Volume One, Number Two

Angst is copyright (c) 1994 by Michael D. Heacock. This magazine may be archived, reproduced and/or distributed provided that it is left intact and that no additions or changes are made to it. The individual works presented herein are the sole property of their respective author(s). No further use of their works is permitted without their explicit consent. All stories in this magazine are fiction. Angst appears twice per season.

Copyright © 1994 by the contributors. June/July 1994. html'd by Carolyn L Burke.

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Well, this has come out a little earlier than expected. I think we'll call Issue #1, the April/May (even though it states June/July). This will be the June/July issue.

I don't know how many people actually read these introductions, but they do contain some interesting information.

I've come up with a plan for generating some cash flow for Angst. Contributions. In my effort to reward contributors to this publication, you can send contributions, in whatever dollar amount you deem appropriate, to my address and I will begin divvying up those amounts to the contributors. When, and if, you send contributions, simply state the issue that you would like your contribution to go towards. As of right now, contributions will be open to Issue #1 and Issue #2. These moneys will be totaled and partitioned to contributors after an Issue's close-date. Issue #1, for example, will be open for contribution until Issue #3 is put out in late-July/early-August.

My address is:
Michael Heacock
1791 Feltham
Victoria BC CANADA V8N 2A4

Please send cheque (Canadian donators only) or postal/bank money orders made out in Canadian funds (non-Canadian donators).
Payment to authors will be in Canadian funds.

I received quite a few positive comments on the Zine. Quite a few people were surprised not only at the quality of the production (for Word 2.0 and PostScript subscribers), but at the quality of the writing. I am pleased that you like it. The contributors should be equally pleased and proud that they are making this a success.

You may have noticed some trends in the type of contributions I've been accepting, especially in the poetry department. Try as hard as I might, my personal taste still leaks though, and you have very likely noticed my bend toward poetry that is both deep on one level yet quirky and humourous on another. I have let a few 'serious' poems slip through, only to give a fairer representation of the genre.

Just before I finished this issue, I received a very sudden influx of prose submissions. I have another story coming next issue, and a few of the new submissions had vaguely similar themes, so expect Issue #3 to have a little bit of theme to it. Also expect to see more short stories in the next two issues to come.

Of those prose submissions that did not make this issue, expect to hear from me shortly on their fates. Though don't worry too much. At this point in time, I am more likely to offer suggestions and give example rewrites of marginal material than outright deny your prose. I want to see your writing in Angst as much as you do, but I have to insist on good quality material. It is to your benefit and mine if we can finds ways to work together and improve your stories. A day may come, when I may longer be able to do this (when submissions start to arrive in greater numbers), so do not depress if I suggest major revisions, take heart that I am not yet in a position where I would be forced to deny publication outright.

I'm also thinking of introducing a hard-copy version of Angst for pay subscription. Right now I am offering issues one through three in hard copy, staple-bound format (double sided, flip-like-a-book format). Each issue will cost $2.50 Canadian. If you are from outside Canada, I will not accept cheques, so go to your post office and pick up a postal money order in Canadian funds. I believe the post office will charge you a small service fee, so you might want to purchase all issues at one time, but this is up to you. Once I do offer pay, hard-copy subscriptions (starting issue four or five), contributors will receive this tangible gift free. Issue's #1 through #3 are more or less an experiment, to help me gauge what to charge subscribers when the times comes. I don't expect to make any money off this, but I do not want to lose any either.

Well, this issue, I'm glad to say that we have some new contributors. Some first issuers are back too, with some fine literary additions. This issue is looking to be a fine sequel to the first. Some top-notch writing in here to challenge last issue.

This thing is definitely going to continue for quite awhile, so show your support; get your friends to subscribe and submit.

Your editor,

Table of Contents

Short Stories

Never Marry a Computer Wiz
Virgil Hervey

Old Man
Robert X. Scibelli

Melancholy Flower
Michael Heacock

PostCard Stories

Imagine a row. . .
Carolyn Lesley Burke

Do You Ever Have Baking Nightmares?
Stephen R. Lines

The Art of the Novel
Colin Morton


Michael McNeilley

Sim City
Michael McNeilley

the poet's house
Virgil Hervey

Virgil Hervey

sunday morning come down
Cauline Holdren

Night Blooming Jasmine
Arleen Mitchell

Poetry Blues
Peter J. Tolman

urban cowpeople extroverts: shiny plastic people
Peter J. Tolman

Never Marry a Computer Wiz

Virgil Hervey

In the late nineteen sixties, pursuant to an antenuptial agreement, I had a computer bar code tattooed onto my penis. This was something which my fiancee had insisted upon, because of some basically untrue and exaggerated stories which had circulated around my college fraternity. The process was painful. The tattoo artist worked from a template which she provided. As bar codes were unheard of in those days, he thought the request to lay a pattern of thin blue lines, horizontally across the underside of my pecker, was rather unusual.

