short story

Another Thinking Animal, a short story

Daulton Dickey.

26169523_533387417028677_3406170926569762977_n—So tell me why you’re here.

—I’m tired. Not exhausted, but … just, I don’t know, tired. Sarah’s wearing that gray face sad people wear, that mask with dead eyes looks like an unpainted statue.

—Can you describe it? “Tired” is so …

—Not clear?

—Mmm Hmm.

—I didn’t want no attention, she says. —Some people, I think, will think I did it for attention. But it wasn’t attention I wanted.

—What did you want? What did you hope to achieve?

—Shit. What you think?

—And that seemed like a solution?

—No, she says. —Not a solution. An escape.

—But an escape’s not a solution.

—Didn’t say I was looking for no solution. Escape sounded fine by me.

The doctor glances at his notes. He spins his pen between his fingers and clicks his tongue. Seems like there’s some place he’d rather be, like maybe drinking martinis on his yacht or whatever it is doctors do when they ain’t talking to suicides.

—It says here you’re on LexiPro and Wellbutrin, he says. —Were you taking them when you attempted …

—Hell yes I was, Sarah says. —They numbed things, but they didn’t stop the thoughts, the bad thoughts flying through my head. They didn’t make me feel full when all I feel is empty all the time. (more…)

Ten of Our Favorite Articles of the Year


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Andy Kaufman: Architect of Reality



Tyler Returned, a Story By Jessica McHugh

img_4448 (more…)

Tyler Returned, a story by Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh.

img_4448“Janie, will you please eat something? Please? Maybe later, okay? Are you comfortable? Would you like a blanket? You look cold, Janie. Are you cold? Do you need a blanket?”

“No, thank you,” she replied softly, wrapping her arms around her legs.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Adam, I’m sure.”

He kissed the top of her head, and although she smiled, she didn’t look up. She simply smoothed her hair and squeezed her legs tighter.

“I’m going to the store for some cigarettes. Need anything?”

“No, thank you.”

“Okay. I shouldn’t be gone long.”

Adam bent down to kiss her again, but when she preemptively started to fix her hair, he backed off with a sigh. He headed out the door without another word, and as he drove to the store, his thoughts throttled the backs of his eyes. There was so much pain in thinking about his dear, fragile wife. She was so distant, so tortured, and he felt absolutely powerless to help her. It wrenched his heart to pieces to watch her shrink away from his touch. He wanted so badly to hold her, to console her, to make her understand that these things just happen.

Children die all the time. (more…)

In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka.
Translated by Ian Johnston

img_4363“It’s a peculiar apparatus,” said the Officer to the Traveler, gazing with a certain admiration at the device, with which he was, of course, thoroughly familiar. It appeared that the Traveler had responded to the invitation of the Commandant only out of politeness, when he had been invited to attend the execution of a soldier condemned for disobeying and insulting his superior. Of course, interest in the execution was not very high, not even in the penal colony itself. At least, here in the small, deep, sandy valley, closed in on all sides by barren slopes, apart from the Officer and the Traveler there were present only the Condemned, a vacant-looking man with a broad mouth and dilapidated hair and face, and the Soldier, who held the heavy chain to which were connected the small chains which bound the Condemned Man by his feet and wrist bones, as well as by his neck, and which were also linked to each other by connecting chains. The Condemned Man had an expression of such dog-like resignation that it looked as if one could set him free to roam around the slopes and would only have to whistle at the start of the execution for him to return. (more…)

Off and On the Road: an autobiographical appreciation of Jack Kerouac

Off and On the Road
How I Got Stoned and Became a Literary Junky
Daulton Dickey.

[Author’s note: this is an old piece, written about 7 years ago. I recently re-discovered it and decided to post it in its entirety, and unchanged, i.e. unrevised.]


Lee[1] blew into his hands and rubbed them together, trying to breathe life into his fingers. Scrunching his shoulders, he pulled his coat collar up and squeezed the opening at the base of his throat, tightening the collar around his neck. A smile had attacked his face earlier and it refused to retreat, and he bared his teeth as breath escaped his nostrils and slipped out of his mouth. He looked beside him, at RCannabis-Bankay, and his smile widened.

Ray had a way of smiling with his eyes that seemed to inform his entire way of thinking, his entire worldview, and when he smiled at Lee, grimacing without showing his teeth, his eyes curled upward and mimicked what his mouth would have done—should have done—if he wasn’t so self-conscious. Ray shiver-stomped and jogged in place, half warding off the wind, half dancing in anticipation. Then he glanced at me and laughed. I was standing between them—if viewed from above we would have formed an asymmetrical triangle—and crossed my arms at my chest, burying my hands in my armpits, struggling, fighting, praying for heat to engulf me, to inject colors other than red into my hands and face.

