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Short Story by
Paul Kavanagh

"Caballeros" by Chris Aitken
Art by Gene Tanta

War, O yes!

War, O yes!
(For those who love to fight)
(Extracts from the reports of Melia)

And God created the chicken


Art bu Gene TantaThis morning we had horse for breakfast. Horse is nothing like chicken. Horse is like leather boots. Yesterday we had leather boots. The leather boots once belonged to a man that read a lot of books. We did not know if he was a coward, or a traitor or insane. They hung him up nevertheless. He had terrible boots. The boots were full of holes. “What is the worst thing man ever did?” asked Captain H. rhetorically, with a wink, wiping the grease from his mouth. “I do not know,” I said with a shrug of the shoulders. “Eat chicken,” answered Captain H. braying with laughter. I thought he was about to spit out his teeth. “Because now every thing tastes of chicken,” said Henry with a glow in his eyes. Henry is a simpleton.


If it isn’t bad for you it must surely be good


We are living in a nondescript house. At the order of General P. we knocked through the walls. We no longer use the doors. We sleep on the floor, on rags, old coats, all kinds of odds and ends. The rats keep their distance, they know the score. Anything that comes within ten centimeters of us ends up dead, masticated, digested and defecated. “I would have loved to live in a home like this before the War,” said Henry. The upstairs has been completely removed. We pulled up all the floor boards, we smashed the stairs. We used all the wood for fuel for the fire. “Roll up your sleeves,” orders Captain H., “it’s that time again.” Captain H. is bent over a wooden box that once carried bread, now it carried syringes. Captain H. injects us with adrenaline. Henry and Peter pretend they are junkies and Captain H is injecting them with an abundance of junk. When the needle penetrates their skin they moan softly and pull the most hideous of grimaces. Luke and I look away. After the operation Captain H. grinning nefariously, bellows, “right me darlings let’s get at them!” Fear dissipates, wings spout, angels appear, the ground beneath out feet melts, it is all so funny. My pop gun transforms into a twig, like the kind of twig I pretended was a gun when I played War in the school yard. When I pull the trigger I even yell, “bang bang bang!” We all do, we all played the game of War with twigs. After a good night out and about we sleep all through the day without the hint of a dream to disturb us.


A shared desire.


“What did you do that for?” I asked Luke. There was nothing left, well, there was a wisp of smoke. Seconds before there had been a middle-aged man in a pin striped suit. “My mother owed him money,” said Luke. The middle-aged man had been reading a book. Now there was only an ascending wisp of smoke. It seems Luke is cleaning up his mother’s debts. Two days earlier he had evaporated the milk man. Not only the milk man, but the horse as well that dragged around the milk wagon.


A parade of whores


Bullets are flying all around us like mosquitoes ravenous for blood. Peter is weeping softly. Now and again a wall of dust appears. It is crazy. We were out and about when suddenly we came upon three maybe four of the enemy. One look at us and they were down on their knees aiming for our little heads. We jumped over a wall and hid, but the wall couldn’t stand up to those machine guns. The other night Ben and his younger brother had their brains splattered. They had been posted in a bedroom, in a hotel, their job was to watch and report. They were so happy. In the bedroom was a bed. Even a pot to piss in. They never saw what hit them. The door was blown off its jambs. We all look the same now, men and boys. It’s the uniform. It’s the rags. Suddenly there’s no more shooting. The bullets have all dried up. Instead of bang bang bangbangbang it’s brr brr brr. Peter pops up and takes a gander. “Wow!” he screams. I venture. I can’t believe my eyes. Right there on the street, between the enemy and us is a parade of flesh, tall long legs, swinging pendulous breasts, flickering eye lashes, more silk than you could imagine. “Those whores have saved us,” says Peter licking the muck off his lips with his tongue. The men have put down their machine guns. Killing us is boring, futile, compared to serenading the whores. “Cockaleg,” says one of the whores coquettishly. “Which leg?” asks one the men. We can hear it all, everything.


Keep it down


The reek is unbearable. We had beef for tea. A lot of beef. Henry swiped it off a back of a lorry. It was a wondrous meal. Captain H. cut up the meat and cooked it. He outdid himself. It was an orgy. A prandial orgy. The only problem now is that we have the farts. I mean loud, thunderous farts. “You’re going to give us away,” screams Captain H. with each trumpet blast. It was a Trimalchoian feast. I think we devoured a whole bull. Now the Angels are calling! Henry nearly blew a hole in his pants. It’s true they are diaphanous, but still! “Put a thumb in it!” screams Captain H. he is used to it, the meat in the belly, the belly at work. He used to be a butcher. He had steak every night. But us, the meat is rich, too rich. The digestive system is on overtime. The juices are flowing. The acids are attacking. The real war in happening in our bellies, I tell you. The ramifications are too many to number. I try to write them down. I have to keep records. I can’t help myself. My father was a civil servant. He loved words. He loved big words. You know there are a myriad of different farts, you have the common loud fart, you have the silent fart, the wet fart, the raffia fart, the musical fart, the bang, the whimper, the monotonous fart, the mellifluous fart, the dry that turns to wet fart, the spray, the delayed fart, and there’s more. Peter let’s one rip. He nearly awakens the whole city. I bet some think it is another bombing raid. And the smells, you have the bitter, the sweet, the sour, the peppery, the burnt rubber smell, the saccharine ones, the poached eggs, the putrid beef, the maggot infested ones, the cancer, the decomposing body ones, and let’s not forget the rats that crawl up your arse. We are sat around the little fire. We are so happy. Are bellies are full. We can’t move. Are faces are filled up with smiles. We can’t talk. We let our arses do all the talking.




Paul KavanaghPaul Kavanagh's book The Killing of a Bank Manager is published by Honest Publishing.




Gene Tanta, Art DirectorGene Tanta, Art Director. Gene Tanta was born in Timisoara, Romania and lived there until 1984, when his family immigrated to the United States. Since then, he has lived in DeKalb, Iowa City, New York, Oaxaca City, Iasi, Milwaukee, and Chicago. He is a poet, visual artist, and translator of contemporary Romanian poetry. His two poetry books are Unusual Woods and Pastoral Emergency. Tanta earned his MFA in Poetry from the Iowa's Writers' Workshop in 2000 and his PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009 with literary specialization in twentieth-century American poetry and the European avant-garde. His journal publications include: EPOCH, Ploughshares, Circumference Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, Watchword, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Laurel Review. Tanta has had two collaborative poems with Reginald Shepherd anthologized in Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. Most recently, he has chaired a panel at the 2010 AWP titled, “Immigrant Poetry: Aesthetics of Displacement”. Currently, he is working on two anthologies while teaching post-graduate creative writing online for UC Berkeley Extension.


Chris AitkenEdinborough resident Chris Aitken is a professional musician with a bunch of credits he won't let us list. In his spare time, Chris likes lounging around, and does nothing but stare vacantly into space in hope of finding something inspiring one day. He knows hope is futile, because it doesn't exist, as Pandora left it in the box. He doesn't like things in boxes, and is always out of his box as a result. One day he hopes to snap out of it, and meet the real world. He is presently, and always has been a space case, despite his love for this planet. When he is really drunk, Chris has a habit of only being able to vaguely utter the words; "Live The Madness!" Chris likes this bio because it says very little about him. He also likes this third person persona because it reminds him of Julius Caesar.


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