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Category Archives: Short Stories

Vignettes…

The Queen Leech

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She swirled in the water; wisps of white linen fingering out from the hem like a thin trail of spider’s silk or caterpillar milk, curling, coiling, and the crooking up in a delicate gesture- processed sugar crisp against the red-murk blackwater pane of earth and water perfectly mixed. The hair on her arms lay flat and gold against her skin. There is nothing pale about her, though the shadows beneath the surface soak into her skin, cool and lavender. Scropping along in the mud below were a pair of brown feet, an inch deep in river garbage or as Mamma politely urged her to say, “Silt.” They made an unheard groggle as she readjusted her weight; feet unseen far down below with the catfish and sharp, dangerous black mussels that cut and dug and require Neosporin. Finding one with a toe, she slid her bare heel safely across the part of the shell that is smooth like a rounded back.
Then the linen across her chest and belly turned transparent as she slipped below the surface at a perfected thirty-degree angle with a slight, parabolic arc in her spine so that she could go low without dirtying her dress on the lake bottom. She pushed her bright head back through the wavering, Technicolor surface membrane without sputtering (or otherwise making a fuss). In slow motion, her long arms seized the thin rough fabric of her dress and drew it away from her very feminine and lovely knees. Hannah loved her knees. They seemed to her the only delicate or graceful thing about herself.
She noticed that, under the water, her hands looked papery and white like her feet looked white in the violet shadows except where the mud was ground into the heel.
“If there is any part of MeeMaw G.G. running through these veins, it must be runnin’ through these particular veins here, above the meta-carpals,” she said. She loved naming her bones.
“what the hell are you talking about, hannah?” (Va’l doesn’t capitalize.)
“My hands. They look like Grandma G.’s from right before she died- creepy and white and like you could take off about an inch of skin if you got pruny enough.” It was true. Under the soft purple shadows, her hands looked a thousand years old; the light blue veins puckering up the flesh around them like long smooth mountain chains comprised completely of ice. The water skeeters and debris floating up from her sludgy feet made brown spots on her skin like melanin, and her fingernails looked thin and sharp.
Nanna G.’s real name had been Gretl, which she had hated. Hannah hated it, too, though she was unusually (she thought for herself) fond of her own name, since it was a palindrome. “Hannah, hannaH. Hannah, hannaH,” she thought to herself. The gentle current wafted Va’l into her arms like the most delicate scent of rain on the wind of a dry, hot Rincon afternoon; anticipation.
Va’l’s parents were goddamn hippies. They had allowed her to choose her own name when she came of age. Until she turned thirteen, they called her pet names she secretly feared she would never outgrow. When it came time, she wisely picked out the moniker Va’mafaal Mutuumbu Windstar. It was chosen at the height of her obsession with Afrikaan mysticism when she was still wearing traditional African dress to school. Va’l was white, but emigrated from South Africa when she was three months old, so she told everybody that she was an African-American. She got beat to shit twice a week for years until her brothers got old enough to go to school. She was proud of her heritage- descended from the cruelest bloodlines, the deepest pockets and the firmest hearts of the thieves and murderers that originally colonized the most victimized and raped continent in the world. (That is why they hated her.)
Her dark hair curled on her shoulder like a fat leech- the queen leech, glistening and plump and squirming. She was like that.
“hold me like a princess,” she smiled. Hannah scooped her up and walked out deeper into the water with her delicate and snuggling cargo, feeling with her toes and carefully setting down her weight from toe to heel with a relaxed foot. The wet cloth between them grew hot with the air and their body heat, like wet suits. Hannah gently kissed the glassy curl on her shoulder, to which Va’l pouted and replied, “don’t tease,” flashing the most perfect of razor-toothed grins to her friend, and then rolled out of her arms into the water.
While Va’l kicked toward the diving platform floating in the center of the lake, Hannah’s hazel/gold eyes watched her quietly. She craved her friend always, and found that no demand was too great when confronted by her wide brown eyes and that great head of hair as dark as the back of a water moccasin. She imagined Va’l like the wise Medusa- covered in snakes and leeches and silt and slugs and all the glistening wonders of the South. And wanted her. Badly. She watched those lean legs scissor-kicking across the distance, hike up onto the wooden platform, scrape against the wood, get held by a small hand tight across the scratch, and then swing up underneath a pair of faded tan and orange board shorts with the word “hypercolor” peeling with age on the back left pocket. Va’l waved her over, and Hannah, finding her irresistible, obediently dove towards her.

