March 18, 2005

March 2005, Vol. 4, Issue 3

1. Fur Coats and Cowboy Boots by Tenzin McGrupp
I didn't get to see her face, just her light brown boots. She got lost in the shuffle as the other passengers at Times Square scurried inside.... More

2. Doc and the Dream by BG
It started as I began to recognize the significant dates. The date of my divorce. The day I left my ex-wife. The day I married her. They kept rolling past me and I just wanted time to stop, just for a minute... More

3. Bulletproof by C. Anderson Guthrie
I tried my best to not act surprised, but let's see you try to keep a straight face after being told that you're in the same room with the Irish equivalent of John Gotti... More

4. Fresh Bait. by Julia Vettraino
Tumbleweed the size of my car rolled brazenly by, mingling with the asphalt and potato farms as though they owned the land here in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho.... More

5. The Thing I Wanted to Write About by Sean Lovelace
The song was by Fleetwood Mac and did it ever sound true, so true that although I can’t remember the title now, I thought then about buying the CD when I reached Nashville.... More

6. Fishing for Microwaves by Tenzin McGrupp
She slurped a pink drink with a straw and giggled uncontrollably as I stacked up my chips. Her breasts trembled like the ground near Kilauea volcano everytime she laughed.... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning for another issue of my literary blogzine. Once again there are two authors making their Truckin' debut. Julia Vettraino and Sean Lovelace are new to the roster and I hope they contribute more stories in the future. BG is back with an excerpt from a manuscript he's been working on. And C. Anderson Guthrie follows up his debut last moth with a thrilling story from his trip to Ireland. It's been a while since I posted a subway story and I have something left over from my last trip to Las Vegas. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site.

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.


"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone.... but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson

Fur Coats and Cowboy Boot

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005

I stared at a picture of Lucy Nolan, one of the morning anchors from Good Day New York, for an entire stop. I was lost inside my mind when a large white man wearing a fur coat sat down. I've seen plenty of women wearing fur coats in the city, but that was my first glimpse of a man in pelts. His features suggested that he was Eastern European. He had not shaved in several days and his left arm was in a cast.

Why the hell was a Ukrainian guy with busted arm and a fur coat riding the subway?

I observed his every move while he looked off in the distance. I took note of the details of his appearance, especially the fake gold bracelet on his right wrist and the equally cheap watch. He pathetically tried to pass off a pair of knockoff Bruno Mali's as his shoes. His cast was poorly put together; maybe done by a quack in the back room of a Mafia doctor's office?

Over the last few months, I had been practicing my poker face on the subway. Normally when I made eye contact with a random commuter, I automatically looked away in a non-confrontational survival reaction, something I had picked up over the years. I pretended not to pay attention, yet remained aware of everything and carefully avoided eye contact with the masses. I waited for him to turn his attention to me as I wondered if I had the balls to stare him down. I decided against it. The broken arm made me suspicious. Plus I didn't want to have to fight a guy twice my size with a plaster cast that could be used as a weapon.

The thug with the fur coat got off and a young woman with the cowboy boots walked into the car. I didn't get to see her face, just her light brown boots. She got lost in the shuffle as the other passengers at Times Square scurried inside. She sat down across from me, and her face was obstructed by a couple of suits who stood in between us. When they exited at Penn Station, I caught my first glimpse of her. A light purple wool hat sat on top of her shoulder length brown hair with a matching scarf elegantly tied around her neck. She listened to a CD player. It was refreshing to be on an iPodless train. My attention focused on her faded brown boots. She really looked out of place, but not giving off that "Aw! Shucks!!" fresh tourist vibe, which folks from Iowa emanate the second they step off the plane from Des Moines.

