[Fiction/crime] Nut smugglers

Image property of Blue Sky Studios [Ice Age franchise]

Snow crunched under Red’s tires as she flicked on her indicator, sweeping right into the wide parking lot of the Natural Nuts Packaging Co. The little Invader Zim Gir figurine anchored to the dashboard wobbled furiously in protest at the maneuver.

“Don’t worry, little guy,” Red said. “Just need to hitch up the load and then it’s smooth sailing from here on out.” The robot’s oversized head continued to nod in what she liked to think was agreement.

Red chewed her lip, squinting in the faint pre-dawn light at the loading bays ahead. Three monstrous warehouses loomed against the twilit sky, untethered semi-trailers arrayed before them like boats at a land-locked wharf. She brought her cab to a stop, engine idling. Shouldn’t there be someone here to meet her?

On cue, a figure hurried out from a squat office at the edge of the warehouses, one arm raised oddly. After a moment, Red realized they were shading their eyes against the blinding glare of her high-beams, so she cut the engine and climbed out to meet them. The person kicking through the ankle-deep snow towards her was a bespectacled man in a blue tuque. A bushy brown mustache nestled above his mouth like a slug.

“Ho, there!” he called, waving. “Where are you from? There aren’t any shipments scheduled till six, not for -” he consulted a tablet with an ungloved hand – “An hour, or so.” Red frowned.

“Didn’t you get the updated paperwork?” she asked. The man paused.

“Updated paperwork?”

“I’m here for the Bellevue shipment. Broker should’ve faxed the job through again yesterday.” The man shook his head, ice crystals flaking from his mustache.

“The Bellevue job? Pickup’s not till nine. You’re four hours early!”

“There has to be some mistake. It’s the same job, anyway. Load ready to go?”

“Yes, but…” He noticed Red shivering, huffing on her hands in an effort to prevent them going numb. Why’d she leave her dang coat in the cab? “Look, it’s freezing out here, lady. Come to the office where it’s warm and we’ll sort this whole thing out.”

“Thanks,” Red managed, hugging herself. She couldn’t retrieve her coat now without looking like an idiot, so she trudged along behind the shipping supervisor, cursing internally.

The office was cozy. A cup of coffee sat cooling on a table beside a half-eaten sandwich, little wisps of steam curling up into the air. The man sat down, beckoning Red to do the same.

“So what’s the story, then? The Bellevue shipment’s on the books for nine today, and now you’re here claiming it before dawn. Suppose you tell me just what’s going on?” Red drummed her fingers on the table impatiently.

“It was originally nine, but a couple days ago the broker called me saying the receiver needed the schedule bumped forward, so the new pickup was at five. I thought they would’ve informed you by now.” The man clicked his tongue, checked his tablet again, then wandered over to a stack of papers and leafed through them.

“Here we are,” he said, sitting down and sliding a document over to Red. “This is all I’ve got. FND Express from the Sacramento plant to Nutopia in Bellevue, Washington.” She picked up the manifest and scanned it.

“Yeah, this is the one. So are we good?” The man sighed, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but it’s all too irregular. I can’t let the load go like this without confirmation from above, and my manager’s still chasing Z’s. About an hour either way’s as far as I can push it.”

“Seriously? You’d rather I hang around for three hours than shift the load a little early? Come on. Neither of us wants that. I’m here now. What say we get this done? Less headache for you later.” The man grimaced, glancing at the document and back to her. He reached a decision.

“Fine. Sign here, please.”

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[Poetry] cheshire

cheshire cat

pupation in its many forms
comes not just once
in life

swaddled in, by stages,
our innocence dread anxiety
we morph
spurting caustic fluid from our pores

insect evolution unexplained

sometimes we bloom greyscale
in gentle shades of nothing
extraneous gradations mark passing of
our time

others blossom crimson
sword directed outwards
damocles subverted
and held against our foes
staving off our fears with bigot’s rage

bitter/sweet is rainbow birth
roy biv’s candescent burst
as flavor-rich as bertie’s beans

a vivid sheen so double-edged
that angry popes and postal votes
leave stamps upon your soul
identity discussed behind closed doors

did they ever care to know?

