grass”, an English speaker translated. She smiled. “But we take no notice!” Bio: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
Summit by Stephen Kingsnorth
You ask why, my reply, why not? Enjoy the trees, but leave the wood - and note, that orchard marvellous - for justification not my deal, that ignorance, a bliss for me. Whale soundwaves pass on through the deep - as cow wails sound unrecognised except by those attuned to scale. Some overdose on bitter pills when companies slice artists’ cut - as patrons paid for flattery and canvassed for a frameup work. Here siren sounds tempt from the rocks, pied pipers lead a merry dance, thirty piece silver buys a friend, like kiss, a shock identikit. So cock a snoop convention’s way, the market place for art with strings repay naïve fans, courtesy - as poets clash with editors. Trim principles, for principal - climbed summit, music as its peak. Most dollar short, unpublished art; peer over shoulder if you will, by equal chance, may overhear, the tags that speak identity, encounters that outlast their slot, all subject, serendipity. So this, we hear, story distilled, the mix of moods, well travelled way, a track replayed, the trick relayed, a riff resolved in harmonies, bandwidth for uninitiate, as I, a jack of all, trade winds, who grows as hear, an ear retread, sail wordsmith crossing rockplay tack. Rebel Songs by Stephen Kingsnorth I know another buffet laid, a battered body carried round, though shoulder high and beaten, bruised - that’s how the surfing tension broke, as law for grace, seen what it was, another myth to pacify, the power of men exemplified. Their trophy false as faerie dust, this punk against establishment, the tables turned, not meek nor mild, when profits came, young hope abused. They said this breakthrough, highnoon first, claimed quake in earth tore, altered drape, and all was left, brief loincloth stained, on virgin land, new paradigm. The females vented feral screams, while bands in wings sang rebel songs when third, the body stole away, tones hushed, hear strains of spiritual. The rolling stones were laid aside when dared by one to satisfy their blood lust, known unjustified, the woman raised, against mores. So harmony not melody, but facing truth staves tougher score, a heartbeat pumping blood and gore, ourselves stripped bare to start again. You may read this, a culture shock, just as the orthodox, he not. Forget religiosity, another myth that raises Cain, and as we want our music heard, then clear detritus from the lore. I visit scene from older age, another scene, prior decades, but empathetic to the cause. a voice too radical for stage, yet sage for our eternity. But can we hear through threnody our rage at world’s complicity? Bio: Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales, UK, from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including Fevers of the Mind. His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
A Series of small poems inspired by Tom Waits by Merritt Waldon
Falling through clouds
The weight of all that air
All that falling
The bed felt good this morning
My eyes burned shut
With resinous smoke
I am a star
Riding the Rail
Every chance I get
While i sit sipping a Fosters and listening murder in a red barn All of sudden envision Sauntering out of a red barn The Cyclops from My dreams appears Half slouched and drooling All over my mind In Technicolor Deluge Under a big top ____ 5 a.m. poem// trickling haphazard tongue against labia minora of Memory & History how they moan dripping like liquid moon beams their silver visions of futurity ____ Meditation on the mercy seat of a spirit___ Sipping with dank muses the black milk of spirit orgasm Mind explodes like a grenade Leaving bits of eternity across a licorice smelling room Candle in the window, note on pillow Blues from hell echo Theirs a pen weeping for the hand of its master A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with poet Merritt Waldon a succession of failures #4 by Marty Shambles if you don’t have money the world does not afford you a modicum of dignity. i’ll give you an example: i was outside the in-n-out north beach, sf circa 2013 i think and i had slept on pavement the night before, then worked a shift at my job, and would sleep on the pavement again that night. i needed to charge my phone b/c access to anything requires a phone now out in the courtyard where the scent of searing meats and potatoes lowered into oil teased my senses, there was a power outlet and i sat at a table where i could get a charge. i charged my phone for about 10 minutes before a security guard came up and said you can’t use that. i know he was only doing his job but he made a choice to side with the people in this world who want to divide everything into its constituent parts, strip all the copper from the walls, send people who are undesirable up excrement river and good luck with the paddle. what could it have cost? the charging of one phone? maybe 2 cents. i in my destitution could’ve scrounged 2 cents from my yawning pocket, had he asked— had he identified me as a brother rather than rabble. i’ll say it again in case you missed it: if you don’t have money the world does not afford you a modicum of dignity. it’s the 21st century and some days it seems that some people get all the dignity and leave none for the rest of us. Bio: Marty Shambles is a Pushcart nominated author of poetry and short fiction. His book businessmen & ghosts is available from EMP Books.