For some twenty-five years, this high-tech and highly personalized identification tag was a non-issue. Contrary to the predictions of fraternity lore, I did not wander astray and, located where it was, I never had occasion to look at it. Frankly, I forgot that it was there.

What did I know about computers? Alison was the expert. As it turns out, bar codes did not exist in those days. It was only a concept in Alison's mind, which she ultimately brought to fruition, some fifteen years later. My computer wiz of a wife invented the light pen and the system of bar code scanning that went along with it. It made us tremendously wealthy. So I quit my job and stayed home to fool around with our new maid.

She was a petite twenty year old from Uruguay. Her high Andean cheek bones and her straight jet hair, cut into bangs in the front and medium short in the back, gave her the appearance of a Japanese school girl. She lived in the maid's quarters in the rear of our new rambling Florida ranch and attended the local community college during her time off. Her English was a bit quirky at first, but she was bright and doing well in the computer courses which she was taking. Yes, you see it coming, but I didn't. I hadn't noticed those blue striations in years. Her name was Maria Conchita Milagros de Jesus.

There was a certain something in the air when we were in the same room together. When Alison was around, it took the form of sideways glances, knowing smiles and an occasional brushing between bodies, as we passed too closely in a narrow space. If Alison were somewhere else in the house, usually at the computer in the huge master bedroom, we would relax our guard, laughing and kidding. The brushing would become a casual touching of hands or an arm around a shoulder. And "Maria Conchita Milagros de Jesus" became just plain "Chita", my little vision of joy and sexual fulfillment.

To back-track for a moment: Mine, having been the very first bar code in existence, consisted of an arbitrary arrangement of lines, on which, unbeknownst to me, the entire system of bar code databasing became centered. When Alison invented the light pen, she took that template, which the tattoo artist had used, scanned it, and made an entry into a computer. Thereafter, every other arrangement of lines was in some way related to my dick. Alison didn't sell or license this technology right away. She started her own business, signing up fast food restaurants, supermarkets and discount chains. Only after we had become fabulously wealthy, did she sell the patent. Thereafter, she devoted her time to inventing a better system; one which would make the other obsolete.

One afternoon, after months of outrageous hormones coursing through my system, I found Chita alone in our bedroom. Alison had left for a three day conference at Cape Canaveral and we were alone in the house. This was my chance to find out if all those sideways glances and casual contact really meant anything. I was aroused. She was dusting around Alison's computer. Its blue screen was flickering with data, scanned from some prototype plastic cards which were stacked neatly on her desk, right beside the light pen.

I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist. There was no shock or surprise. The reaction was that she put her head back under the crook of my neck and kissed me on the chin. I spun her around and locked onto her lips. The response was all that I had hoped it would be. Kissing and groping furiously, we started to strip each other down. Her small breasts and almond body were the perfect compliment to her little brown nipples. She had very little hair, but there was a small patch of it in the right place and I explored it with my mouth and nose.

Then I was standing and she kneeling. She took my ersatz data base in her hands and started to work it over with her tongue. She stopped to examine it and, sure enough, she found those historical markings. It was as if she had discovered some ancient hieroglyphics. She cooed with wonder and amazement and then I saw the flash of an idea as it crossed those two deep black pools.

She grabbed the light pen off Alison's desk and, in one smooth sweep, like some super efficient supermarket checkout girl, scanned the underside of my cock. Both of our heads swung toward the monitor at the same time. There in the center of an otherwise empty screen was the following: "bean burrito - $0.69 - Thank you for dining at Taco Bell".

Of course, Alison's diabolical plan, conceived so long before, worked perfectly. Chita, besides being a computer wiz in her own right, was a bundle of Andean superstition and mystic beliefs. Concluding that some weird spirit was residing either in my dick or in the central processing unit of my wife's computer, she bolted from the house and didn't slow down until she hit South America. I was so humiliated that the lines on my bar code converged into one minuscule blue patch and stayed that way for the next three days.

When Alison returned, she went straight to our room and did something with her computer. Then she came into the kitchen, where I was making dinner and, with a wry smile on her face, took me into her arms and kissed me passionately. We made love that night as we used to when we were back in college. Nothing was ever mentioned about the bar code or what it was that she retrieved from the computer. The fact that she never once asked where the maid had gone was proof enough that she knew all she needed to know.

I don't eat bean burritos anymore. I won't even look at a Taco Bell when I drive past. Yesterday, I picked up a few small items in Wal-Mart. As the checkout girl was scanning the bar codes, I started to feel a familiar twinge down yonder.