strangers grin and ogle
pluck bits like jacarandas
trample on your self-esteem

till all that’s left of you
are cheshire teeth

[Poetry] interregnum II

Holy Roman Empire

II.
in dithmarschen
the danish men
got lost among the marshes

but they weren’t the only ones

these uncouth peasants would lure in ships
fat north sea cogs
on trading trips and then
and then
sunder them in brackish pools

cart away their cargo
plunder off their planks
steal stores and stockfish

brave peasants march from dithmarschen
that squabbled-over swamp

well.

you do what you can to survive
on the fringes of denmark

there’s not much
a peasant can do
on the fringes of denmark

when faced with the hansa and all
fell princes of denmark

[Poetry] interregnum I

Holy Roman Empire

I.
it’s been a while since
we had a king

this was a republic, once
lombard leagues arrayed
verse overweening emperors

in avignon
the pope lives on
a treasured guest of normans

these institutions made us what we are
charters guide
our civic pride
relentless slide to oligarchy

our boot-bound towns never cared
for much
really

they say otto won
at lichtenfeld
but the reichskammergericht lies empty

[Fiction/roleplaying] Cults and culpability

The following is a tale from my Dungeons and Dragons campaign set in the Sunless Shores. It is the first-hand account of a group of poor cultists who suffered an ignoble fate at the hands of my monstrous players.


“You alright to clean up here, Merkel?”

Erkel’s brother looked up from scrubbing bloodstains off the summoning circle. Nearby, the Null Censer fumed silently, just in case.

“Should be. Stronger than usual, wasn’t it?”

“A little. Guess our time’s coming up fast.” Erkel ran his hand through his tousled brown hair, slick with sweat from the hastily aborted summoning. He’d changed into his casual robes, but would need a hot bath later to really wash the slime off.

“Anyway, I’m off for a bit. You need anything?”

“Couple years, maybe,” Merkel said wryly, holding up his left arm. The black watch on his wrist was, as always, totally featureless. They both laughed, but it was laced with uneasiness. “What happened to this city, brother? It wasn’t so long ago we were freewheeling, summoning spirits, indoctrinating starry-eyed commoners without a care in the world. Now look at us!”

Erkel sighed, rubbing his tired eyes. He’d been having trouble sleeping lately – the curse of dabbling in divination magic. What had that instructor said… multiclass in thirty days or your money back? What a joke. Well, it was too late now. That one level of wizard would never go away.

“We got old, Mer.”

“Hell, that’s not it, and you know it!” Merkel tossed his washcloth back in the bucket, which sloshed dirty red suds onto the floor. The filthy water dripped sluggishly into the narrow trench cut around the circle.

“Okay, okay!” Erkel said, holding out his palms placatingly. “It’s not worth fighting over. We’ve got the Gathering in less than a week, and then -”

“And then what? No way will it go back to how it was. Not after Justin’s scheme.”

“Look at it this way, Mer,” said Erkel. “After this, we’ll all be exalted, or dead.”

Merkel grunted, staring at the floor as if ashamed. He’d been acting strangely too, but then, everyone in the church was on edge. These were harrowing times to be a Dweller’s Disciple.

Erkel exited via the secret door into the vestibule, whistling tunelessly. Out in the main hall, he saw Raff and Vee preparing the afternoon service and chatting with Gracie, the head of their chapter here in the city of Fortune. Vee was a delight, but Raff scared Erkel more than a little – he was a shade too close to madness for Erkel’s taste. Sure, the Disciples may aspire to Dweller-touched insanity, but there was something to be said for polite conversation and civility, too.

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Queer Boy’s Guide to: common street wildlife

1897_Parade_Illustrated_Gift_Book_cover_3128737358

Chances are if you venture out onto the street in your Gender Non-Normative Clothing, you will discover a world of reactions and expressions you’ve never encountered before. The ordinarily quiescent wildlife of Sydney undergoes a startling transformation in the presence of gender unicorns, developing odd quirks when spotting you in your outrageously cute dress or gender-ambiguous overalls.