Whisky and Wine by D.C. Nobes
Swallow your fears and doubts Wash them down with whisky Swallow your foolish pride Wash it down with wine. We can’t know what life may give us sometimes heartache, sometimes pain. We don’t know where life might take us sometimes losing, sometimes gain. Swallow your tears and pains Wash them down with whisky Swallow your scars and stains Wash them down with wine. We can’t know where the road may go sometimes rising, sometimes down. We don’t know what paths to follow sometimes lost, sometimes found. Swallow your cares and worries wash them down with whisky. Swallow your wearisome woes wash them down with wine. We can’t know when an end may come maybe soon, maybe never. We don’t know what will happen next sometimes love, always life. Swallow your fears and doubts wash them down with whisky. Swallow your woes and worries wash them down with wine. Bio: D.C. Nobes is a scientist who spent his first 39 years in or near Toronto, Canada, then 23 years in Christchurch, New Zealand, 4 years in China, and has retired to Bali. He used to enjoy winter but admits that he doesn’t miss the snow or the cold. He thinks that almost all poetry was meant to be read aloud. His work has appeared in Tarot Poetry NZ, The Violet Hour, miniMAG, Karma Comes Before, The Hooghly Review, Poetry as Promised, Whimsical Publishing Press, Boats Against the Current, Sixpence Society Literary Journal, Bubble, Red Wolf Periodical, and Acropolis.
Bang, Bang Goes the Gun by Anton Pooles
and the moon shatters like glass! I carry fragments in my pail—minnows and moon swim a vortex. On the way home I meet an old friend who makes musical instruments from fishbones. I trade my vortex for a swordfish- trombone— keep up the neighbours blasting that thing all week long. They throw stones at my window, paint my door red. I don’t live there anymore. Bio: Anton Pooles was born in Novosibirsk, Siberia and now lives and writes in Toronto, Ontario. His work has appeared in an array of journals and magazines. He is the author of the chapbook Monster 36 (Anstruther Press, 2018) and the full-length collection Ghost Walk (Mansfield Press, 2022).
Beating a Hustler by Rp Verlaine
He had taken my money three times after I'd bought us cheap drinks not even a whores navel could sweeten. A known rogue in a pool hall that already had more thugs than cameras find at mafia weddings. I was four hundred down doubled or nothing for the fourth time when I whirled around and let the pool stick become a splintered puzzle across his face 4,5,6 times fractured his right wrist too in case he was armed. Everything froze save the jukebox playing a song I didn’t know as I slowly walked out backwards into the bouncer who I gave my remaining bankroll to. Tanned and huge in a tight tailored suit “don’t come back” he said “even if he deserved it we don’t need that here.” I ducked into a cab forgetting my address And remembering I’d left my wallet at the pool table. Maybe they could send it Express Mail. Hell's Gates by Rp Verlaine A large angry tattoo on this babe's arm reads- Hell's Gates Are Open-. How wide? I ask nodding to the artwork of letters in red and yellow fire on her arm. Wide enough she tells me, do you need another beer? Need is not the word I'd use but yes and I watch her pour until the froth kisses the top of the glass. Then she looks in her mirror putting a comb through dark auburn locks the sun hits just right every day. Sometimes I think I come to the bar for that alone. I finish my beer tip her a twenty and go home where I can dream about Hell and its guardians with brown auburn hair. Far better I think than dreaming of those with eyes languid with regret and with souls long out of reach or those with knives under their pillows I've found myself far too often sleeping next to... While the gates of hell wait. So I choose the bars the darker the better where only the bartenders smile refuses to hide. Shattering The Nerves by Rp Verlaine like a shadow reaching across your space erased walking at night Shattering the nerves. t.v. talking heads Disconnected truths Guillotining transitory calm Shattering the nerves. Letters, calls, damned texts Disheartening Darkening, harkening Forgotten fears Shattering the nerves Medicines Stupefying twists Of stimulants of accidental bliss Shattering the nerves. Listening to the rain Parting with the heavens To a tape of Your last goodbye Your last goodbye your last goodbye shattering the nerves. Amateurs Need Not Apply by Rp Verlaine Crumbs from a bad sandwich in my beer at local bar, long without charm, hope, or enough cash in the register to make it worth a robber’s odds of going to prison. Photographs of New York athletes taken ten to fifteen years ago adorn grimy walls. Speaking less of gain or fame than loss. In this place where old men know they can drink till helpless for nothing save the price of looking at each other. Most involved in a besotted solo monologue and I don't interfere. “A nursery in hell” says the bartender, wiping flecks of dirt off the counter with a towel so foul it hasn’t seen water for as long as too many in this bar. Now part of the background on unemployment I write haiku on napkins waiting for the next job, or pretending I want one like the rest of them. Staring into glasses, miraculously always never empty or filled while they kill time and themselves slowly, which takes years of practice a drunk told me, adding “but only if- he said, almost cheerfull, you do it right.”
