Greg Oguss

And then the people spoke. Rising up with great passion, energy and…er, passion, the nation finally came together to kick ol’ Spittoon Face out of the White House after three consecutive terms in office. Twelve long years marked by corruption, cronyism, and creeps and liars all the way to the top and foreign wars blundered into that made one long for the days of a Vietnam-sized mess. But Ol’ Spittoon—or “El Crap-o” as he was known in the barrio—every time the pundits pronounced him a political corpse, well, that was just when he would pop up out of the casket and surprise us all by pulling out another squeaker. His ever-enthusiastic “base”—or those on a first-name basis with the All-Mighty—even managed to get Congress to enact a law overturning the long-standing two-term limit for the Big Cheese. Or was it they got enough states to ratify a new Constitutional Amendment? The details slip the author’s mind at the moment. Regardless, this cleared the way for Spittoon’s—or Mr. Grumpety Grump’s, as he was known around campus—history-making third term. And then the people spoke. Delivering a powerful mandate of 50.1% of the popular vote for the boyishly handsome President-Elect Dudley. Or “Just Plain Ned,” as he insisted on referring to himself in that charmingly self-deprecating Southern way of his. Despite being a former two-term Governor himself. So often did he use this little gambit on the campaign trail that some media wags quickly dubbed him JPN.
But elitist media cynicism notwithstanding, JPN’s victory was the breath of fresh air that a battered and humiliated country was longing for. For many of us, it was as if we were finally emerging from a deep funk. A funk that had clouded our understanding of world events and local issues alike. A funk that had blurred our very perception of reality. In truth, the “Spittoon Face funk” was a rigorously documented illness which had become disturbingly commonplace over the past decade. Numerous articles had appeared in JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine which outlined its key symptoms—general malaise, distaste for ideas, distrust of facts. The mendacity levels in the air—and on the airwaves—had been toxic for some time. That we were gradually seeing the inevitable consequences healthwise seemed to be the consensus opinion in the medical community. And then the people spoke. El Crap-o was finally history. And the mandate was as clear as the number to the right of the decimal point. Soon, victims were emerging from “the funk” left and…uh, left.
The atmosphere on Inauguration Day was raucous. As if JPN was a real-life faith healer in some revivalist tent meeting. And in a sense, he was. All across the country, groups of friends gathered around the home theater system to watch the swearing-in and after-party. Breaking out the barbecue chips and Bud Light, dragging along anyone they knew who might still be locked in “the funk.” Persuading the lethargic apathetic sufferers to join in the revelry by hook or crook, by the promise of kinky sex, etc. Sure enough, the long-distance televisual healing began to work its magic. In some cases, it might’ve taken days, even weeks, for the sufferer to finally feel the full effects of the healer’s magic touch. Particularly if they’d reached the critical “third stage,” in which a coma-like state would set in and the patient could only respond via talking points. But as the far more pleasant “Inauguration Fever” swept across the land, there was at last only a single “Spittoon Funk” sufferer left in all the hospitals. She was the littlest victim of them all. All eyes turned to ten year-old Samantha Evans of Modesta, Colorado. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, cute as a button, and utterly comatose—unreachable even via talking points—her story would keep a nation riveted. While the media was hot on the trail of this Very Important Story—the who, the where, the will she or won’t she?—JPN and his back-up band were staying focused in all-day rehearsals at the White House, working up Who covers and getting ready for a new morning in America.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”



Aleš Mustar
Apoetic Poem
Translated from the Slovenian by Manja Maksimovič

Today I found out that art is heavy.
I saw my wife, the poet,
taking off
on an expedition to the copy store with a backpack full of books.
About 3 kilos, I assess.
I wonder how much she would get for them on Congress Square,
should the time be right for a book fair.
Oh, the backpack looks so good on her, yet she still has to climb Mount Triglav,
even though she makes an effort to maintain intercultural relations.
Fresh air will do her good.
Before she leaves I kiss her briefly.
Having a practical mind,
I shove the daily mail down her pockets,
registered mail in one, regular in the other,
so that her balance is intact, now off you go.
OK, financial difficulties have been solved,
checks are in the mail,
we won’t need to sell our books.
Actually, there’s only one thing that scares me – our intertextuality,
unconscious intertextuality.
I fear that she might carry a virus back home from the copy store,
which would infect my sense of protection against influences.
If all else fails I shall resort to legal practice,
everybody is innocent
until proven guilty.
I will call to mind fugitives, thieves, burglars,
whores, drug dealers, rapists,
and write another 3 kilos of books.
Today, L., we don’t need to sell as yet.



Jim Vacca

“Yeah, buy me one of those firecrackers, hon,” Flo says to Joey beside her. She’s swaying to the music of the jukebox playing some oldie from the seventies best forgotten. But it doesn’t take much to get Flo going, the crack in her bloodstream just calls for some expression, some need. She dances above her swivel seat near the bar. Her hands pulled back to her ears, her hips dipping side to side. She’s got a too tight, too high above the knees, black linen dress with little yellow flowers on it and tall black pumps with thick straps around the ankle.

“Here you go, Flo,” Joey says giving her the drink made mostly of peppermint Schnappes, as he tokes from his long necked Miller Genuine Draft.

She tilts her head back and raises the big shot glass past her lips and drops the liquid down her throat, not even touching her mouth, and the drink goes straight to her gut and brings a bit of glow to her thin cheeks. She’s thin everywhere, seems she’s quite fond of her diet supplement.

“I still don’t know how you do it,” Joey says to her.

