Saturday, March 16, 2024

BLACKBALLED by Cindy Rosmus


“You see that?” I asked my roommate, Juanita. “Or am I crazy?”

As Juanita peered around the dining hall, Katie got closer.

  “’Judge Baker’s daughter?’ With her fat ass? What about her?”

“She’s wearing makeup . . .” I stood up. “On just the right side of her face!”

Those tragicomic masks, I thought of. But Katie’s whole face looked tragic. On the made-up side, black tears rolled down her cheek.

Juanita dropped her fork. “That damn CUNT.” 

She meant Chi Upsilon Nu Theta. CUNT: Liberty State’s sorority for bitches.

“Katie,” I said, when she reached our table. “Is it worth . . .”

“Don’t talk to them!” Sara said. Out of nowhere, she’d appeared. Katie’s “Big Sister.” Chi Upsilon’s “Queen” or some shit. And she didn’t even live in our dorm! 

I lost my appetite.

“That’s disgusting,” Carolyn said later, at the pub. “How they treat Katie.” Our friends nodded. 

All science nerds; or at least, nerds. Carolyn was the coolest. Blonde, and so pretty, the Chi Upsilon bitches had invited her to pledge. 

“Are you crazy?” Carolyn laughed right in Sara’s face. 

 Being Carolyn’s best friend got me, an English major, “adopted” by her nerdy pals. Science-wise, all I knew was that Claudius poured mercury into Hamlet’s dad’s ear to kill him. 

“No excuse,” Carolyn said, “pledging for Chi Upsilon.”

“Or any sorority.” In his thick glasses, Nathan looked the most scientific. “Sadistic, power-hungry females.”  

At the campus pub, we drank beer in the corner. On the jukebox, Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” was playing. Rico, who dug Carolyn, played imaginary sax for her. Stevie (who we guessed was gay) held two empty plastic cups over his chest, to make tits. We all laughed.

The pitcher was empty. “I’ll buy,” I said, getting up. 

Jack the bartender was so into some blonde chick, he ignored me. A “CUNT” sister. Figures, I thought. With her feathered hair and tiny waist.

Katie would never make it. Judge Baker’s daughter, or not.

She’d be blackballed first.

I wasn’t the “sorority” type. Not fat like Katie; at least, not anymore. Mad, without the scientist part. Grieving over Joey, the “bad boy” poet from Professor Steele’s class. Joey, who’d never be mine, even now that I’d lost weight. 

Joey, who’d died in a ski accident. 

When Jack finally saw me, I raised the pitcher. 

Professor Steele’s table was empty tonight. How life had changed. I pictured us, months back, at that same table: generous Steele, with his chestnut-brown toupee and gray beard, keeping us all drunk. Loyal to our “god.” Scruffy-cheeked Joey in his leather jacket. Me, wishing Joey would grab and kiss me. Steele’s slutty young wife Lisa . . . 

“Joey doesn’t want you,” Lisa had said bluntly. 

And CUNT, I thought, smirking now, didn’t want you.

Jack slid the full pitcher over to me. “Three bucks.”

“Three?” I said.

Smirking, he took my singles. For Chi Upsilon sisters, I bet it was two.

“Shelley,” Carolyn said, as I set down the pitcher. “Guess what we’re forming?” Before I could answer, she said, “A frorority!”

“A what?”

“Fratority,” Nathan said. “I believe that’s—”

“Just us . . .” Carolyn pointed around our table. “A new club. Guys and girls. Not a fraternity, or sorority, but co-ed! And with fun people.” Still holding his plastic-cup tits, Stevie beamed.

“No sadistic, power-hungry females,” Nathan said. 

“Or asshole guys. Just us.” Rico squeezed Carolyn’s shoulders.

“You mean, like an ‘official’ club?” I said. “Don’t we need permission, from the dean, or somebody?”
Carolyn waved that off. “We’ll get it later.”

Stevie’s squinted eyes said he was calculating something. “We’ll be . . . Omega Tau Alpha!”

“Is that a real name?” I asked. 

“Who cares?”

“Is five enough members?” Nathan said.

Stevie poured out beers. “Think we need six.”

“Just to be sure,” Carolyn said, “We’ll find one more.” And got up.

Life, I thought, can be perfect, sometimes. 

In the pub doorway, Mark had appeared. This certified genius, with bulging eyes, he looked like John Belushi in Animal House. But he was crazier. 

Tonight, he had a lasso. Like a cowboy, he waved and twirled this long rope higher and higher, then farther, finally encircling Carolyn where she stood at our table. “Hey!” she yelled, as he pulled her toward him.

We were too shocked to laugh. “How about . . .” Stevie asked. 

“No,” Rico said sullenly.


“He’s crazy!”

“Then, who?” 

