Thursday, February 27, 2014

Red Lipstick

By Elizabeth Dunphey

Her name was Oona
and yes, the name was perfect
Alluding to the hush of a secret, or the ocean
Or a foreign country, say, Ireland
Where her daddy Eugene came from

Oona O’Neill
Was a sultry movie star vision
La brune, not la blonde.

Black of hair, dark of eye
Sullenly rich
Full lips.
La brune, to the extreme, as the French say

A mysterious bad girl teenager
That JD Salinger dated
And renamed Sally

Every broken hearted girl on campus
I see their love for her now
How they wanted Oona’s perfect uniformed body
That velvety black hair
To smoke cloves like her at the Stork Club forever
With red lipstick over her queenly mouth
and kisses for the dangerous world.

Elizabeth has modeled, written stories forever, and loves winter.  Read more of her in the Eunioa Review and Milk.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Night Time Is the Right Time

My hand flails wildly at the nightstand.  I grab for anything that will stop the ringing.  The lamp falls to the floor followed by a pile of papers.  Who the hell is calling at this time?  It’s not a number I recognize on the caller ID.  Probably a drunk dialing the wrong number.  Roll over and press my face as deep as I can into the pillow.  Can I fall back asleep if I tell myself “I have to sleep?”  A beep.  They left a message?  What if it’s an emergency?  I better check just in case.  Roll back over as my hand thrashes for the phone again.  I have one message.

“Oh, hey Luke.  Guess yer not there.  I was…  Um…  Anyway, if ya can, call me back.  Oh yeah, it’s Monica.”  Well, it didn’t sound urgent.  Maybe it is.  Didn’t seem tipsy.  Maybe she is.  Even if there was a problem, what could I do?  I’m here and she’s in California.  Should I call her back?

What does she want?  We haven’t talked in years.  Isn’t this a strange coincidence?  Does chance exist or is it all predetermined?  I just saw the warehouse where we met a little bit ago.  Our relationship started with an expiration date.  There was no fault, just life pulled us in different directions.  Monica ended up in Los Angeles and I’m doing whatever the hell it is I’m doing.

Still doesn’t answer my question: should I call her back?  My grandpa always says, “Nothin’ good ever happens after 3am.”  That usually referred to me being out on the town.  Not sure if that applies to a phone call.  Monica is a grenade with a faulty pin.  Everything is fine until it isn’t.  No one should think this much about a stupid phone call.

Screw it, I’ll return the call.  It rings.  It rings again.  Now I get the voicemail.  Forget it.  I’m not leaving a message.  Finally, I can get back to sleep. 

Again, the phone rings and it’s Monica, “Hey Monica, is everythin’ okay?”

“Hi!  I’m great.  Did I wake ya?”  Maybe she didn’t take the time zones into account.  “I can call back later.”

“No.  No.”  Not falling back asleep any time soon anyway.  “So, how’s California treatin’ ya?”

“Oh, it was…  good.  I moved back home a little while ago, ya know.”

“I didn’t know.  I thought da next time I’d see ya was goin’ ta be in da movies.  I’d say ‘I knew ya when’…”

“That’s sweet.”  Her voice now deflated.  “L.A. was not what I thought it’d be.  Ya always hear how fake and phony everythin’ is out there, but it’s much worse.  It’s all ‘bout havin’ da right friends, bein’ in da right cliques, ‘nd givin’ favors ta sleazeballs.  ‘Nd if ya don’t have da ‘right look,’ forget ‘bout da whole thing.  Anyway, Anabelle told me yer back in town too.  Is that right?”

“Yeah, Granpa got sick ‘nd I moved in ta help out.”  I could of told her the whole story, but isn’t that depressing enough?

“Nothin’ serious, I hope.”

“It’s serious.  It’s all ‘bout reducin’ his pain at this point.  Enough ‘bout that.  What’s goin’ on with ya?”

