archives submissions news (dis)likes

My Totally Aweome Funeral: A Response
Curtis Smith

The Decathlon: The Course
Jessica Hollander

Ambient Plumbing (a prequel)
J. Ryan Stradal

Anne Elliott

Belleville, IL: Liner Notes
Chris Orlet

Lane 12: Behind the Story
Shellie Zacharia

Fireworks: Audio Commentary
J. Chris Rock

Pregnant: Sketches
Catherine Zeidler

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Chris Orlet was born in a log cabin in Southern Illinois. Unnecessarily. His stories have appeared in The Simpering Nautilus, Inside the Female Ear, The Happy Hyena, High Noon at Midnight, and many other high-brow publications.

Photo by Sean Carman

In the end, the plaque touched us all. It was not confined to the three-rooted maxillary bicuspids. No. It turned up again in the lower right molar, breeding in-a-compost of corruption and bacillus and decay, in those hard-to-reach places where oral surgeons and dentists ravish the bodies of the starched white dental hygienists. The plaque ran in the blood of disease-infected gums, who ran for dental school class president promising freshness and delivering halitosis. The infected young mouths with machine-gun breath like Asian ditches, the ethereal escape through nitrous oxide, up above God's pearly whites sprayed in saliva streams, and coughed on, while the dentist's offices imploded and the landscaping out front was filled with the useless butts of receptionists.

And here in the chair, something rotted. The bacillus moved among us, infecting that old American immigrant who'd lit a million farts in the shadows of the bridges, contaminating the great yawning nation of accountants and marketing specialists and archbishops, the place of Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal and service consultants for telecommunications giants. And through the yellow film of the plaque most tartar hardens into gingivitis. Sadists kneel on the chests of squirming patients. Muzak died in crowded waiting rooms. Sports Illustrated served as Novocain for ideology.

And as the bills piled up, the address and phone numbers were changed to out-of-state, many reflecting a town that never was, a place of deck dreams in Possum Trot, where we browned sausages in the Colgate summers, only faintly hearing the young men brushing, leaving the tap running, and WC Fields advising that we start the day with a smile and get it over with. Your insurance card please. Lost on a craps table. Land where the politicians cried.

Miles of wire.

Belleville, Illinois, you're bringing me down.

-- Hack Hamill, Pontoon Beach, 2006