Category Archives: 10/2009

Cliff Notes for a Once Passionate Life

From the Lutin Muse June 2009edition

Written by Ken Carman

I grew up
Under emotionally sculpted skies
Crystal clear northern breezes
Blowing raggedy cotton ball clouds
Over bright blue lakes
Deep, dense, dark green forests
And a deep, wide river

Lifes clouds hung heavy
Or high
A different kind of sculpted sky
All in All
A time when passionate dreams dared to fly

How close passion and I were back when
I would let passion devour me
Every now and then
But it always spat me back up
Freshly challenged

When did this slimy, slippery
Emotionless mist
Start to insist
On dampening this passionate heart?
When did the weeks
The months
Each year
Start to dull even fear
Into textureless
Cream of Wheat days?

When did I let
Like a once beloved pet
Passion be buried on cemetery hill
And how did my dreams get
To curl into the corners of only yesterday?
A process that seemed slower than tortoise
As hope went all
Rigor mortis
Before its time

Through too many moonless nights
Through the steady
Of each year
I hear
The ghost of passion still
Howling up on cemetery hill
And think

He must be almost as lonely
As I
Copyright 2009
Ken Carman
all rights reserved

Blood On The Train

Written by R.S. Janes

I knew something was wrong as soon as I got on the almost-empty train. As it hurtled through the blinking lights of Chicago late at night, I sat down on the seat nearest the doors.

This was many years ago when the old CTA trains had an embossed metal divider on each side of the doors. The divider came halfway up from the floor, anchored to a vertical pole and a horizontal pole, both chrome-plated. What it meant was, you couldn’t see below the head and shoulders of someone sitting across from you on the other side of the doors.

Such was the case here I could see the couple across from me, but not a thing below the shoulders. The woman was middle-aged, with a solid heft from carrying kids and talking on the phone at the same time; she was wearing a plain pale yellow dress and some kind of silly hat that resembled an abstract bird with one large feather coming out of its back. The man was about the same age, skinny and smaller, with a pork-pie hat pushed back away from his thinning hairline; he weaved around with the motions of the train as if his body were attached to a loose spring really drunk, I thought.

I hadn’t even noticed them when I entered the train, but now I heard the woman’s voice braying, brash, domineering cutting through the loud mechanical roaring and squeaking of the El train in motion.

“This is it, baby! I ain’t doin’ this no more! Next time you are on your own! I don’t even know why I’m doin’ it this time I must be crazy! Straighten yourself up there and stop acting funny, goddamn you!”

With that, she grabbed the skinny man, who had been dangerously close to falling into the aisle, and with one hand pulled him up so that he was sitting straight in his seat. He had a cockeyed smile on his face, as if he was quietly enjoying this party immensely, at the same time his glazed eyes seemed unable to focus on what was right in front of him.

As we sped though the Loop, the train would stop and a few people got on, but none in our car. It was just the skinny man, the matronly woman, myself, and another man behind me at the other end of the car, sitting with his feet up on the seat in front of him, desultorily reading a newspaper when he wasn’t snoring. I usually picked the end car of the train for this reason not many people to contend with and plenty of empty seats.

The skinny man lit up a cigarette — not permitted on the train even in those days but, late at night, the conductors tended to look the other way and, still smiling, exhaled smoke with weariness while the woman continued her monologue.

“You always think you’re such a big man and then you get yourself in trouble and who has to fix you up? ME! You worthless piece of trash! I’m gonna take the children and leave your ass flat one of these days, and goddamn if I don’t. You can watch my dust! I’m telling you this is the last time for your funny business! And don’t you threaten me with no knife, because I don’t give a good goddamn and you know it! I’ll cut you right back!”

The skinny man hadn’t said a word, but his expression changed. He flopped back in the seat and his mouth went slack. He tossed the lit cigarette in the aisle without moving to stub it out.

“Look at the mess you’re makin’,” the woman said. “Now I’m gonna have to put that out. You just don’t care about nobody but yourself. Look, don’t you start fallin’ asleep on me, we almost there and I’ll just leave your ass on the train if you go to sleep you hear me!”

She didn’t get up to put out the cigarette, but the man did sit up and take a deep breath. He rolled his head around as if he was trying to get sober, and then slumped forward. The woman put her arm around him, pulled him up, and said:

“It’s the next damn stop! You just stay awake. We’re almost there. You straighten up!”

