HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for the Toys & Games Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website. Below are just a few of the pieces we loved. Keep an eye on our website for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release date of Toys & Games…
Sonnet: My Dominatrix
Whatever is metallic now recedes:
My swords, my shields, my money. John’s the name,
One more Napoleon of Whine, ashamed,
And needing peace through pain — — her specialty — —
Correction by this chiropractor. Pleas
Invite her whip: “Come in, come in!” The tame
Can concentrate on sex. Not me. The flame
Of punishment claims me, unsoiled, love-free.
He’s staring at my breasts. They’re needling him,
Restrained and forced to obey whips and canes,
Skyscraper pain controlling time lust-topped.
Men tell me that I’m good at this. I skim
Life’s scourge called “memory.” Heat’s tamed, maintained.
It takes more skill than they might think — — to stop.
Native New Yorker LindaAnn Loschiavo is completing her 2nd documentary film on Texas Guinan [1884-1933] and dodging gun-molls in Shubert Alley and in decommissioned speakeasies. To revive her spirits, she puts pen to paper. Metamorphose, Measure, and Nous are recent credits.
Stop by for a highball at http://TexasGuinan.blogspot.com
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Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Wildflower Muse, Noble/Gas Qtrly, and The Ibis Head Review, among others.
Amazing X-Ray Specs
Charles Joseph Albert
Andy Fitzwiller stood trembling at his mailbox. He had waited five unendurable weeks since mailing off a dollar and ninety-five cents of his meagre savings and a coupon from the back of his League of Super Heroes comic book. Now, at last, the reward was here, in his hands. The small box he was holding screamed, in bright red capital letters, “AMAZING X-RAY SPECS!” Smaller letters underneath promised: “This will change the way you see the world!”
Andy tore the box open right there in the driveway and yanked out the glasses. His dismay was immediate. This was not the sophisticated transistor device he was expecting – just cheap, red plastic frames fitted with decorated cardboard “lenses”. A pinhole in the centre of each lens, with a single thread crossing it, provided some kind of dopey optical illusion.
He scowled as he put the glasses on and held up one hand. Sure, his fingers looked funny. But he couldn’t believe he’d been such a sap.
As he stood squinting through the pinholes, he didn’t hear Jill McEnroe approaching. And Jill was one of the main reasons Andy had bought the glasses. Make that two of the main reasons: her breasts, well beyond the mere mosquito bites of other girls in their sixth-grade class, stood out quite prominently under the sweaters she favoured. They had captured the imagination of every boy in Andy’s homeroom.
“Hello, Andy. What are those?” Jill asked. He turned, still wearing the glasses…and his jaw dropped.
Something bizarre was going on. Her pink sweater dissolved before his eyes. Underneath, her white bra and bare stomach grew visible – he really could see through her sweater! Then the bra vanished, and he could see – could it be true? – a half inch of foam rubber.
“Andy!” She shifted with irritation under his gaze.
“They’re padded!” He looked up at her face in disbelief. “You’re wearing a padded bra!”
“You’re – you’re crazy!” Jill turned red and stormed past him down the sidewalk. Andy watched her go, fascinated by the sight of her vanishing skirt and panties, the buttocks of naked rear bunching and stretching as she hurried away.
This was incredible! He took the specs off and examined them again – still just cheap plastic and those idiotic cardboard lenses. He looked up; Jill was gone, so he looked around the street for another target, but it was almost four o’clock. Gilligan’s Island was on; everyone anywhere near his age would be inside for the next half hour.
He looked down at his feet. Now he really could see it – his toes, perfectly visible through the rubber of his Keds. Could he see through to the bones? He concentrated, but it seemed that the power of the Amazing X-Ray Specs stopped at the skin.
His gaze wandered up his legs, up to his own crotch, where his penis was smashed and crammed into his wrinkly white balls, thanks to his Fruit of the Looms. He took a sudden and permanent dislike to wearing briefs.
With a feeling of dismay at the unpleasant sight of his most private area, as well as at the shattered ideal that was Jill McEnroe’s fake boobs, Andy tucked the glasses back into the torn box and went in the house. He was going to put them in his backpack until school the next morning. He certainly hadn’t the slightest inclination to wear them at home with his family tonight.
At dinner, he picked at his Chef Boyardee and BirdsEye, trying hard not to think about what kind of ungodly scrunched mess his lap probably looked like right then.
“What’s the matter, Son?” his dad asked with artificial joviality.
“Oh, he’s been pining for some novelty toy. For weeks, now,” his mother said, taking off her apron and smoothing her hair before she took her place between Andy and his sister Anna.
“What was it again, dear?” she asked with a smile. “Some sort of binoculars?”