The Cave

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Deep, deep into the underground they went; the meat-lipped youth and the phlegmatic woman. It was the only way to escape. Stalagmites hung down from the underbelly of rock above them like giant glittering flaccid penises, poking their heads down into the luminescent air swollen with whatever foreign thing that suspends itself and emits energy in our perceivable spectrum. The young man could not consciously feel the miniscule golden globes softly sweeping across his watery green eyes. The woman snorted back a globful of snot and spat. It traveled at a 45º angle, propelled by her thin and crusty lips, and found its way through the tangle of light on a straight path to the wall.
“Have you seen Space Novelist?” she coughed.
The boy was silent. He did not see movies he knew were going to be terrible and he did not converse with idiots who did.
The woman snorted and hoofed at the ground where stalactites were iridescent and slick-looking. She thought about the space novelist, and how glamorous her life would have been had she written novels in space and had people to love her. There was one particular scene in the movie that touched her: A friend was scolding someone for not keeping up with him and for keeping his personal life secret from him. She had never experienced that. Moved by this thought, she then told the youth all about the scene in some detail. Since he didn’t tell her to shut up or fuck off, she poured her heart out to him.
“I’ve never had a friend my whole life. Not a real friend. No one knew me. No one knows me,” she emphasized with a snort. “There was never anyone scolding me for not writing or calling often enough, or worried that I did not love them as much as they loved me. I run after my friends, clutching at them- begging them to stay.” She glared at him through a sea of gold. “Not anymore, though,” and then after a moment, “You don’t care, either.”
“Shut up.”
“I mean, I’m not complaining or anything; it’s just that I’ve noticed that most people wouldn’t piss on me to put me out.”
A moment passed.
“If I were on fire.” The boy was getting angry.
“Don’t get angry, now. I say this to everyone and here’s why: To see if it has any effect. That’s how I can gauge how much someone cares about me.”
“I don’t see why that’s necessary,” growled the boy. “I helped you evacuate, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but not because you care about me! You probably care less about me now than when I was just an anonymous human being you felt obligated to assist- and a woman, no less. You saved me to fulfill some deep, hot wet dream of being a hero and receiving the standard thank you fuck. Thank you so much for saving my life- my mouth, vagina and anus are all available for penetration.”
“Fuck off.”
And so she did, her cracked lips cradling the globes of light in her mouth as she silently enunciated her anger around them. He did not harbor for her as many negative feelings as you do. To him she was just boring and short-legged. Tiresome. No one can go on about themselves like the depressed. She did not look as though she would tear out her own eyes if given the chance, so he was unsympathetic. She was only soliciting.
“My name is Jean.”
“Levi,” without offering his hand.
“For Leviticus?” she hawked.
He nodded and did not ask her. Her namesake, she thought to herself, was Janine. No- Janette. It was her great Aunt Jenna’s name. It was a grand society name passed through a series of families- throughout the third feminist movement. It was the pseudonym she used when writing novels in space.
After minutes of silence, the not-asking became clear.
Levi navigated the changing slope of the cave floor, grateful that he could not see the glare of another wet lougie reflecting green-gold as she spat against the wall a second time.
“Umph-” she tripped, pitching forward. He turned to face her just as she landed hard on her knees, tearing small bloody holes in the knees of her vintage 90’s green flowered Capri pants. A tiny smile lounged on the upturned corners of his mouth.
“Careful; the slope changes,” he warned.
“Thanks- yeah. And I ruined my damn pants.” She took a minute to turn her wide, flat bottom towards him, and then set it down on the ground, scooting forward to bring her knees out over her ankles, trying to stand up as if it would fucking kill her. Levi stood, waiting; the pallid green of his eyes brighter under the soft glow than they’d ever been outside. Then he got it- she was waiting for him! Waiting for him to help her up!
“A little help here,” she extended a hand. Levi took it, gave the appendage a yank, and then continued into the golden fog ahead.
I think I’ve found a clearing, he thought to himself.
“Hey- is that a clearing?”
He silently made his way closer, the sound of her pumps changing with the acoustics. They had found their way into a broad cavern. In the center across from the entrance, there were three golden, glowing figures. The woman screamed and wedged herself between the earthworm smooth slippery wall and Levi’s lithe hunter’s body, but a different thought crossed Levi’s mind. He did not wonder if the glowing figures were friendly or even human. He wanted to know why he could see them. Until now, his vision had been obscured by the thousand of miniscule glowing lights. Abandoning the faint scent of urine to clutch at the wall, he went towards the people-shaped halos across the way.
They are eating them, he realized, horrified. The floating golden globules were actually feeding on the corpses; scouring it like a colony of ants. There was a note.
“Group suicide,” he said. “They didn’t think they were going to make it so they…” he read on, “had a supply of morphine. Lucky Bastards.” Levi carefully extended a hand towards the luminescence. The creatures appeared to be interested only in dead flesh, which was, of course, how they had survived so well in the cold and cavernous wasteland of the caves. All one had to do was wait- like a vast and slick desert.
“Maybe there’s more,” the lady sniffed.
“What?”
“Is the gold stuff gonna hurt me?”
“No, but-”
“Then start searching.” Her pudgy, sticky hands were already busily working at the straps on a stripped skeleton. They were in the marrow.
“Got it!” she exclaimed. “There’s probably plenty left in here.” She rattled the bag at him, grinning a wide and plaque-licked smile. He stabbed her in the chest. Then he stabbed her once in the neck just below her slight Adam’s Apple, and once more in the chest. The knife was given to him at a recent ceremony in Eagle Scouts. She gurgled, spit, and then fell to the floor. The creatures swarmed her while the young man snatched the bag from her hands and strode off towards the climbing station he knew to be there from a Scouting expedition.
“Not if you were the last person on Earth.”

