Short stories


3. Vinny slept with the gun under his pillow. Vinny slept soundly with the gun under the pillow. Vinny turned dreaming of the intruder at the locked window and the gun went off. Vinny stopped dreaming of intruder at the locked window and never woke up.

4. “- listen and listen good, I want everything in the register,” said Marcus. Tony gestured to Marcus to take it easy and not to do something crazy. Marcus was wearing a Halloween mask and he was pointing a gun at Tony. Marcus told Tony to hurry up. Tony didn’t move. Tony couldn’t move. Tony was frozen with fear.    Marcus went behind the counter and grabbed Tony by the shirt collar. It was one those polo team shirts. It was red with a white collar. Tony shouted and so Marcus hit Tony with the gun on the head. A dull thud told of the impact. Tony moaned. Tony’s knees buckled. Marcus stopped Tony falling. “Get up or I’m going mess you up,” said Marcus to Tony.  Tony managed to get to his feet. Marcus released Tony and pointed the gun at Tony. A hole in Tony’s head was bleeding. Tony was softly weeping and the blood was running down his face and onto the polo shirt.  Marcus pushed Tony to the register. Tony tried to say something but Marcus pushed the gun into the back of the Tony’s head and Tony pissed his pants. Marcus tried to push the gun through Tony’s head but it would go through Tony’s head. Tony was sniveling and the piss that had discolored his pants reeked. “Open the register and put the money in here,” said Marcus and Marcus handed Tony a brown paper bag.  There was a stack of brown paper bags by the register. Tony opened the register and Tony grabbed the money but Tony dropped the money on the ground by Marcus and Tony’s shoes in the pool of piss. The coins rattled as they scattered about Marcus and Tony’s shoes in the pool of piss. Marcus pushed Tony to the ground and Marcus grabbed another brown paper bag and Marcus stuffed money into the brown paper bag and then Marcus stuffed the brown paper bag into his hoody pocket and Marcus could hear Tony weeping, weeping like a little girl. Marcus shot Tony in the back of head and the blood and the brains splattered Marcus’s shoes and Marcus wiped his shoes until they looked clean on Tony and left with an armful of cigarettes.

Paul Kavanagh

Short stories


  1. Gene stared at the television, blew smokerings, and listened to the bed. An open bottle of whiskey and two dirty glasses and a dirty ashtray betrayed the morning. One of the glasses was smeared with heavy lipstick. The ice had not melted. The air was thick with perfume. Gene had not turned on the television and Gene had not opened the bottle of whiskey and poured the whiskey over the ice. There was a sock by the bedroom door. It was Lou’s sock, pink ruffle. On the walls were pictures of Gene and Lou. Over the television was a picture of Gene and Lou and Gene’s parents and Lou’s parents. The curtains were pulled but a thin band of sunlight cleaved through the dust. Gene listened and turned his wedding ring. The television showed commercials. A moan stirred. It was Lou. Gene dropped the cigarette into Lou’s glass, stood up, and stretched. Gene picked up the gun. Gene walked to the door. With his boot Gene pushed open the door. Within a thick band of sunlight dust danced. The air was hot and thick with sex. Gene swallowed, listened to the bed, looked at the naked bodies joined. Gene pointed the gun. Lou whispered a scream. Gene shot the man in the back and when the man turned Gene shot the man in the neck. Lou screamed so Gene shot Lou above the right breast and then Gene shot Lou in the head and then Gene shot Lou in the head again and then Gene shot Lou in the belly and then Gene shot Lou in the belly again. Sunlight poked through the holes in the walls. Gene dropped the gun and walked out to his car and Gene climbed into his car and turned the key. Gene waited. The car rolled forward. Gene said Gene would be back at the garage for the oil change at twelve.
  2. Trevor was drunk and Fernando was drunk. Trevor punched Fernando and Fernando fell and Trevor kicked Fernando in the belly and then Trevor went to kick Fernando in the face but Fernando moved and took out a knife and Fernando cut Trevor. A spray of blood splashed against the bar. Trevor screamed. Fernando crawled up a bar stool. Trevor left the bar by the back door and ran through the car park and stopped at his truck. Fernando stood up and wiped the blood from his mouth and went in search of Trevor. There was a trail of blood lit by the neon lights of the bar. Fernando found Trevor leaning against his truck. With the knife in his hand Fernando went for Trevor.  Fernando did not see the gun in Trevor’s hand. Three shots to the chest killed Fernando.