Life, I thought, can be fucked-up. Dead silence, as Katie walked in. However crudely it was made, we all knew what protruded from her face. Or, what it was supposed to be. To make it worse, she was all in gray. If she was skinny, it wouldn’t be funny.

Still, none of us laughed. 

Through the pub’s glass walls, Sara and Tabitha, another CUNT sister, watched, snickering. I wished the floor would split and swallow them up.

When Katie reached the bar, she burst into tears.

“Hey, Mark . . .” Carolyn rushed to untie herself. “C’mere!”

It happened so fast, Sara didn’t see it coming. Open-mouthed, Tabitha watched, as Mark’s lasso expertly looped around Sara’s waist. “You asshole!” Sara yelled. 

Then Mark was running down the hall, with Sara in tow. 

From the pub doorway, we all cheered, especially when Sara lost her balance and fell. “I’ll kill you!” she screamed. 

Seeing her dragged down the hall, legs thrashing, knowing her bony ass was nearly scraped raw, made us howl with laughter.
Only Katie stayed behind. When Carolyn and I got back inside, Katie was sipping a beer at our table. The “elephant trunk” lay discarded next to the empty pitcher. 

“Number six!” Rico announced, when Mark came back, chuckling. As he rolled up his rope, the applause was deafening.

For the next hour, Mark’s beers were free. When Toto’s “Hold the Line” came on the jukebox, he waved his clenched fists like a victorious boxer. Again, we cheered.

“Great job, man!” Jack carried our next pitcher over, himself. “Hate that bossy bitch!”

“And Sara,” Carolyn said, “hates us!”

Katie looked down at her beer. “Guess I’m blackballed.”

With fresh cups, Stevie made a new set of tits. “Not from Omega Tau Alpha.” 

“Who’s that?”
Mark smiled. “Maybe us.” As he touched his cup to Katie’s, their fingers touched. “And maybe . . . you.” 

Carolyn kicked me under the table. 

Without that stupid trunk, Katie was cute. Especially with makeup on both sides of her face. When she smiled back at Mark, she even had dimples. 

She paused before raising the cup to her lips.



Cindy originally hails from the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, once voted the “unfriendliest city on the planet.” She talks like Anybodys from West Side Story and everybody from Saturday Night Fever. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun Honey, Megazine, Dark Dossier, Danse Macabre, The Rye Whiskey Review, Under the Bleachers, and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. She’s published seven collections of short stories. Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

 I Joined The Illuminati By John Patrick Robbins

To get half off my IHOP pancakes I don't even bother to eat.

So I can attend the house parties up in the Hollywood Hills.

Pissing off a balcony to hopefully hit the gardener who I caught a ride here with.

To feast upon small children and drink vintage bottles of cheap wine.

And get hand jobs from A-list celebrities who secretly believe I'm a D-list producer.

Snorting cocaine I cannot afford off model's tits whose names I cannot pronounce.

And secretly plotting the world's bad choices as I invest in bitcoin and collect human organs off the deep web.

I joined to feel a part of something more screwed up and deranged than myself.

As I write this, knowing soon they will be at my door.

Disguised as a Domino’s delivery dude who's clearly been sent to take my life.

Crystal meth is awesome when you make it at home. I just love crafting!

What? Did you think I was going to knit you a fucking sweater?

Wow, you’re more fucked up than I ever imagined you to be. 

Hey, you single?

Where did you go?

Another one vanished; it appears those Illuminati have struck again.

John Patrick Robbins holds the record of holding his breath out of water and lives in a series of tunnels that lead to the center of the earth.

He can speak fifteen different languages and is fluent in idiot, which makes him great at running E-zines.

He runs a writer's retreat in Hell where all are welcome. Just please sign the guest list and remember: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

He is currently the curator for the Great Tits of History Museum in Vatican City.

He has been published in the Yellow Pages and is currently starring in a documentary about his life called:

Who Gives A Fuck? The Life & Times Of A Non-Ballet Dancer.

He enjoys collecting corpses from the cemetery, which he will bring back to life to forge his Viking zombie army to fight the Disney Corporation to gain control of their vaults and see the rare film Daisy Duck Does Scooby-Doo.

He currently is not on any prescription medication.

Exposing the Soul by Shithead

Being a poet is being an artist of pure expression.
And it’s also my excuse for walking around naked a lot. 

Because now I’m an eccentric genius instead of a pervert. 
Who simply allows the universe to flow in and out of his body.

Then forgetting who was giving the input or the output halfway in.
And end up in a sea of ultra deep spiritual cum and caca. 

There’s a profound lesson somewhere in this write. 
But I’ll let you know whenever I figure it out 

Shithead is 24 years old and likes to poop in front of a live studio audience. After years of his artistic solo career he was voted the number 1 writer in the Midwest  in 2022 despite not living on this planet or being liked by anybody in general. 

