Unfunny Post

Alright, kiddies, it's your boy Johnny Despair, Esq. here, and I ain't got time for foolin' around today. There's some serious business to attend to.

Now, I know we ain't been on the block long. I know that our readership is slightly below any given Final Fantasy II/ Big Bad Beetleborgs crossover slash fic. I am well aware, okay? So I know that what I'm about to do might not mean much. But I really got to do it. Seriously, Warren Ellis is in on it, and I'm pretty sure he can make websites crash with his hate.

So, I read this thing on Grinding.Be (which is an awesome site) about how some chucklefuck out there saw this artisit's work and thought, "Man, I could steal those designs and make a mint!" So he fucking did. Now, this is a crying fucking shame, of course, but you're sitting there thinking, "So goddamn what?"

Well, here's where shit gets fucked for real. The original artist artist asked the guy to stop it, and provided the proof of his copyright claim. So the manufacturer told him to go get fucked, and sued him to try and overturn the copyright.

Now, I don't know if any of ya'll out there have been sued. It sucks, big time, and it's crazy expensive, to boot. This guy has already forked over $50,000 freaking bucks off his own out-of-pocket money to this bullshit lawsuit. The stealing prick who's brining the lawsuit forward knows he's got no leg to stand on if it reaches court, so he's trying to make the artist run out of money so the default ruling goes to the dude who filed it. In this case, the guy who's stealing someone else's shit.

So, seriously, ya'll should do what you can to help this dude out. Guy is getting a raw fucking deal. Besides, if he drops out, it'll be another bullshit victory for The Man. That's right, The fucking Man. Maybe you thought he was gone. But shut the hell up, idiot. The Man is still around. And he hates the poor, independent creative type. Even if you can't contribute cash, if you can do anything to help this man out, raise awareness, hell, write your congressman and complain about the erosion of the fucking Constitution that everyone is going on about, (Article I, Section 8, says copyright laws were created to “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”), it couldn't hurt. Tell The Man that he can't just bully people around as he likes and take whatever shinies capture his eye. Tell that motherfucker that we have rights too.

Go forth, my children, and seek out not the pure land, but rather, the site for its construction. And build.

So sayeth the prophet of this hill,

Johnny Despair, Esq.


Mr. Jack Happy Presents A Not For You Studios Presentation of the Happy Comic Comedy Act: “No Means Whatever”

[Act One: Scene Two]

“Hotel Fuck,” a cheap little poem by Mr. J. Happy

And the haze lifts, her bare hip
Shifts, watch it go: so far, far;
Away with him. Send for snacks,
Open the mini-bar—tiny happy gifts,
Hey! Watch out! Attack!

Sex is a weapon, a loaded gun,
All too much, too much fun;
Games in secret—don’t let on,
That you know, you know?

When the dawn breaks, her wet
Hair shakes, all over you, it’s all—
All set! Are you awake? Can you
Get up. Let’s fall—fall apart;
Three blind judges, one Eye between.

Sex is a weapon, a sharpened blade,
So little escape, so little to gain;
Let’s just hope—mark the grave,
Make the grade, here lies our Son:
Alone, he left us. So much pain.

What’s that? A meaning? Oh,
No, it’s just the maid, please turn—
Turn it down, honey. Quick! To the
Shower, we can cram in another…
Love is made, watch out! It burns.

Sex is an extension of our selves,
How do you rate?
Bill paid: one-oh-one-six-eight.


Fairy Tale Endings: Hail to the King, part 1

All right then, boys and girls, it looks like it's that time again. Your boy Johnny Despair, Esq.'s back with another story for you. Ya'll remember last week, when Mr. Happy and I rounded you lot up and crammed a big ol' mess a fairytale what-have-ya-s down yer throats, and I mentioned we had one extra-strength fantasy queued up fer ya. Well, put down yer Gameboys and yer smartphones and settle in. Cuz it's here, baby, and it is not taking your crap. I'd do what it says. It's crazy.

Hail To The King
—written by: Johnny Despair, Esq., with illustrations by Mr. Jack Happy

hey say that, the day our Queen died, it was the saddest of days our land had seen for a generation; however, I myself was, I'm ashamed to say, quite pleased. I was a carpenter, and royal caskets were quick and profitable work, if you could get it. Besides, what did I care? Carpenters rarely rubbed elbows with royalty. We were supposed to love the monarchy, for taking care of us, but I was never the type to look up to a man who was simply standing on my back. Still, I knew my place, and I could endear myself to my “betters” when need be. So I built a fine casket, and I delivered it on time. They asked if I would not also bear the casket to the grave. My curiosity got the better of me, and I consented.

My role in the ceremony was much smaller than I had expected; I suppose that was why it was deemed suitable for a “mere commoner.” Several of the King's servants assisted me, and then they hurried me back the servants' quarters. The others gossiped among themselves while I reflected on my brief glimpse into the funeral. Our King sat at the front of the gathering, near his two sons and the Bishop. They all looked solemn, but the King...it was curious. It was the first time I had ever actually seen him, so his ways were unfamiliar to me, but his did not seem to be the face of a grieving man. He seemed, I suppose, at peace somehow. Where most bowed their heads in respect, he sat up boldly and fixed his attention on the casket. Though as we sat the casket by the grave, I thought that the King's eyes had actually been resting on me. I wondered why it was that the king seemed so...

The servants persuaded me to linger in their quarters. The King might have need for me, should there be some issue with the casket, or even better, perhaps in his grief, he would feel compelled to reward me for the work I'd done setting his poor wife to rest. I remembered his face, the hard-set lines standing out remarkably next to fresh faces of his sons. It was not age alone that left such marks. I doubted very much that I should want anything to do with our King, but I was also sure that if I left now, after being asked to wait, I would be all the worse for it when the King did summon me next.

Hours passed and the funeral went on. I wondered if perhaps it would be made into a whole week of mourning. The sun was nearly setting when the funeral ended and the feast began. As the servants had said, the King did summon for me. I was brought before him as he sat in his customary position of honor before the gathered revelers. Once more I felt that hardened old face fall watching me. It seemed as though there was something distasteful on his tongue. Finally he spoke.

“Though this is a day of somber remembrance, it is also a day, much like any other. Worthy men and dutiful service are valued especially on these difficult days. Sir carpenter, approach me.” I did as I was told. “Kneel.” I obeyed my lord. I felt his sword upon my shoulders. “Now rise, a knight in your King's personal service.” Applause filled the massive chamber. I was confused. Only noblemen could be knights, and not before years of service. Then I realized that I would also be expected, as a knight, to maintain my own tools of warfare. This was meant to be quick and profitable. But of course the King had to show gratitude. The favors of the nobility.

I was allowed to sit at the feast, and afterwards, lead to some chambers that I might stay for the evening. Fine chambers they were, with a large, comfortable bed, and expertly-wrought silver candlesticks, and a beautifully carved wardrobe. I wondered why they needed a casket from a man such as me when they could get the man behind such lovely work. I let out a sigh, wondering what damned luck the morrow would bring. I'd never even made such a large bed before, let alone rested in one, but now I suppose I would have to accustom myself to silk sheets and purple robes. Despite the many luxuries, it was a fitful sleep.

In the morning, I found that I was summoned before his highness once more. “I hope you rested well, sir knight. For you shall be escorting me on a hunting expedition. I need...time, alone with my grief. After breakfast, we shall leave.”

“Would you highness not prefer to be escorted by his veteran retainers on his trip?”

