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Pac-Man Dialectic
Peter McMillan

I couldn't tell you exactly where this is going. I'm not even sure how I got to this point. All I think I know for certain is that I'm in the middle of it and I seem to be following a script.

It's all in my head, I'm told. But there’s such a vastness that I can't get out of my mind and my memory is such an awkward and unsteady navigator…. There does appear to be a theme though—conflict.

As far as I can tell, it always ends in some sort of resolution—one side becomes dominant. However, another conflict is never far away. So, this cycle or succession—circular or linear or both—has no end in sight.

Right now I'm aware that I'm thinking and that I'm thinking about my interior head space. I'm also thinking that you are there reading what I'm writing about what I'm thinking. From previous experience, I'm expecting you soon to express your views in a way that puts our head spaces in conflict. It happens more often than not I find.

Obviously, I'm pretty good at this or I wouldn't still be here. I felt I had to be upfront with you about that. I haven’t always done that. I used to be cunning, even sneaky. This forthrightness is recently acquired.

You have to understand that our encounters are especially perilous for me. You have the advantage. You get to see all my moves and react accordingly. I, on the other hand, can’t anticipate yours with anything like the same certitude. I can hint, suggest, direct your attention, or lead you along, but I can't predict or control what you will do.

I can only guess how you got here, what you had to do to get here, how many times you’ve done this before, and what you will do next. You probably number them as conquests—reading them and consuming them. I suspect you must either have an elaborate filing system or a prodigious memory.

Either way, you, reader, are like some kind of monster, ingesting everything you meet with. And, if you continue, you will perpetuate your monstrosities and monstrousness beyond your flightless imagination.

Best let me bear that burden, dear reader. You will forever be in my thoughts. Trust me.


Experiment: Obsolete
Sarah Edwards

It was the spaceman that looked at the boy with one voided stare. The murky gunk dripping from the unkempt sideburns bothered the boy, but not enough, not as much as it should. He knew why, maybe not completely but he could guess, as he tried to match the stare of the secured stillness emitting from the spaceman, sitting as if on a metal plate across the uneven Styrofoam table. The boy couldn’t tell if it had been hours or months, he tried to alert his feet but the legs were missing and the soldered foil rods had no concept of feelings. The spaceman breaking the rusted density of his persona, lifted one evenly enclosed but hard bolted finger, engaging the numbed gaze of the boy. He won’t give in, not till the beryl gunk all melts away, absorbing in the dried canals that used to pump blood to the upper box.

And there was also the lingering question of her, if only he could put a name to the flickering, meshed body of that face, face that has had a constant shelter under his clotted inner eyelids since a retained life time. But who was he kidding. There was no hope offered or even on the menu. There was just a scalded beam, invisible and apparent, coated in sticky balls of yeast. It was too much, even in his streaked comatose state, even though shifting was a dreamlike notion, it was just too much.

He was aware enough that the spaceman can do this with limited physical exertion, his remaining limbs will became powdered straws and the spaceman will still keep the beam oblique, losing not even one eyelash in the process. So the boy lifted a green claw, convulsing as if placidity had been exiled. The spaceman pushed over the metal seat with an unsound screech as he stood up. After an indefinite period the boy had finally matched his sign, the boy’s will had arched. With a passive nod of the circular shell, there were two more spacemen wheeling the angled boy away from the rectangle container. With the movement the boy realized that his elbows were a hollow vessel for the curdled gunk, somber olive in it’s facade.

The boy closed his bridged lids as the jagged lashes rested on the sunken space. There was nothing more he needed to do, no fight left as the severed will was the imprecise defeat. Now he just wanted to glide with the indented dusk below his veined eyes. As the boy made friends with the vacant fog, his head boxed and titling side to side as if a filled balloon, the two spacemen wheeled him down a narrow passage. The boy soundly unaware to the passing room with an open door.

The girl couldn’t see through the slimed strings covering her lead stained retinas, the spaceman a few feet from her across the bent table. He was fixed in his prime state on an iron plate. She will not concede, she observed the surroundings and could make out that the door was open. The gunk below her feet was not the giving of her sewed eyes. It was fresh but just, as if only an eternity had passed since this olive was in it’s beryl form, evolving in some being as unfortunate as her own knotted flesh. As distant squeaks of some orbiting reel became faint, she failed to see the spaceman lift one heavily shielded finger to her ruptured gaze.


The Defenestration of James T. Everett
Keith Frady

At noon on Tuesdays James T. Everett usually eats lunch at the sandwich shop around the corner instead of being thrown out of windows. Yet here he hangs, surrounded by shards of glass, facing the cloudless sky.

I’ll miss lunch, James thinks. How inconvenient.

The sandwich artisan will be worried. James is his best customer; orders, like a hungry clock, the same turkey-on-wheat sandwich at the same time every week. The artisan is a nice fellow, he and James exchange pleasant small talk and they have developed a slightly-greater-than-acquaintance camaraderie.

It is a shame, James thinks, that I won’t have one more turkey sandwich before my death. I’d have enjoyed the last one more, if I had known.

Actually, if he had known of his coming demise, James isn’t quite sure he’d have gotten the same turkey sandwich. Maybe he’d have tried it with mayonnaise instead of mustard. Peppers instead of tomatoes, crazy as that sounds. And what was this obsession with wheat? Plummeting to certain death, James can’t help feeling that white bread might not have been such a major decision after all. Since he was on the subject, he might have tried something besides turkey. It was a little bland, if he’s being honest with himself. Ham now seems like ambrosia. He has disregarded so many flavors, so many sandwich combinations.

Tuesdays were actually a little inconvenient, James thinks. Wednesdays might have been better.