Stuck by Susan Isla Tepper

Today before the store was even open, the general manager Stu called a meeting for after hours. When he finished his spiel and walked away everyone got totally pissed.

“He means after work!” Vinny yelled.

The store was a low level discount operation adjacent to the Mall but separate from it. We were only getting minimum wage.

“They should pay us for the extra time,” Vinny went on.

“It’s over-time!” Rochelle was in a screechy rage, her bulging eyes from her condition seemed more bulgy when she got upset like now.

I was pretty upset, too. I had an early dinner date at Cookie’s Steak House. Sure, it was only a Mall restaurant but the food was really good. After Stu’s goddamn meeting there wouldn’t be time to go home and freshen up and change into something nice. Now I had to phone my date, and maybe he’d cancel and I’d been looking forward to those lobster tails with the melted butter you dunk in all week.

I stood near the George Forman Grill weighing the possibilities. Should I not stay for Stu’s meeting, would he make an example of me and maybe can me? On the other hand I was desperate for those tails. They gave you three on the plate, plus salad, fries, and a dessert of your choice. Their cheesecake was to die for. As a starving actor it wasn’t the sort of dinner I could afford on my own.

Apparently small appliances were going missing. Stu mentioned things like electric hand-beaters and compact coffee makers. Things thieves could stuff into a big shopping bag. Most of the security cameras no longer work. The pros knew and scampered around stealing stuff.

“Keep an eye out for large women with bulky coats and shopping bags,” was the last thing Stu said.

Rochelle began fuming again since she was a plus-size woman. “That’s plain discrimination!” she snarled.

“Well it can’t be one of us since they already treat us like thieves.” I held up the see-through plastic wallet-purse where we had to keep our money, keys, etc, etc. No personal purses or wallets of our own allowed on the floor.

It was bad enough working here, what with the low, water-stained acoustical tile ceiling that often let go in places during heavy rain. Once right over my register. I almost quit that day. Should have! I can get a better job with better pay. Why do I stay here? Am I stuck? I went to a psychic who told me I was in a stuck mode. She got her info off the Tarot cards. When I asked if I could see the particular stuck card, she quickly turned it over and went on to the next.

At lunch break I phoned Tad. I explained the situation. I heard him taking an annoyed breath.

“Well,” he said. “The thing is, it’s hard to get the later dinner slots. I’ll try… but I can’t promise. It’s a very popular eatery,” he said. “I was really looking forward…”

I broke in with gusto, “I was so looking forward!” Not to him, to the tails. To the whole schmear. To the fresh strawberries that topped their cheese cake. Cookie’s Steak House was a major Mall player in great food served with simplicity. I pictured the waiters carrying the big round trays heaped. I almost started crying.

“I’ll phone you on my break to see what happened,” I told him. “Good luck.” But somehow those words came out hollow because I didn’t feel lucky. Not lucky for a long time.

When I got back from my 15 minute break I phoned Tad. The line was busy. I tried repeatedly but couldn’t break through. My next shot at getting him on the phone was the end of the day. This made me even more blue and hopeless.

Naturally when I phoned him at 5:30 it was bad news. “We’ll have to reschedule,” he said.

“Sure.” I put on my good sport voice. Then I went to Stu’s meeting in the cramped crummy beige room.

When everyone had gathered, Stu began: “Today we lost 3 typewriters.”

Typewriters! People looked stunned. How could anyone possibly steal a typewriter? The size and weight being a natural deterrent. It would crash through the bottom of any paper shopping bag. It would be a noticeable heist. I’d started thinking of all this in terms of a heist.

“It’s a popular item,” Stu said. “Retro and all that. First I noticed the antique-looking one was gone. The shiny black one. It was just after the lunch breaks when less of you are out on the floor. I started to roam the store, but I couldn’t nail anything down. Of course I couldn’t detain anyone without sufficient reason. Law suits and all that. You don’t want to get into that.”

Several people were shaking their heads in agreement.

All I wanted to get into were those lobster tails that I pictured flying through the store on patrol.

“Anyways, I grabbed a quick bag of chips from the machine,” Stu said, “and continued to roam the floor. And all of a sudden I spot this woman in a long winter coat almost to her ankles, and she’s kind of hobbling. Like maybe she has a crippling disease. I felt sorry for her. She had no shopping bag just a small purse.”

People could be heard murmuring about the woman’s condition.

“I decided to approach her and see if she would like to use our golf cart to get around the store. Make things a little easier for her.”

So nice, Stu, that’s so nice, people were saying.

“When all of a sudden there’s this crash and we both look down. Me and her. And the red Royal typewriter had landed on the floor between her feet.”

In the cramped room there was a moment of stunned silence.

Then Vinny said, “Are you telling us she was carrying the typewriter between her legs?”