She glanced off to her right at an advertisement for the New School. I clocked her for a good two minutes without her noticing my stalkerish glances. When she caught me looking at her, my eyes fixated on the cowgirl for the entire time she stared back. Instead of flinching, I held my ground for twenty seconds. She eventually gave in and looked away first. She stood up, flashed a momentary smile in my direction and exited as I took a mental photograph of her weathered boots.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Doc and the Dream

By BG © 2005

A note from the author: McGrupp has encouraged me to write something a little bit bigger than what I've been chipping away at here. Actually, he's been on my ass about it, but that's a good thing. This is the first draft of the first chapter I've written in that "something a little bit bigger" I want to tackle. The dream is mine (and rather fucked up), but Langston is a guy who's been writing and re-writing on the same manuscript for nearly fifteen years, and only his shrink knows he's been writing. He's never told anyone else. Oh, and his mom is a well-respected novelist.

It was, as it usually was, a mercifully short wait for Dr. Meyer. In those minutes prior to our sessions alone in the waiting room, I had moved well past my initial inclination to sprint for the exit doors and now was content to leaf through three month old issues of Architectural Digest, even though I couldn't tell Doric from Ionic without a cheat sheet.

Not that people are utilizing Roman columns the way they used to, I mused with a sideways smirk. If you can't get them at Home Depot, or buy them out of the box at Crate and Barrel or IKEA, America doesn't want them anyway. Of course, all it's going to take to bring them back is for one rapper to show up on MTV's Cribs with a Gladiator fetish (as opposed to the usual predilection to Tony Montana), a pool surrounded by a mock-up of the Coliseum, and the words, "Russell Crowe, now that's my nigga."

Maybe instead of iced out platinum chains and medallions, you'll see brothas rockin' gold plated olive branch crowns and trading their gats for broad swords.

Not likely.

"Langston, sorry to keep you waiting. Why don't you come on in and grab a seat." Doc's office was large and comfortable, outfitted with couches, chairs, his desk, books - all the things you expect and desire from your shrink. As usual, I took one of the two low-slung leather chairs with the ottoman right out of the picture in the Pottery Barn catalog. Doc took the other.

I always took this chair. It faced the back corner of Doc's office, in which a tall and colorful metal sculpture was placed. Actually, it was more fair to say it was perched over there, as it seemed to both hulk over and cascade down and around a single fulcrum point where its shape and perceived bulk gave an illusory nod to the forces of gravity. It looked like it should be falling off of the base - as a matter of fact it looked as if it were in mid-topple - but was always balanced in the same position.

I've never been one to truly understand art, but I loved this piece. I asked Doc about it in one of my early sessions, and he brushed me off. "You can tell me what you think about that whenever you're ready."

It had been nearly five years of weekly sessions, and I hadn't given it a lot of thought since.

"So, Langston... How have you been doing this week? Is there anything in particular you wanted to talk about today?"

"Actually, I had a dream." Dr. Meyer smiled. I rarely had dreams I remembered in the morning, and the "dream journal" idea he had proposed years ago had been a colossal failure.

"Wow, great. Throw me a curveball this week, why don't you? I'm ready, let's dive in."

"Are you familiar with the game Cutthroat?"

Dr. Meyer nodded and started jotting notes in his spiral. "Billiards - pool, right? That Cutthroat?"

"Right. I was playing against two guys..."

"Guys you know? People you know?" I shook my head. "Who were these guys then?"

"This is the weird part." I shuffled up in my seat, eager to get this dream out in front of the Doc. "It was obvious there was a lot riding on this game. So much so that we all were playing incredibly defensive pool - playing not to lose, if you will. Shot after shot was executed to simply make the next guy's shot that much harder."

Doc jumped in, "You were guarding something. So were they."

"Yeah, so were they. It went on like this for a little while, and I finally relented and laid my cue down on the table. I gave up, declared a stalemate - which I guess meant I was the loser. So the guys come up to me and grab me by the shoulders..."

"Violently? Or gently, as if they're taking you somewhere?"

"Gently, I guess. One of the guys says, 'You know you're done, right?' I nod and he adds, 'We're going to put things back the way they should be, and there's nothing you can do about it now.'"

Dr. Meyer perked up instantly. "There's nothing you can do about what?"

"Time. They were going to wind time back. The guys locked me in a bathroom, and I took a seat on the toilet and looked out the back window."