Paul Kavanagh

Short stories


     Sitting in this flop with a picture of you, a chicken pot pie, gallon of Gallo and little else; watching cracks on the wall; hoarse cough nextdoor, the oldfart damn near dead from WWI wounds, dead wives, Bugler and even cheaper wine than I drink; upstairs the nineteen year old Krishna freak without a dime and lacking a brain, chanting muffled through the floor, which is my ceiling, plaster praying to be left alone and let fall and goddamn skidroad god letting the ceiling/floor have its way through slow pain, I love you, but understand why I left.

     It’s hot here. One jammed window and it looks out five feet onto the brick of a sooty warehouse. Tattered oilcloth shade. Stink of gas now tinted with heating potpie. Steamheat permanently high. Landlady same.

     She offers me an extra blanket whenever I pass her shadowy desk in the lobby. She once had a wino freeze to death, she says, and is terrified of death and all its concomitant responsibilities. Fusty creature, sticky booze on her lips.

     No, I have not fucked her yet. Nor anything else. Still jack off to your picture, or sometimes simply jingle the change in my pocket.

     Here the ceiling is high and obscure. Lamp by my creaky bed the only light. Forty watts of consolation. Still, some previous pervert managed to get way up and scrawl with lipstick or blood or beetshit a poem concerning the necessity of leaving your jane to go to war when your country has gotten into hot water. Sonofabitch even rhymes: war/whore, jane/pain, water/ ought to.

     Soon the pot pie will be hot. I plan to eat it with a plastic fork. I am leaving you the silverware. I think it was yours anyway. All the rest is yours, too, and this letter. Send along another picture. I left because there was no longer any poetry to be found.    

Willie Smith

Short stories

Superman Rant

How do you fuck Lois Lane? You do it in the missionary position. I know. With the lights out. Never experiment. No joy involved. In out in out. No thought of poor Lois Lane. Your greed in the bedroom knows no bounds. It’s me me me Superman. You manage five seconds. Grabbing. Ramming. No kiss kiss. Pounding. Not even a sweat. And afterwards you weep like a tortured fool missing his fingernails and teeth. Yes, you weep. You plead for God to bless your holy seed. Wasted. I bet when you roll off Lois Lane with you limp dick spent you thank her. You roll onto your side, close his eyes, and pray. I bet Lois Lane rubs one off thinking of Batman. Once a groupie always a groupie! Superman is for the elite. Superman votes Republican. Superman hates rock n roll. Superman hates poetry. Superman is day. Superman is never night. I see Superman in a floral tie and smoking a thick cigar and saying I want more and more I want it all.  Superman reeks of whiskey and expensive aftershave. Superman does the double V for victory. Superman is obsessed with money. Superman is a narcissist. Superman is a bore. Superman has more billions than you. Superman has more friends than you. Superman would bore the shit out of you!  Superman is verbose! Superman is aknowitall! one clause too many! In HIS chair, next to His fire, and He opines about everything and nothing, rants, shouts all the time.  Is always in the Right.  Superman is never wrong. Superman hates women. Superman is no feminist. Superman hates mothers.  Superman hates little girls. Superman is a front room Victorian father. Superman is a Tyrant in the kitchen. Superman is a Puritan in the bedroom. I picture Superman and Lois Lane having a quiet night at home. He in His comfy chair, puffing on His thick cigar, rolling His eyes, complaining about those that have cancer, those that had any disease, those that need schools, those that need a dentist, those that have more than two children, those that are lazy, those that want to spend time having fun, those that don’t have a bank account, those that dream, those that want a better life, those that are not white!  Lois Lane is drunk, knitting, cursing the black man, cursing the brown man, cursing the yellow man just to keep Superman happy.  And then they go to bed, pray, turn off the lights and she starts with her hands, fingers roaming heavy breathing and you are thinking I should sock her, I should roundhouse her, I should karate chop her, I should shut her up. Superman never gives a man or a woman a second chance. You mess up and you’re out with Superman.  One mess up and that’s it, down you go. There’s no ambivalence with Superman. Superman is always right. Yes, always right. Superman sits in His comfy chair, smoking on His thick cigar, drinking His fine whiskey, and remembers the Good Old’ Days! When men were men and women were women and business was business. Superman remembers crushing those free thinkers: General Zod and Ursa and Non and laughs. General Zod and Ursa and Non were hippies just longhaired hippies. Listened to too much Beatles and that Narc Leary!  Lex Luthor bad? Hell. No. Superman puts down Lex Luthor. Why? Lex Luthor was a small-town boy, a self-made man, a huge success, a billionaire! Superman wants to return to the Golden Age, women in high heels and in the kitchen, mixing the drinks.  Men ruling the bedroom. Superman always knows he is going to win. Superman made sure Supergirl was a flop. He used all of his powers within the Firm to destroy her. Supergirl didn’t stand a chance.