“It is not your place to question my orders nor motives.” His expression hadn't changed, but he grew slightly flush. “And no, I would not prefer more veteran retainers. For the record, I am not that old that I need my most valuable knights just to take in a leisurely hunt! My sons need the aid of trusted men-at-arms far more than I do. Now away with you. Make ready to leave.”

He did not speak to me again until we had stopped for our mid-day meal. I spread out a thick blanket and set to unpacking one of our baskets of provisions. The King unceremoniously began snatching up whatever food caught his fancy as soon as I'd set it down. “Hungry,” he growled around a mouth full of chicken. I was unsurprised to find that he was apparently unaccustomed to not immediately getting whatever he desired. How like a child this father of the kingdom could be. I could not contain my amusement, and let out a brief laugh as I finished setting out the meal. “Whaff funny?” he demanded. I shook my head, saying nothing. “What's funny?” he asked again, struggling to enunciate clearly around his checks bulging with food.

“Nothing,” I assured him. He looked me in the eye. I silently cursed myself for my indiscretion. Just make it through all this, I thought, and then he'll forget about you and let you get back to your life. Anger him every time you speak, and who knows how long...

“Laugh,” he told me.

“I beg your pardon sir?”

“Laugh. Again. Like you did a moment ago.” His face was turned towards the picnic. I wasn't sure what it was he wanted, but I managed a laugh. He turned back towards me, devouring a slice of pie that was smeared into his graying beard. I laughed harder.

“What a dashing figure you cut, Lord!” I was sure that it would anger him, but I simply could not hold back.

He stiffened. “Of course! It this natural poise of one selected by God to rule! The inborn grace of royalty!” He was being completely serious! He had no idea...I laughed even harder, now. Finally, it dawned on him that my joy was at his expense. His harsh face further darkened. “You over estimate your boyish charm, sir.”

In a moment his sword was drawn and held to my throat. “You also underestimate the capacities of your King!” He slashed at my chest, slicing with such speed and ferocity I could hardly register if I was being taught a lesson or simply murdered on the spot. I was frozen, not even daring to breathe lest that slight motion somehow tear open a dozen expertly-placed wounds and ruin me. After a few terrifying moments, he let his sword return to his side. The King stepped towards me and tore away the tattered strips of fabric that just moments ago had been a fine shirt. He stared at my chest, then began examining it with his hands. I still could not move.

After a few moments, he stepped back and once more looked me in the eyes. “It appears that I have not wounded you.” He moved his face closer to mine. “This time. In the future, you would do well to remember your place. Now pack up this mess.” I had not yet had a chance to eat. I did as I was told.

The sun was just beginning to set as we came upon a small house. It was nothing much, no stately manor, but it seemed handsome and sturdy enough. A surprisingly practical choice for a hunting lodge, actually.

“Who built you this lodging, Highness?” I asked, curious as to the modest abode's origins.

“I could not say. It is irrelevant.”

“Do you commission many homes in this fashion, Lord?” I continued, unsatisfied.

“Commission? Do I look so common as to commission homes of this caliber?” he answered, in one of his colder tones. “Now cease your ignorant questions and stable the horses while I go make myself at home.” I did not understand what exactly was going on, but I took the horses to the stable. I found there was already one horse in the small barn. Was there a servant already here? I returned to the house and passed a middle-aged couple carrying burlap sacks. I asked the King who they were.

“Oh, the people who built this place.”

“Where are they going?”

“I never thought to ask,” he said, clearly bored. “When shall dinner be prepared?”

Had he not already convinced me that he was capable of slaying a man for the slightest offense, I would have found his current conduct completely unbelievable. “I...as soon as I change my shirt,” I said, suddenly feeling quite exposed.

“Oh? So you think your own comfort comes before that of your King?” I couldn't stand to look at him.

“No, your lordship. I shall see to the victuals.”

He stretched himself out in what appeared to be the nicest chair of the household. “Good.” It was the first time I had seen him smile.

Dinner was tense. After our picnic, I was afraid to say or do anything that might set him off. We ate in silence until the King , tearing into a turkey leg, finally deigned to speak. “Do you know,” he mumbled, “why we have come here?”

“To hunt, lord?” I answered with what I hoped was simply “timidity” and not “fear.”

“Yes, but do you know what we seek?” I wondered if I was supposed to know. I decided it would be better not to answer. “No, I suppose you wouldn't, would you?” He took a deep swallow of wine. “They say that the beastman of the woods stalks through these parts.” Of course, everyone had heard rumors of the beastman, but people never spoke of him as something to be hunted. He was like an animal, ferocious and wild, but with the cunning and posture of a man. Who would want to match themselves against such fearsome prey?

“And my liege hopes to slay him?” I ventured.

“Hmm. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I am curious to see if the rumors are true. You know that they also say that he is foreign royalty, afflicted with a ghastly curse. I wonder...” His gaze seemed distant; I did not care to guess what he might be contemplating.

I finished my meal with haste, lest his mood suddenly change and once more dash my chance for sustenance. My desperation was not lost on the King. “Or perhaps,” he said, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin, “I have already found my beastman, and foolishly invited him to dinner.” I could not tell if he was amused or disgusted. “Yes, it looks like a man, but it is clear from the bared, primitive chest, from the wild, unintelligent eyes, and the complete lack of grace or restraint that this cannot be considered a man. No, it is but a beast, a low creature fit only to serve,” he said, rising. “Its crude imitation of a man is quite insulting to me, in fact. Beast!” he boomed. “Cease this ignoble facade!”

I was dumbstruck. What did he want? He took a step forward, hand on his sword. “Drop your pretensions of civility, beast! Strip yourself of those stolen, ruined garments!” I sat frozen. He couldn't be serious. “Do as I command, beast! The only use for a disobedient beast is meat!” I knew that he was not one for idle threats. I stood, and somehow my numb, trembling hands managed to work my clothing off. I could tell that my humiliation was only beginning.

Okay, kiddies, we're gonna call it here for this evening. This thing's still goin' strong, no doubt, but I know you kids can't sit still that long without needing a snack or going potty or twittering or someshit, so you know what? Tune next week for the exciting conclusion!

Till then, kiddies, stay away from strange monarchs, and the even stranger

Johnny Despair, Esq.


Peanut Butter Jelly TIme

Hi there...sorry I haven't been around...Been busy with well...nothing, lately. Cept getting achievements and phat lewts on my troll.

Got a new tablet pen and graphics software today. Still trying to figure it out since I accidentally skipped the tutorial. Got some of it down. It's like a more intuitive photoshop really, cept I don't know if I can make like, comic boxes and stuff in it yet.

Also, felt like drawing an anime chick, just to reaffirm that I have other nerdy interests besides WoW.


Not For You Studios Presents Mr. Jack Happy Presenting The Happy Comic Comedy Act: “No Means Whatever”

[Act One: Scene One]
Jack's Recipes for Happiness: The “Dr. Feel-Not-So-Good”
  • 2 shots Skye Vodka
  • 2 shots Kilbeggan's Irish Whiskey
  • 1 shot Bacardi Gold rum
  • 5 drops of orange bitters
  • 3-3 cups of Diet Dr. Pepper
“An Ode to Hicks”
—a poem by Mr. Jack Happy, with illustration from a sketch diary (circa summer o' 2003)

O Hicks, thou art the foulest of
all so-called subcultures; for thou
art defined by thine ignorance and
absence of substance, for shame.

Thy patron saint Foxworthy may
claim “A glorious lack of sophistication”—
Alas! 'Tis no redeeming stupidity,
will thoust argue from atop thy dung-hill?

Hark! Who doth approach?
—“Wha'tchu sayin', faggot?”
The stench of Budweiser and American cheeses!
Most foul beast, what sayeth thou?