Bio: Rp Verlaine lives in New York City.
He has an MFA in creative writing from City College.
He taught in New York Public schools for many years.
His first volume of poetry- Damaged by Dames
& Drinking was published in 2017 and another – Femme Fatales
Movie Starlets & Rockers in 2018. A set of three e-books titled Lies From The Autobiography vol 1-3 were published from 2018 to 2020. His newest book, Imagined Indecencies, was published in February of 2022. He was nominated for apushcart prize in poetry in 2021 and 2022.
Tom Waits by Binod Dawadi
His full name is Thomas Alan Waits, He was born on California, He was a singer and a song writer, He loved romantic life, He had won many awards, He loved beat literature so much, He had a beautiful car too, Where she used to spend his time in music, As well as other works, He started to perform from 1960's, He used to combine different musics, As well as used to play them, Like as a stream of consciousness, Small Change, Heartattack and Vain, We're his best musics, He also worked in a films, He also performed as a villain in many films, Like as Dracula and mystery along with, Heros character, So we should love the Tom Waits and his works forever. Bio: Binod Dawadi, the author of The Power of Words, is a master’s degree holder in Major English. He has worked on more than 1000 anthologies published in various renowned magazines. Dog Walk With Sadie Through a Tom Waits Cento by Michael Brockley I spent the day unringing bells in a house where nobody lives. While the ghost of my white German shepherd asked what keeps mankind alive other than the innocence of dreaming. From the heart of a Saturday night, I eavesdropped on Jersey girls who lured their beaux into blue valentine beds, my ghost dog and I having our fill of pasties, g-strings, and swordfish trombones. Sadie reminisced about rain dogs over the sausages and eggs we ate in a Cadillac. King Kong’s old ’55 backfiring all the while in the vicinity of Heart Attack and Vine. We wound up on the wrong side of the road. Stumbling in and out of Tom Traubert’s blues. Neither of us could swear we’d mailed the Christmas card from the hooker in Minneapolis to the disc jockey full of bourbon in Johnsburg, Illinois. The piano had been drinking, not us. How many times must a man from the bottom of the world whistle past a graveyard until he’s granted Jayne’s blue wish? Sadie asked if I’d ever walked somebody home. I answered I hoped I wouldn’t fall in love again. Credits for Cento: Dog Walk with Sadie through a Tom Waits Cento “You Can’t Unring a Bell” “House Where Nobody Lives” “What Keeps Mankind Alive,” Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill “None of Us Is Innocent When We Dream” “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night” “Jersey Girls” “Blue Valentines” “Pasties and G-Strings” Swordfishtrombones “Rain Dogs” “Eggs and Sausages (in a Cadillac with Susan Michelson)” “King Kong” “Old ’55” “Heartattack and Vine” “The Wrong Side of the Road” “Tom Traubert’s Blues” “Christmas Card from a Hooke in Minneapolis” “Jockey Full of Bourbon” “Johnsburg, Illinois” “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” “Bottom of the World” “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard” “Jayne’s Blue Wish” “We’re All Just Walking Each Other Home,” Ram Dass “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” Bio: Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana where he is looking for a small dog to adopt. His poems have appeared in Lion and Lilac, The Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Ekphrastic Review, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Vagabond Dissent, Wordpeace, Down in the Dirt, and samfiftyfour. Pressing On by Stephen Kingsnorth It seems what’s pressed is catching up, that gold disc rising after set as press on brings returning past. Perspective says tracks disappear, but groovy when they reappear; the return ticket underscored, prepacked as greetings in a card, both art and music stacked in pile. Its story stretched from spin before, long play, when only ears received. Surrural by Stephen Kingsnorth Whiskey, lemon, ginger beer, Kentucky, St Pat’s Day cheer, following the mule indeed, Mojo tops with Epitaph. Laid claim Jameson the best - I’m Bushmills, an Antrim man. Where he’s at, Surrural too, as rhythm beats, furrowed, bow, hoe down, square prance and the plow. New word minted, larger field, come a cropper, share the yield, cock-a-hoop as cock the tail, shaken, stirred and then preserved. Has it legs in swirling glass, Black and Tans, in liquid bold, bluegrass for the bourbon thrill, citrus, catcher in the rye, does it kick into long grass?
