Friday, November 30, 2018

We’ll Do It Halfway by Elena Bello

Excuse me, may I sit here?
Of course, take a seat.

He gets up and lets her sit down.
She looks at him,

It's honest, isn’t it?
She asked.
He answers her, little bit annoyed:
Consider I have four screws in the spine,
Me too... I have two. We’ll do it halfway, I will stay sit for some stops, until I recover, then I'll let you sit down again.
No no, don’t worry
They are looking at each other.
Nice hair colour.
Thanks, I was just looking for something cheerful.
You're right, life sucks enough.
She has a pink wig.

Clearly the man
Did not notice
the woman
was bald.

Elena Bello is an art and social media enthusiast. Her energy is the always-ready fuel for every kind of adventure she wants to start. After the graduation at the University of Milan, she decided to give a twist to her life following courses about social media marketing and other funny stuff. She wrote poems too but she has no problems to use the graphics tablet to express herself.

They Are At The Monte Carlo Before You Wake Up. by Robert Halleck

At the bar
at seven, at opening

The Weather Lady says 95.
On your roof it will be 120

A cold beer gives
warmth to the men

Ready to work
before you wake.

Ready to do
what you won't.

Robert Halleck's work has appeared in over 40 poetry journals, magazine, and annuals in the last few years. Recently his poems have appeared or will appear in the San Diego Poetry Annual, The Paterson Literary Review, The St. Ann's Review, Third Wednesday, Chiron, and The Mockingheart Review. He is a member of San Diego's Not Dead Yet Poets and is a regular attendee of the Kenyon Review's Summer Workshops.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Too Drunk To. by Karen Cline-Tardiff

He slurred over her body, ravenous
for the cherry at the bottom of
her whiskey sour, half-drunk

With rheumy eyes and meaty hands
that couldn’t hold a swizzle stick,
much less his flaccid ego

While she lay contorted among
the spilled ruins of stale butts and
sticky liquers and forthcoming


Karen has been writing as long as she could hold a pen. Her works can be seen in Nowhere Poetry & Flash FictionTuck Magazine, Ampersand Literary, Pif Magazine, Unlikely Stories, and an upcoming edition of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She has a Kindle edition book of poetry, Stumbling to Breathe, which can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Lunch Hour. by John Greiner

Prussian blue hair bound tight
on night skull in spring light
fantasy of great Frederick
    and Hokusai
the street a sea pounding
sweep I watch and wait
care not to cross the walk
catch your blue eyes pale
startling against the sky
    piled high
in the afternoon approach
    of lunch
and the construction site
the hammering holding
ears plugged the plunge
coming down something
that was     up something
    to be
clouds remain though
there is no rain
I sweat and stick to my grime
your red dress blossoms
as the French tourists cut
across with Routard Guides
looking down to read
of a skyscraper's significance
in relation to Nimrod's pride
I stop caught in the blue
tangle of your eyes hair
as the jackhammers halt
for the lunch hour
that has finally arrived

John Greiner is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer living in Queens, NY. He was educated at the New School for Social Research.  Greiner's work has appeared in SandEmpty Mirror, Sensitive Skin, Unarmed, Street Valueand numerous other magazines. His chapbooks, broadsides and collections of poetry and short stories includeTurnstile Burlesque (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017), The Laundrymen(Wandering Head Press, 2016), Bodega Roses (Good Cop/Bad Cop Press, 2014),Modulation Age (Wandering Head Press, 2012), Shooting Side Glances(ISMs Press, 2011) and Relics From a Hell’s Kitchen Pawn Shop (Ronin Press, 2010). 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My Aura By William Taylor Jr.

I get older and sometimes the bitterness
settles in when I'm not paying attention,
wandering through the fog of the days,
forgetting to listen to the music of things.

When it gets like this I walk the city
in search of unfamiliar streets and alleyways,
some new place to drink beer in the sun.

I pass old apartment buildings and corner stores,
all full of people I'll never know.

In the barbershops they chat
and read magazines,
they wait in metal chairs
for their turn to come.

I find a comic book store and these days
comic books cost like 5 dollars
instead of 35 cents,
and you buy them in these special stores
instead of 7-11's or gas stations
the way you did back in the day,

but the guy at the counter looks the way
comic book guys always have;
shaggy and overweight,
a bit standoffish but ultimately friendly enough.
I buy 27 dollars worth of comics
and continue on.

I pass by a fortune teller place
and a pretty girl stands outside
and tells me I have a good aura.
She's having a special today
if I'd like to step inside.