—“Ah dun' like yer tone, boy,
Ah'll break you in hahf, c'mon”—FLEE!—
“Ya'll come back 'ere, y'hear?”
[Editor's Note: I must confess, the comic was pretty much the money-shot, everything else was just filler. A three minute doodle? An old sketch from a six- or seven-year-old sketchbook? A poem out my ass? Seriously, self?]


Fairytale Endings: No Princess

Alright, boys and grrls, gather 'round. It's your boy Johnny Despair, Esq., back from his big ol' business trip, and don't you worry, he remembered to bring gifts. He ain't forgotten 'bout his little ragamuffins.

Now, settle down, cuz this treat is special, see. You gotta hear a little this and that to appreciate it, alright? Now, me and Mr. Happy've been workin' our little hands to the bone! This all started with a simple little story, and then good ol' Mr. Happy said, "Why don't I make some pictures?" And I said, that's fine. And he said, "Gosh, why don't you make more stories, so I can make more pictures for all the boys and girls out there?" And I said, "Why sure, they've been good lately, why not?"

And all of the sudden, we had five stories on our hands, two written by Mr. happy himself! Now, it wouldn't be fair to make him write AND draw everything, so I lent a hand and started drawing too.

"But Mr. Johnny—"

That's Mr. Johnny Despair, Esq., kid.

"But Mr. Johnny Despair, Esq., you don't draw!"

Awww, ain't that cute, thinkin' he knows things. No, boys and girls, I don't draw much. But I can make a little magic happen from time to time, should the moon be in just the right position.

Oh, there's just one more thing: I mentioned we had five stories, right? Well, one story ate all of his veggies and did all his chores the first time he was asked, so you know what, kiddies? He grew up real big and strong and fine-lookin', too. And he was so mush bigger than the other kids, it made them feel all wimpy just standin' next to him. So we're going to let him out to play next week.

Now, settle down, children. Who here likes fairy tales?

Sour Apple
—written by Johnny Despair, Esq, with illustrations by: Mr. Jack Happy

oddamn, fucking peons,” she said.

I turned to her. I was seated next to her at the bar, but she wasn't talking to me. She seemed to be cursing her empty glass. She didn't even look up as she called for another drink, some signature mixture that she called “Love Gone Sour.” I ordered one too, having never heard of the concoction, and willing to try anything once. The drink smelled of apples and ethanol, and fought all the way down. She laughed as I grimaced and coughed.
She was a beautiful, absurd image, sitting there. In this dingy little “tavern,” with that intricate shawl hiding her face, making her look like a truly refined, modest woman. But she'd drank any hint of modesty away by now. She was beginning to sway like a cartoon snake before a charmer. Her auburn eyes darted about the room and her head followed lazily after like a person who was walking an over-eager dog.
“What 'cha looking for?” I asked.
She turned to me. She looked me in the eye and held my gaze. Neither of us looked away. Then she nodded to herself, satisfied, and turned back to her drink. She had a poor profile; it made her nose look sharp and predatory.
“What's anyone looking for?” she finally answered.
“True love?” I ventured. She laughed again.
“That's…that's what I figured, you know?” Her head tilted back; the dim lights made her olive complexion glow, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. “Shows what I know, though.”
“How so?” She snaped her head back forward.
“I tried to help her. I knew this girl. Pretty thing. A little thick, but very pretty. Not too lucky with love. She came to me one night, crying her eyes out. 'Why can't I just find the man for me?' So I said: well, I can help you find him. Make it so he comes to you, you know? I mean…I was doing her a favor, for chrissakes. She asked me to!” For just a moment, there was something sad in her eyes. She shrugged it off.
“So what…what exactly happened?” I was holding my chin in one hand, my drink in the other, trying to convey my interest and hide my drunkenness at the same time.

“They—those peons—they called me a witch. Called me hateful, said I was jealous. Like it was some spiteful thing, you know?” Her head swung from her drink back to me. “Tell me, if you got to sleep, peacefully, and dream pleasant little dreams, with no worries or uncertainties or cares, in complete bliss, totally unharmed, until the day you met your true love: would you call that cruel? Evil? Wicked?” She took a swig of her drink. “I'd call it a damn blessing.”
“Well…what about if you never met your true love?”
She looked into my eyes again. “Then you'd just sleep. Dream. Forever. About your true love. Never knowing the disappointment that life held. Never knowing loneliness, rejection, misery.” She let out a fierce little cackle. “If I had really hated her, I wouldn't have done anything!”

And then, to her drink again: “Why can't anyone see that?”
I waved down the bartender, ordered us another round. I raised my drink to her. “To romantics.”
She raised her drink to mine. “To happily ever afters.”

What Fools

written by: Johnny Despair Esq., with illustrations by Mr. Jack Happy

'd been visiting the center for the past few weeks. A community service thing. It was creepy and it smelled awful but it beat picking trash on the highway. And the people really were nice, for the most part. Just sad and lonely and strange, leftovers from a forgotten age. I wondered if I wasn't doing more harm than good, invading their territory, flaunting my youth, my ability to just get up and leave if I wanted to. I was, of course, just making excuses for not wanting to do it. Still…

They really were nice folks, though. Always interested in what I was doing with myself. “Do you have a girlfriend?” they asked me, and “What do you do for a living?” Did I have any pets, did my family live nearby. I didn't tell them about the court-order, but everything else was fair game. One lady never asked me questions, never said anything at all, that I could tell. Miss Merryweather, they called her, and I never heard her correct them. I would read them the paper or lead a talent show or bring in my cat to visit, and they'd all gather round, eager for the stimulation, but Miss Merryweather would have nothing to do with it. She just drifted around the room, pausing to touch someone's shoulder, or to stare out a window.

The staff told me it was psycho-somatic. Nothing really wrong with her, they said. Dropped off by her daughter. Pretty young thing. “Right, Miss Merryweather? Isn't your daughter pretty?” Miss Merryweather nodded carefully. “I bet you can't wait to see her again, huh, Miss Merryweather?” She never visited.

I made it a point from then on to spend at least a little time with Miss Merryweather whenever I came by. The other folks didn't seem to understand. “She's fine, she just wants attention,” they said. “Don't you go and try to be a doctor.” She made me think of my own mother, slowly eaten away by madness. I felt less guilty when I sat with Miss Merryweather. I talked to her about whatever came to mind, and when that ran out, I told her stories. Ones my mother used to tell me. Sometimes I caught her smiling at something, when I sat with her. This was uncommon.

Once, I ran out of stories, so I brought in one of those huge tomes of fables that rests on every child's bookshelf. It seemed to me like she was trying to read it over my shoulder, so I left it for her. “Tell me which one's your favorite; I'll read it for you next time.” I smiled at her as her gaze held some empty middle space.

My next visit, I did my normal thing, a few hours entertaining the gang with a trivia contest. Afterwards I found Miss Merryweather, asked her how she liked the book. I didn't expect her to suddenly speak, to whisper out a sad, rasping “Thank you,” but I was thinking she might acknowledge me. But no such luck. I asked her if I could read her some more stories; nothing. I tried to find the book, inquired with her caregivers, but no one had seen it. They searched her room to no avail. They shrugged. Crazy old people, who knows?

I kept visiting with Miss Merryweather whenever I went by the center. Sometimes I even snuck her little gifts, candy and tea and the like. I had no clue if she could actually make herself any tea, but it seemed right, somehow. Once, I was sure I could smell the pumpkin-spice blend on her. But I never seemed to make any progress with her. She was as sad and distant as ever.