The New Friend by Eamann Breen
There was nobody in the back of the diner except him, sitting alone. He couldn’t take his eyes of me when I sat down. He nearly dropped his toast into his coffee. He nodded but I ignored him. I thought of moving but it was too late. It would be stupid to move away like he intimidated me or somethin’ like that.
Mario scurried over to me. ‘What would you like today Angela?’
I looked at the menu in the plastic holder on the table that I knew by heart. I put it down. ‘I left me purse at home.’ I hated having to do this again.
‘Don’t worry you can pay me the next time.’
I ordered a capacino and a pan-oh-chocolit. As I sat there like a spare and texted Tina and checked twitter. Tina was having a bad hair day.
When Mario brought the coffee the guy cleared his throat and said, ‘you’re a pretty girl, I’ll give you that, but you’d be much more attractive without the dyed hair.’
Fug-off. I knew I was pretty. I spent a long time every single day trying to hide it. This morning I had had a long bath while my mother was at work. I used her good lotion and shampoo. She’d be ragin’ when she got home. Before I left the flat I scrapped all my hair back and covered my face with foundation and tinted my eyes lids green. It was like a mask. It made me feel strong and before I left the house I cut myself. Only a scratch really. A hint of pink under the skin no blood but I put a tissue under my sleeve just in case.
‘I don’t want to talk to you.’ I didn’t even look up from my phone. Then I couldn’t resist. ‘So who are you? A fashion expert?’ I knew my roots needed to be done. I knew I was a mess.
‘I’m John, but people call me Johnny Cash.’
‘Is that a joke?’ he was beginning to bore me. I could tell he liked the sound of his own voice. Deep voice, local probably, been away I guessed.
‘Like the country singer but I like to make money.’
‘What are you doing here? You look like a loser.’
He ignored me but kept my stare. Then he smiles, eyes all twinkly ‘What age are you? Let me guess …?’
‘I’m nineteen. Too young for you.’
‘Jesus you’ll look like forty in a few years’ time. You’ll need to cut out the smoking for sure.’
‘How d ’ya know I smoke?’
‘I can smell the nicotine from here.’
‘You’ve got some fugin nerve!’ I put my hand in my jacket pocket and squeezed my lighter letting the sharp edge of the top dig into my thumb. I like the comfort of the pressure, just like the feel of the knife on my skin when I cut.
‘I’m not saying anything you don’t know. Nothin’ you haven’t heard before.’
‘What about you? All dressed up in your suit and gel in your hair.’ Nobody around here dressed like that I laughed. Then I spied a small snake of a tattoo trying to escape from under his white shirt cuff.
‘Well how’d it go in court?’
He looked surprised and stared at me looking directly into my eyes. I didn’t blink or turn away. Finally, he offered ‘how did you know?’
‘New shirt, not ironed and hiding your ink.’ I laughed.
‘Not guilty’ he said slowly. But he said it in a way that meant something else like the absolute opposite.
‘I bet you get good wear of that suit and your own chair in the court.’ I smiled, so smart. ‘Maybe buy yourself a new one. I hear they have a sale on in Dunnes this week. What were you up for?’
‘Breaking and entering. Robbery and misdemeanours. Take your pick.’
‘Cool. What are you doing here?’ As I looked around at the tatty walls and cheap tables and damaged chairs. Everything was worn and came from another place. Rejected because it wasn’t good enough.
‘In-between what?’ I asked. He had me hooked like a fool.
‘In between lives you could say.’
‘Yeah right.’ I checked the phone again. Nothing new.
‘You’d have to get rid of that bad attitude and smile a bit more.’ He waived to Mario for the bill. ‘We could make money.’