We had passed through the Loop and now we were on the South Side. As the train slowed to a halt at the next station, the woman was on her feet, pulling the man out of his seat with both hands.

“Come on, we’re here!” she shouted. “Hurry up, get on your feet we got a couple of blocks to walk!”

As they made their way to exit the open doors of the stopped train, I noticed the man’s shirt and pants were soaked in dark arterial blood, starting at his sternum and running all the way to his knees. The blood stood out in contrast to his cream-colored shirt and light gray pants. One of his hands clutched his belly, while the other was draped over the woman’s shoulder. It was the most blood I had seen in person at that point in my life.

“This is the last time, baby,” I heard her say as she pulled him off the train. “You get crazy with that knife again and go fighting and you can die where you lay. I ain’t gonna be there to take you to the hospital no more!”

I watched the couple as the doors closed and the train began rolling again. They disappeared down the stairs of the train station, she holding him up as he was hanging onto her for dear life.

I stood up and grabbed one of the metal poles, readying myself to get off at the next stop. It was then I noticed the bloody mess on the seat where the skinny man had been sitting, and a pool of shiny dark blood on the floor below the man had been bleeding copiously for well over a half-hour. Could anyone lose that much blood and still be alive? Yet, miraculously, he was.

I noticed his cigarette butt had been stepped on the crumpled, flattened white paper pink from gory shoes. I thought maybe I should tell a conductor about the mess, but then I knew what that would lead to a police report: what did I know, what did I see, what happened here? I didn’t know anything except that I was on my way to a party; I didn’t have any answers.

In the morning, if the car were still in service, the rush-hour church crowd, dressed in their Sunday best, would discover the grisly scene, and they would gawk at the seat and have a story to tell after the sermon looks like somebody bled to death on the El last night, bet there was a crime, maybe a robbery or something.

None of the speculation would be true, but when has that mattered if there was some nice gruesome gossip to share?

R.S. Janes.
All Rights Reserved.

“…the rush-hour church crowd… would discover the grisly scene, and they would gawk at the seat and have a story to tell…”

Out of the Cornfield

Written by Ken Carman

“Into the cornfield.”

And that’s the last thing we heard for a long, long time… except crows, and the wind, and the rain dripping down on the house where the little boy-God lived.

He had ordered us here, so here we stayed; no longer quite human… we could not die. We stayed only because he had the power to keep us here.

But human boy-Gods don’t live forever.

All that time, waiting in anger and fear. Many of us have gone mad, and some just so viciously angry the result is the same. We have dwelt upon every word said without good intent, every action and in-action, all the weak hearts who give into such bullies…

The boy-God may have put us here out of malice yet, though he never imagined it possible. through the use of his powers he couldn’t help but plant a seed in us that grew. Now that he has gone the seed has sprouted a hundred fold. Each of us with power unintentionally given to us by the boy-God. Together we are more powerful than he was… have more anger than even he had.

And we have not forgotten every injustice.

And we will release our madness, our anger, on a world that gives into little boys.

We have pulled ourselves out of the cornfield. We are looking for you.

It’s almost Halloween.

Are you ready?
Copyright 2009
Ken Carman
all rights reserved

Still image from Twilight Zone episode: It’s a Good Life; used only for contextual and educational purposes.

Bust My Buttons

From the July 2009 Lutin Muse issue

Written by Sennebec

I wasnt sure whether the message on my answering machine was more unexpected or unwelcome. Marcus Dinsmore was a name from my high school days and certainly not someone with a good reason to get in touch with me.

The voice sounded more mature, but familiar, bringing back memories of spring, 1989 when we were about to graduate from high school. I beat out Marcus by asking Shannon Merck to the graduation prom, completely unaware that they had been dating. He had gone ballistic, threatening me in senior English and later spray painting all the windows on my beloved 57 Chevy. He missed getting expelled by a hair and wasnt allowed to graduate with the rest of us. Oddly enough, Shannon and I discovered we had nothing in common and never went out again. That was almost 20 years ago. I had gone to college, then graduate school and was a slightly balding software engineer in Emeryville, California, far removed from Simonton, Maine. Heck, I hadnt even been back to visit in ten years.