Eventually, I served my time, but by then, I'd made the center such a hobby, I kept going anyway. It made me glad I never told them about the court-order; they'd have thought I'd done something awful, to keep coming for that long. One day, Miss Merryweather was nowhere to be seen. This didn't seem that unusual, as she wandered so much; still, I hadn't skipped out on her yet. I asked around about her. “She's gone,” they told me. “Oh, not like that. Well, sort of? She's…just gone.” She had disappeared a few nights ago. The police were looking for her. They tried to contact her family, but her daughter had changed her number at some point, and no one knew how to reach her.

I stood dumbfounded. How could they just lose her? Why didn't anyone care? Before I could say anything, the staffer's eyes lit up. “Oh! Right!” She hustled off, returning moments later with a box. “We found this the other night while looking for some clue to where she went. It was just sitting there, under her bed. I swear we'd already…”

The box was stuffed with half-empty tea tins and candy bags. I smiled. It occurred the me that I never gave her enough stuff to fill this whole box, though. Not unless…

I rooted through the wrappers. There it was: the book I'd given her. I thanked the orderly and went home. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't open it right away. I made a cup of coffee and moved out onto the balcony. Thumbing through the book, I wondered what I expected to find. Some terrible secret? Documented abuse? Evidence of dementia? An illustration caught my eye. It was a scene of some unfortunate young girl meeting her fairy godmother. The godmother's wings had been crossed out with a black crayon.

I read through the accompanying story, hoping for some further mark. I found it on the last page, beneath the “They all lived happily ever after” bit. She'd scrawled an imitation of the fairy godmother's face, and next to that, added, “What about her?”

Okay, children, that's enough for right now. Ya'll get up and stretch your legs, grab a snack, do tinkles. Mr. Happy'll be in in five minutes to give you kids your next story.

Hope you like our second half, kiddies. Till then, I'm just the lovable, huggable,

Johnny Despair, Esq.

Fairytale Endings: Good Night to Angels and Devils Alike

Children, fairy tales were once a very grim thing. Indeed, they were meant to frighten, to terrify. To drive through your thick little skulls the lessons of life that you need learn to survive.

Do not wander in the woods, for wolves shall devour you. Thou shalt not trust the stranger, for it may be a villain in disguise. Do you wish to bring ruin upon your family? I hope not!

As a service to your good-for-nothing failures for parents, the illustrious Jonathan Despair and myself offer unto you, you writhing sacks of foolish innocence, these stories.

Sit still, backs straight, shoulders square, and listen carefully, for it is story-time…

I do so hope God is in your heart, for you will need Him.

Two AM Revelations
—written by: Mr. Jack Happy, with illustrations by Johnny Despair, Esq.

 sank into my usual seat at my usual bar, ordered my usual drink and struck up the usual conversation with the bartender. He smiled like he always did, and I talked about the weather, about how things were just fine. Work is work; Same Old Shit, Different Day.

The red-haired waitress with the hips I loved to watch so much came over and greeted me. Said what is required of a waitress to say, gestured and offered and laughed at my awful jokes, my stupid puns. She was the best friend I ever did know, I think—friend because I never could get her number out of her, no matter how drunk and pitiful I got.

I liked this place, despite it being a total dive. Smokey, dusty, probably hadn’t seen a health regulation since before Reagan could first recall. The waitress, Lucy or Laura (I forget), she mentioned something about an act on tonight. There was a tiny raised stage in one corner, for what I thought was decoration since they hadn’t put any performer on it in the years I’d been frequenting. The owner started rumours of karaoke to attract the Asian demographic, so some half-Japanaese yokels came around long enough to get impatient and leave.

The bartender—he was Hispanic, something like Coata Rican, and real friendly—talked some about how this Bluesman came rolling in one night and played for him and the two other guys in at the time, and the owner heard it and absolutely begged him to come back and perform. His name was Tommy and something you’d expect of Blues musicians—Tommy-something-about-his-stature, Tommy-his-demeanor, maybe some kind of foodstuff-Tommy. Can’t remember anything, now, since I sobered up the next morning.

I awoke in my bed without knowing how I got there. Laura or Leslie wasn’t there. Dissapointment. My clothes were gone. Not the ones I was wearing. All of them. Like, my entire closet had been emptied. And my furniture was gone. The entire fucking apartment was absolutely bare, except for a matchbook from the bar, Wolsey’s.

The night before, the Bluesman came in, Tommy-something or Tommy-another. He was short, came up to my shoulders sitting down, but he stood tall. His clothes were all frayed and tattered like I’d expect from some hobo-musicman riding the rails from gig to gig. It was all quite novel, in this day and age. His hair was white, and he had a scraggly moustache and big ol’ muttonchops. Real caricature, with his pointy hat with its shiny blue band, his Blue suede jacket and matching kerchief in the front pocket.

When he came in, the owner—Lil’ Wolsey, we called him—opened the door to his office and waved to him. They exchanged pleasantries, and I noticed the man had a shrill voice, like a child’s. How he was going to sing the Blues with that tenor was beyond me, at that point, and I remember vaguely asking Carlos the bartender something about that. I recall laughing, but it’s faint. I’m not much amused about it no more.

Tommy-troubador or whatever waddled his tiny-way over to my table—I guess because I was the only guy there, on this hustlin’ Monday night. He pulled up a stool, took out an unfiltered cigarette and said something in that kid-tone of his. I responded:

“Fine. You?”

“Need a nap real fierce,” he said, and tapped his ash off into the ceramic plate on the table. The musicman was old, I noticed, at this point: the lines set on his face weren’t easily visible from a distance, somehow obsfucated by the baby-fat of his cheeks: a stark contradiction so contrary your mind refused the presence of both.

His eyes were the colour of sky around last call, and they seemed dead behind the reflection on his cornea. The man moved like the living dead, like George Romero was directing his choreography and his diet was strictly no-carb grey matter. Something about seeing this guy made me think in poetry, I recollected.

Wolsey stepped up and begged the little old guy to perform. He had produced a coronet from nowhere, when I wasn’t looking. I was busy trying to covertly ogle Leslie or Loulabell. She had this magnanimous ass somehow contained in shorts shorter than I could’ve asked God to make ‘em in my most fervent prayers.

I really wanted to go to bed, all of a sudden.

Tommy-trumpeter was atop the stage, perched on a stool that seemed only slightly shorter than he was tall. He placed wrinkled, chapped lips on the instrument and out came noise like from Miles Davis’ love affair with Duke Ellington in the heated alleyways of New Orldeane one midsummer night’s eve.

He played, and seemed to sleep, all at the same time. His eyes shut and never reopened, in my memory. The music was his dream, and we were but figments in his subconscious. I would have had the rest of my drink, but the rest of my drink had me, first.

The owner danced, in the awkward way that white folk do when they can’t help themselves. Some byproduct of too many generations removed from soulful living, I suppose. The waitress joined him, and that’s when I couldn’t help but do so, too, followed by the bartender and I don’t even know when those kids came in off the street.

When the bar was at capacity, the police came. To dance. Tommy played his coronet—shrill, halting notes almost off-key, but perfect in their melodious malady, the pain was the birthing of some unforeseen energy, unbeknownst to us.

And he sang:
When the cattle crawls,
Through the cornstalks;
The livestock we ain’t,
Not the farmers a’night.

When the meadow grows,
The fleece, oh, the fleece;
Fleece the forty winks,
Rob that ol’ Sandman blind.

Walk the tall grass, darlin’,
Find the lamb, again, son a’none;
He ain’t my shephard, I say,
Can’t herd my dreams.