Larry Caomhánach

Short stories


Perfectly aware of wearing only underwear, I shoved my fist down the throat of a Waring blender shoplifted last year from Salvation Army. My left index stabbed the puree button. I sought the pure experience.

     The engine locked into a screech. Blades bit knuckles; blood seeped, stung, itched; while from the shoulder I wrenched, beefed into it, matching downward thrust against torque.

     Bitterly the stalled machine yielded stink.

     Kept up pressure. Used left to key suicide prevention. Hit speaker phone. When the do-gooder answered, I blurted a bomb threat. Yelled it repeatedly, till I heard them scurry. Confident they were evacuating, I then punched off.

     No turning back. Nothing now between me and the petulant convenience. Sure – yellowbelly shivers blued the flesh; lemon of a mind salted knuckles, as the stinking blade whined slightly deeper slits; but my soul rubbed hands in glee: I was gonna show more guts than Ulysses. I would choke Charybdis, throttle Progress’s whirlpool – the delusion evolution has a goal, creation a crown, man a god beyond the law of tooth and claw.

     Or else – bit by bit – arrive today where I’m headed anyway.

Willie Smith

Short stories


A lobster with other lobsters in a watertank – in the corner of a famous restaurant – sees a forefinger pointing at him and says to the other lobsters in the watertank, why me? and the other lobsters in the watertank say, why not you?


Short stories


    A marmoreal sparkle and hush of velvet. A disciplined fidgeting in the line-up, attentive, linen-stiff, lustrous. Distant diaphony from the pit.

    Three pairs of approaching footsteps, a slight shuffle on the left step of one, to which the others’ are synchronized.

    -Herr Direktor Müdd, Excellency.     -Excellency.

    -Herr Kapellmeister Stugel, Excellency.   -Excellency.

    -Fräulein Flüss, soprano.            -Excellency.

    -Herr Moll, baritone.                -Excellency.

    -And, Excellency, Herr Doktor Ranke, architect.  -Excellency.

    A slow progress, unsynchronized at first but steadily more stately, through vestibule, concourse,auditorium, remarking on the flooring, seating, cantilevered boxes; the coffering, the vine-leaf moulding, the fretwork panels; the proportions, the spaciousness, the co-ordinated colour schemes; the revealed ducting, the concealed cupboards. The en-suite humidors. The provision for wooden legs.

    A word to the aide, murmured, anticipated, relayed.

    -Herr Doktor, His Excellency wishes to wash his hands.

    -But everything here is new, dusted, polished to impeccability. Besides, his gloves…

    The murmur becomes sibilant.

    -His Excellency wishes to   spend a pfennig.

    The whisper lies stranded in the silence.

    –Gott in Himmel.

    In the auditorium, above the tuning from the pit, the shot rings clear, bounces off the baffles, dies to the rear stalls with a three-second decay.

    The acoustics, at least, were perfect.

David Rose

Short stories


     The Journey Perilous, right?   When you start out, you never know where you’ll end up.   This blank canvas, it’s terra incognita. You make your tracks, then begin to follow them.   It’s risky.   You’re creating from nothing.

     What you’re aiming for, always, is the Ultimate Picture – the one that releases you from life, that’ll live in place of you.   Destination Nirvana, right?

     Help me tack it down, okay?

     Aristotle said a work of art purges the spectator.   Fact, it’s the artist who’s purged, if it’s successful.   The painting takes over, starts to come of itself.   It’s like the perfect shit.

     I’ll lay in some white first.   Let it pool in there.   Reminds me of whitewash on sacking.   As a kid, every spring, whitewash the barn.   Used to cut head and armholes in sacks for smocks, then just slosh it on.   Know the Catskills in spring?   Wouldn’t want to go back, though.   Your camera loaded?