“Something like that,” Andy mumbled, blushing, desperate to avoid looking at her bosom.
After a night of tortured voyeuristic dreams, Andy began obsessing about the glasses even before he was out the door for school. Walking down St. George Street, past Forty-fifth and then Forty-fourth, he was joined by increasing numbers of his schoolmates. He slipped the glasses out of his backpack and began to gawk at the copious free show. He leered longingly at the passing parade of eighth-grade girls, ignoring the underdeveloped and uninteresting fifth-graders. He snickered to himself as Steve Maur appeared on Twenty-fourth Street. Steve was a big bully of an eighth grader who, despite his large frame, had a laughably small weenie.
“What’chu staring at, Shrimp?”
Andy hadn’t been discreet enough, and now Steve was heading right for him.
“And what’s with the dopey-looking shades?” He sprinted the last ten feet between them, to try to grab them off of Andy’s face, but Andy reacted in time and zig-zagged toward the school entrance, leaving Steve to make obnoxious jokes to his football buddies about faggoty sixth-graders.
Andy realized he’d better be more careful with these precious glasses; he slipped them back into their red box, tucked it into his backpack, and decided to wait until he was less conspicuous before trying them again.
In first-period, before Mr Pendleton was safely occupied at his desk, the rest of Andy’s classmates had already taken their seats, so the interesting stuff was pretty well hidden. But Andy slipped the glasses on anyway, and enjoyed the view of Nancy Keller, who sat directly in front of him: her long straight back, the feminine curve of her little brown shoulders, the dainty dimple just above her rear end.
He was distracted from her when Ito Haseda was called up to the chalkboard: his beautiful creamy skin and smooth, elegant body…
Uneasy at his unexpected ogling of another boy, Andy turned his head away in panic, where he found himself staring at old Mr Pendleton. The teacher’s flabby white belly and scrawny legs directly to his left were enough to permanently put Andy off the male form, well before the specs began to penetrate Mr Pendleton’s ratty pair of briefs. Andy turned quickly to Lara Andriella, beyond her, and noticed the pubescent budding of her lovely areolas. Then, before she could catch him staring, he slid them back into their box.
What a miraculous portal to a hidden world! The glasses were ex-act-ly what the doctor ordered. He couldn’t wait to show the glasses to his best friend, Marcel Wilkerson.
As soon as the bell rang, Andy ran through the hallway and waited outside of Marcel’s room. As usual, Marcel strolled out lazily, already chewing on a Mars Bar. Andy took the glasses off, out of deference for the privacy of his buddy.
“How’zit going?” Marcel smiled at his pal.
“Marcel, man, you aren’t gonna believe this. Check it out!” Andy held out the specs.
But someone else reached over and snatched the glasses out of his hand.
“Let’s see the shades, Shrimpy!” It was Steve. Of course. With two of his football cronies. “The little queer was staring at me with these. I wonder why?” Steve sneered at Andy. “What’s with the freaky glasses, faggot?”
Andy froze. Once Steve looked through the glasses, he’d know that Andy had seen his tiny dick. Steve would have to kill Andy…and probably spray-paint ‘faggot’ on his tombstone.
“Give them back, Steve,” Andy croaked.
“What’s that, Queer-Boy?” Steve snorted, as he put the glasses on. “Hey!” Steve yelled out suddenly, going still.
Andy began to whisper his own last rites.
Steve turned to his buddies and squeaked, “Hey! Look at me! I’m Queer Boy!” He imitated Andy with a shrill falsetto: “Give them baaaack, Steeeeve!”
The jocks laughed. Steve threw the glasses back at Andy, who caught them despite his utter confusion.
“Can’t see diddly through those. What a nerd.”
They moved on.
“What a bunch of goons, huh?” Marcel said disdainfully. “So what’s that, X-ray specs? Don’t you know those things are just a dumb rip-off?”
“But these really work!” Andy peered into the glasses again, just to be sure. His vision immediately began to penetrate Marcel’s pants, through to his underwear. He took them off quickly.
Marcel looked at his friend. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” Andy snapped at Marcel. He held the glasses out to Marcel. “Here. See for yourself, Mister purple Hanes. They really work.”
Marcel put on the glasses. “Hah. That was just a lucky guessss…” His voice died away as he gawked at Andy.
Andy jerked his hands over his crotch. “Hey! Don’t look at me there, you moron!” He felt all the more exposed, since he had stopped wearing underwear after yesterday’s revelation – at least until he could get his mom to buy him some boxer shorts. “Check out Jill McEnroe’s padded bra or something.”
Marcel snapped his head away. “Sorry, man,” he mumbled. He looked at Jill across the hall, and his mouth dropped open. “Holy shit! It is padded!”