James realizes he’s only eaten sandwiches at lunchtime. Certainly nothing had prevented him from eating a sandwich for dinner. He did have to rush to grab a sandwich at lunch so that he could return to work on time. But if he waited until he left the office, grabbed an order on his way home, he’d have had all the time in the world to eat! James’ stomach lurches with the weightlessness of the fall.

When was the last time James got a sandwich somewhere besides that corner store? When had he last tried making his own sandwich? The ingredients weren’t esoteric or expensive. Maybe he was a better sandwich artisan than that fool running the store. Maybe James missed his calling in life because he never once thought to make his own sandwich. He could have been a renowned sandwich chef!

Paris! James thinks. I should have gone to Paris to become the greatest sandwich chef in the world!

First he’d tour Paris, sampling every sandwich shop in the city. He’d study with the masters, and then travel all over Europe, learning the minutia of local breads and cheeses and meats and trying combinations never before dreamed by man! Europe? No, the world! He would have no borders, no physical or creative limits. Poets would write sonnets to his sandwiches, pundits would declare a new Everett sandwich too conservative or liberal, artists would weep and women would throw themselves at him. Everett, the world would chant. Everett, Everett, Everett.

If only, James thinks, I weren’t about to die. I’d have started living.

The instant before he hits the ground, James remembers he was thrown out of a first-floor window. He lands, quite safely, in a bundle of lilies, which receive significantly more damage than James. James stands up, brushes himself off, and checks his watch. The entire ordeal had lasted no more than a few seconds.

He walks a little faster than normal and arrives at the sandwich shop around the corner on time to order his turkey-on-wheat.


Solidarity Forever
Stephen Baily

“Who belongs to the Jaguar?”

The five of us watching the game glanced around from our drinks. Jack was standing in the doorway and he didn’t look happy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to see anybody unhappy who’s six-five, two-fifty or sixty.

“Something wrong?” Mike said from behind the bar.

The neon sign in the window didn’t make Jack any prettier by staining his face purple. “I can’t find a space for my truck.”

“So?”

“So who parked that Jaguar out front?”

“Come on—a Jaguar.”

“You don’t believe me, see for yourself.”

Under the arc lamps in the lot, we were left in no doubt by the silver-plated cat itching to leap from the hood at our throats. I couldn’t help feeling in my pocket as I circled the stall, but then I said to myself, no, let Jack do it if he wants.

At that hour most of the stores in the strip mall were closed, but the lot was still full, because the restaurants were busy. We could forget the pizza joint and the Chinese pig-out buffet—nobody with money would eat in them. Which narrowed it down to the place that drew all the rabbit-food freaks from the campus across the way.

“I’ve warned them before about taking our spots. You want, I’ll call over there and see if I can flush him out.”

“There’s no rush.”

And Jack left his truck double-parked behind the Jaguar and came back inside with us.

The overpaid pansies had just blown a four-run lead in the ninth when it opened the door and stopped, like it thought it needed an invitation.

“Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but does anybody here own an old Dodge pickup?”

Its glasses had wire frames and there were leather patches on the elbows of its jacket. What it had on its lip was more like an eyebrow than a mustache.

“Our car’s blocked, we can’t get out.”

Nobody answered. We just sat there watching it fidget till Jack, without a word, turned back to the TV.

“Sorry—didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Say that for its mommy—she’d taught it manners.

After it retreated, Jack took his time finishing his beer, then wiped his mouth on his wrist and headed outside. We followed. He hadn’t bothered to lock up, so it hadn’t had any trouble getting at the brake, and now it was risking a hernia straining to push the truck clear.

“The hell?”

It jumped a foot in the air. “Oh, is this yours? I apologize, I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You believe this? First he takes my space, then he breaks into my truck.”

“Honestly, I didn’t mean any harm, I just moved it a little.”

Jack was about to charge when the door of the Jaguar flew open. The blonde who climbed out from behind the wheel wasn’t bad, if you like yours with no tits.

“You’ve got some nerve.”

“So do you, parking here.”

“I told her not to. Didn’t I tell you not to, Claire?”

She shot it a look as it edged around to the other side of the car. She had a neck made for wringing—that’s how long it was.

“I’ll park anywhere I want.”

“Not over here you won’t. Maybe we’re just working stiffs, but that doesn’t give you the right to walk on us.”

“Amen to that.”

Jack spun toward it. “What?”

“I mean I couldn’t agree with you more. I sympathize with you completely. I stand with the workers.”

It said this with so much feeling I wondered what it was high on.

“You hear that?” Jack grinned at us. “We’ve got a friend here—a friend who rides around in a Jaguar.”

“It’s her car, not mine—a present from her parents.”

“That’s nice,” Mike said, “because we’ve got a present for you too.”

He held the carton out to Jack, who helped himself to one. “This is for being our friend.”

It was so surprised it just stood there with its mouth open while the yolk and the white seeped down into its long hair.

“You idiot, get in!”

As it dove for the seat and she started the engine, Jack broke another one on the windshield and we all joined the party. Too bad we couldn’t hear what she was screaming at it, but we could imagine, and that was some omelet we made, let me tell you.


Bounty Ground
Chase Eversole

Miss Sandy is the kind of equestrian who requests the counsel of her gelding, Saul, on matters she involves herself in. “Saul,” she asks in a tiny voice that is compelled by the standing on her tippy toes. “Saul my darling boy, what should I say to the diggers?” She told him they’d been there this past afternoon, that they’d cupped their hands over their foreheads and looked out past fenced pastures and the stock dog pen, and said that they’d be back with instruments and warmer coats. “They said the purpose was to relieve any assumed debt and it’s wrong of them to assume anything.” She put her hand through the gate, resting her palm on his nose. “What do I do?” The horse ruffed his ears, bent down, sniffed the fertile ground, and thought of rain.


 
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