Doc was scribbling furiously in his notebook. Without looking up he said, "I'm not sure what the bathroom means, if anything, but what were you looking at out the window?"

"There was a convenience store. Or, rather, a building that used to obviously house a convenience store. The building was boarded up and run down, and weeds were growing all over the property."

"Do you remember what you were thinking while you were looking out the window?"

"Nothing - not yet at least. I'll get to that. But I can remember feeling defeated. Well, defeated, and that when things started to get reset that I'd be wiped away with them."

"Wiped away?"

"Like everything I had ever done in my life was going to be nullified."

Doc paused to let that last sentence sink in. I'm not sure if he wanted that to sink in for me or for him. "So when everything was all said and done at the end of this - reset of time - you'd be operating with a clean slate?"

"No. Like when everything was all said and done at the end of this, I'd cease to exist at all."

Doc was absentmindedly nibbling on the end of his pen. The silence was loaded. "This isn't quite the same thing as when one dreams about their own mortality, is it? You're not falling out of a plane, you're not jumping off a tall building - none of those things that people do purposefully or accidentally when they dream about death. This isn't a fetishization of death in any sort of sense at all. You played a high-stakes game where your existence - not just your life, but the whole of your existence - was on the line."

I nodded. "Everything I am, everything I've done."

"And what's interesting is that you didn't lose, did you?" I hadn't thought of it that way. I didn't lose. I gave up, resigned, called a stalemate when I knew that doing so was an acquiescence to this fate. I sunk a little lower in the chair and shook my head in agreement. No. I didn't lose. "What happened next?"

"I was sitting on the toilet - just sitting, mind you - and was watching the convenience store out the window. That's when time started rolling backwards. Slowly, at first. The weedy overgrowth started to back down, and then signs of life at the store started to appear. The boarded up windows came down, and there was a sign - a clock - that was one of those red digital scrolling message boards on the outside of the building, and all of a sudden it was on and the time and date on the board kept rolling steadily backwards."

Doc nodded. "Do you remember thinking or feeling anything as you saw this store come back to life?"

"'Stop.' That's one thing. I just wanted everything to stop. Then I started to see landmark dates pass by."

"Which dates? What did they signify?"

"It started as I began to recognize the significant dates. The date of my divorce. The day I left my ex-wife. The day I married her. They kept rolling past me and I just wanted time to stop, just for a minute."


"My first impulse was so that I could fix things. Make things right, or at least more right than they had turned out. But I was locked in the bathroom, sitting on that toilet, completely defeated and unable to do anything. I wanted so badly to get out there and fix things."

"What would you have done to fix them?"

"See, I don't know. It's a different question than if you were to ask me 'What would I do if I had the chance to go back in time to those days?' In the dream, there's a different context."

Dr. Meyer obviously agreed. "I'm glad you understand that. Sometimes what we're thinking and feeling inside of a dream can be taken at face value, sometimes it's thick with subtext, and sometimes there's no sense in trying to break the code at all. What do you think 'fixing these things' meant in the dream?"

"I thought it was a dream about regret, but I'm not so sure anymore. See, the milestones I mentioned already are the most recent ones. Over the last seven or eight years, they're the ones that have most impacted me. But then I started to notice more dates rolling by on that digital board, but they weren't exactly milestones. The last time I was fired from a job... the other time that happened... the day I wrecked my car..."

Dr. Meyer interrupted, "All mistakes? Every one of these dates you noticed in your dream. They're all mistakes." He let that marinate for a moment. "What were you thinking as time continued to roll back?"

"That I was completely powerless to stop the ride, get off, and do anything about anything." I looked over and saw Doc rocking slowly back and forth in his chair, which was what he did when he was waiting for me to fill in the rest of the blank. "I guess this dream wasn't about regret, was it?"