Michael McNeilley

Then at the end
she shaved her hair.
She shaved all her hair,

and kept it shaved for weeks;
I helped her, shaving
this and that, underwater,

then drying and oiling,
with baby oil, smoothing
curves and folds unaccustomed

to so slight protection.
She wore that blonde wig,
and the red one, and drew

things on, and who could know.
No one guessed, notwithstanding
unfocused suspicions.

She left soon after that,
and since she left I've
found forever missing

a feminine precision,
an exactitude of passion
in every other since.

Sim City

Michael McNeilley

My heart climbed
the wall of her
apartment building,
finding good footholds
among heavy old vines,
all the way to the balcony,
where its hand became caught
in the wrought iron railing;
and as the fire department
came to rescue my heart
again I saw her
watching there,
her face in the window
like the moon among
nodding her head like
a plastic dog in the
back window of
an old Ford,
the kind whose
eyes light up
when you hit
the brake,
her blonde hair
blowing like
candy wrappers
in the wind.

Imagine a row. . .

Carolyn Lesley Burke

Imagine a man. . . . He lives in a world of rules patterns conventions; his behaviour is not his own until a personal appeal is made for sensibility, for effectiveness, for relevance. He hopes for purpose meaning. Time is not his even during a coffee break. . . .

Imagine his world. . . . Flags fly high because they should. Cars tediously follow roads, never breaking free, all stopping at the same times and places like well-trained dogs. And take notice of the trees, carefully standing in rows between buildings standing in rows, leaving room only for ashen roads to slip between. Paralleled and crossed like archetypal spreadsheets of the human transaction. Now look up.

From high in a building, looking out one window in a row of windows from a floor, above many others and below even more, you see the breaking man. He observes roads traveling into the horizon, replacing a sunset just as they ought to in this, his world; the roads meet to shake hands. And he watches as buildings shorten themselves to fit comfortably in the horizon coffee shop.

And as warming sparkles of sunlight accidentally mar the wet pavement, puddles unexpectedly glint in unlawful cracks, scarring his eyes.

More safely, the man attends to his coffee swirling gently in Styrofoam. Imagine him. . . snapping the plastic tab of a creamer, pulling back the foil, dripping cream creating frantic amber-hued chaos. The next table's woman hastens to stir hers quickly achieving a required uniformity much like oats merging in porridge. Now look inward.

Swirling continues, streaks of white in a universe of void. Dancing in and out, pale contaminants in haunting darkness form an artificial backbone marring his soul.

The coffee's steam dreams of another way. The man looks longingly upon the drink, peering into unsocialized depths where white motions scream to the bottom of the cup, only returning to conform.

Imagine a final ray. . . sunlight lighting on the man's window. Jealously, the woman looks up from her coffee, purple-blue eyes aflame. Sunlight ought to beam for the whole row of windows or not at all. And yet. . . the unfamiliar warmth adds energy to the swirling ending the sickly courtship. His coffee is no longer thoughtful. Deep non-Brownian pastel stains the edges of the Styrofoam matching hers. Chaos banished. The sunlight leaves on the guilty wings of an overhead seagull. Now imagine as his eyes follow.

In silent grief, a car is towed out of line. Orderly but illegal. Another, out of sight, impatiently replaces it. He watches a battle-weary truck return knowingly. Hidden behind dull purple-blue buildings lurks a new row. Ferengi profit emerges in the predictability of systematic rule breaking. The man's stark gaze causes one more push and pop of a tortured society as he crumples linear Styrofoam. He looks in.

Off on the horizon, white cloudy streaks turn pink, swirling into a havenless purple-blue. A sigh as the man stands. His watch walking quickly away with his life. Why should a man's time be his own?

the poet's house

Virgil Hervey

You can always tell the poet's house
the one with the unkempt grass
the sagging shutters
cracked pane here and there.

The poet doesn't mow his lawn
very often, believes in
the meadow theory of lawn care
thinks pouring poison into the ground
is a waste of good poison.

The Carcinogens, next door
hate the poet and his dandelion
farm for propagating this species
of immortal yellow flowers.
The poet doesn't give a shit.
He's not playing their silly game.
He doesn't care to conform
his postage stamp patch
of vegetation to theirs.

But the poet is mowing his lawn today
because the woman across the street
is mowing hers - in her bikini.
The poet wears binoculars on a string
around his neck while he mows
in the event a red winged whatever
should alight in his dogwood
or the lady across the street
should bend over to pick a dandelion.

The poet has stopped mowing
for a while, is taking a break
has to write this down
before he forgets it and before
the dog which Miss Mammary
across the street loosed on him
tears the ass out of
his poor poet pants.


