Notes from Underground

Today’s Feature: The Marks on Your Back by Brent van Staalduinen

You’re going so fast. My shouts aren’t fast enough to catch you.
It’s always been like this, people chasing and yelling three breaths behind. You needing to stay ahead, like their voices have enough weight to batter you. Even when you were strongest, when you’d bash the pedals to bending and warp the drop bars, give the frame guys conniptions. There’s no such thing as unbreakable, you said then, laughing. There are shapes that take the abuse better than others. The strength of geometry. Threadbare yellow jersey in every upright step. New shape, same frame as everyone else. And now you’re off the bike, but still no one gets close.
I don’t miss it at all, you say often. I don’t believe it, like everyone, even twenty years later. There’s a magic in that kind of denial, which is why I’m chasing after, always chasing. A story there, somewhere, though the invitation is token. Sure, come on out if you want. We’ll just be hitting a pub or two, low key.
We turns out to be you and me.
— Yeah, they bailed at the last minute again, you say.

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Editor’s Choice
Secondary Living by Adam Kelly Morton

The Oyster Shack is closed and Bob is drunk, upstairs doing his cash. With the lights out and the front door locked, the cops won’t be able to see Carole and me having a few nightcaps after hours. Not that they come around on Tuesdays anyhow. Or ever.
We’re on to whiskey with our beers. Bob’s iPod is playing Exile on Main Street. Carole is beside me smoking Next Reds, ashing into a conch as Mick belts out “Loving Cup”. Bob might join us later. It’ll be all right if he does, because there’s no way I’m going to fuck this bitch tonight. Tomorrow morning is another story. I’m hungry for it when I’m hung. It’s the best cure.
“D’où tu viens, exactement?” Carole asks through her brown teeth; when we first met, a few days ago, she told me they’re because of a calcium deficiency from when she was an infant. But I’m pretty sure it’s nicotine too. Dentists nowadays can fix brown teeth. Otherwise, Carole’s not bad. Her hair is greasy, but blonde when she washes it. She’s skinny, but she’s got a fine ass.

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An Art Show Mating Call by Michael Pool

Kate was standing in the center of the gallery discussing the finer points of one of her most experimental pieces when Mandy interrupted her with a nervous look drawn across her face.
“Sorry to disturb you guys, but I need to borrow Kate,” Mandy said through her teeth. Most of the time such an abrupt interruption would have annoyed Kate to her core, but the disturbed look on Mandy’s face had her begging all the necessary pardons and following her friend and yoga instructor past the free-form statues and swirling canvases into the back room of the gallery, where they could speak in private.
“So what’s up?” Kate asked when they arrived, unable to keep the irritation out of her voice.
“You need to read this—but try to remain calm and centered if you can.” Mandy slipped Kate a small, white slip of paper.
“Calm and cent—“ Kate started to say, but her mouth fell open as she read the first line of the letter, which had been Xeroxed from a handwritten original. “Oh no… oh god…” she mumbled as she read. “This can’t….”
“Ok, ok,” Mandy said, failing to hide the panic in her own voice. “It’s not that bad. People know what a creep he is, ok? And even if they don’t, this isn’t exactly a normal thing to do. Kate, look at me—it’s fine.”

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Millennial Rx by Rebeka Singer — Video Still by Stasja Voluti

Here’s my soul. I’m giving it to you. Do you want it? Will you take it? I don’t care for it much anymore. My soul never gave me much. And now here it is: I’ll curse it out. “Every inch of my tar black soul,” Lana sings. That’s mine. Thank you, Lana, for making tar black souls sound soulful.


I watch a Harry Potter film each night, sometimes two in a row, either the same, or two separate films in the series. I drink champagne and pop Xanax to numb the fear that I might actually be alone, or, worse, I might actually need to be alone.
See, I want to be in love—with my boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, he never really can decide his status, or my ex-husband, whom I left for my phantasm of a boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. Never can tell. Can’t tell much. Wish I could say, “Can’t tell me nothing” like Kanye West. An ex-friend text me the other day: “Don’t parade your life around Facebook like Kanye West. You’re not a rich, famous rapper— yet.” That’s not verbatim.

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Prince Picnic by Clint Burnham

I want to tell you a story.

I was going to be my father. I was going to do what he did. I did not think their way there was any other way. He took me here and he took me here and he took me there. There were animals there we were in the bush and people died. They flew upside down and they died. They they sang songs in praise of dying. Before they died and after they died. They sang songs about killing themselves to protect the commonwealth.

There was a lodge, and the creature came from there. He came from when from he came to where we were in the school. I was a schoolboy. You you know this thing schoolboy? I was that I was the schoolboy.