I tell her maybe on the way back,
and am momentarily sad
as I reflect upon the fact
that when pretty girls on the sidewalk
beckon you, what they most always want
is money or a cigarette, or to sell
you something you don't need.

I find a bar that looks okay,
there's a seat by a window
where I can read my comics
and watch the people as they pass.

Halfway through my second beer
I've regained a bit of a feel for things,
and I consider going back
to let the pretty girl
read my aura after all,

as outside this
slightly dirty window
people kiss
and empires fall
just like yesterday
and tomorrow.

William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of SanFrancisco.  Heis the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 KathyAcker Award. He edited Cockymoon:Selected Poems of Jack Micheline,published by Zeitgeist Press in 2017. From the Essential Handbook on Making it to the Next Whateveris his latest collection of poetry.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Guns & Oreos. by Aneka Brunssen

I am bathing in
pink nail polish
so, push me down
and say my name three times fast
I need to kiss
the hand of Moses
but baby, I can't breathe
when you hold me so tight
don't let them validate the
color of your eyes
if all they got is
cherry-stems and gin
don't let them run
like mother did
after he blew her
ear drums.

she emerged from
an ocean of Oreos and milk
with a gun in her hand
and nothing to shoot.

ANEKA BRUNSSEN is a writer, poet and graduate student from Bremen, Germany, with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Aneka has written several non-fiction essays, in both German and English, as well as a few short stories, articles, reviews and poetry collections. Her work has been published in several American and German print and online literary journals as well as magazines. She is currently working on an autobiographical novel and a poetry collection. You can find samples of her work her:

A Short Order Something. by John Patrick Robbins

He walked into the bar like he owned the joint .
Everyone looked at him as they do in backwoods local dives.

He told the bartender .

"A round for my friends".

"Okay so that's one beer for Jinks".

He slammed it down then turned and left without saying a word or leaving a tip.

He didn't want to stick around and make friends , when one was all he could afford to begin with.

Sometimes being the odd man out has its advantages .

Cheers .

John Patrick Robbins 
Is the editor and chief of The Rye Whiskey Review and Under The Bleachers .

He is also author of a new ebook published by Soma Publishing titled.
Smoking At The Gas Pumps available everywhere digital books are sold .

His publications include .
Ariel Chart , Piker Press, Red Fez, Blue Pepper , Outlaw Poetry Network, Horror Sleaze Trash, Academy Of The Heart And Mind , Angry Old Man Magazine,  Synchronized Chaos,  Blognostics, Inbetween Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Spill The Words , Romingos Porch 

His work is always unfiltered .

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Weather As Our Guide. by Jason Baldinger

whiskey and eggs
for breakfast
on the porch

a storm comes east
over Savage Mountain
dark clouds blocked
by the shade of the awning

we hear lightning
crack on the funeral home lawn
it’s the Fourth of July
fireworks are a must

the clouds claw
into view
moving forwards
looking backwards
they ebb, the tide
faces come
wolves and dragons
one vicious shark
a ballerina drowns
resurfaces as a pixie

the pressure drops
the first beads of sweat
on the pavement
the awning shelled
the relief comes slowly
doesn’t last long

let’s go grab a beer
climb in the shower
create our own tempest
the weather as our guide

Jason Baldinger is a poet hailing from Pittsburgh and recently finished a stint as writer in residence at the Osage Arts Community. He’s the author of several books, the most recent are This Useless Beauty (Alien Buddha Press), The Ugly Side of the Lake (Night Ballet Press) written with John Dorsey and the chaplet Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) which are available now. The collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) and the split book with James Benger Little Fires Hiding (Spartan Press) are forthcoming. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, The Dope Fiend Daily, Outlaw Poetry, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, Zombie Logic Press, Ramingo’s Porch, Blue Mountain Review, Red Fez, Blue Hour Review and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read poems on recent and forthcoming releases by Theremonster and Sub Pop Recording artist The Gotobeds as well as at

Silence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

The uncomfortable silence
is where
I’m at my best.

is for charlatans
and sycophants.

Admire the man
who can sit in front of you
without a word
for hours.

He is a saint
among the manied tongues
of Babel.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, The Rye Whiskey Review, Outlaw Poetry Network, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Dope Fiend Daily and In Between Hangovers.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Canadian Whiskey Tastes Like Rain. by Robin Wyatt Dunn

canadian whiskey tastes like rain
and old mountains
the rip of the sun
and the nap of peace

the barrel burial
and night

dying inside
to reap the sea

Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming in 1979. He is a graduate student in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick, Canada.