Virgil Hervey

too low
to fly

woke to a flatworld,
pressed between
wet charcoal streets
and morose cloud cover.

are they warming up the jets
over at the airport
or are those thunderbangers
forcing this mutant day into wretched bloom?

all sounds are magnified
in this pancake tunnel,
as a raven interrupts the cicadas,
to announce Odin's imminence.

then the cacophony
the big drops on the air conditioner
the jet engines modulating
into drum-roll thunder.

yes, it's
too low
to fly

Old Man

Robert Scibelli

He never understood what my motivations were. He never understood what I was going through at the time, and certainly he never appreciated what I was trying to do for him. I never blamed him for leaving like he did though, I imagine I probably would have done the same.

These are my thoughts as I descend the steps of "Newk's" on Thirty-Second Street this evening. To say that I occasionally frequent this little jazz hole would be an outright lie. If I miss one night, the owner calls my apartment to see if I'm alright. It's nice to have people looking after you though, and it sure came in handy tonight, 'cause I would have just walked into the kid, and I might have walked right on by. I step around the corner and move into the front bar, Reg spies me immediately. He wrings out the booze-soaked rag he's holding and cleans me a spot at the end of the bar. I say clean, but really he just pushes the ooze around a little, no mind.

The sound of the tenor rips me in half, I swear to you it is the cleanest sound I have ever heard. He was playing when I walked in, and I knew it was him, but it just didn't hit me right away. When I look up he is putting the finishing touches on a solo that I sense was great. He can't see me. I can barely see him. "Newk's" is old time, the smoke really does sit in the room like fog, and when you leave at three o'clock in the morning you have to adjust your eyes to the light. Through all this I know its him, and just a few minutes ago I was afraid I wouldn't even recognize him.

Reg is the one who called to tell me the kid would be here. Reg had really called to warn me though, and I don't think he was expecting to see me tonight. He slides my vodka rocks in front of me and I notice its a double, I never order a double. I smile at Reg, and I think he understands why I don't even reach for the glass. He doesn't speak much, he still carries around a ton of baggage from the old movement days, I still think he's wanted in California. Whatever, those days are long ago besides who could associate this slightly bent bartender with the black-souled revolutionary I used to know.

I almost lose myself in those long-ago memories: the protests, the bombings, the "safe houses", which were neither safe nor houses. Everyone was there by choice, but not the kid. What was I thinking then?

I'm on the edge tonight. I never let myself get caught up in that old shit. It's the kid who brings me back, four short Cs and a B-flat. The room is especially smoky tonight despite the fact that the joint is first-set empty. I know he can't see me, but he knows I'm here. He launches into a Coltraine number that we used to play all the time back in the Mission, he turns sideways to the few occupied tables and the spot light catches his horn. The horn shines so, despite the fact that it's old and beaten. I can almost see the worn springs and pads, the ivory finger spots that are long time gone, and the chipped enamel around the rim. I remember when I gave the kid that horn and I know he remembers too, on the bandstand behind him sits a newer one.

The music is so clean. I know I said that already, but I just can't get over it. The notes move in and out of the bass, drum, and piano rhythms so naturally you'd swear it was one instrument. The players backing the kid tonight are all good, but its definitely the kid's show. The drummer is small and lanky, I don't think he is old enough to even be in here, but the piano player makes up for him, and then some. The bass player just leans off on his ax, eyes closed, fingers moving up and down the strings. He could be asleep except for the sweet, sweet sound. Then there is the kid, front stage, confident, pushing it all along and keeping it all together. I wonder where he got that from.

Watching the other players doesn't take my mind off what I know is coming in only a few minutes. The contact I've had with him has been strictly through other people. Stuff will drift back to me like "Did ya hear, the kid sat in with so-and-so" or "Hey, heard the kid did this and that." But now, tonight, he had come to me. Not in my face, 'cause I didn't have to be here now, and I can still walk. No, not in my face, he had come to me and I had come to him, that is the only way it would have had a chance.

I hear my son speak for the first time in seven years, he just announces the end of the set and thanks the growing crowd for being here tonight. I know he is talking to me. He slips the horn into his gig bag. I am nervous, I feel my throat go tight and I glance at the door, all I see is Reg staring at me. Shifting my weight in the chair causes the vinyl-covered stool to moan underneath me. The kid straightens up and takes what appears to be a deep breath then he turns around to stare right where I am.

sunday morning come down

Cauline Holdren

feel like crying,
sighing, i'm dying inside
cheeks aching for wet
just enough tears to burn my
eyes can't see very well right now

wonder at the well
where wishing is real and
thirst is easily
sated it's funny it dries
from disuse when it's raining

it's hard to reach out
when i'm blinded by moonglow
can't find the doorway
don't like this windowless room
the other side of the door

words spill when tears won't
bittersweet the taste of now
don't know how to look
away when the bells ring over
everything unhappening

it's just a feeling
sapphire dragonfly came,
reminding me that
how it feels is not
always what it really is

a pair came, joined
hovering arm's reach away
told me it's okay
to miss you this way and i
do you know, god how i do

Do You Ever Have Baking Nightmares?