Dr. Meyer set his pen and pad down to the side and leaned forward into the conversation. "We've established this isn't a dream about death, and this isn't a dream about regret. Why is it you chose to only mark mistakes as signposts through your past? Why is there no mention of the day you lost your virginity? Or the days you come back from the track having doubled or tripled your stake? Why aren't you recognizing a first date, a first kiss, first time you tasted success on the job, first time you had five figures in the bank? Why is it you focus so pointedly on mistakes?" I shrugged and shook my head. "Something one of your Cutthroat opponents said to you..." He leafed back a couple pages in his spiral. "'We're going to put things back the way they should be.' What do you suppose you mean by that?"

I huffed and threw away, "That I'm a colossal fuck-up and everything is my fault?"

"Get serious, would you Langston?" Dr. Meyer hated it when I did this. In this room is the only place I felt comfortable getting personal, but sometimes the walls would come up, even in here. "Why do you think things needed to be reset?"

"I don't know Doc, I don't know... I am confused though. Why, if I was so resigned to defeat in this case was I even willing to fight to keep these guys from turning back time to begin with?"

Dr. Meyer began, "You were playing defensive pool, right?" I nodded. "Then you just laid down your cue and gave up, correct?" Again, I agreed. "That's hardly a fight. That's really more of a situation where you're looking to preserve the status quo - a stalemate is essentially a conflict that ends in status quo, isn't it..."

I hated it when the Doc was right.

"You've got a tenuous relationship with your own past. 'The way things should be' is a myth. The past exists as it is, or rather, as it was. And you have a curious way of resigning yourself to the past without accepting it." We sat there in silence for thirty seconds, a minute, while Dr. Meyer let his statement wash through my head. "Answer me out loud this time, first thing that comes into your head. Why is your life's story told through mistakes and failures?"

I took a single beat and answered, "I'm never going to be as successful as my mom, am I?"

Doc grinned and asked me the only question that had survived each and every one of our sessions over the past five years, "So how is that manuscript coming along Langston?"

BG is a writer from Western Michigan.

Bullet Proof

By C. Anderson Guthrie © 2005

"I don't know what Tommy was doing last night, and I don't really care to know," whispered Erin in an almost unintelligible Northern Irish accent, as she slowly pulled a ski mask and winter gloves out of a plastic bag, showing me and my travel companion.

I thought: Oh fuck! And I'm sleeping on their couch?

Tommy and Erin were an Irish couple in their 40’s who probably weren't all that atypical: they were late-teen sweethearts, married, had three daughters and lived in a very small flat overlooking the River Foyle in Derry, Northern Ireland. By all means, a downright lovely family.

We'd arrived in Derry a few days earlier, and I found myself with Erin’s and Tommy's extended family, drinking large amounts of Miller Genuine Draft, because that's the only beer the store carried that didn't have the words "stout", or "dark" emblazoned in big letters on the label. After driving counterclockwise around the island for the previous two weeks on a diet of Guinness, bread, cheese and little else, I needed a watered down American beer to cleanse my palette. Also, I didn't want to end the trip the same way I started it--plugged.

Somewhere around 4 AM, I'd converted 12 of my beers to pee, joined in many-a-sing-along in which I didn't know any of the words, and heard more chatter that didn't sound anything like English, even though I knew that's what was being spoken. It was also around this time that it was announced that Tommy was going to stop by.

While I thought it odd that the others were overly excited by this news, not much registered outside of that, especially considering my inebriated state. It was then that Mary, Erin's sister, pulled me aside to discuss Tommy.

"Do you know that Tommy is in the IRA, right?" Mary questioned with a Gaelic twang.

"What--you mean that he's into investing?" I dimwittedly replied.

She explained again, this time a little slower and with more enunciation.

"Eyyyyye-aarrrrrrr-ayyyyyyy," Mary said.

" Ayyyyye-oooooh-kayyyyyy," I fumbled out.

She still didn't get my humor.

It didn't make it any easier that I was having a tough time understanding what Mary was saying. I had taken three years of French in high school, one more in college, and this was much like when the professor would be speaking using new words: if you waited long enough and heard words that you already understood, it wasn't that tough to figure out the context.