“Yeah. Now gimme back – ” Andy reached over for the glasses, but Marcel’s hand blocked him.
“In a minute, in a minute. I’m still checking this out. Hah! Look at George Kilburn’s Archie underpants! What a weenie!”
Andy kept trying to grab the glasses away, but Marcel wasn’t sharing. Mr Oliver walked by; Marcel darn near peed his pants, he laughed so hard. Miss Siegfried passed; Marcel’s giggling died away in a paean to the thirty-year-old female form in all its beauteous ripeness.
Marcel spent a last long moment glancing hurriedly from person to person before the fifth-period bell rang. Then he pulled them off of his face, slapped them into his friend’s impatient hands, and swaggered off to class.
“Darn it, Marcel!” Andy whispered, taking a seat next to him in Social Studies. “You hogged those X-Ray Specs for the whole break! I didn’t get to see anybody.”
“You said you’d already seen Miss Siegfried,” Marcel pointed out dreamily.
“On the way to school! Not walking by right in front of me! You had a much better view.”
“Oh, man…” Marcel sank into a reverie of rapture. “I have seen heaven, and she’s German.”
Andy looked at his friend crossly. Not the slightest contrition. “Well, I’m not letting you near them after school.”
“Relax, Andy! They’re all yours. I don’t want to look through them anymore.”
Andy’s glare softened. Maybe he was being too hard on Marcel. “Naw, that’s okay, Marcel. I mean, you can look through them again sometime. Maybe tomorrow, or something.”
“No, really, Andy. Thanks. Once was enough.”
“I don’t need to see any more. Everyone’s got a hairy crotch. I’ve seen enough to – ”
“When you gentlemen are ready,” Mrs Strickler interrupted them, “to return your attention to the front of the class, we’ll continue.”
Marcel turned his face forward and smiled a benignly knowing smile at their shrivelled, sagging teacher. Andy, behind him, fumed. He kept one hand on the X-Ray Specs in his pocket. Who cares what Marcel says, Andy thought; when school’s out, I’m going to stare until my eyeballs fall out.
After the sixth-period bell, with Marcel nowhere to be found, Andy put his friend out of his mind and picked a discreet location at the school’s main entrance. Sitting on a low wall near the front entrance, one leg crossed nonchalantly over the other, he began to feast his eyes on the nudie show.
And yet, somehow – was it something Marcel had said? – the thrill had faded. A few kids passing by with personal hygiene issues were enough to set the afternoon off to a bad start. Dirty underwear, some kind of ghastly pad over some of the girls’ privates…and why did everybody have to be so…so wrinkly? And covered with scraggly hair…
Andy’s mood got worse. Each cute girl walking by – and there were plenty – left him feeling ugly and inadequate. And every boy walking by who was in better shape, or better endowed than Andy, only made him more depressed. Even the kids more unattractive than he was simply added to his angst. For, deep down, he knew he was with them.
Meanwhile, another thing was still bothering him: why didn’t Steve Maur see anything when he looked through them? Did he just not look hard enough? It did take a second or two for your eyes to adjust… Or maybe, Andy thought, in an attempt to rally his spirits, these things required a certain amount of brainpower that Steve just lacked.
He watched Marcel leaving, talking to some other kid. And that’s another thing, he thought. How could Marcel could look through these things for five minutes and be done with them? Come away smiling and confident? It made Andy feel more perverse, more…wrong. What bliss, what serenity had Marcel been able to reach? Why was Andy spiralling in the opposite direction? For he felt as though he were being sucked into a pit of insecurity and self-loathing.
At this nadir of emotions, he felt an itch, and happened to glance down at himself again without thinking. Without any underpants, his crossed leg scrunched his crotch, his genitals looked grotesquely deformed. Suddenly, besides the moral self-loathing he now felt, he began to think of himself as physically repulsive; a disgusting mass, best hidden from view.
Around him, the exodus of children continued. Garbed in their cheerful, primary-coloured clothing, his classmates streamed past, blissfully unaware of the hidden spectacle each of them carried – a spectacle that Andy now wished he had never seen.
Their childish innocence had, until yesterday, been his world too. But now he was repulsive, they were repulsive, and nothing was sacred in the world any longer.
It was more than he could take. Andy tore the glasses off and broke them in little pieces. He shredded the bright red box as well, letting the bits fall in the gutter. Their broken promise, on the side of the box, caught his eye one last time. Only now, he realized that it had actually been a curse.
Charles Joseph Albert is a theoretical physicist, owner of a machine shop and father of three boys, living in San Jose, CA. His poetry has appeared in the Literary Hatchet, the Rockhurst Review, the New Verse News, and Words on a Wire.