Stephen R. Lines

My dear friend,

I was adding a sentence to my dissertation chapter entitled "Explanations and Excuses" when I had a sudden flashback of a nightmare I had not had in 10 years.

In the dream, living people become little dolls made of bread dough and officious bakers in white uniforms slide them into a large earthen oven. These people start out just like you and me, but as soon as the bakers touch them, they shrivel up into dolls that are only pathetic caricatures of their former selves. They cannot talk or even stand on their doughy legs, but they can still see the bakers, and in the naked flames of the oven they bloat up and roll around for a while. Eventually they stop squirming, and then the bakers have to turn them over with a shovel. What is so absurdly frightening to me is the presumption of those bakers who, unlike their fellows, visibly decide to flip or roll the dolls over in one particular fashion instead of another, as if taking a certain morbid pride in their work -- really, who on earth has the right to decide which way to roll the doll-people?

And it gets even worse, although I do not know if you will understand this: I have an inexplicable desire to remove some random one of them, to save one dough person when all the rest are crusting black and smoking. The injustice of it is unspeakable. In the logic of the dream, each doll-person is the equivalent of a theory about the origin and destiny of the universe, a theory that can never be proven right or wrong. The ovens, however, have no awareness of the theories they burn. They sentence these living, breathing ideas to die horrible deaths, not even marking their time of passage.

Well, as you can imagine, I could not write any more that day. Nor could I bake brownies, my usual remedy for melancholia. In fact, I was rather perturbed. So, reflecting that Twinkies get their delicious golden brown texture not from baking, but from the chemical solution in which they are dipped en masse, I slowly descended the cellar stairs to retrieve one from the freezer. I did not start feeling truly better until I had popped the Twinkie into the microwave.

One has to be careful, of course, not to irradiate a frozen Twinkie too long or too intensely; sometimes they thaw prematurely and explode, leaving a sticky sweet residue all over the interior of one's oven. On these occasions, I recommend washing it out with warm water, no soap.



Night Blooming Jasmine

Arleen Mitchell

Night blooming jasmine no fear
All the sweetness to inspire pure thought
Honey hued mornings to kiss all the sadness away.
Temporarily aborted hope is replaced with a kind of calm
I don't need the machine like advances of professional emotion. An
emotion so tightly controlled a tear couldn't jerk itself free.
Warm wooded walls, I can't believe without touching.
What I want is it really so important? At times its enough to smell
the warm crease in your neck as the last of your perfume fades away.
But this is all selfish, its all for me without a thought of you
As you lay dying in your industrial
white bed and the night blooming jasmine is far far away.

Poetry Blues

Peter J. Tolman

". . .ya so i quit writing poetry and got drunk for ten years, and the reason i started writing poems again was because i looked around and saw piss all. . . it was all shit, no one was saying anything at all. . . i just couldn't sit back any longer. . . ."

- Charles Bukowski

some very personal thoughts on a very personal form of expression:
i hate poetry
i hate reading it, hearing it, visualizing it
i hate all the classics too - they bore me to death
i hate all the pretension that surrounds it
i hate all the confining prescriptive styles that dictate it
if i wasn't a masochist, i'd hate writing it too
i hate that it is so often contrived
i hate poetry that all looks, sounds, smells, and tastes the same
i hate poets that wear black clothes
i hate poets that hang out in cafes and pretend they're writing it
i hate poets that try to carry the weight of the world
and hate them even more when they fail
i hate poetry that pretends to be inspired
i hate poetry that pretends that its not plagiarized
i hate all the tiresome, recycled cliches disguised as originality
i hate poets, especially romantics, that still live in the 1800's
i just hate poetry!

poetry is pretentious
poetry is self-indulgent
poetry is self-serving
poetry is obscurely introspective most often
poetry is not immortal, nor are the poets
poetry is arrogant
poetry is individualistic in all the bad ways
poetry is preconceived
poetry does no good for human well being
poetry thinks that its something it isn't
poetry is craft
poetry pretends to have magic powers
poetry is not listened to or read except by a small self-righteous
club of poets
poetry is hypocritical!

i am the most hypocritical of all
i am a poet
i write poetry
i don't know why i write it
i just do
and though i pretend, at times, that i'm doing other than what i've said
above - i continue to see the hypocrisy and so i continue to torture
myself by reading and writing poetry
something intangible, however, makes me realize alongside the hypocrisy of
it all - the concurrent necessity

so i continue to do poetry until the sick compulsion ceases - which will
likely be never cause its more fundamentally a human thing as well

i am a poet
i am a hypocrite
nothing more nothing less
and at best - i can merely hope to achieve the one thing poets strive for
in this obscenely intimate, personal form of expression:
honesty - authenticity - being - spontaneity
that's all