Curiosity won and I listened to the message again. Hi James, bet you never expected to hear from me, did you. I saw on the web that you were doing some really cool stuff with 3-D graphics in computer applications. Way beyond anything Id ever do. Anyhow, I found your phone number in your online resume and thought, hey, maybe its time to make things right for what happened way back when, if you know what I mean. Id like to meet and clear the air. Im staying at the Radisson for the next few days. Give me a call if you want to meet. Later, Marcus.

As the events of that spring ran through my mind, I started to dial the number, hesitated and then thought what the heck. He answered on the second ring and after some awkward small talk, we agreed to meet at an obscure sushi place in North Beach the following evening.

I recognized him immediately as I came down the stairs into a quietly lit and very small restaurant. Japanese music was playing softly in the background and there was an Asian couple engrossed in each other at the far end of the bar. He waved me over and stood as I got close, extending his hand. I shook it and took the seat next to him.

After a bit of awkward small talk, I started to relax and asked what he had been up to since high school. My question seemed to defuse his edginess as well and for the next hour, we caught each other up on post-high school experiences and news of classmates. I didnt realize it at the time, but most of what Marcus told me about his own experiences was just vague enough so none of it was traceable.

He seemed to know the sushi chef quite well and insisted on treating me to an array of samples, many of which I had never heard of before. Not wanting to offend him, I sampled each one, even though Im not the greatest raw fish fan. They were surprisingly good and I cleaned the plate while Marcus ate sparingly, urging me on whenever I seemed to be sated. Several hours later, we parted amicably after exchanging emails and phone numbers.

The next day, I received a cryptic email from Marcus; Thanks for getting together and letting me repay you for old times, Marcus.

I was buried in a new project a couple days later when I started experiencing waves of nausea which quickly turned into gut-wrenching pain. It became so bad I knew there was no way Id get to my doctor unaided. I called 911.

The paramedic lifted my shirt, took one look at my distended abdomen and wasted no time. While he and his partner wheeled me to the ambulance, he called the ER to have a surgeon standing by and as soon as I was safely strapped in, he took off like a bat from hell.

I was so focused on the pain which was now so powerful I was alternating screaming and whimpering, I didnt remember reaching the hospital, but everything came to a blinding stop right after they wheeled me into the examination room. I felt one last tearing sensation before the surgeon swore and ripped my shirt open, sending buttons flying in every direction. While the EMTs and a nurse struggled to get an IV started, the surgeon cursed again and without waiting to get me to the OR, started an incision right over whatever was tearing me apart. Whatever was in the IV blessedly started taking the raw edge off my building agony just as blood and bits of torn tissue erupted from the incision followed by a translucent creature which continued to writhe as it oozed from my open abdomen. In my hazy state, I barely registered its size and the incredible mandibles clacking viciously as it searched for something else to destroy.

Three days later, I emerged from a drug-induced coma to find the surgeon regarding me with a mixed look of pity and compassion.

Wha I tried to ask around the tube going down my throat.

Someone really dislikes you, Mr. Radnik. Ive treated numerous cases of Anisakiasis, but I never encountered anything like the parasite we tried excising from you. In fact I had to consult with colleagues at Tokyo General to get an inkling of what we were dealing with. Someone slipped you a serving of Hokkonu Haddafrass, a species seldom seen and nothing any sane person would consider consuming. It hosts a segmented parasite which can reproduce when a section is severed and is nearly impossible to detect, even with modern techniques.

I barely heard anything he said after the word tried.

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Oh, %$#@!!!!

"Oh, %$#@!!!!"

Trick or Treat

Written by Jenn Weinshenker

Carving a pumpkin
Putting a candle inside the thing
Setting it on an inverted pot
To flicker amber
From the window sill
And masquerading with friends
Can be tons of fun
But Halloween
And all of the rest of it
You can keep it
Take it

Sold in dark theaters
Blood and guts
Things that go bump in the night
Monsters hiding under a bed
Psychos lurking outside a shower curtain
Spiders coming up a drain
Wrong numbers
Malevolent clowns
Killer dolls
And sudden bang-pops from deceptive balloons
Just give me the creeps

Im not interested in
Scary as hell traditions
Incestuously commingled with religious holidays
That introduce to impressionable children
They are Satan’s pawns
In order to insure the self-perpetuation
Of obsolete spooky institutions
I have no time for the repetition of this myth
Promoted with chocolate

My light is out
Copyright 2003
Jenn Weinshenker
All Rights Reserved.

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