One Short-Short Fiction & Two Poems by Daniel Jones

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Death Valley Days

The TV was straight ahead. In my hand was the remote control. I was pretending it was a gun.

A person flashed across the screen. I pressed a button, shooting him dead.

Another face appeared. There were twelve buttons on the remote control. I pressed them one after the other.

Oprah Winfrey. “Bang! You’re dead.”

Family Feud. “Bang! Bang! Bang!”

Vanna White. “Bang! Gotcha.”

I had won the TV in a raffle six days ago. I had been lying on the sofa ever since. I hadn’t slept. I hadn’t bathed. Bags of potato chips and jujubes littered the floor. I had filled a Giant Slurpee with piss.
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Life During War Time by Matthew Firth

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Urban Graffiti published several of Matthew Firth’s short stories throughout its existence as a paper-based litzine, yet “Life During War Time” which appeared in Issue #7 has long been my personal favourite. It brought together all the rich elements I found missing in so much of Canadian fiction — postrealism, tragicomedy, sardonic humour, and allegory. I’m pleased to reprint it here.


I worry. It’s what I do. Not all the time. No, Christ, not all the time. I manage to wait for what I consider to be appropriate moments. Moments that stretch from seconds to minutes to hours, soaked with a bitter anxiety that I cannot come close to describing, that I do not care to recall. Who the fuck could write that sort of thing down? Hands trembling. Heart sprinting. Mind twirling loose in my skull. No, it doesn’t lend itself to words. Not the actual feeling. Not the actual worry. But how the worry is manifest. Where it comes from. What feeds it. That is always palpable. That is easy to explain. Because it is rational. The worrying. To worry. Both. It is based on a certain real, tangible something. It exists. It has its basis in the real. It is triggered by real events. You know what I mean? You know the sensation? You know what it’s like to truly worry? Way down deep inside where your guts knot and stew? You do? You don’t? Ah, fuck you if you don’t!
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The Places You’ll Go by Michael Bryson

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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. It’s sort of sweet, but not really. The laughter, I know, is just postage paid for another package. But I like to laugh. I’m a good laugher. It’s pretty much all I’ve got to live for most days, so I don’t take it for granted. Tyler’s looking at my tits, and now Gerald is, too. I can’t say it makes me uncomfortable, just bored. It doesn’t matter what you start of talking about, it always comes down to boobies. Yes, they’re lovely, and these boys are drunk, too. We’ll be moving on soon. Maybe I should take them both back to my place. Make them share the floor in the bathroom. What was it we were talking about? Mixed martial arts, it was. Factory farming. The oil spill in the Gulf. Fuck me. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got to be getting something out of these late night sojourns. I wish I could say it was an education, but it just seems the same over and over. Whatever is in the news and polarized clichés. Gerald and Tyler are hanging in because they’ve got no better options and in the past I’ve gone home with each of them. And necked. Maybe more. Some digital action, maybe. Something swift, decisive. When I’m drunk, I like to cuddle without being poked. No fucking. I don’t fuck people I work with. I mean, I have, but I don’t. Not anymore. And by work with, I mean people in the industry. Including writers on book tours who tell me how good I look in a strapless black dress. I look great in a strapless black dress. I have a great rack and soulful eyes. Ha, ha. No, I haven’t heard that one before. Why don’t you try me?
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Possessions by Philip Quinn

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John and Jospeh live in the corner house and run an internet porn site.

They’re easy to get along with, sucking back beers and sharing joints when we close the street off for our annual summer party.

Though when one of the neighbour’s kids dented their green BMW with his wagon they threatened to have his legs broken.

Next to them, live this retired couple, Jay and Kat Baxter. Kat’s a large woman, with a cuss mouth, Jay’s afraid of her and will only put up resistance to her when he’s drunk. She’s got a bad left leg which she swings out, sometimes using a cane.

But she likes her girlie-girl makeup and to frizz out her blondish hair which is really a wig. In short, Divine, that drag queen who used to star in John Waters’s movies like Polyester etc.
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Doing God’s Work by Hal Niedzviecki

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Throughout the 20th Century, theologians and philosophers bandied back and forth between themselves the ultimate question… Is God Dead? Well, who would have thought that a story from Hal Niedzviecki‘s book of short stories Look Down, This is Where it Must Have Happened  from City Lights (2011) would answer that very question using what we’ve come to expect of Niedzviecki’s transgressively black humour. It was read by Niedzviecki in Toronto, Ontario in April 2011. Niedzviecki first appeared in Urban Graffiti #3.

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