“Well, it’s one of the advantages of deep throatin’,” she laughs, “it just opens you all up back there, honey.”

Flo’s sister works behind the bar, she’s married to the owner, and Flo plys her trade in the bar, making just enough money to keep the party going. Hell, it beats working at the chocolate factory like she used to, she figures, in this small town twenty miles from Cincinnati.

A couple of fellows are here tonight from the trucking company training site across the way. They’re only here for a few months and have been warned about this place. So, of course, this is where they hang.

“So, what’s the prices again, Flo?” Tim asks smirking.

“Twenty dollars for a blowjob, fifty dollars for a lay,” she says all business like and they all get a laugh as she runs down her intinerary.

“But Tommy says you blew him for nothing” Tim says, which Tommy, who’s not there yet, did tell him.

“That’s a goddamn lie,” she says loudly,” I had to work hard on him, that fucker, I had to earn my money with him.” She says, “How about a firecracker for Flo the ‘ho, honey?” shaking her teased blond hair, winking her heavily made up eyes.

“No, it was Joey you did,” someone says and they all laugh.
Joey’s a young guy with a speech impediment, slumped shoulders and glasses. He has straight black hair and a long sleeved plaid shirt. He’s twenty-three and is kind of the bar mascot, he’s also a virgin.

“Let’s get Joey laid,” Tim says, “I want ten from everyone, ante up, fellars.”

The boys get the money up as Joey looks shyly down. He’s known Flo awhile now and is excited and scared of the situation at the same time. They manage to scrape up the fifty from eight guys and give it to Flo.

Tim slaps Joey on the back and grins,”This is your big night, boy.” And everyone cheers, word going around the bar, as Flo and Joey head out the back entrance to Flo’s place, a little bit across the way on the third floor of an old apartment building.
Flo puts the key in the doorway, fumbling in the darkness because the light in the hall’s out again.

“Wooh, hee, look at us, honey,” Flo giggles, dancing around her sparse apartment. “Can you believe this? Did you read your horoscope today? Honey, I read mine and it said “business meetings will be fruitful” but it said nothing about this.” she laughs. A ittle later Joey and Flo are getting down to the business at hand.

“C’mon, Joey, Oh, I want you, you know it fee-eels so good. C’mon, give it to Flo, I want it, honey.” Flo squirms with her eyes closed on the bed. Not excited but just going with the flow. Repeating the script. It’s not so much Joey, it’s just sex for her’s about exciting as doing the laundry, it’s just another chore. Joey’s sweating up above, his elbows are starting to hurt, too many drinks and really too much excitement are holding up the works now for at least the last half hour. Finally Joey lies down next to her on the bed.

“You know Joey,” Flo says in the darkness, lighting a cigarette that lights up against the window shade with the streetlight peering in, “We don’t have to do this, I can get you some other time.”

“But I want to,” Joey says,” You’re so b-b-b-beautiful, Flo. I just never thought, you know, I’ve dreamed of this moment for so long a-a-a-and as the dream comes true my apparatus fails,” he grimaces, then grins,” I got a broken prick, I guess, Flo. I guess you should take me to the doctor.”

“That’s all right,” Flo smiles,” Your hearts workin’ fine. You know, all the time everyone treats me like dirt and you treat me like a queen. Why is that, hon?”

“Well, you’re so beautiful, Flo, and you never did harm to no one. I think you’re nicer and smarter than all those idiots back at the bar. Remember when that guy called you a whore and I stood up for ya. It seems guys call girls whores as an insult and then curse them when they don’t put out. I just think you’re the most beauty I’ve seen in my life, Flo. What’s money got to do with sex and what’s love got to do with sex, anyways? I wish, I could…. you know.”

“You don’t need the doctor, Joey. I’m the one that’s got to go. I got somethin’ broken inside. Somethin’ nothin’ or no one can fix, anymore. And it’s been broken for so long that I’ve got used to it and I’ve even forgotten what it is. You can’t raise the dead, can’t heal somethin’ with no feelin’. But you give me somethin’, honey, a slight glimpse, of light through the shadows. You’re one of the few things in life, other than a firecracker or coke, that can still make me smile.”

Joey and Flo head back into the bar, Joey is all smiles.

“This is one man who makes me scream for real, honey,” Flo says, tossing the bills down on the bar. “Drinks for everyone, a round on the house.” Flo yells in the air. Joey’s all grins and everyone’s cheering again, moving up to the bar. A sixties song called “Do You Love Me” is playing on the jukebox. “Do you love me, now that I can dance?” the music wails in the background.

“I can’t take no money for an experience as awesome as that, sugar,” she kisses Joey on the cheek.

“You did him and you don’t want no money, you’re shittin’ me,” Tommy comes up to her.

“He was a whole lot better than you,” Flo says, eyes wide,” A hell of a lot better than you.”

Tim comes over with her firecracker, Flo raises the drink above her head,”Here’s to love, true love don’t come every time,” she winks at Joey.

As the liquid glides effortlessly down the back of her throat, the party is on. The goddamn party is on. And excuse me, but I think I’ve got a drink waiting for me up at the bar.



Magnificent Guffaw
Beat the bad blues

A nicotine-yellowed desert occupied dreams of thirst
the deep sleep, unbearably slow
stuck in the trembling sense of drift.
Until the morning,
when dry lips kissed the pale blue pillow

I tell this story to the lazy
who start life like foals
flung from one year to the next
without the depth of soul
or the tools for fixation

Morning struck a nerve
consuming me with a glimpse
through the curtain
of a life
fraught with pedestrians

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