And await the Seventh Seal,
When Gabriel doth blow, sweetheart;
First came Cowboy Ron, yee-haw,
The second was a grey September in One.

Lil’ ol’ Kim’s stomach rumbles after three,
Po’ boy fightin’ a po’ atomic wa-wa-war;
Four flus, why you still askin’, son,
Won’t be long, oh no, it won’t be long.

Meanwhile, deep in the Heart a’Darkness,
Six-hundred souls suffer number five;
They sing—
‘O, fall on us, hide us, face us,
From the wrath of Mary’s little Lamb,
For the great Day hath come,
An’ who, who, who can stand?’
An’ at six, the tropics have shaken,
Boy, are you still not yet awaken;
Where is he, who tends the flock,
Will you wake ‘im, son?

O Lord, not me, not me, Lord,
Surely he will not like it;
And cry, and cry, and cry…
The echoes of his coronet and thin, child-like voice bounce in my head, intensifying the hangover. My empty apartment is but a mere reflection of my empty self. My limbs feel heavy, moving them is like navigating a thick, mucky liquid. I move about the bedroom, find the bathroom, find no relief there and empty myself further than I already feel.

I find myself talking to myself, as I clutch the lid of my toilet, “Will I wake him?”

The Unwhole Story
—written by: Mr. Jack Happy, with illustrations by Johnny Despair, Esq.

hen they showed up at my doorstep, they had nothing. They had eaten hardly anything in a week, and looked the part. A sad sight, for certain; of course, we took them in.

Here at Safehaven Behavioral, we have all sorts of in-patients: broken, destitute people with nowhere to go and clearly no one to care for them. Mostly, the senile and the poor ended up at our facilities, but we were the charitable sort. Opened in eighteen-eighty-one, the plaque on the foundation cement said, by Doctor Jay Grimstone, my great-great-great uncle.

They put their names as Geal and Donn, a fashion of nomenclature for children with which I was wholly unfamiliar. One had lengthy brown hair with an oddly fresh sheen; the other had jet-black hair like the finest silks of the Orient. Too poor to eat, but not for professional-grade shampoo? I questioned their status as sisters, to which they only blinked and looked hungrier in response.

I wasn’t sure if they could speak until the second day, when Donn—the darker-haired sister—asked timidly to speak with me. Her eyes, of hue matching her head, danced with such fright and desperation that I had no choice but to comply.
—“Yes, dear?”
—“You can never let us out.”
—“Oh… Why is that, Donn?”
—“He will never marry us.”
—“Well, you are welcome to stay as long as you wish.”
Poor thing, her psyche was shattered from some kind of traumatic experience, rendering it a pile of paranoid delusion; commonplace at Safehaven, unfortunately, but never not depressing to witness. One in-patient swore that cyborgs stole her organs, and I wish I was joking or making this up.

Sometimes, at night, I consider my grasp on reality and say a little prayer of thanks.

On the third day, while in the common room, Geal and Donn sat and stared at the floor, hours just gazing downward. Their complexions had improved slightly, after a good three square and a couple showers. New patients find the reintroduction to regular hygiene to be invigorating typically, and the routine gives their minds temporary respite.

One patient brushes his teeth every seventy minutes on the dot, without exception or fail. He hasn’t had a cavity, yet.

During day four, Donn put Geal’s long hair up in a complicated bun and weaved in some long white ribbons with which a nurse had provided them, then adorned it with a huge dirty plume produced from where I am unsure. I supposed they must’ve had it on their person at check-in and shrugged mentally.

One of the other patients, a gentle rotund, elderly man named August who suffered from Alzheimer’s and halitosis, complimented Geal in passing, which caused the frail woman to start and shriek. Donn spent the next hour hugging Geal’s quivering form close to herself; August was pretty put-out, himself.

When it came to chores assignment, there was an interesting altercation with the two sisters. They absolutely refused any chore whatsoever. We had found in the past that giving the patients responsibility helped make them feel more normal, more at home; however, they were having none of this tomfoolery.
—“Scrub the floor! Wash the dishes! Scrub the floor! Wash the dishes!”
Geal quietly chanted to herself for the next half-hour, with an inexplicable menacing yet empty look on her face. Like she was only intimidating out of habit, intimidating an imaginary servant like how she was taught to do.

On the fifth day, Donn had her own spat with August. The poor old man had spent all morning trying to find his slippers, and then found them in Donn’s cubby. He had confronted her about it, shaking the ratty old faded-red bedroom shoes at her. She came back with the most vile things I had heard since I was briefly in the Navy and attended a George Carlin performance while on leave.

It was after this that I noticed that Geal only ever wore one shoe on her left foot, while the right was always bare, black with dirt and debris. Throughout that day, she would occasionally angrily glare at her bare foot, and kick it against the wall, eventually so hard that it bruised and swelled purple.

We started her on sedatives after that, it took the remainder of her life away.

On the sixth day, with Geal medicated, Donn became nastier and nastier to the other in-patients. She attempted to order every single one of them around, and became quite unruly when nobody complied—the reactions were a mixture of confused, indignant, and oblivious. We had to restrain her to her room for awhile, to calm her down, while Geal just rubbed her foot and stared at the floor.

August’s large family visited that day, all six of his siblings.
—“So, Doc, how’s old Gus doing?”
—“Mert! Don’t act like he’s not right here.”
—“Yeah, sure, Blossom, he’s right here.”
—“Hasn’t been in ages, you know it.”
—“Did you bring the cheese, Jaq?”
—“Perla was bringing the cheese.”
—“No, I brought the string.”
They bantered for some time, me in the middle. August, for his part, scornfully glared at Geal. I think he liked her, but his foggy old mind couldn’t handle the emotions anymore. He gave her his dessert at supper, which she ate heartily without a word, giving him a shy smile in return.

Donn came out of her room on the morning of the seventh day. She had cried out loudly sometime around daybreak, afterward one of the nurses had come to me.
—“Doctor Jacob, I… Well, I don’t know where, but she, uh, found some toenail clippers.”
—“And, Nurse Tremaine?”
—“She took off all of her toenails, there’s blood everywhere…”
—“Jesus! Really? All of them?”
—“She seemed to be trying to actually cut off her toes with them, I think…”
Her feet were bandaged up, and she limped over to the couch where Geal was curled into a ball. The two of them sat together and stared at the floor all morning, not eating, speaking or moving. August kept hobbling by and glaring at the pair, muttering to himself about his missing slippers.

After dinner all the patients were mostly gathered around the television—except for the young woman who thought the people inside the “Teevee Box” were going to use radio-waves to brainwash her into sending them all of her money, and the two sisters—I remember distinctly the sound of a startled yelp, followed by a gruff voice choking out a raspy scream.

The staff all raced down the hall to where the sound came from and found August standing in front of one of the patient quarter’s open entrance, holding his hand to his throat in the universal sign of distress. The first nurse who made it to him turned and saw what he did:

Geal was hanging from the ceiling fan in her room, a bedsheet-noose around her swollen, blackened neck. Donn was on the floor, sitting cross-legged, clutching one of her feet; from which she had removed the bandages and was gnawing off her big toe, blood spurting out of the open wound and into her mouth and down her cheeks, dripping from her jaw onto her nightgown.

I helped one of the orderlies wrestle Donn to the ground, who kept gurgling, kicking and screaming, bits of the flesh of her toe in her mouth dribbling out. “She isn’t supposed to be at the ball! No! He was supposed to pick us! No! How can she have been there?!”