“I’m at da Fallen Angel Bar ‘nd thought I’d see if ya wanted ta come out.  Whaduya say?  Wanna hang out?”

“No shit?  I was there a while back.”  Some things never change.  “Not tanight though.  I’ve gotta work tamorrow mornin’.  But, I’m pretty free after three tamorrow.”

“Great!”  Now I can hear all the gears grinding in her head.  “A coupla friends ‘nd I are goin’ ta Flanigan’s ta see a band tamorrow night, if ya wanna come.”

“Sure.”  Flanigan’s is the worst fake Irish pub with the biggest douchebag patrons. “What time?”

“Doors open at seven.  So, whaduya think?  ‘Bout eight sound good?”

“Works fer me.”

“Great!  Can’t wait ta see ya.  ‘Night Luke.”

“’Night.”  I hang up and turn on the lamp that fell onto dirty laundry.  The cheap light bulb casts an uneven yellow light across the ceiling.  It looks like static waves of dirty water splashing against the walls.  Still not sure if it was a “good” idea to return Monica’s call.  But, if I didn’t she’s liable to throw a fit in the front yard and wake up the neighborhood.  Still, I’m second guessing my risk and reward assessment.  What is it about Monica that drives me insane?  

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Importance of Making Stuff

By Nick of Megalomania Zine

I started reading Dreamwhip and Cometbus when I was around fourteen and I grew to love the way they described the everyday-ness of life, with all its long, mundane parts and little inspiring sexy bits. To me, they made writing seem really possible. Over time, I learned that my favorite type of zine was the kind that blended sketches with handwritten text, so I try to make that kind of content. It seems to me that this is a better way to tell a story, because I think you gain a deeper understanding of an author and their experience by seeing their pen strokes. It’s more intimate.

Normally, my writing is a lot less serious than this post. Be sure to check out more of my stuff at!

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Lurks In the Basement

Where the hell is it?  I close another beat up cardboard box of old toys and open a towering armoire that’s lost a majority of its flakey white paint.  A weathered Santa waves to me from a cobwebbed corner.  His pudgy red face is so bloated that it looks like it could explode.  I slide a few more plastic bins and former appliance boxes around the room.  Plumes of dust roll like a miniature Arizona dust storm.  On the floor is a cheap baby blue backpack.  It means I’m close.  Pushing more shit out of the way, a strange form is revealed covered by a garbage bag.  I loosen the drawstrings and pull it off the guitar.

I didn’t want it.  Right before band practice, I went to Loewe’s Music for strings.  Man, that was years ago.  Anyway, I was waiting for the clerk when I picked up the fiery red guitar and messed around for a bit.  Kind of weird looking with an oblong body, but fun.  “Whatcha think ‘bout that guitar?” shouted the clerk from the cluttered back.

“It’s awright.” I replied.  “Da lead in my band has a blue one ‘nd likes it enough.”

“Wanna plug it inta an amp?” that metalhead thought he had me on a line.

“Nah.  Just gettin’ strings ‘nd hafta get goin’.”

“’Kay…” He grabbed the high gauge strings and was about to ring me up when he asked, “Whad if I gotcha a deal?  Wouldja consider buyin’ da guitar then?”

“Yer persistent, aren’t ya?  It’d hafta be a great deal since I awready have a guitar.  What’s wrong with it anyway?”  There’s salesmanship and then there’s desperation.

“Nothin’.  Nothin’.  Just had it fer a while ‘nd need ta move it off da sales floor.  How does $300 sound?  I’ll even throw in da strings ‘nd a gig bag.”  I tried to pretend 50% off wasn’t a good deal.  Faked a moment to think.  Luckily, I had enough cash for the down payment and paid the rest off the next day.

The guitar is in rough shape.  The body and neck are fine, but there are patches of rust on the pick-ups, keys, and bridge.  Fine brown dust forms around the corroded strings with every pluck as I tune it: not an easy task when I’m missing the D string.  It’s still a fine instrument if you can get over the disheveled appearance.