NON-MNEMONIC. by Jay Passer

I liked it better when I could remember nothing
and embraced the waiting time,
telepathy just a step behind
the revolution of the planet.

She was an image
wreathed in arabesques, smoke
off the exhaust pipe of whispers,
I bought her a vodka grapefruit.

Those were the days
when the future was not only distant
but steeped in noir,
the allure of subtitles.

Jay Passer's work has appeared in print and online since 1988. He is the author of several chapbooks and has appeared in a bunch of anthologies. His latest collection, they lied to me when they said everything would be alright, from Pski's Porch, is available at Amazon. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.

End Over End By Kelli J Gavin

Time and time again
Over and over
End over end
You walk away
Out the door
You do it so well
With so little effort
You have perfected leaving
When I am here
Staying here
Always present
This time
It is over
Now is the end

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter,  Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Friday, November 23, 2018

Francisco Franco Strapped Up to a Space-Age Life Support Machine, November 1975. by John Doyle

Whispers on the street - hell's guts shake, rattle, and roll,

fingers from faces gaunt, eyeless poking through, pinch mementos from his skin;

he asks how hard can it be to die,

a sudden scorch of Gernika, the flesh of Barcelona, punctured on the brittle calcium of his unilateral streets -

all quite ironic really, bones once used as drumsticks for marching bands

shake, rattle, roll, in the music of his roaring silent death;

and Satan's cadence beeps in a music-choking time

John Doyle became a Mod again in the summer of 2017 to fight off his impending mid-life crisis; whether this has been a success remains to be seen. He has has two collections published to date, A Stirring at Dusk in 2017, and Songs for Boys Called Wendell Gomez in 2018, both on PSKI's Porch.

He is based in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. All he asks is that you leave your guns at the door and tie up your horses before your enter.

Ode to a Life I Forgot to Live. by Ken Allan Dronsfield

Looking into a crystal ball at my life;
rummaging through my mind’s attic
thinking of a New Year's resolution,
through the haze of a hangover.
Searching cherished moments that
brought a smile to my lips, a giggle
to the jello shots, and feelings of joy
within the music of Guns n Roses.
Excited whispers while spying a
lone mouse steal cheese off the bar.
Thoughts about old girlfriends from
years ago, and how they're doing.
Clipping playing cards onto bicycle
spokes; so proud to make ’em loud.
Many wonderful memories, but I do
not remember other things, like my
first day at school, or my graduation.
I can recite my phone number of almost
50 years ago, but can’t remember my
wedding anniversary date; that's so odd.
Time goes on and your memory fills, it's
just an Ode to a Life I Forgot to Live.

Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran, prize winning poet and fabulist from New Hampshire, now residing on the plains of Oklahoma. He has three poetry collections, "The Cellaring", 80 poems of light horror, paranormal, weird and wonderful work. His second book, "A Taint of Pity", contains 52 Life Poems Written with a Cracked Inflection. Ken's third poetry collection, "Zephyr's Whisper", 64 Poems and Parables of a Seasonal Pretense, and includes his poem, "With Charcoal Black, Version III", selected as the First Prize Winner in Realistic Poetry International's recent Nature Poem Contest. Ken won First Prize for his Haiku on Southern Collective Experience. He's been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and six times for the Best of the Net, 2016-2018. Ken loves writing, hiking, thunderstorms, and spending time with his cats Willa and Yumpy.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Turkey. by Wayne F. Burke

I ate no turkey this day of
thankful giving
in regard for turkeys
in protest of their slaughter--
sat at the table next to 
my niece's daughter
the talk went around
the food said nothing
the sun shone in the backyard
the wine began to whisper
then speak,
the volume rose and
and rose again
the blood-red liquid spoke
in tongues
flushed faces peered over
brims of glasses shaped
like my sister-in-law's sister's

which I drank in.

Wayne F, Burke's poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications. He has published five full-length poetry collections, 4 with Bareback Press, and one with Alien Buddha Press. Plus two poetry chapbooks with Epic Rites Press. He lives in the central Vermont area, USA.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

November Night. by Alyssa Trivett

It was an off
November night
to begin with...
radio was blasting
The Police.
The moonlight
always glistens.
Like summer pool water.
I stampede across
broken railroad tracks,
In the heat of
my metal pillbox.