Melancholy Flower

Michael Heacock

If you were to place the fingers of one hand on Labrador, as if you were holding paper, and the fingers of the other hand on New York state, and pulled each away from the other, North America, you'd find, would split in two all along the Trans-Canada. That's how I feel sometimes, as if there is a road running through me, dividing north from south. North shows an aurora of happiness--pristine, mostly desolate, underpopulated. South sows the weeds of unhappiness--thriving, decadent, overpopulated.

Sometimes I look around and wonder where all these people find it. Is it lying there in bed with them when they wake up in the morning? Is it in their Coffee Mate? Does it leap out from between parked cars as they drive to work? Is it lying in wait, spread thinly across their bologna sandwiches?

All the smiling faces. It's been so long, I can't even remember what it feels like to be happy, to be able to smile for no reason whatsoever. Oh sure, I smile I even laugh, but for jokes, to be polite, or because it is expected. I never smile for the sake of it all, for life, for living.

I used to have happiness, but that was long ago. Two years.

I find God allows only glimpses now. I am not seeing His point. Are these glimpses supposed to spur me towards goals and objectives that will bring back the smiles forever and for good? Or are they designed to make me feel even worse, some kind of Jobian joke?

I'm thinking the latter. What else? These tiny moments of almost-happiness happen at such odd moments. Like when I'm trying out a new cheese and I find it's taste to be very favourable. It has to be divine humour. What else? How is a block of emmental or gruyere supposed to spur me on to new directions? What kid of inspiration can one get from a slab of Norwegian goat cheese? It reminds me of Monty Python's cheese skit, smiles. I'm not a comedian.

Two years ago. It seems so far away. A bridge under the water. Yes, that's right, a bridge under the water, not the other way around.

I think that I was not as happy as I could have been back then. I put so much pressure on myself, created so much stress where none really existed. I still do this. Sometimes it gets very out of control, as if I've fallen into a deep well, except like that little child, there is no rescue team trying to save me, calling out my name, keeping me alive.

This is not a suicide note. Honest. Trust me.

Friends don't seem to understand why I'm so glum. They see unhappiness as an emotional constipation. I try, but can't seem to squeeze out the smiles if my bowels are devoid of even one turd of emotion. I used to be able, to a small extent, most of my life.

My mother tells me I was the bubbliest child when I was very young. Maybe there is a quota of happiness given to each person as they are born, a credit chit of sorts or maybe like food stamps. Maybe I used mine all up, cashed all my smile stamps at once. I'm not very good at conserving money, no reason to think I'd have been any better with smiles. Having purchasing power brings me small bits of joy, smile stamps must have too; what's the difference? I blow my money, I blow my happiness.

I think I'll head over to the grocery. I'm feeling more depressed than usual, buy myself a nice big chunk of feta. Let the rancid odour soothe my nostrils, my soul.

Or maybe I just need somebody to love. I feel so alone. I have friends, but it isn't the same. You can be surrounded by an entire oasis of friends but still see only desert. Or do I have close friends? I used to think so. Perhaps I once did, but lately it seems as if everything has been growing apart. It seems as though they don't want to be around me anymore. I suppose I can understand, me being as downcast as I have of late.

Is it selfish of them to ignore me? It isn't helping my situation, only pushing me deeper into this well of frustration. Or is it selfish of me? To expect them to be around in my time of need, to lift me up, help me through this. I'm caught. I need to meet new people, but how? It's so much work making new friends, so much effort and I feel so listless.

All I have is cheese. And other things. Memories? But they make me feel even worse, mostly because I can't recapture those moments. Mentally, I mean, I have most of them on film.

Unhappiness affects everything in your life. I never would have believed it, until I found myself there. They say when it rains it pours. A tired old cliche, but ain't it the truth. I've been experiencing unseasonal monsoons these last two years; short violent downpours every afternoon, overcast filling the remainder of my days. I feel like Bangladesh, the highlands are all at the fringes, the rest submerged.

I've become more cynical too. I never used to find fault with everything. I used to see things for what they were; now I see things for what they aren't.

I can remember happiness. I can see it when I dream. Sometimes I will find myself smiling as I drift off into sleep. It's there, just out of reach. I just need a break, an opportunity. I have the goals, the desires, I have within myself the means--just no way of capitalizing.