‘I’m not a theef. Anyways if you are so good Johnny Cash why aren’t you in a mansion in Killiney?’
‘Life has played a sad trick on me, a sad sad sad trick. But then you would understand all about that.’
‘Me?’ I exploded
‘Yes. You’re Jimmy King’s girl, aren’t you?’
‘Ex-girlfriend!’ I hissed. ‘Fugin ex if you want to know.’
‘Ah. I see. He spoke about you a lot inside. Your blonde hair and your smile. He had some photos too. Very tasty I might say.’
‘You make me sick.’
I don’t think so. I’m a much better jockey than Jimmy King. I could look after you. Take care of you. I’m on the lookout for a woman. I would treat you well. Get some rings for your fingers. Maybe a new phone. Maybe one of dose Burberry bags.’
He was full of it. I knew it and he knew it. But he looked alive. I imagined him pawing me and it wasn’t any more unpleasant that Jimmy King with his stubby hands and slobbery kisses and his slapping. Not romantic like or long term but for a time I could do it. Jeez I was desperate.
Mario approached. ‘Isn’t she a pretty girl?’ Johnny Cash says casual like I was a greyhound or a Honda. He handed him a note.
‘My mum calls me that.’ I said before I could stop myself. Just slipped out.
‘No job I imagine and no prospects.’
‘Fug you. I’m in between jobs.’
Fugin Mario winked at me as he left the change on the table and walked away. Johnny Cash examined the small metal plate and called out ‘excuse me mate I think there has been some kind of mistake.’
Mario ran his hand through his fringe and turned annoyed. ‘Whaat-a-mistake? Coffee and toast? Three fifty.’ Mario under pressured reverted to his Italian accent and looked at me for approval.
‘I gave you a twenty.’
‘No you didn’t. It was a five.’
‘No definitely twenty. I don’t want to cause a scene.’
‘It was five.’
‘No. I’m sure.’ Johnny Cash checked his wallet. ‘Yep twenty. Certain amigo.’
‘No it was a five.’
‘Is the manager about?’
‘I check.’ Poor Mario. He went to the till and spoke to the cashier. There was some raised voices and pointing towards the back of the café. She handed him three fives. Johnny Cash stared straight at me all through this interval. Mario came back and handed over the change.
‘Thank you!’ he said as if the greatest wrong in his life had suddenly been made right. He got up and wiped the crumbs from his trousers and walked passed my table. He dropped a napkin with a mobile number on it and then ran his finger across my cheek as if he were playing with a dog. ‘Call me if you want.’
I said nothing. I didn’t even turn around to see him leave. Not for the first time in my life I felt tainted. I sensed Mario standing beside me before he spoke.
‘Your friend -’
‘No friend of mine!’ I snapped
‘The man’ he continued.
‘Yes the man. What about him?’
‘He lied. We have no twenties in the till.’
‘Is dis my fault?’ I needed air. I wanted to run out and fill my lungs with cool fresh air. As far away as possible.
‘He’s not a good man.’
Slowly I walked out with the napkin next to the lighter in my pocket, the lighter that has somebody else’s girlfriend’s name engraved on it, as I pushed the door open Mario shouted, ‘tell him not to come back.’ I smiled through concrete lips ‘you too!’ I smiled no more. The door, as always, banged noisily behind me.
He was waiting across the street as I knew he would and he knew he would. Nothing I could think of would stop me now.
‘Well alright. One thing. If you put your fists on me, I’ll stab you in the throat with a knife.’
He looks me straight in the eye, comes close and I can smell his sweet aftershave and tells me if ‘I ever do that you can have this knife to do the job’ and he taps his breast pocket.
‘Coolio’ I say.
‘Where to now? Your place?’
‘No I’m kipping at my mom’s at the moment.’
‘My place then. I’m across town. And take that scrunchie out of your hair.’
I do and shake it out. It covers my shoulders. He leans over and smells it in the middle of the street. He puts his arm around me and we walk towards the corner. I allow myself the luxury of resting my head on his shoulder as we walk. We stop at the lights and he turns to me dead serious.
‘I like to do certain things with my lady.’
I laugh. ‘I’m no lady!’
‘Oh, but you will be.’ Now he laughs back.
‘One more thing’ I say noticing his blue eyes for the first time. ‘I don’t do no hard drugs. I don’t inject and won’t help you.’