“Man,” Lee said, “this is going to be awesome.”[2]

We stood between two houses, Lee’s and Ray’s, and looked to our right, toward the street, and to our left, toward the back alley. But no one showed up. (more…)

Three Short Parables

Daulton Dickey.


For a brief moment, no longer than ten years, which wasn’t much, all things considered, the city seemed on the verge of greatness. Nestled at the mouth of Lake Michigan, it had served as a portal for steel manufacturers to transport their goods to and from Gary and Chicago, both voracious consumers of raw and processed steel. Houses bloomed in fields until no fields remained. Streets and sidewalks, buildings and stores and factories filled the city. The leaders of industry diversified, and soon a Pullman boxcar manufacturer popped up. By the lake, a cough lozenge manufacturer erected a simple, box-shaped building. The city boomed, as people would say. Incomes increased, and along with it the accoutrements concomitant to disposable income: pools and swings and cars, some excessively luxurious, and general stores packed with disposable goods, all of which Evstafiev-bosnia-cellopeople devoured, people looking to fill their lives with evidence of their squandered time. Then voodoo economics and global trade deals crushed the steel industry, and the port withered and died. Chasing jobs, people fled. Poverty replaced prosperity. Drugs and alcoholism, crime and violence, anxiety and depression and suicide scarred the faces and fattened the bodies of everyone left to rot in the city. Paint on buildings and signs and fences chipped and faded, and concrete cracked and broke. Gray replaced color. The world seemed to dim. Every once in a while, sometimes twice a month, the sky over the city cracked: blood and sulfuric effluvia drenched the city. The poor bastards buried in the bottom-most levels of the social strata, left to rot when the wealth of the middle class fled, watched as the faces of their friends and loved ones drooped. No one understood the affliction. Doctors hypothesized neurological disorders possibly caused by an ecosystem poisoned by decades of industry, but they nixed the neurological argument when faces melted and slid off and merged with the flesh on chests or necks or stomachs or arms. Something else was clearly at work. That no one seemed to notice or care, that doctors only treated it with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication didn’t evoke questions from anyone passing through the city. Most people, those with money who passed through town, dismissed the affliction as a problem relegated to the impoverished. In some way, people argued, it was probably their fault–maybe not directly; perhaps it was the product of poor upbringing, or genetics. At any rate, people said, there wasn’t much use in worrying. ‘My life’s good,’ one traveler said, ‘my face’s intact; why should I worry?’ The old woman, who lived in the abandoned post office, known to everyone in town as a ‘crazy witch,’ laughed when she overheard the traveler’s apathy. ‘The way things are going,’ she said, ‘the sky over every city will crack, and every face will soon droop and melt.’ The traveler ignored her. Everyone ignored her. And when the sky over cities around the country–around the world, even–cracked and bled, and faces drooped and melted, entire populations ignored the problem, pretended it didn’t exist, by focusing on alcohol, drugs, sports, and pop culture. ‘I mean, really, there’s nothing to worry about,’ a local community organizer said. He was a prominent billionaire, face intact, who lived in a neighborhood enclosed in a dome and often acted as the voice of the people. ‘This is something that happens,’ he said. ‘It’s important now, it’s absolutely critical, that we carry on with our lives. We as citizens must continue shopping, go on vacation, go to college, accumulate as much debt as is needed to help our struggling economy. Faces change. Yes, some even melt. But it must not prevent us from living our lives, from raising our children, from playing our part in maintaining the economy.’ Footage of his speech played on repeat on news broadcasts around the country. Few people expressed alarm when his cheek twitched and his eyelid sagged mid-way through the speech. Sometime later, he retired from public view. (more…)

Jessica McHugh Interview

Daulton Dickey.

If you haven’t encountered Jessica McHugh online, then you’re missing out on a singular personality. Witty and offensive—to some—and brutally honest, she chronicles her daily life and her life as a writer constantly in search of inspirado.

She’s more than a horror writer: she’s written science fiction and YA series. A prolific short story writer, she spends her days and nights toiling away. Sometimes she writes at home, sometimes she writes in bars, she’s always producing something well worth reading. 

Can you remember the first time a book gripped you?

One of my favorite books since I was ten or so, “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. It’s a historical fiction novel about thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle voyaging from England to America in the early 1800s. There are storms, mutinies, and some pretty harrowing incidents that require Charlotte to abandon her upper-class sensibilities and woman-up big time. I’d never read anything quite like it at the time. (more…)

Words are Elusive Bastards

Daulton Dickey.