...but then it
became a beautiful evening.
even though the
speed limit is 45,
everyone drives 53 1/4 on
an empty gas tank,
always one pencil notch
lead from the
top of the gauge.
Maybe bottom.
All from driving to
the overpriced restaurant.
I waited in my car,
waiting for him to show up.
Tip-tapped lines
on my phone to
pass a few creaky
second and minute hands
wanting to retire
for the evening-
to shove two beers down
my human pie hole,
like a clown being
smashed in the face.
I settled for a glass of
wine instead.
He and I
then continue to count
our cup rings on napkins,
as always.

Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she listens to music, chirps down coffee, and scrawls lines on the back of gas station receipts. Her work has appeared recently at In Between Hangovers, The Penwood Review, and Apricity Magazine.

Other People Ruin Everything. by Leah Mueller


I rarely go to the Blue Moon anymore. Too many of my bar friends have died.  The remaining ones have turned into pudgy old vampires. They press their asses against stools and drink beer and shots while they watch the Mariners game on the pockmarked overhead television. Just looking at the place makes my liver hurt. I’d much rather stay home, sip a glass or two of wine, and carefully monitor my intake.

Last night, I felt a strange desire to visit my old hangout. After parking on a side street three blocks away, I trudged towards the bar. A cluster of men leaned against the outside wall, puffing on cigarettes. Not long ago, marijuana was illegal in Washington, and folks stepped into the alley for a furtive toke. Now, indoor cigarette smoking is forbidden, and people must leave the bar for their nicotine fixes.

   I looked closely at the group, noticed the owner was there. George’s face lit up when he saw me. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders in a friendly, boozy hug, then smiled, revealing a row of nicotine-stained teeth.

George had aged a lot since the last time I'd seen him, five years earlier. His face was leathery, creased from years of heavy tobacco use. “How the hell are you?” he asked. “Are you coming in for a beer? I hope so.”
  I nodded. “I was driving past, and had an urge to stop. It's been more than a blue moon since the last time I was here.”
George pulled the door open, and I stepped into the cavernous interior. The place hadn't changed a bit. Its walls were stained a permanent shade of brown, a remnant of decades of patrons' continuous smoking. Above the battle-scarred booths, hundreds of disheveled books stood on wooden shelves.

In all my years of drinking at the Moon, I've never seen anyone crack open one of the volumes. The literary motif is an homage to famous writers who’ve pickled their brains at the bar—Tom Robbins, Theodore Roethke, Richard Hugo, and scores of others. According to rumor, Robbins once placed a collect call to Pablo Picasso from the wall pay phone, but the master declined to accept the charges.
  I sat down carefully on one of the barstools and ordered a pint from the bartender. The line of men glanced in my direction, then looked away. This was a furtive but calculated maneuver, one I recalled from my earlier years, when I was an aspiring alcoholic in search of adventure.

Though happy hour had just begun, the bar was only half-full. To my left sat a fellow with a round face and a porn-star mustache. An empty glass rested on the bar in front of him.
  The man on my right was experiencing considerable difficulty remaining in his chair. He grinned at me and reached for his shot glass, almost toppling it in the process. “You from Greenlake?” he slurred.

I realized, with a shock, that I looked like an affluent Seattle matron in my clogs and camel's hair coat. Many of the men at the bar had probably slept in their clothes.
    “No, I'm from Tacoma.” I spotted a bowl of peanuts on the bar, shoved it in his direction. “Have some peanuts. You seem like you could use the nutrition.”  
  This sort of cheeky comment was typical for the establishment. The Moon is one of the few Seattle bars where inebriated men regularly yell “Fuck!” at the top of their lungs. Women need to leave politeness at the door, or be eaten alive.
The fellow laughed and swayed on his stool. “YOU have some peanuts,” he replied, pushing the bowl towards me. He scooped up his shot glass, took a huge gulp, and signaled for another.
The man on my left was more eager to talk, and had better control of his faculties. “I can tell by looking at you that you're not part of the Matrix,” he said.

I gazed at him and nodded. “I met a CIA agent in Puerto Vallarta when I was there with George,” he continued. “The guy knew everything. He told me this: when the eclipse comes, don’t be at the place of totality. Be a little bit west or a little bit east. But don’t be in the exact path, because then you won’t get the full visuals.”
“What full visuals?” I swiveled in my seat, so I could better hear my new friend. Obviously, a long narrative was forthcoming, and I needed to look as though I was paying attention.