‘That’s fair and not a problem for me. What about blow?’
‘I don’t mind a smoke.’
‘Sorted then. Got some good skunk back at the apartment.’
Then I think of the two of us together. What am I doing? I take Jimmy King’s old lighter out of my pocket and throw it in the bin. Off we walk into the future. Well maybe not the real future but a future for as long as it lasts. Just another Monday. Next week it could be different for me but I don’t get my hopes up.
Bio Eamann Breen (he/him) is an Irish born London based playwright and storyteller. His short story When He Told Her has been published by Liberties Press Dublin in an anthology called Brevity is the Soul. The Hessian Bag was shortlisted for the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Award at the Wexford Literary Festival. His monologue The Lucky Escape debuted on the Player Playwrights Showcase YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/3tNutxGZQy8 and Ten Top Films has recently been published by the Seattle Star https://www.seattlestar.net/2022/09/ten-top-films/
New Disease Streets by David L O’Nan
I cut a record in the trance of snaps On a new disease street. Watching them worship the homeless man’s defeat They stole our dancing jewels, And from that fame The sandwich bag Madonnas grew. The appetite for the bleak and the new. Music breathes out of dead-end windows Cockroach apartments smell better than - The flesh that is sticky from these sweat bleeding streets. Oh, the wet blades shine more when they’re silver. An appetite for the starved and the view. The alcoholics are stretching for a new fight. Those dirty pigeons that sleep in the grass instead of the trees. I bravely found a quarter in the storm drain, It appears the acid has eaten away at George Washington’s face. Nevertheless, I can ride in the rusted pink taxis - That drives faster than quicksand. It is lonely then sickly. Huffing in graffiti paint fumes through the holes of a brown sack. I’ve surmised that I’ve digested the whole city, and my stomach is - Starting to rumble and splash in its own rivers. Now, my existence has been debated for years. But for now, you can call me Galileo - Because I'm punching down the stars to the land. We are just trying to give the dying one last light show. With all the roses’ souls, I've ripped from the soil. Before we all slip back into a coma And dress back down to our dusty selves. A Full Moon Over Secret Headquarters by David L O'Nan The full moon becomes our religion Watch the fold in the clouds, that is us And if they shall search for us Amongst our secret headquarters Cuddled together sharing Egg Biryani What are those stars, trapped behind obese trees? The wind blows at our tent, our lockdown Trying to infiltrate our codes To steal away our dance and leave our footprints to be discovered by the gods. The river wants us too - It sways in a vulgar ballet Then dies off against the dam. Your scarf and dress left in a ruinous insult in the mud Left to be panicky, dizzy, separated, and severed alone - In the grass. How can I relocate our flames? To dwell in the hum of purring Collect our wings from the cheap magician and terminate the spell. A grandiose full moon smother With its clouds Even after promising heaven behind the dark curtains - That was us. A Broken Pocketwatch Genius by David L O'Nan Heard a gunshot through the golden curtain They were ringing bells and smacking tambourines on our adventure. I woke up on the greyhound bus, dumbfounded with a boner. I can only remember someone whispering a smokey smell into my ear. And then I went to a faint. A pocketwatch missing and several ladies singing loudly Anyone here could have been the culprit. Sitting in piles of sweat, the heat boils me to anger. My jeans are dirty and stained. Someone’s needles rolling down a blanket. I just sit there trying not to dwarf myself in this world of giants. Sloped over and hiding my head in a t shirt. I was put here to go to war with the bubbles in my head I am just popping them and looking around to see who the snitch will be. So I can maybe lead myself out of a touch of pandemonium. By the edge of the bus I leaned and rested my aching head. I smoked 2 cigarettes with a belly dancer- who smelled like the walking dead. I see a collection of papers on the floor, and I know we are somewhere in the south. I see Missing Persons Posters folded under a green skirt and a musky towel. Have I made a deal with the sin of flesh, or a greasy devil? Have I made my genius wasted by hanging my clothes in the land of honey and feathers? I see this girl from many moons ago across the street. I suddenly feel a little safe even though she never imagined me. She imagined herself as a stranger to kindness, and as a dart to be thrown blindly to the glass. She was innocent once, then new cables, And new wires to trip her into doubt. She was once my dream when she wasn’t sharing the last name of some fella’. Yet here I am still thinking that she was the one that could have known me better than anyone.