So, I waited and I didn't want to understand. I mean, I really didn't want to understand. The context told me, after I'd tried and failed at making jokes, that Tommy was a main figure of the area IRA.

I tried my best to not act surprised, but let's see you try to keep a straight face after being told that you're in the same room with the Irish equivalent of John Gotti, only without the money and penchant for cement boots. If I'd been outside, little Irish sparrows would've taken up residence in my wide-open mouth.

From what I knew at the time, the IRA was originally created as a paramilitary group, moving towards an unified Irish state, and breaking away from UK rule. I was honestly frightened, because the only mental images I had of the IRA were from 80s news shows, included petrol bombs in Belfast, and assassination attempts.

And I was sleeping on his couch? Fuck.

Mary informed me that if were I to ever have a problem with anyone in Derry, that all I had to do was tell Tommy and he'd "take care of it." I didn't ask for further clarification on exactly who, or what, it was that he'd take care of, and it was better that I didn’t know.

Tommy took a liking to me, and nobody was entirely sure of his reasons behind it. By the end of the trip, he was calling me his "Bro." Erin told me later that he never calls anyone his "Bro," and I wasn't quite sure if I should be feel honored, or, well, really fucking honored.

He also told stories about his friends that died in internment camp while on hunger strikes, friends that died in the Bloody Sunday Massacre, and about his and Erin's countless run-ins with the British military stationed in the city.

For many people, this would be a scary, eye opening experience but, I had other revelations in my head--I was bulletproof. I could do whatever I wanted. I had diplomatic immunity in a city I'd only been in for a few hours.

"Hey, Tommy, go whack that guy in the knee for me, would ya?" I'd say.

"Sure thing, Bro," he replied right before clobbering an elderly man in his patellar tendon with a day old baguette. The old wanker deserved it, with his slow-walking, and all.

How cool does that sound?

Much cooler than not being able to understand when people are speaking what is essentially English, that's for sure.

Yeah, I'll stick with bulletproof.

C. Anderson Guthrie is a writer and poker player from Minnesota.

Fresh Bait,

By Julia Vettraino © 2005

Tumbleweed the size of my car rolled brazenly by, mingling with the asphalt and potato farms as though they owned the land here in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho. Several times I had to swerve to avoid catching their twisted extremities in my grill. The sun had almost set, and the fog showed no sign of dissipating. My headlights highlighted the wisps, making them ghostly in appearance as they danced across my hood. Trying to ignore the fuel light that had been blinking at me for the past ten minutes, I scoured the side of the highway for a sign indicating that a town was nearby.

Twenty miles up the road I found one. "All Services," the sign proudly boasted. Relief flooded through my body and I slowly exhaled, thankful that I was not going to have to pull over to the side of the road until morning.

I made the exit, pulling into the parking lot of what barely resembled a gas station. There were weathered old signs everywhere, meekly attempting to advertise what the shop had to offer. Though the building was small, the signs indicated that a restaurant was contained within. Noticing about a dozen other cars, I couldn’t help but think that this must be the place to be on a Friday night around these parts.

As I topped off the tank and made my way inside, I spotted another sign that read “Fresh Bait.” This raised my curiosity, as this was not exactly fishing country. Visions of rabbit snares and rat traps entered my mind, and I decided I was probably better off not knowing. If nothing else, it certainly eliminated any chance of me trying the daily soup.

The door creaked and a little bell chimed, announcing my arrival. Every head in the place turned to see who walked in, then just as promptly returned to what they were doing. I was nothing but a tourist to them, a passerby. A nameless face that none of them would recognize if I showed up on a missing persons poster tomorrow, taped carelessly beside the sepia-tinted sign that read "Biscuits and Gravy, $1.50."