I really don't like talking about this (or writing as the case may be). It's certainly not making me feel any better (but then it's not making me feel any worse). Everyone says this can be a cathartic process, enable a person to put everything in perspective. Yeah, it's putting it all out in the open, right here in front of me, but everything that had been out on the horizon, invisible to my eyes, is still out there. That's just the way it is with perspectives. They don't afford answers, just more questions, everything is not there to see. What I need is an isometric view; I could deal with two-dimensionality if it would promise to bring me a smile.

If this is doing anyone any favours, it is you. It lets you see just how grand you have it in life by seeing how shitty I do. How can anyone be worse off than I? Out of you people; I'm not counting the hungry and homeless around the world. How much deeper can one person sink? I'd bet not at all. I'm resting my bruised buttocks on the gritty bottom, right now, as you read this. I'm going through emotional hypothermia, folks. Numb, numb, numb. I need someone warm to lie down with me, just to talk. To smile with.

I should reiterate that this is not a suicide note. Really. Truly.

I don't know. I suppose that eventually I'll pull out of this. One day. I suppose I just have to work harder at life. Sigh. Oh, to be able to picnic like I did in my youth.

If happiness ever does visit me, I think I'll ask it from what rock it crawled out from under.

urban cowpeople extroverts: shiny plastic people

Peter J. Tolman

i don't have cable cause i think tv rots the brain -- makes one complacent but i was lookin after my ma's place today and turned on the tv and it said in the guide that on the nashville network there was a bluegrass special with guys like doc watson and all those mountain players from kentucky -- i play a little guitar in the hillbilly tradition and kinda looked forward to seein this special since i live pretty far from blue grass country and all

so i clicked it to channel 32 and there wasn't no bluegrass special

these pretty polished plastic folks were dancin around like a bunch of western peacocks -- in a really bright set that tried hard to look like a dance floor of some kind -- almost like a real bar

the guys looked really stupid and uniform -- stickin there thumbs in their front pockets like they were happy to be there on tv dancin but didn't want it to look like they were excited; -- and the gals wore tight jeans, some wore mini-very-fashionable-western-skirts -- and they all, guys and gals, had this really serious look on their faces like they were qualifyin for the line-dancin olympics or somethin -- and some you could tell had spent hours and hours perfectin their spin around moves in a studio somewhere so they could go on tv and show off -- and what's worse they all looked like a bunch of god-fearin-southern-baptists cause there wasn't one bourbon bein drunk, in fact, i didn't see even one beer or anythin in anyone's hand -- no, these folks meant serious business -- they was there to do some serious-wiggle-your-ass-like-the-very-trendy-billy-ray-cyrus-cult dancin -- line dancin no less -- an entire hour of tv time replayed several times a day on the nashville network

this was far from the bluegrass i'd hoped for -- this was far from the traditions of country music

then it dawned on me -- the real scary thing about this is that a lot of folks actually tune in to see this club dance on the nashville network -- a lot more than folks who tune in to see good quality bluegrass or country music for that matter

yup -- we come a long way since the death of america's greatest poet ever -- hank williams sr. -- maybe its me, but the nashville scene seems to have lost its essence entirely, i.e., great earthy songwritin, and now we're left with crass glitzy commercialism -- we's left with line-dancin -- people too busy struttin their stuff and bein yuppie urban cowpeople to have any thing left for a depth of historical imagination

The Art of the Novel

Colin Morton

I hadn't seen my old friend in what seemed like ages, so I decided to pay him a visit at home. He looked surprised to see me, though we used to be inseparable.

As soon as he opened the door I remarked on his loss of weight. He told me he was writing a novel, which went a long way toward explaining his hollow eyes, the mask of pain he wore.

Then I noticed his fingernails: scaly, reptilian, gnawed down to red edges that seemed to smell faintly of roast pork.

"It's the smell of burning paper," he said. "The pages of my novel. I feed them to the fire one by one as I write them."

While he spoke he scratched at the back of his hand, peeled off reddened skin and chewed it from his fingertips.

"What's eating you?" I demanded, growing suspicious.

"I'm all right, I tell you. It's just a rash. The druggist recommended a salve, but it did no good. The itch keeps spreading, going deeper, toward the heart."

He opened his shirt to let me see how much of him the rot had covered. "The fact is," he admitted, "I haven't left the house in a month. I only opened the door just now because I thought you were the pizza boy. I guess it's no use. They're scared to come to this house. And the grocery store doesn't deliver. No one delivers. What else can I do?"

He kept scratching nervously at a scab on his temple, then putting his fingers to his mouth. Suddenly afraid, I backed away, but he caught my arm.

"Don't go so soon, now that you're here!" He pulled a flake of skin from his neck and pushed it into my face. "Here, taste it. It's good. Won't you have some?"


