Wednesday, April 27, 2016

a cautionary tale

by chuck leary

illuatrtions by eddie el greco

raymond was not a person who inspired much interest in other people.

he was not much to look at, or to talk to or listen to.

he was the kind of human male your grandparents would call a wimp, and your niece or nephew a douche.

he was inclined to let his fellow humans get the best of him, and take advantage of his wishy-washy nature.

he had an old phone in his apartment. although he was paying the phone company a few cents a month for caller i d just like the rest of the human race, the phone was so old it did not have a screen for that purpose.

he would often answer the telemarketing or unsolicited calls he got , and find himself giving ten or twenty dollars here or there - “just to get rid of them” - for veterans or breast cancer or children’s this or that, or refugees from isis or whatever.

finally the old phone died and he had to buy a new one.

he belatedly realized the wonders of caller i d. now he could see the names of his solicitors - and he quickly realized that “person unknown” or “unknown number” were always solicitors too.

he was no longer “obliged” to donate the small sums as before. he started having a little more money in his pocket.

what raymond did not realize was this:

the small amounts of generosity he had been displaying had been just enough to put him in the top fifty percent of the human race who qualified as good people and would go to heaven, and ceasing them dropped him down into the bottom fifty percent who were bad people and would go to hell.

less than a year after getting caller i d, raymond had a heart attack and dropped dead.

a couple of demons came and took his soul and put it on the download train to hell.

as the train pulled out, raymond looked out the window and wondered where he had gone wrong.

but no one ever explained it to him, and he never figured it out himself.

Friday, April 22, 2016

not that

by horace p sternwall

illustration by konrad kraus

morrison happened to be at the f—— — — club when the unfortunate dustup occurred between caldwell and burnaby, and after a few meaningful glances from the other members who were present, he attempted to negotiate a truce between them.

caldwell assumed his usual air of slightly self-satisfied indifference, as if to say, “come now, is this really worth arguing about?” - his habitual pose after deliberately provoking someone in his sly way.

but what, really, could good old morrison do? after listening to both sides, he cleared his throat snd addressed burnaby -

“well, old fellow, i agree that caldwell here could have been a little more tactful - i might even venture to say, a bit more gentlemanly in the way he expressed himself - but after all, we are not children here, to cry about hurt feelings, eh? i suppose one member of the f———— club can express himself in a forthright fashion to another member, can he not? and on any subject he pleases, eh?”

“but not about that!” burnaby cried wrathfully. “not that!”

and despite’s morrison’s effort to restrain him, he rushed out the door, down the stairs and into the street, where a steady rain was falling.

poor jeffsworth had to be despatched after him, to give him his hat and umbrella.

although the incident was never spoken of, the feeling of good fellowship at the f—— — — club had been irretrievably punctured, and the club began its slow decline.

sometimes, on rainy afternoons, i can still hear burnaby crying - “not that! not that!”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

out of the woods

by horace p sternwall

illustrations by danny delacroix

people are bad, they should be good
once they lived in an enchanted wood
and listened to the voices of witches and elves
but now they just want to be themselves

and so they burnt the forest down
and packed their bags and came to town
and sit in rooms and watch television
and never know what they are missing

but what they are missing who can say?
as i was saying just the other day
if only i was a movie star
and had a rolls royce with a built in bar

and everyone in the world was my friend
and the good times would never end
what would i have to look forward to?
i would still be sad and blue

wouldn’t you?
and yet it’s true
i would get no sympathy
just because i was me

and not people who were not myself
how i wish i could be an elf
or a witch in a forest dark
or a dog being walked in a park

by a human who wants to get back
to cut himself some slack and just stare at the ceiling
because the world has lost all feeling

i am sorry if i lost my train of thought
sinking in civilization’s rot
my soul has been sold and bought
and all is what it once was not

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

edna and the mailing labels

by nick nelson

illustration by konrad kraus

edna realized, from something one of derek's friends said earlier that evening, that the house was only about a mile away.

curiosity seized her.

she thought she would like to see it again.

she could go over there after derek was asleep and the children were put to bed in their separate room in the motel.

though maybe it was not such a good idea.

edna had been so happy since she met derek.

and the children seemed to like her too.

none of them knew the truth about her.

about what a bad person she used to be.

and that she had spent twenty-five years in prison.

for being the helper and accomplice of walter matthews, the serial killer.

walter had been convicted of twenty-four murders.

but edna, who had testified against him, knew there had actually been quite a few more.

edna no longer thought much about walter, who had finally been executed about two years ago.

or about the people they had killed.

but she was curious about the house.

was it still there? had it been torn down?

was anybody living there now?

she probably should not go over there.

what was the point? and no good could come of it.

but later, after derek and the children were asleep, she stepped out of the motel room for a breath of air.

their rooms were on the third floor of the motel building, and as she stood at the rail outside the room and looked out toward the old house she saw a light.

now she was really curious.

she couldn't help herself.

she went down the stairs and crossed the parking lot and headed on foot toward the house.

the streets were deserted. not even a police car.

or lights in the windows of the few houses she passed.

finally she came to the house.

it looked different, and yet the same.

a single light was on in a room on the second floor - her old room.

she went up the four short steps - how familiar they seemed! - and opened the front door.

she stepped into the hallway.

suddenly all the lights went on.

she saw the souls of all the people she and walter had tortured and killed.

they seized her and dragged her off to hell.


what is your reaction (if any) to this story?

did you a) feel sorry for edna, who had made a new life for herself?

or did you b) think she got what she deserved?

if your answer is a, check the appropriate box and mail your response in the attached envelope using the blue mailing label.

if your answer is b, check the appropriate box and mail your response in the attached envelope using the green mailing label.

thank you for your time.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

hank and frank

by nick nelson

illustration by danny delacroix

hank was eighty-eight years old.

frank was ninety years old.

they met every morning around ten o’clock at dunkin donuts.

they always sat in front of the window, where the sun, if there was any, could shine on them.

they had a lot to talk about, as they had both lived a long time and known many people.

they talked about about what idiots and assholes all the men they had known were.

and what bitches and whores all the women they had known were.

and how ungrateful and ignorant and what punks and pussies all young people were.

politicians - don’t get them started.

one day frank didn’t show up, because he was dead.

after that hank didn’t have anybody to talk to, and he drank his coffee and nibbled his danish alone every morning until he died too.

Friday, April 8, 2016


by horace p sternwall

illustrated by eddie el greco

humans are strange creatures
with many curious features
they have two sides to their brains
a fact difficult to explain

the two sides are at war
but do not know what for
and why humans do the things they do
no one knows - strange but true

a human could get by
with some water and a patch of sky
a banana to ward off hunger pains
and a tree to sit under when it rains

instead, in many instances
they choose to spend their brief existences
forming empires and nations
and heeding prophets’ stern orations

to rise against the things that are
and listen to voices from afar
the voices of creatures who never die
but live forever beyond the sky

in such ways they fill up the minutes
that flow through the world while they are in it
it may seem curious from afar
but that is just the way they are

o you from galaxies far flung
and universes no longer young
who are you to judgment render
on human life so soft and tender?

their life, like yours, is only smoke
and if they treat it as a joke
or matter for the deepest sorrow
it will all be the same tomorrow