I did gain the attention of one man, however. He stood up from the congregation of locals, drained the contents of his coffee mug, and slowly made his way to the register. He was obviously the clerk, hell, he was probably the town mayor as well. I could feel his leer burn through my skin as I walked around the aisles, trying to stretch my legs a bit before I returned to the car. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as he stared me down, and unpleasant shivers ran throughout my spine. If he was afraid I was going to steal something, I could have easily set his mind at ease. For the same reason I can't buy food at a dollar store, nothing would make me purchase anything from the meager candy aisle here. You just never know how long the stuff has been sitting around. Even the pine air fresheners for your car looked like they had been here since 1942.

Knowing I needed to get out of there, I made my way to the till. "Just the gas, thanks" I said quietly. I could feel his eyes roaming up and down my body, and I cursed the shower I took that morning and the make-up I was wearing. I knew my perfume cut through the stale, smoky air, and I wished that I had thought to wear a ball cap and an overcoat instead. Handing over the money, I tried to avoid looking into his yellowing eyes or at the chipped teeth that hid behind his smirk. I was certain I could make out the sound of banjos dueling and pigs screaming somewhere in the distance.

Exiting as quickly as I could, I glanced over at the sign I noticed on the way in.

Fresh bait, indeed.

Julia Vettraino is a writer and poker player from Calgary, Canada.

The Thing I Wanted to Write About

By Sean Lovelace © 2005

Summer break and I was alone and floating. It was Tennessee highway 40 and a one-beer buzz, the type of buzz that liked everything: semi trucks, trees, soybean fields, crows tugging at exploded McDonald’s bags, the song on the radio. The song was by Fleetwood Mac and did it ever sound true, so true that although I can’t remember the title now, I thought then about buying the CD when I reached Nashville.

That was the one beer talking.

I was going to Nashville to see a girl. We’d met last fall in the drunken, orange crowd flowing out of the University of Tennessee football stadium like the world’s largest screwdriver (the cocktail invented by Gulf of Mexico oilmen, not the tool). We talked, exchanged numbers, she ran her fingers through her hair, I nodded my head, and so on.

“My friends call me Coffee,” she told me as one of them guided her away, “because I like to grind.”


I called her before leaving school and she invited me to her lake house. She said she had a sailboat and ski boat and sailboard and I figured we’d sleep together. We did. In the two days I stayed in Nashville we made love in the kitchen and in the living room and in her Toyota Celica and in the warm water beneath the sailboard. Once we even had sex in her bed, but that’s not what I want to write about.

Knock. Knock. Knock.


Her mother answered the door. My buzz tumbled away like a hubcap. I didn’t know her mother was at the lake house. Or her father. I should describe them here, but I’m exhausted and parental descriptions are # 2 on my don’t-want-to-write-about list.

Let’s move to dinner.

What her mother called a California salad: corkscrew pasta, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, dill weed, red onions, vinegar, black pepper, tangerines scattered like candy caterpillars across the top. Mastication was a struggle, the taste of soft and crunch and sweet syrupy dislike. I had to pretend, and I don’t like to pretend, but this was life, not some Camus novel, so I ate half my bowl and forked around the rest and said something about texture in a positive way.

“We’re not really married,” Coffee’s mother said to me, gesturing with her fork to the living room, where Coffee’s father stood bent over a telescope pointed out across the sunset.

What was I to say? I wasn’t even sure what she was saying. I smiled weakly and sipped my iced tea.

“Mom,” Coffee said.

There was no dessert.

Let’s move to post-dinner.

A den, her, her parents, me, a television—the room’s furniture semi-circled like worshippers to its blue moon. The TV was on the news, or maybe a game show. Coffee’s father sat leaning over, turning a Rubik’s Cube in his hand, while she and her mom seemed glued to the TV, so I slid a book from the table’s thick glass: Aircraft of the Gulf War. It had glossy pages and was the size of a calendar.

Fifteen minutes into a fascinating account of the AC 130 gunship, an airplane the U.S. military calls “Puff the Magic Dragon” because it breathes fire and makes things suddenly disappear, I looked up with an odd feeling.

Coffee and her mother stared at me, my odd feeling elbowing around my skull. I can’t really describe the feeling. It was similar to a feeling I once had while visiting Austin, Texas.