After I was a schoolboy, there there came the creature the creature boy I suppose he came from the lodge he told us he would blow us up. So she left. So we left the school, we left it from there. In there was in there there was he note he he let he left he let himself too left it there, a note, maybe I don’t know. Continue Reading

Hungry Woman by Keith Ebsary

I remember the camera as the bathroom sounds change to flushing and coughing. I hope the camera was on. Our viewers need the camera like a drunk needs to disappear. And we need what the camera adds to our bank account. We are purveyors of filth, commerçants of body corruption for the depraved minds who pleasure to the binge and purge my wife provides. She gluts and excretes, and we film, edit and sell the experience for a monthly or annual fee. Demand is high and business is good. At first we cowered before the audacity. It was too extreme, too transgressive. We worried about our souls, a legacy of God from our childhood dreaming. But as your cash grows zeroes at the end and you are free to buy the shiny, deluded treats of a decadent society, morality whimpers into a corner and shivers in a pool of its own piss. Smut, money and freedom, the unholy modern triumvirate. Continue Reading

Flatline by David Menear

Muttering and whispering her own bad poetry she’d slink secretively along through the cold frozen night of Montreal’s Westmount the few blocks from the bar to my place. Weaving in and out between the parked cars and ducking in behind trees and utility poles like a commando evading an enemy sniper. I’d left before her. No one at the bar was supposed to know we were meeting she insisted. Natalie wanted my drugs and booze and I wanted her insane enthusiastic sex. Hot young coke-whore meets horny older guy. Our needs were honest, delineated and always satisfied. I’d smack out a few fat lines on a mirror while she slowly struggled to undress fighting with her bra, so stoned, mystified like she’d never worn one of these harnesses before. A wild pony struggling to be free. Continue Reading

Purple Manta Ray: Death of a Playboy by bart plantenga

The other night I heard Paul Mauriat’s 1968 hit “Love Is Blue.” It’s forever associated with my childhood bedroom where I’d notate the weekly Top 40 while building model cars like this one, the purple Manta Ray, the only one I ever photographed.

My friend Paul’s father, who worked at the Ford plant just down US 1, always wore neatly ironed, striped linen shirts & combed his hair after his shower like he was in a rockabilly band, & maybe he had been. Like a young Frank Gorshin, with a smile sharp as a blade & stinking of a brisk splash of Aqua Velva, exhaling onto the couch after his shift, feet up on the coffee table, a bottle of Country Club – it’s called malt liquor because it’s a totally different kind of drink – in his right hand. Continue Reading

Jolene’s Debt by Willow Verkerk

Why Jolene picked this rusty little town was something she had given more thought to than she let on. She would say that she liked the antique shops and the lake, that she had an uncle (not the blood kind, the family friend kind) who had lived here when she was young. It was the nature of the place and the quiet way of living that made it so special. It was a good place to get away from a city life that had turned rancid, she thought, but she didn’t say that. Continue Reading

NYDC BLUES: How I Tried To Escape The Sick World Of Poetry by José Padua

The rules were that you had to give your name and occupation before reciting your first poem. Naturally, I tried to evade this unnecessary formality which to me seemed akin to a rooftop sniper announcing his name and address before firing upon the crowd below. But before I could begin they started yelling, “What’s your name?” Continue Reading

The First Thing After Church by Julie Maureen Daniels

Following the rules really is so easy, military style; yes drill sergeant, no drill sergeant, all the while thinking: fuck you, drill sergeant. Once you learn how to effectively internalize your response, put on the required face, you have essentially won. I learn this the hard way, in the service, but more importantly is how I unlearn it.

Upon my return from basic training, I am emboldened, straight and taut from 300 sit-ups a day for eight weeks. I have a thoroughly unappealing arrogance about me, an arrogance I mistake for confidence. I am thrilled to see my father again — thrilled but cautious. I did not wear my dress greens or even my BDU’s, but a vintage Chanel dress bought at a Salvation Army in Columbia, South Carolina while on leave…
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Beer Mystic: A Novel of Inebriation & Light by bart plantenga

The Beer Mystic is Furman Pivo, a dreamer inhabiting the NYC of 1987. One night, like many other nights, Furman is drinking to slow the world down. He discovers himself drunk under a streetlight when suddenly this streetlight goes out, on the blink, extinguished – Poof! – it’s dark. In the ensuing weeks the same phenomenon occurs again, then again and again until the unusual becomes the uncanny, and perceived synchronicity is interpreted mystically – he begins to believe that he is the cause of these streetlight outages. And somewhere in the psychic seam between identity and delusion the Beer Mystic is born. Furman Pivo is inauspiciously called upon to become the Beer Mystic and beer does battle with light – beer vs. light, him vs. cars…. Continue Reading

The Places You’ll Go by Michael Bryson

Four o’clock in the morning. I’m out again with strange men. Three this time. Gerald, Tyler and Mark. No, Mike. No, Alan. Shit, shit, shit. Mark. I’m sticking with Mark. I haven’t kissed him. He just moved to Toronto from Saskatchewan. He had a book of short stories published last year. No one noticed. Short stories, I told him. Fuck off. Why bother? Don’t you want to hunt the big beast? Don’t you want to rumble with the real men? The poets? he asked. Ha, ha. I sort of like him, but I’m drunk. Of course, I’m drunk. Gerald and Tyler both want to take me home. They’ve both had some success with me, and since the other side of midnight they’ve been competing to make me laugh.
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