After restraining her and injecting her with a strong sedative through a needle in her neck, I have a vivid memory of looking up, while knelt on the floor by Donn’s sagging body, positioned nearly directly underneath the swinging pendulum of the dead Geal. I felt something cold brush against my scalp, and saw first the tattered, old shoe Geal had never removed from her left foot beside me on the carpet.

I looked up slowly and there hung Geal’s unclad left foot: half of it had been severed—only a stump remained, her flesh having grown over the apparently old wound and scabbed up in black lumps. It horrified me for some reason I could never find words to describe, as Donn murmured and drifted into a chemically-induced dreamstate.
—“We were supposed to be at the ball, not that wretched filthy cunt…”

* * * * *

—“Doctor Jacob, what happened to my sister?”
The question belonged to a wisp of a woman, her blue hair done up in a ridiculously huge bee-hive style and her eyes sunken so far back into her skull that all I could see were shadows, beneath them a pair of pursed, thin blue lips.

One of my least favorite duties as overseeing healthcare-provider at Safehaven was this: the next-of-kin was always distraught, appropriately in an amount of grief and mourning, but they all carried this… relief… I found so disheartening, as though a great burden had been lifted from their shoulders by this death.

It was after days with those types of meetings that I drank at night.

She was different. Geal and Donn’s other sister, allegedly. She introduced herself as “Cindy Sharmon,” and presented her hand in the out-dated fashion of royalty. I shook it, thinking of nothing better to do with the extended offering.
—“Well, Miss Sharmon—“
—“Lady Sharmaine…”
—“Right. Well, her sister… your sister… Donn, she… She mutilated herself quite horrifically.”
—“Hm. Dreadful. Just awful. But, you said on the phone this was in regards to Geal, did you not?”
—“Oh. Yes. She… she has, well… taken her own life, I regret to inform you.” (I was never good at this part.)
I nervously fidgeted in my seat, and I swear to this day I saw something in the shadows where her eyes should be gleam.

…And thus concludes the time for stories, boys and girls. What have you learnt? Much, I hope, to carry home to your cozy little houses, in your tranquil little neighbourhoods, outside your vile little cities full of Godlessness.

Those of you who talked amongst yourselves while I read are required to stay after for disciplinary prayer sessions, unfortunately.

Mr. Happy



Well, chaps, it seems that no box can contain this radical force of nature! Yes, sir, the Despair is here and queer and you had better just get used to it; especially those of you of the dour and God-y types. Get it? Got it? Tip-top!
Hmph, well, between the two of us, Mister Fuddy-Duddy and yours truly are still running just a tad behind—sorry, boys and girls, but it's just gonna hafta wait one more day for the dramatic reveal!
But, believe you me, it will be a glorious one! Not like some… terrible tragic peepshow gloryhole in the alley… Gads, no! It will be more like that hot dollface at the expensive hotspot.
Until tomorrow, sweeties, I bid you adieu! Also, wave 'Cheerio' to Jack as he hangs from the cieling and hisses, on your way out, won't you?


Please Hold

Oh, woe be to thee, out there. The esteemed Mr. Johnathan Despair and I would both like to extend our apologies. Here it is, Tuesday morning, and we have both missed an update. Tut tut, whatever shall you do? And after young Johnathan went to all the trouble of mentioning how you must check in with us frequently, to abandon you...

Fear not, though. There is a reason we are both tardy. We have been collaborating on a single update. It is coming along quite nicely, but there have been some issues. Nothing that can't be sorted out with a bit of time in the box though. Isn't that right, Johnathan? Hmm?

Sorry, it looks like Johnathan will take a bit longer. It seems he has not yet learned the value of being a good boy, or of turning in his work on time. when the teacher says "Pencils down," you'd better believe that she means pencils down OR ELSE. IT WAS NOT A SUGGESTION, JOHNATHAN. IT WAS AN INSTRUCTION. YOU CAN FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, CAN'T YOU, JOHNATHAN? OR IS THERE MAYBE SOMETHING IN YOUR EARS? HMM? HMMMMMMMMMM?????

So, please check back with us soon. Thank you for your patience, and God bless.


Life Changing Conversations Vol. I

Dr. Overwrought fell off Thursday two weeks ago and landed on Monday, today. This is one of the tales he has brought.

“Hi, welcome to McDonald's, what will you be having today?”

“Oh, I'm not here to order, I'm just here for the atmosphere.”

“The... uh... what?

“Well, I was walking down main street clothed with nothing except for my thoughts, and it occurred to me what was missing from my life was a sense of authenticity. Here I was, a man, on the cusp of adulthood, in so many ways innocent and in so many ways guilty. It is a mysterious dichotomy, isn't it? Mankind, angel and beast. Fearless and fearful. Creation and destruction. Anyways, with so great a burden of regret, I beg for reprieve... a little leave to just think, penniless and unsheltered that I am.”

“There's an employment agency, sir, down the street. Wouldn't work help you with your problems?”

“No, shame on me, for I have lost my trust.”

“There's a church, sir, down the street. Wouldn't spirituality help you with your problems?”

“No, shame on me, for I have lost my faith.”

“There's a homeless shelter, sir, down the street. Wouldn't a second chance help you with your problems?”

“No, shame on me, they have no heating.”

“Then please sir, clad yourself in our garments and warm yourself by our hearth! You are welcome here at McDonald's.”

“Had you asked me a week ago, sir, then I would have out of pride rejected your charity. But desperation is death's mistress, and so I'll accept your comfort.”

“I would be honored. We are simple, good folk here.”

“You seem to have made this place your home. Has it been in your family long?

“Oh yes sir. This place has passed down from my father from his father and from his father since last September.”

“Ah, that's a beautiful story. That's why I came in off the street, because this place just radiated warmth....”

“Unfortunately, this place is closing. We are losing the business.”

“No... that's impossible.... how can that happen?”

“It all started when a Trader Joes opened up across the street, and since then... well, since then, we've been offering fruit salads and hummus, but no even tries them. They all ask if we've got real tahini, and I don't know what that is. One man did try some, but he hated it so much he threw his pink shirt at me!”

“That's terrible!”

“What am I saying? This place is worthless. I'll hang up the clown wig for good.”

“Don't say that, look at what you've done!”

“What have I done, sir, what have I done? Everything in my life is McDonald's, McDonald's, and now I'm tortured because I know now I'll lose everything! You're lucky! You never had it all! It was in my grasp and now I've squandered my life!”

“Look out there! Look at all the people that have copied you and your ideas! Monolithic capital and marketing was brilliant, and now, those who you've inspired now rule the world. It's not that you were not ready for the world... the world wasn't ready for you! I mean... are you crying?”

“Oh... yes, I'm sorry... no one has ever thought this place authentic. I always knew what this place meant to in my heart... there's where the cousins put their hand prints into the mortar, and there's where we buried Uncle Carlos. I just want everyone else to see my passion. But no one ever says what authentic manufactured cuisine we have... everyone just complains about the estrogen we put into our drinks.”

“Ssh, don't cry. Everything will be fine.”

“I... I have a request...”

“What it is it?”

“I'm... I'm too ashamed to say it.”

“Just tell me.”

“No, no, it's too embarrassing.”

“Whisper it into my ear.”

“Ok.... it's just a little thing... ooooh... I can't say, but I have to.... could you... could you butt-fuck me?”


