Monthly Archives: April 2014

Across the Universe by Craig Towsley

I read your piece in a magazine that I found somewhere, probably this weird coffee shop my friend took me to, where you have to walk down this narrow alley to get in and then it’s just one big room with a guy running around filling up people’s cups with whatever concoction he’s just brewed up, and there are like seventy five cats just lying in the slashes of sunlight coming in from the windows that face this strange forgotten little courtyard that no one could access, at least from what I could tell, when I pressed my cheeks up against the glass and looked all around.

Anyway, where I read it isn’t important.

There was a line, shit; of course, now I have to go and forget the specific line, when I’d been repeating it over and over to myself ever since I first read it. I flagged the coffee giver down after first seeing it and asked if he had a pen, and then he said he didn’t believe in pens, that this was a pen-free space, not only pen-free, but there was to be no writing instruments, ever, in this little space he had carved out in the world.

I almost stole the magazine, but felt like people were watching me after the pen ordeal, so I started repeating the line, to memorize it, but I guess somewhere along the way I stopped, and something else happened, and I forgot.

I don’t even know your name, never even occurred to me to glance up a little and find  the author credit. I was just enraptured by that combination of four or five words or whatever it was, but I do think it was short. I’m going about this in the longest way possible, but basically all I wanted you to know was that something you wrote resonated with me.

Thanks for that.

So I figured I’d write this and send it out into the universe and maybe, somehow, you would find it and know.

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Craig Towsley writes flash fiction, but earns money by writing for video games. He lives in Montreal, QC, with his wife and dog.

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Call for Submissions!

Back Hair Advocate’s humor factory has been quiet these last few days. Which is to say we need your submissions. Please send your flash, poetry, nonfiction, rants, spoofs, and jokes to backhairadvocate@outlook.com. Humor is our business, so do make sure they are genuinely funny as well as well written. We look forward to reading your work!

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Coping with Death by Bruce Goodman

It was one of those terribly, terribly sad cases of death. Marjory couldn’t cope. When Harold died, she couldn’t face it. She told none of her friends. She hid the body in a box in the garage and locked the door. She never went back.

For days, weeks, months after the death she wore black. On the rare occasion when she ventured out, mainly for groceries, people commented that they never saw her these days. “And we never see your husband shopping with you.” She told no one why, although once she broke down in public. Those who saw surmised that something was quite, quite wrong.

“Oh for God’s sake,” said her husband, Lincoln. “It was only a bloody canary.”

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Bruce Goodman lives in New Zealand. He’s old and flabby. He used to write plays for the stage, but now potters in the bog blog, http://bbgoodman.wordpress.com, mainly just for fun. He enjoys, and is in awe at, the many wonderfully creative blog postings he discovers every day.

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The Brittany Clarke Interview by Alex Bernstein

The Tawny Rumaine Show in progress. TAWNY plays host to BRITTANY CLARKE.

TAWNY: We’re back! So. Brittany. Brittany Clarke!

BRIT: Yes.

TAWNY: This was it. This was the year that Brittany Clarke took a second rate character – Joan Johnson – on a completely forgettable show – Still Married! – and turned her into an icon.

BRIT: Well – it wasn’t just me –

TAWNY: (to audience) Did she not revolutionize television!? Yes! Yes, she did!

BRIT: Thanks. But you know in my new movie, I play a very different –

TAWNY: Now. It was an issue before Joan, yes? But let’s face it – it was T-A-Boo.

BRIT: That’s – that’s right.

TAWNY: Whose idea was it? Who said – let’s give Joan Johnson anal warts?

BRIT: It –

TAWNY: Was that an idea?! Who said – let’s make an entire year of plot revolve around Joan’s anal warts!?

BRIT: Not me –

TAWNY: No?

BRIT: Well, the show’s a team effort. The producer, Al Tandy. The writers, Jason, Phoebe and –

TAWNY: Your husband –

BRIT: Ex –

TAWNY: Ex-husband – Mandy Notrob! Wow! He could see the impact warts would have on the American mind! How did he know? What made him think – Britty and warts?

BRIT: Well, we were fighting, actually.

TAWNY: Yes, you were!

BRIT: I’d become friends with –

TAWNY: Jerry Davici! Who wouldn’t cheat on their husbands with Jerry Davici? I would!

BRIT: Yes, well, of course, Mandy found out. And the next day, Joan –

TAWNY: – had anal warts!

BRIT: Right.

TAWNY: Wow! So, you think he knew? That you and Joan and Still Married! would explode?! So to speak?

BRIT: Yes. I think that was his plan, actually. Hey – I brought a clip of my new –

TAWNY: Zwerdansk – a major pharmaceutical – asks Brittany to become spokesperson for their new product Anal Wart Away. But Britty says no!