Words are elusive bastards.They disappear the moment you think you’ve wrangled them. Two words float in conjunction with a clause: you see them, reach for them, groan as your fingers brush them. Then the bastards vanish.

“All everyone ever wanted to do was speak.” You hear this phrase as it flutters away from you. But what’s it mean? Does it mean anything?


Who knows? (more…)

Recent and Upcoming Indie Book Releases

Daulton Dickey.

Absolutely Golden: A Novel
D. Foy
Stalking Horse Press

Absolutely-Golden-Store-ImageIt’s 1973, and a thirty-something widow has been cajoled by a young hippie parasite into financing their vacation to a nudist colony in the Northern California mountains. The night before their departure, however, she arrives home to learn that she and this man will be accompanied by the stripper on his lap. At Camp Freedom Lake, the trio meet a womanizing evangelist, a bumbling Zen gardener, and a pair of aging drug-addled swingers from Holland. Together, they’re catapulted through one improbable event after the other, each stranger than the last, until finally the woman who was dominated by her fear of past and future finds herself reveling in the great here and now.

D. Foy’s Absolutely Golden is a radical departure from his two previous novels, Made to Breakand Patricide. It’s comic, ebullient, magic, light, gently surrealistic. It’s rollicking, effervescent, slyly profound. But more, this brisk tale offers a kaleidoscopic look at parts of the 1970s we haven’t often seen in fiction—nudism, New Age philosophy, Eastern religion, the occult, swingers culture, California culture, and then some.

Best of all, Foy tells his story in the guise of a woman obsessed with the notion that she’ll never find another man until she’s rid of what she believes to be a mysterious curse. As if written in the marriage of Vladimir Nabokov, Renata Adler, and Anaïs Nin, her words transport us from doubt, despair, and dread into states of increasing wonder and euphoria.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy Absolutely Golden

The Abridged History of Rainfall
Jay Hopler

rainfall_pb_cover_store_siteThe Abridged History of Rainfall is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy The Abridged History of Rainfall



The Call of the Void

Justin Burnett.

It has been quite a while now since I first began dissociating from my work. I have finally succumbed to the universal somnambulism. It’s a well-known fact that we anesthetize the domination of our lives by our jobs with sleep. Not literal sleep, of course. I now fall asleep with the optimistic electronic chirp of the timecard reader like everyone else, even though I work, laugh, and chat throughout my nine-hour day like any functioning human. I remember a time when it was different. Once it was worse. Once I wasn’t permitted the cold solace of sleep. Once I had a job that forced me to face the spectre of mortality in all its grandiose contradictions. Like any one of the paradoxical lines in the poetry of John Donne, the job forced me to remain awake.

I was a hospital phlebotomist at the time. I drew samples from patients in their sardine-can cells and took the blood downstairs to the lab in a soul-deadening daily exchange of elevator ascents and descents. This repetitive aspect should’ve kept me sleeping since it was the same lullaby that you find evenly distributed in all the occupational quarters like powdered pesticide. Only one force was strong enough to counter the anesthesia.

I discovered it one morning at about a quarter to twelve. I was on the cardiac floor. It was just before lunch and I was getting impatient. Not that the hospital food was any good—au contraire, it was damn awful (the chicken-gristle sandwich sans-condiments was legendary around that time). And it wasn’t that I was particularly interested in seeing my coworkers—all the same sleeping faces circulated both the cafeteria and the floors with soul-deadening regularity. Lunch was, however, the only period in my twelve-hour workday during which I could read. Only one more patient lay between me and my book. Let’s just get it over with I told myself encouragingly as I opened the door to a heavily curtained room.

“Hello, I’m from the lab,” I said, with as much zest as the particular situation could reasonably call for. “Your doctor wants me to draw a blood sample.”

The man on the bed was in his late fifties. Gray, unwashed hair curled above his pale


Egon Schiele, Self Seer II (Death and Man), 1911

temples. Beads of sweat sparkled under the fluorescent lights across the waxy surface of his forehead. The room simmered in the faintly repulsive redolence of unwashed and unmoved biology, the nauseating sweetness of bodily crevices hoarding soured perspiration.


I noted the smell with passive disinterest. Smell, after extended exposure in a hospital setting, only gives rise to the accompanying biological reactions (retching, nose-pinching, actual vomiting, in rare cases) when it is particularly vile—as in, for instance, the unforgettable and infamous case of a particular legless prostitute’s infected colposcopy bag. What was more unusual about this patient was his stillness. (more…)