Butterflies

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The crisp morning light was white across the wall, reflecting then refracting upside-down in the eye but not the mind of the boy on the bed. This light did not spill; it neatly aligned itself parallel to the mass of cotton and springs beneath him lengthwise between the curtains and the squat maple chest-of-drawers. His great, soft body was still beneath the sheets (also white, also crisp) enjoying the benefits of the efforts of particles tirelessly sprinting all night back and forth from skin to sheet, skin to sheet. Glaring at the Republican curtains, he tried to get the squint out of his eyes. His mother had chosen that dark ivy pattern on white poplin that moms always claim is masculine and classy but which really comes across as disingenuous and excitedly cries I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL THIS IS A GUEST ROOM!!! He hated those curtains even more than he hated Heather Kanaska.
He blinked in a wide sweep of white. Every picture he laid eyes upon was fringed in this way; framed by his lashes like angels’ wings closing briefly to bless his cheekbones and kiss the very inside corners of a long and Roman nose. If you got close enough to him to feel the gentle breeze coming off those long, gracious feathers you might be carried away to the brilliant blue shores of his eyes where you could rest your long-tired limbs in the cool, calm waters. Divorcees, PTA moms, successful but achingly childless CEO’s greedily and guiltily lapped at him until their heads were quiet and their limbs stretched out in silent, shivering ecstasy. Those wings ushered into his bed the angriest, most exhausted man-eaters; women who even hated men- hated him for being a man but still loved cock, and the things he could do with his. In the morning they left well thought-out notes for him in neat, ladylike handwriting on softly scented paper all full of concern for him and his well-being but it can’t go on, after all. Not at his age- not at their age, most certainly. They knew he would understand, “Yours in Christ,” Sunday school teacher number two. He collected these in a photograph album, kept like pastel-winged butterflies straining their thin silver veins to tear themselves off their pins. He blinked and was blessed again.

Home

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“Practical Blasphemy: The New Testament” illustrates in 55,000 words that which countless books have failed to convey about mental illness. Based on a first-hand account of psychosis and hospitalization, it is a love letter to the tormented, full of important information and sometimes hope. It is the first of its kind. LJT exposes in detail the reality of psychosis, the horror of suicide, and the effects of psychopharmaceuticals.

Protagonist Amelia Adams is a young woman who hallucinates music continuously. Along with voices and darker things in her head, she is constantly bombarded with unwanted thoughts. She decides to take her own life. “Practical Blasphemy: The New Testament” begins on that day. The book includes her suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization, treatment, fellow patients, and both real and delusional experiences. When she begins medication, the writer’s style changes along with Amelia’s thoughts. This accurate portrayal of the effects of psychopharmaceuticals enlightens the reader and the protagonist. “Practical Blasphemy” is unconventional and shocking at times, but it is a crucial instrument in helping the psychiatric community and general public understand the realities of severe mental illness.

Contact the author with questions or concerns, below.