“That’s about the size of it.” Stu slapped his palms together like getting off dust and told us we were free to go home.

“What about the woman?” I said.

“I let her go.”

Susan Isla Tepper is a twenty years published writer in all genres.  Her current project is an Off-Broadway Play on the subject of art and life.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Greetings From Your Favorite Lit-Dick By John Patrick Robbins 

Me and a girlfriend at the time were at a party, when a dude bragged he could suck his own dick. And in a true moment of genius some dumbass shouted, "Prove it."

The room went silent, and most everyone watched in awe as this nutcase proceeded to kick back on the couch and do just that. I didn't view the whole show. In fact, I was headed out the door the second this nutcase dropped his pants and started off his one-man act.

A friend looked to me and said, "Dude, can you believe that shit?"

"Well, considering Steve is in his late thirties and never dated and still lives at home, I'm not all that shocked. But at least that finally answers the question how he keeps his teeth so white."

Billy cracked up as I headed out the door. And as me and Jules were on our way home, the conversation continued. 

"Baby, do you ever wish you could do that?"

"Suck Steve's dick? Naw, I'm good, sweetheart."

Jules shook her head. "You know what I meant, smartass."

"Suck my own dick? Nope. I never had a hankering for cock, honestly. And besides, what do you think I keep you around for?"

The joke had crossed the line and I ended up bunking with my old mutt Boozer on the couch.

Sometimes it's best to stop while you're ahead.

But being unfiltered has its setbacks, and sometimes we pay the price for a cheap laugh and find ourselves alone; penning lines or reading quasi-invite-only lit mags.

Oh, wait. Sorry. Seems I've crossed that invisible line again. 

The pun was truly intended.


The Mad Editor, is currently curator of the Gen X museum in a basement in Seattle.
He was voted most popular person amoungsnt his imaginary friends.

He is often copied yet seldom amused by the efforts.
He is no longer under house arrest.
His work has been described as mediocre by people who cannot write and once dated him.

He is planning on selling his stock in Whiskey City Press and retiring to Stockholm Sweeden to start his own Viking settlement and casino slash indoor Waterpark.

He once visited a museum and was normal in another dimension.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022


The summer of ’83, I was never more conscious of being broke as shit.  Broke, drunk every day, and—I didn’t realize it till now—pretty happy.

    There we were—me, Freddy, Francine, and Nicky—full-time students who rarely went to class.  Part-time workers who hardly went to work.  Fourth-floor neighbors in this shit building up the block from Liberty State College.  

Needless to say, Liberty State was a shit school.  They’d let anybody in.  It was the era of the “foreign student,” and if you spoke English, you were a genius, right there.  

Me, I was an English major.  A writer, yet.  Back then I scrawled stories in notebooks, jammed them under my bed.  Why would I type them? Who’d want to publish them?  Who’d want to read the ravings of a needy, drunken slob?

“Me,” Freddy told me.  “Like, what else would I read?”

Not his media arts text, that’s for sure.  The week before, he’d sold it back to the college store.  So much for summer school.  For spite, his dad was late sending Freddy’s check.  We needed money for beer now.

Also, he’d been fired from Shop Rite . . . for shoplifting!  That was at Path Mark, but the fuckers at Path Mark figured they’d really fix Freddy and call his boss.  So Shop Rite would look bad.  Man, did they!

All Freddy had stolen was a half-pound of salami.  He’d stuffed it down his pants, but was gonna pay for the two Portuguese rolls. “I stole it for you!” he’d told me, so I’d feel guilty.  Big deal.  This time I’d got stuck buying all the beer. 

Worse yet, my mom was wise to me.  She’d been sending me money like mad, till she finally realized I owed her.  A vicious circle, you know?  As fast as she sent it, we drank it.  I hated going to my work-study job.  Why work just to pay somebody back?  Somebody who’d give you even more money, if you played sick, or sad.  I was great at both.

“Shelley, I got an idea!” Freddy said. That always meant trouble.  “Lemme use your phone.”  His was cut off; guess why?

When he hung up with his dad, he was giggling like a lunatic.  “Two hundred bucks, he’s sending!”

I had to sit down.  That was more than Freddy’s rent.  

“I got you pregnant,” he explained.  “You need an abortion.”

“What?” I yelled.  “You never touched me!”

He sneered.  “He don’t know that!”

I got up, paced around the coffee table.  “That’s terrible!”

“Worked in high school.”  He was trying to justify it.  “Said I knocked up Roseanne Massi.  Never touched her, either.” 

“What about Francine? Can’t she lend you money?” Francine actually had some saved.  Her boyfriend Nicky had let it slip.

“She’s not that stupid!” Freddy said.  Then, real indignant, “What’s up your ass?”