Reaching in the nylon backpack for a pick, I remove a crumpled piece of paper from our CD release show.  An old set list with twelve original songs.  Each one about an inside joke, a twisted relationship, or personal disaster.  One melody was even sung in a made up language (not our most popular hit).  Two songs are about the same girlfriend: one at the beginning of the relationship and the other at the end.  I didn’t write any of them, but they are still special to me.

The amp appears to have survived its long hibernation.  I won’t really know until I can plug it in.  It used to be so loud.  Absolute no reason to have a half-stack if you’re only playing V.F.W. halls.  But, it was all part of the act.  The highest I ever turned the dial was “3” and I nearly lost an eardrum.  It could produce a sound wave that resembled a chainsaw cutting steel.  Spray painted on one side is the band’s name: Justice Fire.  The white stenciled letters almost glitter on the battered black cabinet.  A message from a former era, like a cave painting.

I’m still unclear how I joined the band.  They lost their drummer and I had a friend without a group.  I introduced them and was about to leave when someone asked, “Where’s yer guitar?”

“Uh…  At home.” At the time I had an inexpensive beginner’s set.

“Why didn’t ya bring it?”

“Why would I?”

“’Cause we have practice.  Go home ‘nd grab it.  We’ll start on drums ‘nd be ready ta work with ya by da time yer back.”  The drummer and I had less than a week to prepare for our first show at a banquet hall.

Peeking at the mechanicals in the amp head, there’s a stack of photos in the nook.  I forgot all about these.  There are shots from every show and the dumb stuff we did waiting to play.  Here’s the set we did in our underwear.  That’s us eating all those free burritos because we wrote a song for a Mexican restaurant.  There I am arguing with a cop because he’s trying to shut us down citing nonexistent laws and ignoring our permit.  Oh man, this picture is from the basement show we played and thought a serial killer tricked us into being his victims when we first arrived.  And, that’s me posing with friends after my last performance.

I didn’t know that was my last show then.  A week later, we practiced at the studio as usual.  I was packing up my stuff when one of the guys said, “Hey Luke, can ya talk fer a minute?”  They politely cut me from the band.  I was disappointed, but I realized I was the least talented member.  I collected all my stuff as they watched me from the couch with melancholy faces.  It was quiet as I crammed everything into the blue backpack.  I unlatched the door to the alley and stopped when I heard, “Hey man, we’re sorry.”  I couldn’t respond.

The half-stack was the first to go downstairs.  A while later, I stored the recording equipment in a tub.  A lot was changing in my life at that moment and music didn’t seem to be a part of my future.  So, I wrapped up my guitar, just as I’m doing now, in a shriveled garbage bag.  It crinkles as I carefully place it on the stand.  I turn off the lights and head back upstairs to reality.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Breakfast With Anabelle

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, when I get it.  I can’t have it when I’m tortured to get up by an alarm clock.  Makes my stomach acidic and all I can tolerate is toast.  But, I woke up when I wanted to this morning and I’m making French toast, eggs, bacon, and coffee.  If only I had some potatoes.  Anyway, I toss it all onto a plate when somebody knocks on the door.

Anabelle gazes at me with a raised eyebrow and curled lip.  She dyed her hair fire engine red since I last saw her.  “Perfect timin’.  Want some breakfast?  Just made up some French toast and eggs.” I said. 

“Didja just get up?  No thanks.  I ate a while ago.” She sneers back.  Whatever her problem is can wait.  I have good cooking.  I took my seat and started chowing down.  Anabelle just stands at the other end of the table, arms crosses, giving me a dirty look.  “Ya look horrible.  What’s wrong with ya?  Yer so gross.”

“I’m fine, sunshine.  Did I ferget somethin’ or do somethin’ ta piss ya off?” I reply still loading up on food.  “If so, I’m sorry.”

