ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Marjorie R Becker
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Robert Beveridge
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   JR Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Bill Cunningham
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Raymond Fenech
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amelie Frank
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Gerda Govine Ituarte
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Timothy Green
   Jeff Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Grant Guy
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   Danielle Harper
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   JD Hart
   Jack Harvey
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Tom Irish
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Kait Jensen
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gary Justice
   Gene Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Elisabeth Khan
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Philip Kobylarz
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Donna Kuhn
   Christopher Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Emma Lee
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   Genie Nakano
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Jared Pearce
   E. Martin Pedersen
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Miriam Sagan
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Iris N Schwartz
   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Margarita Serafimova
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Rishan Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Bobbi SInha-Morey
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Clinton Smith
   Spencer Smith
   Danielle Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
   Ann Christine Tabaka
   John Duncan Talbird
   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   r.k. wallace
   toren wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   J.T. Whitehead
   John Sibley Williams
   Cade Williams
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Joseph Armstead
February 2006
   

 

The Saint Of Bloodstained Children

He wished that idiot he'd ridden out to the edge of the city with would turn down the car radio. The guy seemed to be trying to live his life like he was in a rock video: slick European designer clothes, aviator sunglasses, driving gloves, and a silver Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet. The noise trying to pass for music that was blaring from out his expensive car stereo speakers was little more than a stultifyingly dull electronic drone with whispered atonal vocals. It was supposed to be chic and cutting edge.


Maybe if he listened to it long enough he'd see those qualities in it, but he doubted he could wait that long...


He hated to wait for things. He wasn't an impatient man nor was he a hard-charging Type-A personality, but he was a person who prided himself on staying focused and completing any task he'd begun. He believed that if you entered into a project or began an enterprise with some sort of a plan, you could reasonably expect to see it complete with some degree of success. It was about timeframes. Time and motion. Efficacy and efficiency.


Behind a dilapidated warehouse. It was not about standing around in the dim firelight of a dying afternoon after the passing of a summer storm. It wasn't about waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.


Cort Terwilliger looked into the muddy depths of the pollution-stained sky over the deserted industrial park, hunting for the cyclopean orb of the summer moon, before he finally found it just northwest of the horizon, over the city's skyline. Drifting in and out from view in a shifting sea of copper streaks and metallic flamingo glare as the day ended, it looked old and as tired as he felt.



*** memory stirred unbidden:

He used to come to desolate, tumbledown places like this when he was young, back when each new day brought him the opportunity for new adventures where he could reinvent his life, a life already off-the-tracks and careening downhill toward an amoral world of meanness and criminal misadventures. Places with deserted, lonely buildings and empty parking lots seemed to call to him. They were his desert horizons, his Antarctic plains, his Amazon jungle glens. These were the places where his tainted soul could breathe. He felt clean when he would come alone and stand out under the open sky, away from skyscrapers and billboards yet still close enough to feel the pulse of his precious city, and he would commune with that slightly twisted part of nature that had spawned him.


He had once dreamt of being an explorer, a wanderer through the last wild places on the planet, like the adventurers in the novels of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, finding his way through the maze between myth and legend as he hunted for legendary El Dorado, Atlantis and the continent of Mu, as he discovered the secret entrance to the underworld nation of Pellucidar, as he uncovered the secrets hidden in the temples of Machu Picchu in the Andes or the Nazga Plains in Peru his dreams and ambitions were wound deeply into the fabric of fantasy and legendry because his real life, his real world, seemed so damnably small.


In his mind, in his secret fantasies, he became a knight-errant, a paladin, the last good man in a world gone bad


He was a doctor fighting the ravages of a worldthreatening ancient plague. He was the lone survivor from an expedition into the tomb of a dead sorcerer, the last man standing as a demonic curse laid waste to his disbelieving colleagues. He was an engineer able to create a mighty vehicle to explore the earths core. He was a chemist who invented a serum that imbued the drinker with incredible longevity, if not outright immortality. He was the guy who discovered proof of UFOs and a hidden alien civilization in the Siberian wilderness. He was a maverick scientist who corralled the Loch Ness monster and displayed it to the astonished eyes of the world.


He was anything except for what he really was: a cunning and cruel juvenile delinquent who was well on the way to becoming a violent, hardened street thug, twice imprisoned for felony crimes and survivor of four bullet wounds and one stabbing.


He discovered that, on the cosmic stage of the play of Life, he was cast in the thankless role of villain.


those fantasies belonged to long ago, decades past, and now he went to places of concrete and abandoned brick in the company of crass, venal creatures masquerading as people...


memory dissipated, insubstantial as smoke***





He shouldn't have agreed to come out to this place with Daytona and Sung. Red-haired Drake Daytona, who often referred to himself in the third-person and was fond of adding the title "the famous" before his full name, was not a man who planned things. A transplanted midwesterner, he was a sales junkie, always looking to close on some nebulous deal he had fast-talked someone into joining. He was a human pinball, slamming into and rebounding off from one set of ill-advised events to another. He was the kind of guy who could always be found in the vicinity of some accident or another. Julia Sung was his on-again-off-again girlfriend and business partner, a second-generation Korean woman raised in Simi Valley and addicted to all the excesses of southern California's oxymoronic suburban mall-culture. She, like the famous Drake Daytona, was not fond of pre-arranged long-term planning.


But they were both extremely fond of money, especially the variety of ill-gained cash popularly called "easy money." "Cheddar" was the coarse street vernacular currently in-vogue. Jesus, they even spoke an abbreviated, vapid language based on speed and convenience.


He regretted hooking up with them. They weren't business-oriented like himself. They wanted everything quick and easy and seldom thought about the ramifications of what they were involved in. He, on the other hand, was a pessimist and thought of damn near nothing else.