“You used me!  Not Francine.  Or anybody else.  You lied about me!” I couldn’t stress that enough.  He was more than a drinking buddy.  Freddy was my best friend, the brother I never had.  Just the thought of us doing it was…well, incestuous.

“Too late now.”  He headed for the door.  “I’ll just have to drink alone.”

I beat him to the door, blocking it.  “My ass!”  I told him.

*     *     *

The night I met Freddy, the September before, it was 2AM.  No, later.  The bar had closed at 2, but I was making out with Mike Cassidy in the foyer for so long, you heard birds chirping outside.  

“Do you think,” I asked him, “We’re in love?”  Like a fool!

“Uh-huh!” He was even drunker than me.  A short Mick Jagger, he looked like, with the same lips, but these slanty eyes, like he was part Chinese, or just real stoned.  “I’ll bet we are!”

If I wasn’t so dumb, I’d have brought him upstairs, and fucked him senseless.  But back then, I thought guys wanted more than just sex.  That they had souls, watched sunsets and shit.  Could love you for real, at first sight.

I left him in the foyer with a rock hard-on and a look of such disbelief, I can still see it.  With this shit- eating grin, I waltzed my drunk ass up four flights of stairs.  What a fool I was!  And so bombed, I was scared to let go of the banister. 

On the fourth floor landing, I weaved, almost fell backwards down the stairs.

“Hey!” I heard, from across the hallway.  This skinny guy with wild red hair.  Freddy.  Though by now I saw two of him.  

He ran over and grabbed my arm.  “Four-o-four,” I tried telling him, but I was slurring so bad, it sounded like “Boy, oh boy!”

“S’all right,” I think he said.  He was slurring, too.  If you’re both fucked up, there’s no hope, period.  It was like we were two non-skaters on roller skates for the first time.  

He lived right next to me.  Since 2AM he’d been trying to unlock his door, which was actually mine.  When he realized his mistake, he smiled, wisely.  

Nice meeting you, Red, I swore I told him.  But it came out, “I-she-you-dead.” 

Either way, he was delighted.  

*     *     *

“In this heat?” Freddy asked Francine.  “You gotta iron now?”

She smirked.  Freddy, Nicky, and I were sprawled on her bed, under the silent a/c.  A few minutes ago, it was nice and cool.  Now, thanks to her, sweat beaded on our faces and arms. 

    “Can’tcha hurry up, or something?” Nicky’s voice was pleading.  The look she gave him shut him up fast.

    It was the hottest day yet, and only she had a/c.  Miss Perfect.  She was pretty, sensible, and actually paid her bills.  She was sick to shit of us, but who cared?  In an emergency, you shared with your friends.  Your last cigarette, can of beer, or a cold blast of air.  No matter.  

    As the iron heated, we tried to lay still.  Outside, you heard water rushing, and kids yelling.  Somebody had busted open a hydrant.  Lucky them, I thought, glaring at Francine. 

Figures she’d be the one with the air.  It took her an hour to iron her jeans.  First she had to crease them.  Then she ironed the pockets, and between the belthooks.  Then she did everything all over again.

    Hot as it was, Nicky reached over and grabbed his guitar.  The acoustic one, since we were fucked if we blew a fuse.  For a long time, he strummed the guitar without singing.  For a Liberty State music major, he was pretty spiritual.  Despite his punked-out hair, he wrote songs that were closer to hymns.

      “So,” Francine said, picking up the iron at last, “What’ll we buy for our big barbecue?” Before we could answer, she added, “With the money Freddy stole from his dad!” 

“I didn’t steal it!” 

“You lied,” she said smugly.  “That’s just like stealing.”

“Beer and wine,” I said.  “We can get a whole shitload for that kind of money.” The guys nodded.  

“I mean food!”  Disgusted, Francine actually stopped ironing. 

“Food?” Freddy sounded horrified.  

“What kind of meat?” She picked up the iron again.  “Steaks? Ribs?  There’s a sale down at…”

“We don’t even have a grill!” I said.

“One of those little ones, we’ll get, from K-Mart,” Francine said.  That’s where she worked, as a cashier.

“Okay.  A pack of dogs, and a few cans of beans!” Freddy said. 

“I’ll make a nice big salad,” Francine said in this hypnotic voice. Only she could sound dreamy about making a salad.  And stop ironing on top of it. “With beefsteak tomatoes, and nice crisp lettuce…”

A drop of sweat landed on the guitar. “Put on the air, damn it!” Nicky said, finally.

“Don’t yell at me.” She went back to ironing, slower, if you ask me.  “No, really,” she told Freddy, “Give me the money, and I’ll shop.”

“How much?” We were both suspicious.

Instead of answering, she said, “Nick . . . You’ll help carry everything, won’t you?”