The man grinned, pleased by my friendliness. “I’m Don,” he said, extending a beefy hand. “George and I met on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, and it turned out he owns the Moon. Now we party together in Mexico every year. Anyway, this CIA dude wouldn’t tell me what I’d see. He just told me to LOOK, man.”
I continued to nod, feeling like one of those swivel-necked dogs on the dashboard of an old person’s car. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to appease the guy. He was so earnest, and in dire need of someone who would listen. I just happened to land on the stool next door.
“I took his advice,” Don continued. “Me and my buddies went a bit inland. We woke up that morning, had our coffee, and looked at the sky. It got dark real fast, and the next thing I knew, the sun was covered, except for that frame of light around the edges. I figured I’d better take a picture before it was gone forever.”

Don reached into his pocket, pulled out a battered cell phone. He scrolled through a few photos, then stopped and gazed at me expectantly. Holding the phone in front of my nose, he pointed at an image with one chubby forefinger. “Take a look at THAT,” he said. “There’s no logical explanation.”
I squinted at the image. The eclipse—a huge black dot outlined with a bright cornea of sunlight—sat squarely in the center of the photo. On its left was a moon-shaped sliver. The object hung in the sky like an illuminated toenail.
“See that?” Don hissed. “The CIA guy told me to check out the left side of the eclipse. He said I’d be surprised by what I saw.”

I continued to stare at the apparition, trying my hardest to come up with a logical explanation. It appeared solid, and radiated an eerie, celestial glow. “That’s incredible,” I murmured. “What could it possibly be?”
Don gazed at me, face solemn. “Damned if I know. But isn’t it amazing?”
I nodded, and Don took a thoughtful sip from his beer. “Hey, are you hungry? I’m about to order a whole mess of pizzas.”

I smiled politely. “Sorry, I don’t eat dairy products,” I said. “But thanks for asking.”
I rose from my stool and wandered into the rest room. The Blue Moon’s lavatory graffiti was legendary, known throughout Seattle for its semi-cogent, philosophical ramblings. There were many scrawled references to the sexual prowess of male patrons. My old drinking buddy Dan was immortalized on the women’s rest room wall for several years during the 1990s.

The scrawled homage had puzzled me, since I’d never found Dan appealing as a potential romantic partner. His diplomat parents raised their only son within the confines of luxury hotels, so Dan exuded a seedy, yet aristocratic air. That was probably the secret of his popularity. Unfortunately, his alcoholism caught up with him several years later, and he became a bar ghost.

I wandered into a stall and sat down on the edge of the toilet. Graffiti swirled above my head. “Layne Staley is the most beautiful man God ever created.” “If you have the right glasses, it gets even bigger.” “Anal Nicole Smith.” “I love you Layne! Your girlfriend, Debby.”

Layne Staley seemed to inspire a great deal of posthumous love. This struck me as tragic, since he lay in his apartment for several days after his fatal overdose, and no one came to check on him. His neighbors thought he was a strange guy who kept to himself. They didn’t realize he was famous. Some of them probably even owned Alice in Chains albums.

After I finished peeing, I noticed the best graffiti of all: “Other People Ruin Everything.” Truer words were never inscribed on a rest room wall. Not just “people”, mind you, but “OTHER people.” I understood the writer’s sense of isolation. I’d felt that way all my life, but never articulated it so plainly. Of course, Sartre said it first, without ever setting foot in the Blue Moon.

I ran my hands under the sink water and stepped back into the bar, feeling melancholy. Dan’s graffiti was long gone, his memory buried under layers of paint. Don was already deep in conversation with another patron, a young Hispanic man who looked unblemished and cheerful. Give him another twenty years, I thought.

I leaned towards George. “Hey, how is Mark Preston?” I asked. “Last I heard, he went home to Ohio to live with his folks.”
George shook his head. “He’s back. Parents can only deal with so much. I think he’s homeless. He comes in sometimes, sits in the corner. He’s already shitfaced by then, so he doesn’t order a lot.”

He paused for a moment, took a slug of beer from his pint glass. “Saddest thing of all is that he doesn’t have his fiddle any more. He fell asleep on a park bench, and somebody stole it.”

Mark and I were close friends for two decades. As his drinking increased and his marriage collapsed, we lost touch with each other. For years, he played bluegrass fiddle with the withered old pros at Folklife Festival, elderly folks who wore bib overalls and hailed from places like Twisp and Cle Elum. The group respected Mark because he played like he was from the holler, and wasn’t some aspiring Microsoft executive who got a violin for Christmas.