     How about a little antinomy here?   Splash in some black before the white dries.   Funny, you think, black is the darkest colour, fact it’s the lightest, in weight.   And white – it’s pure, pure light, but most whites are lead, pure poison.   It’s these little quirks that make life, don’t you think?

     Click away but no flash, okay?   The black’s bleeding into the white, like marbling.      We used to go to Utica once a month, for Pa to do his business, while Mom took us  for our treat, for working hard.   In summer we’d go to this Italian ice-cream parlour.   They had real marble-top tables, real Italian ice-cream, real Italian flies.   Ice-cream came in tall glasses with long spoons.  We smuggled one of the glasses out once, presented it to Pa on his birthday, for highballs.   He didn’t like us going there really, said  he could get a bushel of feed for the cost of the ice-cream.

     So let’s have some ice-cream colours in this, just for Pa.   Have to mix them off the canvas, get the exact shades.   Pistachio.  Scoop of strawberry.

     A sleepy life and a painless death.  Not such a bad thing, I sometimes think.   Mom  must have missed him, I guess, but she didn’t show it.   We kids just thought in terms of whinge-free treats, but of course, there were fewer of them, what with the hired hand, then the Depression.

     We got to the ocean though.   Mom took us to Portsmouth.   I was around age nine,  I guess.   That first glimpse of it – the colour, sparkle.    Ultramarine.   Straight from the can.

     Let’s make a few waves.   Feather in some white, monastral green. 

     Beginning to look like the sea in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

     I fell for Janine because of that.   She had that long, corn-brown hair.   She modelled for us, at the Art Students League.   Probably why they took her on.   I didn’t think I stood a chance.

     I said to her, If I blow in your ear, would you come out with me?   That was a Botticelli Birth of Venus joke.   She didn’t get it either, but it broke the ice.

     Yellow ochre.        Dribble in some raw sienna.

     Don’t look right, somehow.   You got a comb?

     What the hell, I’ll leave the teeth in.

     Darker now, almost umber, but she’s still a good-looking woman.

     Pass the brush, the six-inch, would you?

     Band of cobalt.   Another, mirror it.  Splatter in some lemon.  Cadmium red.

     Our first date, League party.   They’d hired a night boat up the Hudson.   Jazz.   Lights pepping up the river.

     Lights went out, one by one, the shit-head had unscrewed the bulbs, completely dark, lamp black, he’s top of the railing, yelling, I’m gonna jump, I’m gonna jump.  I shoulda shouted, Jump, then.   Asshole.

     She asked me who it was, casual like, but I could tell she was intrigued.  Worked out okay, though, with the dark, the commotion, I kissed her, got my fingers into her hair at last, she didn’t pull away, I knew it was going to be okay.

     Dated steady after that.

     Chrome oxide, mix in a little Prussian blue.

     She had a dress that colour.   Used to slip it over her head after modelling, run out  to me, shoes in her hand.   Felt proud.   There were better painters there than me, better lookers too.   I was plenty ambitious, but at that stage, you’re unfocussed, know what I mean?

     Texture’s not right.  Pass me a sponge, would you?

     Trail in a little cerulean blue.  Let’s see how it’s doing.

     Bit too pretty, needs beefing up.  How ’bout a few big swirls of vermilion?

     Blood red.   Sonofabitch.

     We were at this party, Artists Union.  Janine’s sitting on the sofa, he comes up from behind, leans over, says to her, You’re in a period, right?   I can tell these things, I like a woman when she bleeds.   Motherfuckn shit-head.  Janine’s just rigid, sorta mesmerised.   I started taking a swing, but coupla guys pulled him away, out the door.   Next thing, he’s sickin up on the sidewalk.

     We left early.   I apologized, I felt kinda responsible, fellow-artist sorta thing.   She just said, He is rather primitive, isn’t he?   I got to feeling she’d enjoyed it. I said, Okay, let’s see you bleed both ends, smacked her in the mouth.   Only time in my life I ever hit a woman.

     This is still too fuckn tame.   Look, take these wire-cutters, get me a length of barbed wire from the fence, would you do that?

     I’ll coil it round the red, fence it in.

     Used to go on picnics when we were first married.   Only eating out we could afford, apart from gallery openings.   She would lie there in the grass, I’d fan out her hair, plait it into the grass.   She’d get up like Gulliver, pulling the grass with her, go home with it still tangled.

     Why don’t I try that?   Hooker’s green, lighten it a little, trickle it into the ochre.

Through the comb.   Let it thicken out into roots, fronds.