What could he say?  He had no job and was living with her.  It was her apartment.  Everything in it: the orange tweed furniture, the a/c, even the hated iron, was hers.  Only that guitar was his.  You could tell he hated looking up from it.  

But he loved her.  

That smile was his answer.

*     *     *

    Home.  The most beautiful four-letter word.  

    Mine was the worst.  I hated to clean, and pick up after myself.  Everywhere you looked were crushed beer cans, books, clothes, silverware.  If you needed a fork, try the night table.  My kitchen table was so cluttered, Francine wouldn’t sit at it.  

“Looks fine to me.” Freddy felt right at home.  His kitchen was painted lime-green.  The ceiling leaked tar from the roof, which made the olive rug stick to the floor.

“Who,” Francine said distastefully, “Puts a shag rug in their kitchen?”

“Not me!” Freddy was insulted.  The previous tenant had done it.  

And brought roaches.  Thanks to him, we all had them.  

Even Francine. The cleanest one of us, and that bugged her the most.  “You,” she said to Freddy, “never wash dishes!  Leave filthy pots on the stove.  You deserve roaches.  But me . . .” She started to cry.  

We hated that.  She was our Rock of Gibraltar.  Like Wendy in Peter Pan, she was our mother, almost.  When Freddy got a splinter, who did he run to?  When Mike Cassidy never called me, it was Francine who said, “Don’t worry, Shel.  He’ll be back.” 

You’re better off, Freddy had told me, without that fucking drunk!

*     *     *

Roaches or not, the four of us lived at Francine’s.  Even without a/c, it would’ve been our group home. The talks we had, we might’ve been hippies.

“If there’s a God . . .” Freddy cracked a beer. “Why’s there so much suffering in the world?”

“ ’Cos you’re in it!” I joked. 

“Suffering?” Francine said.  She was rolling a joint.  Occasionally we could afford a dime bag. “What do you know about suffering?  You cut your finger, and Daddy writes you a check!”  Freddy laughed.  

“Free will,” said Reverend Nicky.  “God never said life would be easy.”

We all sat for a while, just nodding.  Nicky could do that to you.  If we were hippies, he’d’ve been our guru.  Deep down, we all believed the same stuff.  Even Freddy, who just liked playing Devil’s Advocate.

I sipped my beer, felt nice and high.  In my own fridge, a couple were stashed, so I wasn’t panic-stricken.  I could actually think.

People talked about changing the world.  But how?  All we could do was live our own lives, try not to shit on anyone else’s.  But I guess if we all thought that way

. . . .

I brightened.  A spiritual awakening, I guess this was.  We could share, too, I thought, as Francine passed me the joint.  But didn’t we already?  

Not enough, I realized.  In my mind, those beers behind the mayo reminded me of something wild.  The miracle, I was thinking, of the loaves and two fishes.

“Amen,” I said.  But by now they were stoned.

*     *     *

    Avoiding Dolly, the super, wasn’t easy.  She didn’t miss a trick.  Maybe being legally blind helped her smell trouble.  

    The roof was the only place we could barbecue.  The one place she never snooped. We’d have to sneak the grill up there.

    “Frederick!” she’d said, the day before.  “Is this yours?”  In the hallway she’d found an empty V-O bottle.

    “Hell, no!” Freddy sounded disgusted.  “I don’t drink whiskey.”  Then he snickered.  “Can’t’cha read?”

    “You fuck!” Dolly went to smack him, but I grabbed the bottle.

Dolly looked like Lucille Ball with thick cat’s eye glasses. Freddy looked more like her than her own son Billy did.  

He was the culprit, Billy.  Always drunk in the building somewhere.  She just couldn’t see him.  

If anybody creeped me out, it was him.  Ice-blue eyes, he had, like those aliens from sci fi flicks.  Aliens who married you, but only you knew the truth.  You always felt Billy was lurking around.  Or under your bed, or something. . . .

“You’d better be good!” Dolly warned Freddy, who laughed all the way down the hall.

*     *     *

    Finally. . . .  

Beers in coolers, wine in my fridge.  The meat and stuff was in Francine’s.  And what cool shit she bought: burgers, dogs, Italian sausage.  Even a London Broil!  Too bad she liked it burned to a crisp.  But on the grill, anything tasted great.  

    “No chicken!” Freddy had warned her that morning.  We were sick of chicken.  For months we’d live on baked chicken legs and canned potatoes. 

     “And just one tomato!” His voice echoed in the hallway.

    “Shut up!” I told him.  “Nobody else’s supposed to know.” 

We weren’t greedy; we just never had much to share.  Not food, anyway.  It was disgusting how we hid beers from each other.  

    “Okay,” I said, feeling guilty.  “Invite who you want.”

    “Dolly!” he said, and snickered.  

I opened the fridge, looked longingly at the wine. “That’s all we need.”