Without a Trial

Winter Morning by leenik on DeviantArt

My whole body felt as if it were on fire. It was probably because I was too close to the sun. At least that's how it felt. I had been lying in the frost laden grass for about an hour and a half now and could feel the UV rays seeping past my clothes to the dermis: that's the top layer of skin. The whole thing is called the epidermis, from out to in, and back around again.
That almost sounds like a child's rhyme.
Opening my eyes was like waking up after sleeping for 12 plus hours, the light streams in through a crack in the curtain and it goes right into your eyes. You can feel the sheer whiteness of the light sear into your eyes and bore into the back of your head. It's something about the winter sun that makes it whiter and brighter.
I stood unsteady on shaky limbs that had settled into a sleep-like position and felt the pins and needles of numbness prickling my feet and trail up to the tops of my thighs. I swallowed the cobwebs from my mouth and stretched to the sky. Today was different than all the others. Today I was going to do something more, something better, something bigger and different and unique and it would make an impact and erase all the bad.
Dusting the dirt and grass from my skirt, I tromped through the cold dead leaves, pulling my woolen shawl tighter around my bodice, trying to forget that my organs were rearranged in a different pattern than nature intended. I could see the white cloud of my breath to remind me that it was late January, and that I should have been inside hours ago. Bending over with what seemed like great difficulty I wrapped my hand around the nettles and yanked them out feeling the prickly texture of the perimeter of the leaves. A bright emerald against the rouge of my fingerless woolen gloves. My fingertips were almost the same color. It was a wonder I hadn't frozen to death while taking my afternoon respite.
Cold penetrates with unrelenting tenacity, until it takes over, spreads to the bone and travels to all parts until it freezes and captures and takes takes takes...It reminds me of him. I can hear his voice, feel his touch and my lip curls, my eyes narrow. Hate is the only thing I can think of when I think of him. And then I hear my name on his lips.

"Rosalie! Ge' ova 'ere righ' na' an' make ma' dinna'!"

Ill-bred. Can't even speak properly. Just his bastardization of low land inbreeding. But this is my lot in life. I was the first daughter of 4, the 'lucky' one as my mother put it. Oh, we were simple low merchant class, but this man would make my name rise above the rest. The executioner was in his own class, he got paid more than any merchant, sometimes more than a lord, depending on the execution.
He was rough with me, more than expected...more than I was warned. Every time he bedded me he made sure I was in pain before he finished. It was my duty, my job, my position to give him what he desired when he returned from executing this or that peasant for whatever reason. I never know why, and now after a year of it, I don't care. Trudging down to the village, smoke trailing from our chimney I knew that my constitution would not last if I didn't muster courage quickly.

"Coming..." I breathed and opened the door with my left hand, the nettles clutched tightly in my right. "I'll be right there."


Continuing Tales of Mr. Jack Happy

August 9th, 2009

From the smoking ruins of a smoldering building arose a hunched figure silhouetted  by the huge moon hanging low in the night sky. The figure rummaged around in the ash and debris—searching. Upon closer inspection, it would be revealed as a soot-covered man with wild, singed blue hair and barely any clothes clinging to his wispy, sweat-soaked body.

His eyes rose to the moon and stared for one long minute. In that minute, the moon reflected in his blue irises, and the dying fires of an awful disaster could be glimpsed. He finally blinked, and resumed his scavenging. In the distance, the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles began to trickle into the periphery of his hearing.

Cursing loudly, the blue-haired man quit looking around the wreckage and hopped over what seemed to be charred remnants of a leather couch. He ducked down behind it and laughter suddenly erupted into the quiet night. The man rose back to his feet, holding a blackened human skill in both of his hands. He grinned maniacally at the chipped and broken teeth of the victim's skull, and poked a finger into one empty socket curiously, exploring.

"Jack be nimble, Jack be nimble," the man recited in a high-pitched falsetto like that a child's voice. "Jack found himself a candle stick." He bellowed with mad guffaws at his own joke, and hurled the skull against the still-standing husk of one of the building's walls.

Twisting his head toward the quickly escalating sounds of sirens, the man frowned and wiped the grime from around his eyes with his fists.


* * *

Jack's Recipes for Happiness: The "Orange-Up-Your-Cherry":

  • 1 shot Skye Vodka
  • 1/2 shot Contreau orange liquer
  • 2 shots Kilbggan's Irish Whiskey
  • 6 drops orange bitters
  • 1 cup Cherry 7UP
Pour vodka, liquer, and whiskey. Add bitters. Mix in 7UP. Stir, then drink. Or, drink then stir.


[Editor's Note: Attached images not meant to be relevant to contents of body.]


Not For You Studios Presents: A Rare Literary Find!

[Note: Sorry, kiddos, for not tunin' in at the same Despair-Time, same Despair-Channel last week. I was at Small Press Expo, kickin' it anachronistic-school, takin' names and creepin' out Meredith Gran. Sorry I was wierd. You're a real nice lady. Anyway, more con details later, maybe. And now: As the title says.]
James Joyce is undoubtedly one of the most famous authors of the 20th century, with a collection of works as dense with meaning and allusions as they are influential. Perhaps best known for his Ulysses, his unquestioned masterpiece, but his neither is his earlier work unforgotten. His infamous collection of short stories, Dubliners, was composed between the ages of 22 and 25, yet is just as complex and rewarding as anything he's written. Recently, yet another classic Joycian composition has been unearthed: a previously unknown collection of stories that compliment and build on the rich themes of Dubliners: Americaners. Here, we are pleased to present some excerpts from this recovered marvel, which we are sure is not long off from being elevated to most celebrated positions in the literary canon, as well as some brief introductory analysis.

In our first excerpt, “A True Patriot,” Joyce once again explores the theme of man's struggle against the horrible inevitabilities of the universe, of the common worker's endless battle to retain some control over his existence, and the sad lows that this losing war drives him to. “Sunday Mornings” turns Joyce's attention to the church, as one might expect of that classic religious provocateur. “Hard Work” focuses primarily on the senseless brutalities that are so often encouraged by male bonding rituals, touching briefly on the question of where the blame in these situations lies, on the individuals, or on the society. “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” continues Joyce's exploration of manhood, this time directed towards the study of often predatory male sexuality and its consequences.“Wastes” is truly classic Joycian stream-of-consciousness, which is always a deceptively complex delight, giving wonderful insight into the amazing mind which gave rise to so many complex, wonderful characters.

A True Patriot

A dark red truck races along a tired back road. The driver's heart races along with, faster, setting the pace as the lead car. His name is short and crude, either Frank or Earl or perhaps even Bob. It is irrelevant, much like his suspended license and his pending court date. He is tense, willing the Earth to somehow compress so his destination might be closer. He will make it, he tells himself, he has to.

A single rock sticks out of the barely-paved road, a mineral-based iceberg in his path. Bloodshot eyes weary of long hours at the mill and longer hours at the bar fail him. The truck sails smoothly over the rock like a longboat cresting a wave. The heap reconnects with the road in a jarring cacophony of scraping and shaking. It is too much for him. For an instant, he eases, and in that instant, he is lost. The man releases a long, greasy tube of excrement into his coveralls.

His face reddens with shame. He mutters some curse towards the minority that served him his ethnically flavored yet inescapably Americanized dinner. He blames them, the Mexicans or Italians or perhaps Chinese who prepared his meal, though his heart is not in it, and the ugly slur tastes bitter upon his lips.

He finally arrives at home. He pounds through the front door of his trailer and back to the bathroom. “What stinks like shit?” his wife calls. He kicks the dog, and then the other dog, and thinks about chasing the other three down and kicking them, too, just to show them, but goes to clean himself instead. He sees the mirror hanging over the sink and avoids looking at himself. He wipes the massive, smeared pile of crap from his good pants and studies the bumper sticker taped onto the mirror: “These colors don't run.”

Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings, Father Randy stood before the crowd and told them God's inalterable, immutable will. Sunday afternoons, he followed them to the local sportsbar and indulged. He was a good man, a pious man, and after all, beer was not so different from wine. Father Randy often joked about his Buds being sacramental booze. People rarely laughed at his jokes.

Father Randy almost never drank alone, and there was no one he wouldn't drink with. He drank with old Hershel, who preferred Old Testament stories, and he drank with young Tommy, who never wanted to “God talk” with Father Randy. Father Randy drank with the ladies about town, as well. Norma Jean and Bobby Sue and Sally Sally all consented to pass the time with the good father, in and out of the bar. Some places might have talked about such conduct, but people around these here parts were decent, God-fearing folk, and they knew that Father Randy was a man of God, and God moves in mysterious ways, and after all even a man of God is still just a man, let he without sin cast the first stone, and so on.

Besides, Father Randy still maintained his duties as a reverend. He was never late for services, and he always made sure someone was taking confessions. He himself manned the confessional four days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Wednesdays were slow, and he felt sure he could simply skip that day's services, but he didn't because he was a man called by God, after all. Saturdays were the busiest day, as people wanted to get themselves right with the Lord in time for Sunday morning. Saturdays he heard all sorts of sins. He heard about cheating, lying, lusting, and even stealing from time to time. He never judged them, for it was God's domain to judge mankind. He showed them the way back on to God's path, and he prayed for them to be strong and resist the Devil's wicked temptations.

Out of all the people Father Randy prayed for, he prayed for Joey Gren the most. Joey came in every Saturday night to seek forgiveness for his sins. Joey never said it was him, but Father Randy could tell. He'd drank with the boy many times, still drank with the boy, in fact. Ever since Joey started confessing, though, Randy felt strange, sitting next to each other, sharing a pitcher. Joey'd take a drink, and Randy couldn't help thinking about the places he knew those lips had been. Joey'd laugh over something, maybe one of Randy's jokes, and his laugh was so easy, so friendly, that Randy could only think about all the other boys that Joey had laughed with. What drove a man to do those things, those horrible, disgusting things? How could he just sit there, knowing what he'd done? Knowing what people would do, if they knew? More than that: why did Randy still share his Sunday afternoons with him? What drove him to hear more about those illicit sins?

One Sunday morning, Joey didn't make it out to services. Father Randy filled his sermon with the full severity of God's wrath. Father Randy couldn't wait for it to end. He needed a beer. He needed a lot of beers. He rushed through the proceedings in a sweat. At the bar, he drank like he did back in his school days: recklessly. On this day, there were no jokes. Father Randy couldn't help but speak. He spoke the truth, but without honesty. He poured out the knowledge he had of Joey Gren's sins. “In a town this small, how could I not tell who it was,” he asked them. The places, the times, the acts, the men. All of this he heaped on them, hoping to free himself of this terrible knowledge. No one interrupted him. When he could not say anything else, he simply left.

That week, he could not sleep. Why had he said all that? No, the real question was: why did it matter that Joey wasn't there? This Saturday, when they met again, in the confessional, he would ask. He'd ask more than that. He'd ask questions he thought he could never ask.

Saturday came. Father Randy could barely contain himself. He did all things in his normal way, careful not to let anyone notice anything different about him. But every time he heard the confessional door open, he felt himself stir.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned.” It was just old Hershel. He didn't come into confessional all that often; Randy had the distinct impression it was something against him, personally. “Though I done it in the Lord's name, I have committed the deadly sin of Wrath. That little queer you done told us about? Well, I done strung his ass up, inna tree, the way folks used to.” It was old Herschel. In a town this small... Randy stared at the floor of the confessional, searching for something. But of course, he knew that this was the only way it could end. Closing his eyes, he blessed old Herschel and sent him on his way.

Hard Work

Thunder split a dull gunmetal sky, but the men gathered in the bar couldn't hear it over their cheers. The television was broadcasting images of brightly colored cars speeding around and around a track, and they all marveled at their speed and their circling ability. Their drinks are staggeringly cheap and plentiful and do nothing to soften the incessant pain of their pedestrian lives. But the cars drove on, and that was such a clever thing for them to do.

Someone won and the race ended. The men continued to cheer nothing throughout the evening, even as they were thrust into the miserable, storming night. There were four of them, there, stumbling through the parking lot. In a dazzling display of cunning and skill at the very least equal to that of the race car drivers', all four make it to their own chariots and persuade them to life. The first, Bobby Mitchell, dashed himself against a tree in a truly tragic scene. “Big” Curtis Lee was far more successful, only hitting a passing vagrant. Billy Bobson made it home unmolested, parked his car askew across the driveway, filled his passenger seat with vomit, and passed out. But Russel Hass took home the gold. His voyage home was a simple thing, as was easing the car into its proper place, as was finding the right keys for the front door, as was beating his wife, nightly, for reasons that only true gentlemen could understand. Tonight, he beat on her before taking in the meal she had prepared him, and even before his customary glass of whiskey. It is not that these things brought Russel any joy; but, one does what one must to get by.

Gentlemen Prefer Blonds

It was Friday, and for Hank Johns, this meant two things. The first was that it was payday. The second was that he could afford to buy some pussy. The women he purchased often referred to it as “attention” or “company” or “a date,” but in this act, Hank did not harbor any illusions. He knew he was buying nothing more or less than a few hours of their time and a big, messy farewell.

Hank loved whores. He loved to watch them walk, carrying confidence in their product and anxiety. What was it exactly that worried them, Hank sometimes wondered. Was it fear? Of arrests, of being robbed, left bound and gagged and maybe gutted out in some cheap hotel? Of blacks, perhaps? Hank's father taught him how to pick out whores, how to know their tricks, how to avoid getting caught up in their personal tragedies. Hank wondered: what did their fathers teach them? Were they taught how to hide a gun, how to shoot it, how to squeeze men for their last dollar? Were they taught how to drown it all away in the same bars they worked?

Hank's father always told him not to think about whores, just holes. Hank used to think this was wise advice; it was certainly the easiest way to avoid getting taken in, after all. But Hank found that half the fun was in the thought of it. Thinking about their fears. Thinking about what made them do it. Desperation? There weren't many jobs around, that was for sure, and everyone needed to eat. He could tell, from stretch marks and the occasional cesarean scar, that many of them had children. Hank liked to think of those children, liked to imagine them watching him as he used their mothers. Sometimes he stood in screaming crowds outside the doctor's offices, and as he looked at all the signs urging to “think of the children,” he'd get hard. His wife, standing beside him, always seemed to notice, always turned away in disgust. Did she know? It didn't matter. Perhaps she whored too, maybe she was in other bars picking up men, or being picked up. The thought of this, though distasteful, was not enough to stop him.

This Friday night, Hank was lucky. A fresh one walked into the bar. Hank could tell by the way she avoided the bar, avoided ordering a drink, that she hadn't done this before, and actually thought it mattered to the bartender that she was underage. Hank wondered how underage she was, and felt a furious stiffness growing in him. He walked up to her. “Hay thaar, sweet thang.” She flinched as he laid his hand upon her, withered under his smile, but he knew she would not turn away. “Is thar a keg in yer shorts? Kuz I can't wait to tap that ass.”


A fat, blotchy redneck drinks awful booze. His face is horrible and his mind unbelievably dumb. He loves only awful things and is just a stupid jerk. He hits his wife and his kids and minorities sometimes when no one is looking and what a miserable piece of crap you're thinking well you know what surprise he's the perfect metaphor in every way for this stupid goddamn country.

—Sweet American dreams, kiddies, from your very own oogie-boogey man,
a certain Mr. Johnny Despair, Esq.