     Potted fuckn palms.

     Two months later, gallery opening.   Went by myself, just in case.   He looked straight through me, didn’t seem to recognise me.   He was with a crowd, they were laughing, he was quiet.   He walks to the corner of the gallery, unbuttons, pisses into the potted palm.   Then he half turns, looks straight at me as he buttons his fly, sorta smirk on  his face.   I wanted to strangle him. 

     Pass me the spray-gun.   Can of black Duco.

     Obliterate the green and ochre.

     That look like a torso to you?

     God, I’m going figurative again.   Thought I was through with that.

     He used to curse Picasso.   Everything he turned to, Picasso had been there first.   Then he sorta broke through, found his own field.

     Now we feel the same about him.   Where do you go after Abstraction?   Have to keep pushing against the fence, moving that much further out, get out from the shadow.

Journey Perilous.

     Sometimes I feel I’m almost there.

     Life is how it is.   Ever feel like crying because of that?  The endless shimmering potentialities have settled into this particular pattern?   And it’s this absurdly particular shimmer you’re after.

     What the hell, let’s give it a head.

     Go the whole hog, stick on some buttons. Would you mind?  Mine’s a zip.

     This is beginning to have possibilities.  This could just be it.   If I balance the red  and black with a mass of white, impasto –

     Into the void.

     Ever read the coroner’s report?   Oldsmobile was doing seventy.  He was catapulted out.   Flew fifty feet, ten feet from the ground, straight into the tree, CKLOOLP.  Christ.   Straight through the sound-barrier, right?

     Must’ve looked like one of Chagall’s flying figures.

     Know the Falling Angel?   Man up in the top left, sailing through the air.   I keep  thinking of that.

     This is beginning to come together, you know?  I think I’m nearly there, I think I’m reaching it.   Just needs –

     Cut me another piece of barbed wire, okay?

     I’ll just coil it, pin it –

     That look like a halo to you?                   

David Rose

Short stories

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We decided to hang Alfred. Viv went for rope. Tom went for a chair. I waited and talked with Alfred. We talked about spaceships and spacemen. Alfred was curious if spacemen ever asked, Are we there yet. Alfred was always asking, are we there yet. Tom returned with a chair. It was an old Victorian chair. It had once belonged to Tom’s great-grandfather. Alfred tested the chair. He jumped up and down on the chair. The chair was sturdy. Viv returned with some wool, she could not find any rope. Alfred tested the wool. It snapped. Tom called Viv a bad name. Viv threatened to cry. Before she could fill the room with sobs, Alfred said he knew where there was rope. Viv smiled and hugged Alfred. Viv was very happy. Alfred left room. We need a bible, said Viv. Eliot and Viv’s parents being atheists allowed no bible in the house. I have something in my bedroom, said Viv. We told her to go. Viv returned with Le Petit Prince. We were very happy with Le Petit Prince. I said I would read from Le Petit Prince while Alfred pushed off the chair. Alfred returned. He had an armful of sturdy rope. Eliot being good with knots fashioned a noose. He placed the noose over Alfred’s head. It looked very professional. Alfred rearranged the noose; he was extremely fastidious. Tom helped Alfred up onto the chair. Alfred threw the end of the rope over the chandelier. Tom caught the rope and tied the rope to the doorknob. Alfred pulled the rope to test the rope, it was sturdy, it would hold. Viv touched Alfred on the knee, lovingly. He looked down and smiled. I started to read from Le Petit Prince.

Paul Kavanagh

Short stories


     I poured a finger of scotch into a coffee cup. Ate the cup. Licked up the spilled scotch. Chewed the mouth of the fifth down to the neck. Was wolfing the table leg, when mother came in to iron some bugs out of her pocket calculator; couldn’t help but notice the ruined fifth, the cup nowhere, the table wobbly on three legs.

     She threatened to knuckle down and hand it to me. But I trumped her rump. Tugged the table leg out of my throat. Clubbed her to death.

     Blood spattered the venetian blinds. Teeth rattled the radiator. One eye popped into the toaster. And mother slumped to the foot of the refrigerator.

     I threw up a window. Sat on a foot stool. Re-swallowed the table leg. Munched on the arm of a chair till I was stuffed. Then jerked down the wall phone and ate out the mouthpiece and considered sucking the news off the tv.

     But decided instead to put the mouth of a firearm to my temple and pray.

Willie Smith