*     *     *

Up on the roof, burgers and dogs sizzled on the tiny grill.  We’d brought up 

my ancient coffee table, and set the grill on that.  

When Freddy and Nicky carried the table out, one of its legs fell off.  I carried it up after them.  That no roaches were on the table, I hoped was a good sign.

It was so hot out, the tar felt warm and soft beneath us, like sand at the beach.  Francine and I lay down blankets: my crummy Budweiser one (with real sand stuck to it), and her fluffy pink one.  

While Freddy impatiently worked the grill, Nicky was our DJ.  Right now “Hungry Like the Wolf” was blasting. Duran Duran.  My favorite.  “Good song!” I said, trying to smooth out my stiff, sandy blanket.

“Put on ‘Thriller!’ ” Francine saidd.  Her favorite.  We all groaned.  We were sick of that tape.  But she always got her way, at least with Nicky.

Instead of buying batteries, they’d used extension cords to hook up the boom box to Freddy’s bedroom outlet.  If Dolly saw that, we were fucked, for sure. 

Still, Michael Jackson or not, we were all in great moods.  We laughed at everything, no matter how stupid.  Took turns drinking beer at the edge of the roof, enjoying the “view.”  The city at its sleaziest: the park with its bums, and junkies.  But even they looked happy, today!  Down the block, another hydrant had busted open.  Kids and even grown-ups leapt through the gushing water.

“Don’t jump!” Francine told each of us in turn.

Like we were married, I stood behind Freddy, holding a beer for him to drink while he cooked.

“Aw, how sweet!” Francine would’ve loved it if we hooked up.

“Gimme your plates!” Freddy said finally.  

For a good half hour, we stuffed ourselves.  Our paper plates were piled so high, it was obscene.  Burgers, dogs, sausages.   Plus pickles and salads and shit.  The oily plate almost burned a hole in my leg.

“Good!” Freddy kept saying, through mouthfuls of food.  “Good!”  Frankenstein’s first word.

“Don’t let that burn,” Francine warned him.  Meaning the London Broil. Already it looked like an old black boot.

“I thought you liked it like that,” I said.

  She glowered at me, then went back to eating.  Only she would bypass a pile of burgers and dogs to savor a green salad.  She looked so delicate, so out of place, sitting on a blanket on that roof.  Like Natalie Wood, in West Side Story.

“I can’t believe nobody crashed this thing,” Nicky said.  

“Maybe nobody’s home,” I said.

*     *     *

It hit Nicky first, how full we were.  Eyes wide, he was all bent over, like he would puke right there.  “Oh, man!” he said.

I was next.  Bloated and sick, I was scared I would die.  I’d drunk too much beer before eating, and that made it worse.  I wasn’t drunk anymore.  And that’s sad.

Freddy was still putting it away.  Like he was going to the chair, at midnight.  “You fag!” he told Francine, who leisurely speared the last hunk of tomato.

“Are you watching that meat?” she asked him. 

That’s when it hit him.  Suddenly his eyes were twice their size: way bigger than Nicky’s.  Somehow he got up.  Holding his gut, he started pacing back and forth.

“ ’S’ your own fault,” Francine said smugly.

I managed to get up, too.  “I’ve . . . gotta go downstairs.” 

The building was so quiet, it was eerie.     Not like everybody was just out, but. . .  dead.  

From the stairs, my place was the furthest. So when he came up behind me, I freaked. 

“Hey,” Billy said.  Out of nowhere, he’d come.  Sloppy drunk, clutching a beer in a brown bag.  He could hardly stand.

“What’s up?” I tried to sound casual. 

My door was unlocked.  As I rushed in, he shoved me, so I fell. He was right behind me.

It didn’t seem real.  In my own house, I was laid out, with this…thing looming over me!  Weaving back and forth, leering at me.  “What?” My teeth chattered, I was so scared. “What do you want?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know . . .” He leaned against the doorframe.  “A blow job?”  

All I’d eaten was ready to come up. “No!” I spat out. “I’d die first!”  

He looked sad.  Like he was really so drunk, he didn’t know what was up.  He held out the paper bag.  “Give you some of my quart.”

I just stared at him.  When he moved toward me, I yelled, “Get away from me!” 

“Shel!”  Freddy yelled, from the hallway.  “What’s wrong?”

“Help!” I said, and rolled over toward the bathroom.

“Bill?” Now Freddy was in the doorway.  “What’s up, man?”  They slapped each other five!

“Nothin’,” Billy said. “Thought maybe she’d blow me.”

In the bathroom, I got up, shut and locked the door.  “Get . . . out!” 

“Come on up the roof.” Freddy’s voice was muffled, as they left.  “Got beer, and . . .” 

*     *     *

For a long time, I sat on the shower ledge, trying not to cry. Why was Freddy so nice to him?  He might’ve raped me!  What kind of friend was Freddy, anyway?  