Carolyn Lesley Burke

[Through forgotten paths of icy thought,]
I'm an inward gazing, thoughtful person, and all my friends regard me erroneously as arrogant. In fact, I like to understand them and end up stepping on their subconscious toes (although if any asked, I would say that I at least do not have a subconscious). If reality exists outside of my awareness, I've yet to see the proof. Please submit well-behaved evidence to me via either e-mail or dreams. I still can't believe that having my thoughts in your head feels more exciting than. . .completing this innuendo-laden sentence for you.

Michael Heacock

Mike is a late-twenties university student who enjoys traveling. He has lived and visited in such diverse places as Malaysia, Thailand, Norway, and Northern Ireland. One day, he might incorporate some of these experiences in to a story.

Virgil Hervey

Virgil Hervey is a New York City criminal lawyer who plays trumpet and writes poetry and short stories. He is the publisher of God's Bar: un*plugged, a literary magazine for disenfranchised computer bulletin board poets. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Flying Dog, Sand River Journal, and The Olympia Review. More are scheduled for upcoming editions of Blank Gun Silencer and Venusian Travelogue.

Cauline Holdren

. . .who recently relocated to the north side of Bullfrog Creek on an Alafia bayou, is just finishing up another childhood anticipating graduation seventeen years after graduation, gaining intimate knowledge of the wonders that make our lives easier not to mention possible (shudder). Poems, pomez and prose are published most recently (har) in God's Bar: un*plugged and The Beatlicks Poetry Newsletter.

Stephen R. Lines

I'm a grad student in MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab, working on a Ph.D. in machine learning & computer graphics. I'm also an ex- physicist, ex-jock, ex-Mormon with an MA in anthropology from Chicago, several years of art school, and a fabulous collection of rejection letters from artsy literary rags. Recently I designed and produced RUNE, an MIT annual of arts and letters, and sometimes I publish a zine called AnImUs aNoNyMouS. If you have access to the World Wide Web, come visit my new AI Lab Home Page!

Michael McNeilley

Michael McNeilley is editor of the Olympia Review; was Founding Director of the National Student News Service; worked as a reporter and correspondent in Washington, DC; writes on art, disability, business and political issues; and has published poems and stories in New Delta Review, Red Dancefloor, God's Bar: un*plugged, Hammers, Poet, Gypsy, Silent Treatment, Poetry Motel, Lilliput Review, Slipstream, Bouillabaisse, DAM, Ball, Plazm, Minotaur, The Plastic Tower, SIN, xib, Abbey, Aspects, Ma!, Hyphen, Ship of Fools, Exquisite Corpse and many other publications.

Arleen Mitchell

My full name is Arleen Mitchell, I prefer Mitchel because I really do not like the name Arleen. Twenty Eight years old, living in New York City for the past 10 years. I have a group called AJAX. I'm the vocalist. We released an album on Wax Trax a few years ago. We are currently looking for a new label. I've had a couple of poems published in Cover Magazine here in New York. But this is much more exciting!

Colin Morton

Colin Morton has published four books of poetry, and his first novel, Oceans Apart, is due from Quarry Press in spring 1995. His work can also be found in the animated film Primiti Too Taa and the following e-zines: The Powderkeg, The Morpo Review, Atmospheres, and Realpoetik.

Robert X. Scibelli

Robert Scibelli has toiled these many years as many things in many places. And if you had said to him five years ago that he would first publish his fiction in an electronic magazine, he would have bought the bag from you. So, I don't have a real literary Bio here, if you need to see one look above and below. But, I have been pseudo- published extensively, biweekly as a matter of fact, but that was when I was working as a stock analyst for an advisory company; customers would call up to say that what I had written was pure fiction. It is not quite the same. So I started writing fiction for fiction, and I still do, and I will, and here we are.

Peter J. Tolman

Peter Tolman is a poet who was born, raised, and currently resides in Victoria, BC, Canada. He spent four years in Regina, Saskatchewan where he did his undergraduate degree. Peter is a regular contributor to poetry boards at both Victoria and Denver freenets.

Other Publications Worthy of
your Attention

God's Bar: un*plugged
(print and amateur)
Virgil Hervey: editor
112 Dover Parkway
Stewart Manor, NY 11530
4 issues per year

GRAIN (print and professional)
P.O. Box 1154 Stn Main
Regina SK CANADA S4P 9Z9
Fax: 1-306-565-8554
4 issues per year for $19.95 (US add $4.00)

The Malahat Review
(print and professional)
University of Victoria
P.O. Box 3045
Victoria BC CANADA V8W 3P4
4 issues per year for approx. $20.00

If you know of any other publications that would be worthy of this list, please send me a copy of one. If you publish your own periodical, please send me a copy and I'll add it here. My address is:

Michael Heacock
1791 Feltham
Victoria BC CANADA V8N 2A4

Carolyn's Diary
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