“No…” Now she brings out her “caring voice” when she asks, “Are ya gonna be like this ferever?”  Ugh.  Does she not see this beautiful meal in front of me on a rare day off?  It’s about as close to Nirvana I’ve been in a while.

“Be like what?”

“Like this.  What’s wrong with ya?  Ya never come out with us anymore or do anythin’ I want ta.  ‘Nd yer gettin’ boring.”  I look down at my plate, bite my upper lip, and take a deep breath so I don’t say anything I’ll regret later.  She never forgets.

“Well, maybe I’ve changed or I’m not who ya thought I was,” my chest grows warm and tight.

“Bullshit.  When was da last time ya took a shower or changed yer clothes or combed yer hair?”

“Who cares?  It’s my day off ‘nd I’m not goin’ anywhere.  I got no one ta impress.”  Why does she always have to start fights with me on nice days?  Anyway, she storms out the front door and I continue eating.  I’m not going to let whatever her problem is ruin my day.

“Aren’t ya gonna talk ta me?”  I didn’t know she was still here.  I finished up my meal, threw the dishes in the sink, and made a screwdriver.  Better make another one.

“Thought ya left ten minutes ago.” I hand her a drink she obviously doesn’t want.  “Have ya just been sittin’ on da stoop?”

“I’m tired of seein’ ya sit ‘round doin’ nothin’.  Either yer at work or passed out on da couch.  I don’t like it.  Now she has her “pouty face” on. 

“Well, I offered ta make ya breakfast ‘nd ya threw a shit-fit.”

“We don’t have fun anymore.  Let’s go do somethin’ crazy.” Anabelle doesn’t need me to pull any of her stunts.

“What do ya wanna do?  My day is wide open.”

“Oh…  Let’s go onna road trip.  Yeah!  I know some people we can stay with in St. Louis.  Maybe stop by Paul’s ta invite him.  See a show somewhere.  It’ll be fun.”

“It would be.  But, I can’t do it.  I hafta work tamorrow ‘nd I only have ‘bout 20 bucks ta last me ‘til payday.  Plus, not sure if yer car could make it ta St. Louis.”  Why does everyone come up with these “great ideas” that are impossible and I have to say “no” to?  Sure, there’s a lot of stuff I’d love to do if time, money, and reality were of no importance.  Of course, going to St. Louis isn’t an insanely impossible adventure, but I can’t do it.  “Why don’t ya call up Paul?  Maybe he can go with ya or someone else.”

“Hmm…  Ferget it.”  She disappears into the house.  Probably going to the bathroom.  Even if I could go to St. Louis, I wouldn’t want to.  It’s such a long drive to just end up standing somewhere watching a terrible band.  She’d ditch me while I end up sleeping on a stranger’s couch.  And, who knows if she’d even drive me back.  It’s not unusual for me to go somewhere with Anabelle and then have to find alternative transportation home.  How many times have I looked for her at a party only to discover her car missing?  “Yer future ain’t lookin’ too bright?”

“Really?  Yer startin’ ta sound like my granpa.”  This coming from a girl I had to carry back to her place because she passed out in a parking lot from drinking too much last week.  “I’ll take yer drink if ya don’t want it.  Somethin’ else I can get ya?”

“Take it.  I’m fine.”  Anabelle begins to sulk in the chair and looks at the neighbor’s house.  It’s in pretty rough shape.  A single woman with two out-of-control kids live there.  The mom works strange hours and the cops are called on her children all the time.  Their garbage frequently blows into our yard and drives my grandpa crazy.  “What happened ta ya, Luke?”

“Ah, nothin’.  Just gotta lot on my plate right now.  That’s all.”

“Well, tell me ‘bout it.”

“Com’on Anabelle.  Ya don’t need ta nag me.”  She jumps up and stomps to her car.  Doesn’t look at me or even say “goodbye.”  Probably will spend the rest of the day at home thinking of a way to punish me.

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