Guys stick together, a little voice told me.  Plus, it wasn’t like Freddy was my boyfriend.  If it had been Francine, Nicky would’ve kicked Billy’s ass.  If I’d only fucked Mike Cassidy . . . .

The tears gushed down.  Why, I asked myself, didn’t guys want me? ‘Cos I was a slob?  One glance around my grimy bathroom made me cry harder.  

A drunk?  Well, too bad. After what just happened, I couldn’t wait for my next beer.

A . . . pig?  I’d just eaten enough for a family of four. I was lucky my shorts hadn’t split.  

I got up, wearily.  The saddest part was, if Billy had offered the beer up front, he might’ve had me.  I was that down on myself.

Nah, I realized, as I trudged back out.  He was just too creepy. . . .

*     *     *

    “Shelley?” Behind me, the voice was reedy, ghostlike.

    I swung around.  In the hallway, Dolly was creeping along, like she was smelling for something.  “Shel?”


    She kept sniffing around. “You seen Billy?” 

    “ ’S’ up on the roof.” 

    Then, whatever she’d been smelling, I smelled, too.  Like something was burning.

    This crazy smile lit up her face.  “Maybe . . .” she said, “He’ll jump!”

    I backed into the stairs. “Are we on fire?” 

    “Billy!” I heard Francine yell from the roof. “That’s disgusting!” Then drunken laughter.

    The smell had gotten worse.  I was so confused, I didn’t know what was happening. Wasn’t sure where to go.

    I ran upstairs.  Behind me, Dolly was feeling her way up. “That fuck!” she said. “He’s burning the house down! That miserable, drunken . . .”

    Sizzling, we heard, right off.  As we reached the roof, I stopped dead, so Dolly bumped into me.

    Legs spread, Billy stood before the fiery grill. . . peeing!  

    “Good aim,” Freddy told Nicky, who was trying not to laugh.  They’d gotten twice as drunk since I went downstairs.

    “The grill caught fire,” Francine told me. “Say goodbye to your coffee table.”

    With that, the broken leg crumbled, fell off.  The whole thing collapsed, with the grill on top of it.  

    “Billy!” Dolly yelled.  “Where are you?”

    Billy was done peeing.  Without zipping his fly, he loped away from the mess. I looked away. 

    “My London Broil!” Francine wailed.  On the roof, the charred meat blended right in with the tar.

    “Billy!” Dolly was still yelling.

    But he’d disappeared.  

    The music was blasting.  Freddy and Nicky were making up their own steps to the “Stray Cat Strut.” I went up to Freddy. “Thanks for nothing!” I said.

    “Huh?” I bet he saw two of me.

    “Watch out!” Francine screamed.

    Some things seem to happen in slow motion.  Take forever instead of the actual few seconds.

    One moment Billy was standing on the edge of the roof.  Looking down, like he owned the whole world.  Beer in one hand, arms spread out, almost eagle-like. For like a second, he tottered, then went over the side.

    I’m not sure if I screamed, like Francine.  I swore I didn’t, but remember yelling all around me.  And music.  The music never let up, seemed to get louder.

When the cops finally got there, the Clash were still rocking the Casbah.  

    For a long time, Dolly kept yelling, “What?  What happened?” 

    Above all, I heard my heart pounding.

*     *     *

    “She didn’t mean it,” I said, later that night, at Francine’s. “Dolly didn’t really want him to jump.”

    “But did he?” Nicky asked.  We were all whispering.

    “I’m not sure,” I said. I really wasn’t. It felt like I had dreamt it. In my head, I kept seeing Billy go over the edge, but couldn’t believe it had really happened.

    “He jumped.” Francine sounded mad.

    It had cooled off, some.  We sat in the dark living room: me, Francine and Nicky on that orange tweed couch, Freddy on the floor, closest to me.  We’d all sobered up by now.  Between talking to the cops, and trying to make sure Dolly was okay. . . .

    “Poor guy,” Nicky said. “Probably depressed.” He leaned over, stared into space. “Who knew?”

    “Weren’t you pissed at him?” Freddy asked me. “What’d he do?”

    Real crabby, he was.  We all were.  Probably the first time we were all together, not drinking.  My own nerves felt raw.  It felt like we were standing on each other’s.

    What could I say?  Without being nasty?

    Nobody cared when I didn’t answer.

    For a while we were all silent.

    Then Francine said, “Nicky . . . Would you make me coffee?” Tonight her voice was like a circular saw.  

“Make it yourself,” Nicky said.   


Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate Publishing), is available on Amazon. Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate.

BLACKBALLED by Cindy Rosmus

1979 “You see that?” I asked my roommate, Juanita. “Or am I crazy?” As Juanita peered around the dining hall, Katie got closer.   “’Ju...