BRIT: Well –

TAWNY: Millions of anal wart sufferers – women mostly – are now looking to you as a role model. Doesn’t it make sense, then –

BRIT: Okay. Okay. Look. Let me just say, the last year of Still Married! was one of the most exciting, challenging years of my life. And I can’t tell you how moved I was by all the love and support from my fans. But – and I want to be clear about this – I do not have anal warts. I’m a thin, healthy, Hollywood actress – who makes a living playing a tired, bitchy, mid-western housewife –

TAWNY: – with anal warts.

BRIT: Had! Had anal warts! We took care of it! Remember?!

TAWNY: Of course! We were there with you all the way, girl! Doctor’s visits, wart inspections, scrapings and burnings, your four-episode, thirty-six-hour surgery!

BRIT: And Joan’s free and clear, now! Just like me!

TAWNY: Now – you’ve just won your first Emmy – what a dress!

BRIT: I did.

TAWNY: What a dress! Versace?

BRIT: Yes.

TAWNY: I noticed, in your acceptance speech…you didn’t mention warts –

BRIT: Look –

TAWNY: (to audience) Questions for Britty?!

FRUMPY WOMAN: Brittany, I’ve had anal warts for thirty years. But because of you, I’m not embarrassed anymore. Honey! Kids! It wasn’t back trouble! It was warts! Big ones! With hair! Just like Brittany!

TAWNY: Such an inspiration you’ve been!

BRIT: Okay. Look – I know – each and every one of you has anal warts. I know you’re proud of me and you all want to share. But I don’t have warts! Or moles! Or boils! Or fungusy patches! Nothing! I have a perfect, perfectly healthy anus!!! And if I did have anal warts, I’d be so disgusted with myself I’d probably blow my brains out!

TAWNY: Alright! Let’s talk about that new movie!

BRIT: New movie? Right! Yes. Right.

TAWNY: Baste and Murder!

BRIT: Yes!

TAWNY: Which opens today in theatres across the country –

BRIT: That’s – that’s right.

TAWNY: You play tough, leggy detective – Maggie Anjowski –

BRIT: Yes. Right – a detective –

TAWNY: – with anal warts?

BRIT: No!

TAWNY: Did they get you special chairs – ?

BRIT: I –

TAWNY: – with fluffy cushions?

BRIT:   No! No! Look! Look! Wait – !

BRIT stands, starts trying to remove her pants. TAWNY grabs her. They struggle.

TAWNY: And that’s all the time we have! We’ll see you tomorrow on Tawny Rumaine!

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Alex Bernstein is a freelance writer in New Jersey. His work has appeared at Corvus, BluePrintReview, Hobo Pancakes, Gi60, The Rumpus, The Legendary, The Big Jewel, MonkeyBicycle, Yankee Pot RoastSwink, and PopImage, among others.  His first collection, “Miserable Holiday Stories,” is available at Amazon.com.  Please visit him at www.promonmars.com.

 

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How Did I Get Here (aka My Illustrious Writing Habit)

When I tell people that I started writing stories in second grade, many find this hard to believe. In truth I may have started earlier, but since the first physical artifact of my early writing still in my possession dates from the second grade, I’ll go with it. The second grade was also when I published my first collection of short stories under the tutelage of Mrs. Olson, my 2nd Grade teacher. Most of my memories of Mrs. Olson revolve around my surprise at how freaking old she was, by far the oldest looking teacher I have ever had. I remember her librarian glasses and how the skin hung off her arms when she was writing on the chalkboard, swinging back and forth like a wrinkled hammock in the breeze. It is quite possible that she wasn’t really that old, but the mere act of teaching snot-nosed little brats everyday had caused her physical body to age at an accelerated pace, something I know about all too well having somehow become a teacher myself. But I digress.

Chapter 1 – Simple Pleasures

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I actually found my book of stories while cleaning out a closet at my mom’s house when we were getting ready to sell it. Its somber title was January Stories by Jeff Hager. One thing I had when I was younger was imagination, though not necessarily reflected in this title. I practically lived in an imaginary world, but since I was such a lone wolf I had no imaginary friends in there with me. It was me and my words and my pictures. Here’s a transcript of one story, “Nogmania.”

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My nogs live in people’s hair. If you don’t comb it they will eat you up. If you take one out they will give you a disease. They are like little savage monsters. They are smaller than a termite. One day everybody was combing his hair and all the nogs died, except one was lucky and didn’t die. He moved into Bottle City!