While explanations for this phenomenon differ historically, recent scientific evidence suggests that visible deviation from the norm can radically alter neuronal pathways in cisgendered and heterosexual members of the population, thus “breaking their brain”. It’s important not to be alarmed by the bizarre behavior resulting from these mental short-circuits – indeed, the savvy binary-breaker will soon observe patterns emerging.

Here are a few of the common public archetypes you may stumble across while out smashing the patriarchy, and advice for safe observation of these curious beasts.

The Perpetually Confused

These eternally-puzzled creatures are readily identified by their deeply furrowed brows. When glimpsing a queer crusader, misfiring chemical producers in their skin emit large quantities of a hydrophilic substance known as conformisone.

Conformisone absorbs moisture rapidly from the forehead, drawing the skin tight into a distinctive “confused” expression, while simultaneously distending the skin around the eyes into a painful-looking squint. Due to shock, victims of burst conformisone production are often unable to look away from the individual who triggered the reaction, and have been known to walk into parked cars and fall down while their gaze is thus locked.

Remember, if a victim does fall over while staring at you, it’s acceptable to shake your head in disapproval and refuse to offer help, mostly because it’s their own dang fault.

The Repentant Catcaller

Repentant Catcallers tend to travel in groups and strike from the rear. Upon seeing you, a hot boss in sick floral leggings, from behind, these obnoxious males confuse you for someone remotely interested in them and utter the raucous, offensive cry they have mistakenly been taught attracts others of their species.

Despite your deliberate refusal to acknowledge them, these wretched creatures are riddled with entitlement and feelings of inadequacy and will usually only desist upon catching sight of your face. At this stage, they will groan in collective remorse and engage in desperate acts of performative gender in an attempt to absolve themselves of what they consider the gravest of crimes: openly expressing desire for an individual not among their customary prey.

Repentant Catcallers can be effectively dispatched with laughter, but be cautious. Their fragile egos are easily damaged, triggering inexplicably violent reactions.

The Unfazed

Studying this single-minded creature is nearly impossible thanks to its unerring ability to blatantly ignore anything and everything around it. Regardless of the circumstances, the Unfazed will advance with a quick yet measured pace along the sidewalk, skirting obstacles, disaster zones and queer high-heeled leg monsters alike with unfocused eyes and a blank, soulless expression.

Experimental evidence suggests that the Unfazed are always en route to a very important meeting. As such, these implacable creatures are best regarded as a force of nature, like snakes or the market value of smashed avocado: be aware, take care, and leave them to their own devices.

The Darter

Many a down-with-it queer jivemaster has mistaken a Darter for a human suffering a stroke. The physical signs are broadly the same: erratic head motions; small beads of sweat forming upon the brow; a frozen expression of helpless panic. Yet, with practice, Darters may be easily distinguished from those in need of urgent medical help.

When confronted with a potential Darter/stroke victim, conduct a quick checklist. Do their eyes flick restlessly towards you when you stare at them?Does their look of panic intensify if you shoot them a smile? Are they clutching at their left arm and having trouble speaking?

If you answered yes to either of the first two questions, they are probably a Darter, and can be safely ignored. If you answered yes to the last question, the person is experiencing a stroke and you should dial 000 or the local equivalent at once.


The above list of archetypes is representative, but by no means exhaustive. For the full list, look inside the July edition of The Queer Boy’s Guide, available at all good bookstores and also Amazon, which eventually will own everything including you.

[Poem] 4 pillars

the_four_pillars_of_truth_by_haltenny-d46w8yn

Image credit HalTenny on DeviantArt.

always
shoot for the moon
even if you miss you’ll land among
the cold dead vacuum of space
where stars burn screaming

is asphyxiation my greatest fear
or society sucking my breath away
entombing it within four pillars
defined by negatives

1. values
your marriage, blasphemous
fem clothing disrespectful

2. growth
empty houses gather dust and interest
i’m sorry your payments were cancelled

3. truth
objection to objectiveness
i didn’t say that I never would
fake news

4. justice
welcome to your island getaway
Oz’s worst-kept secret
don’t drop your dignity on the way out

sequestered neath the surface
their scaly arms rub
flesh sloughing off in insincere waves

Rome went like this.
benevolence fell out of fashion with Aurelius
oh well
time still for smashed avo
on my toast