The Poet Laureate of the United States had been reading, and a friend and I decided to attend. It was in a big Episcopal church with a small crowd, since most people think about poetry about as often as they think about dying.

After the reading there had been a reception at a professor’s house. I stopped by a gas station to pick up a six-pack of beer. Dry receptions are the worse, and I didn’t want to take any chances.

I returned to the car and my friend looked at me.

“What?” I said.

“You really want to go? I heard this city has some good bars.”

I thought a minute. “I just bought a six pack.”

“Bring it in the bar,” he said. “We can get a table in the back. I’ve done it before.”

“I don’t know. That doesn’t sound like a great idea.”

It wasn’t.

It was right in that moment, in that concrete-floored dive, our silver cans glinting and glaring, the whale-bellied bartender out from behind the bar and looming over us, his meaty hands on each of our shoulders, his mouth about to form the words, “Boys, we don’t even serve Coors here,” his hands about to fling our beers into a garbage can and then point the way to our exits—right then the same odd feeling thunder-rolled inside me.

I think that’s what I wanted to write about: People watching TV dislike other people reading in the same room.

Yes, that’s it, that’s what I wanted to write about. Only I took the scenic route.

“Books are the wrong beer,” I told Coffee the next morning. She shrugged and blew a wayward curl of hair from her face. We were standing at the kitchen window, watching her parents drive away, and then Coffee took off her shirt.

“You didn’t like that salad,” she said, wadding up the shirt and tossing it onto the stove. “You didn’t like that salad and after this weekend we’ll never see each other again.”


She shrugged off her bra. “Come on, be honest. At least be honest.”

A jet roared overhead, shaking the house. It gave me a minute to say nothing, and then to think about what I would say. Coffee tugged at my jeans.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” she echoed.

I think the CD was called Rumors.

Sean Lovelace is a writer from Alabama.

Fishing for Microwaves

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

Las Vegas, NV... I found a spot in seat one, right next to the dealer. An extremely drunk, chubby girl sat next to me at the poker table. She looked like Drew Barrymore's homely trailer park cousin. She slurped a pink drink with a straw and giggled uncontrollably as I stacked up my chips. Her breasts trembled like the ground near Kilauea volcano everytime she laughed. She spilled out of her white Juicy Couture halter top and in my notes I actually wrote down...
She had tits the size of a microwave.
Why I chose the word "microwave" to describe her superabundant breasts, I'll never know. Weeks later I'm still baffled. Where they big? At least the size of one of the Olsen Twins. Was everyone at the table staring at them? How could you not?

The chatty girl played any two cards to the river. She roared through a rack of chips on questionable calls and pounded drinks like Judy Garland, while asking me a dozen questions at once.

"Where are you from?"

I lied. "Rhode Island."

"What do you do?"

I lied again. "Aquarium salesman at Fish R' Us. Do you want my business card?"

"Why are you in Vegas?"

"The rodeo. My probation ended and I was finally free to leave the state."

When I asked her what she did for a living she giggled and threw me a seductive glance. "I make men happy," she said as she lowered her voice.

I waited for the punchline or at least an explanation. Nothing. She let my mind wander. How could she make men happy? She's a kick ass mechanic? An amazing cook? Or she's a stripper? Maybe even a call girl?

She ordered another drink and I asked our waitress for a ginger ale to soothe my aching stomach. I guess I had been messing around with my chips and I inadvertently let rip a chip shuffle, something I do when I'm bored.

"That's cool! Can you teach me how to do that?"

The drunk girl tried her best and the chips flew all over the table. In between giggles she said, "I can't do that. But I can do this trick!"

She touched her nose with her tongue. Twice. Just in case I was looking the first time.

"My," as I paused for dramatic effect, "that's impressive."

"I can do it again!" she squealed.

At that point I ruled her out as a mechanic and cook. Just when I thought I had seen it all in Vegas, a call girl willingly did tongue tricks for me at a poker table in between hands. She was the perfect Vegas fish... soused, without a clue, and playing with someone else's money.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.