“It’s not as easy as you might think to drink yourself to death,” George said. He rotated on his stool and smiled.
George’s eyes were astonishingly clear and direct. He’d spent forty years in the bar trenches, and reminded me of an old sage. You don’t get to be the owner of a historic dive bar in the U-District if you’re an idealist.

People had lived and died on the Moon’s barstools, and their ghosts hovered in the corners of the ancient booths. George watched the stories unfold, and knew the outcomes before anyone else did. Poor Mark wasn’t a ghost yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

“Seattle has changed a lot,” I said. “It’s hard to make it if you’re not rich. When I first moved here in ‘85, my monthly rent was ninety bucks. Now, studio apartments will set you back almost two grand a month. Where do people get that kind of money?”

“Goddamn software,” George replied. “The new Seattle gold rush.” He took another swig of beer from his glass. “I’m pretty much retired now. My daughter runs the bar, and I’m only here one day a week. That suits me fine.”
The front door opened, and a man entered, carrying a pile of pizzas. “Where the hell should I put these things?” he asked.  

After a bit of scuffling, Don and a couple of other patrons managed to clear space on one of the side tables. They stacked the pizza boxes on top of each other and opened the uppermost one, exposing a mass of cheese and pepperoni.
Several men left their stools and wandered towards the boxes. The fellow on my right remained in his seat for a moment, looking baffled. He rose abruptly, almost upsetting his half-full shot glass. “Bout time dinner got here,” he giggled.

I returned my attention to George. He lowered his eyes from the television and regarded me thoughtfully. “I work as little as possible,” he continued. “I’ve done my time. Happy hour used to be a mob scene. These days, the stools and booths are half-empty, except for Friday and Saturday nights.”

I vividly remembered the 1980’s-era happy hour crowd—a loud, ribald group of tie-dyed misfits who crowded around the bar, ordering pitcher after pitcher of Rainier. Now, a handful of people clung to their seats like barnacles, drinking slowly to avoid spending money too fast.
I took a final sip from my second beer. Though I could feel the familiar Blue Moon suction pulling me into my stool, I knew better than to order a third pint. I rose to my feet, smiled at George. “I’d better go. It’s a long drive back to Tacoma.”
 George’s face broke into a grin, exposing his brown teeth. “So glad you stopped in,” he said.      
           As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I heard a sickening crash. Someone had accidentally rammed one of the pizza boxes into an empty pint glass, and it toppled to the floor. Jagged shards flew in all directions.
Sighing, the bartender grabbed a broom from the corner. George didn’t even blink. “Come back any time,” he said.
I stepped across the threshold into the street, turned around once like Lot’s wife to look at my old haunt. The “Sorry, we’re open!” sign was long gone from the window. A few people still leaned against the alley wall, puffing on cigarettes.

I resumed walking, rounded the corner and passed a line of parked cars. The narrow side street fronted 1-5, but was spared a full view of the freeway by a particularly hideous chain-link fence. I’d parked there many times during the 80s and 90s, when spaces were plentiful.

   The first two buildings on the block were slated for destruction, their windows covered with plywood. Yellow land-use signs disclosed new plans for high-rise boutique housing. I strolled past the condemned properties towards my waiting vehicle.
The walk seemed much longer than usual. In fact, I couldn’t remember ever having to park so far away from the Moon. Finally, after a couple more blocks, I spotted my car, right where I’d left it. A long piece of paper flapped underneath one of the wipers.

Goddammit, a fucking parking ticket.
I yanked the paper from the window, stared at its tiny print, and scowled. Zoned parking only, violation fee sixty bucks. Jesus Christ, when did the city of Seattle turn a glorified alley into a cash cow for the city? Like everything else, it happened when I wasn’t looking.
I glanced down the street and finally saw the new sign, protruding from the cement like a middle finger. Its dark lettering proclaimed the city’s intention to fine anyone who dared to park on the block without a permit.

I unlocked my vehicle, hurled the ticket towards the back seat. I’d have to pay the damn fine, since I couldn’t think of an argument that would stand up in court. Still scowling, I pulled into the road, remembering the bathroom graffiti. “Other People Ruin Everything.” I almost laughed out loud. It was the most accurate thing I’d heard all week.
On the other hand, most of us manage to do a damn good job all on our own. 

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her latest book, a memoir entitled “Bastard of a Poet” was published by Alien Buddha Press in June 2018. Leah’s work appears or is forthcoming in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Mojave River Review, Drunk Monkeys, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, Wolfpack Press, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest.

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