Despite the fact that the POV changes and there is a character named everybody, it is better than a lot of my first drafts. As you can see I also illustrated each of the stories, and I was quite the young artist if I do say so myself. I was using similes at age 8, and unlike a lot of the stories I wrote in high school, something actually happens in this one. But I also see why my teachers and mother were so concerned. I rarely ever spoke, in class or at home, but when I sat down to write somehow words and ideas poured onto the page. Soon after the triumph of January Stories, I completed another illustrated book called Lost Land. It involved a young boy going back in time and meeting a bunch of dinosaurs. Some were nice and some tried to eat him. I think it was loosely based on the original Land of the Lost television show, which was a favorite of mine. This book proved very predictable in its storyline, but the illustrations were pretty kick ass, mainly because my father had given me a book on how to draw dinosaurs. I probably drew a dinosaur on at least 75% of my papers in elementary school, usually when I was supposed to be working on math problems or something else that didn’t interest me. Dinosaurs were cool. That was all that mattered. These early writing successes planted the writing seed somewhere deep in my brain, but unfortunately the successes were short lived. My youthful enthusiasm would soon be placed ruthlessly into a chokehold by the iron grip of editing, criticism, and rejection.

Chapter 2 – The Doubt Creeps In

3rd grade was difficult. ADD wasn’t widely understood. I wasn’t hyper, but definitely had difficulty concentrating and staying seated in class. My third grade teacher had called for a conference with my Mom about my distractibility in class, and her suggestion was I might have ringworm that was causing my restlessness. She swore she had seen it before, so my mother took me to the doctor to have me tested for parasites. I wish I was making this up, but unfortunately my imagination is not that macabre. Needless to say there were no parasites. I continued to struggle in school, except when I was writing.

By fourth grade my teacher noticed my writing immediately. She thought it was good, so good that she accused my parents of writing my homework assignments. Of course they didn’t. They proofread maybe, but I was very incensed that someone didn’t believe I had written the words that I wrote. My parents were contacted and of course denied the accusation. Being a teacher, myself, I know that parents always do, whether they wrote it or not.

My fifth grade teacher went even further and accused me of plagiarizing my state report. There were four grades and I got an A+ on three. On the writing grade, I got a D because my teacher assumed I could not have written such descriptive and interesting passages. This was about twenty years BG (before Google) and the Internet was still a glimmer in some nerdy engineer’s glasses. I had written every word myself, and put a lot of work into it. I’m still not sure what is more disheartening for a writer, being told your writing is not good enough, or being told your writing was so good you couldn’t possibly have written it.

Chapter 3 – Accusations and Lies

It wasn’t until middle school that I finally found the recognition I thought I deserved. But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It was middle school, after all.

During these middle school years my writing actually started gaining a little momentum, and garnered some praise and recognition from my teachers. In seventh grade I got first place in our school limerick contest, though I have no idea how, as poetry has never been my strong suit. The teacher that judged the contest had a peculiar disdain for me, and assumed I must have plagiarized the content from somewhere. I was called down to the principal’s office to answer to these accusations. She didn’t know where I had plagiarized it from and had absolutely no proof, but was nonetheless positive I could not have written the poem myself. But she lacked any concrete evidence, and I denied the charges and was eventually allowed the first place prize. They awarded me a tacky little certificate most likely run off the school ditto machine. I have no further proof of any of this happening beyond my faulty and questionable memories of these incidents.

It was finally in the eighth grade that a teacher directly praised my writing abilities and presumably my intelligence. In English, we often had to answer in-class essay questions in response to the literature we read, and my English teacher would always start reading my paper the moment I handed it to her. I remember one time that she gasped out loud after I had turned in an essay response, while most of the class was reading silently. “Jeff, your response is perfect,” she said, “just perfect.” I felt suddenly embarrassed by this, and I’m sure that my classmates were looking at me like I was some kind of do-goody brown-noser, though I can’t be certain due to my prominent position in the front row (did I mention my ADD?). This one teacher had praised my writing privately many times, reassuring me that I had a certain lucky proficiency with words that was above the average.  Since she actually witnessed me sit down and compose the words in front of her, she must have realized that I had, in fact, written it myself. She was the first person I remember telling me to keep writing, which later became a theme among teachers that recognized some kernel of talent in me, and even as I write this now I try to keep telling myself this. Just keep writing.

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J.D. Hager lives in Northern California with his wife, his Labradors, and his 182 children, which are all named “student.” He works undercover teaching middle school science, running a school garden, and poking sticks into the dirt to plant seeds. His code name is Mister Hager. His fiction has appeared in the Porter Gulch Review, Bartleby Snopes, Cease, Cows, East of the Web, and is forthcoming in many other yet to be determined places. He shares leftovers, incompletions, and other sequences of words on his blog The Intrinsickness, at jdhager.wordpress.com. His book of short stories, Mister Mustache and Other Stories, is available at iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

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