He'd been doing this for sixteen years and seen a couple dozen Daytonas and Sungs in his time. They never lasted. They never made any impact on The Trade, that being the phrase he used to refer to what he did, and they never contributed any innovations to make things easier. The Drake Daytonas and Julia Sungs of the Los Angeles underworld never amounted to a damn thing. He, on the other hand, tried to keep some measure of sanity and professionalism alive in the rabid illegal marketplace where he plied his business.


At least that's what he told himself when he was justifying what he did and his own place in the world.


Sixteen years... Christ.




*** the damn memories kept on rolling across the movie screen of his mind in one wave of uninvited images after another an ocean of soul-sewage surging toward a garbagestrewn shore.


Hed killed a man for very little reason, his first killing, when hed been nineteen. Up close and personal. Shoving a serrated edged steak knife in through the mans ribcage and then twisting the blade in the wound. He truly didnt recall the why behind the crime at all. It was lost in the jumbled haze of emotional trauma and buried under psychic armor protecting what little was left of his morality and self-esteem. All he really remembered was that it had not felt cool or thrilling nor had it filled him with any sense of power and purpose.


It was just some bad shit that had happened one very discombobulated day when he was working as a street soldier for a lower-rung mob boss.


He hadnt gotten sick nor had he felt guilty over the killing. As a matter of fact, he hadnt felt much of anything at all.


Well, maybe one thing.


Disappointment.


And in that moment, recognizing at last the vastness of the chasm of disconnect hed created between himself and the world around him, Cort Terwilliger knew that he was forever damned and beyond redeeming.


Somehow that made the four other homicide hed committed in the ensuing years as he plied his criminal skills, that much easier.


Memory fractured like shattered glass, leaving a fragmented mirror reflecting the face on a soul that had drained away down rain gutters of his hard-shelled city.***





Nights like this, though, nights where the veil of darkness dropped over the sun while it bled its brilliance away slowly across the L.A. skyline and over the Hollywood Hills, he despaired of what it was he had become. He feared he'd been infected by the diseases of attention-deficit and superficiality that ran rampant through the criminal underworld. He didn't want to be like that.


But he still hated to wait for things.


The sun slid past the crest of the hills and the gloom of the sky deepened and he felt a painful twinge in the ball of his gut as he witnessed the arrival of their business associates for this exchange...


They called themselves the "Samurai Gunslingers" and the oldest of them was all of eighteen. Five teenaged boys and three adolescent women, urban blacks and Asians in an unexpected, but even, mix. They were all of mixed blood heritage, "Amerasians" they were called in the politically-correct media. Half-breeds and chiggers and yellow-bloods were what they were called on the streets, Kung Fu Leroys. They preferred the slang "Wah-Dawgz". They had a reputation for fearlessness and ferocity in defense of their south central territory and they received a lot of grudging respect for the fact that they all had computer skills and iron nerve. They were also respected for the hardware they frequently carried: the Wah-Dawgz were all fond of Russian Stechkin 9mm automatic pistols and 9mm Micro-Uzi submachine pistols. The Samurai Gunslingers didn't play games nor did they suffer fools gladly. They were all business and on their best days were often seen as humorless and unfriendly.


Cort Terwilliger hoped that tonight they were in a very good mood.


"White Boy, you sure blasting that nightclub ambient-trance shit is the best way for us to conduct a secret meeting?" snarled the tallest of the Wah-Dawgz, a young man in denim fatigues under a leather jacket, his elfin triangular face eclipsed by his wraparound mirrored sunshades.


The famous Drake Daytona beamed a smile of purest bullshit at the group of young gangbangers.

"Just killing some time in as pleasant a manner as possible," he said lightly.


"Well, why don't you just go over to your little Nazi Autobahn dick-with-wheels and Turn... That shit... OFF!" The lead Wah-Dawgz's tolerance level for dealing with Drake and his sports car's stereo did not seem particularly high. One of his crew, a short thickset girl with multicolored ponytails, giggled nastily. The rest of the gang simply looked bored.


Kids, Cort observed wearily, they were little more than kids. Very, very mean kids.


Anger flashed across Daytona's face for a millisecond, but it was quickly replaced by his usual jolly, life-of-the-party smile and he complied.


Julia Sung made a displeased face and glared at the group over the top of her Oscar de la Renta glasses.


"Whutchu got ta say?", snapped a thin reedy member of the gang, a young man with skin the color of coffee. Sung's eyes briefly flared, but she remained quiet. The gangbanger nodded and regarded her through eyes narrowed to slits. "Yuh, thass whut I thought."




*** memory intruded:

Bravado. Bragaddocio. Balls. Thunder coursing through his veins, the unwavering knowledge that he could do as he pleased and that whatever he felt he needed to do was fully justified by the lightning hard-coded into his DNA, driven by manifest destiny.


Youth.


He never again felt as recklessly courageous as he had felt then, in the years back before his fall from grace. So much had changed since then...


A marriage that had ruined a storybook romance.


Vices that had taken him to the edge of sanity.


A wife dead from a cancer diagnosed too late.


A world of fortune and favor denied him.


The stinging slap of Reality across his face.


A dark depression that had long since turned to anger and self-loathing.


The feel of a gun in his fist and the sight of life leaving another man's pain-filled eyes.


Guilt.


A return to the demons that lived in his vices.


A lifetime of worry, anxiety, fear and desperation each time the phone rang, each time he had to go out amongst his fellow underworld dwellers, each time he tempted the darker Fates as he engaged in unsavory transactions with the bestial men and women who now populated his small world.


His manifest destiny had been denied him.


He was reminded of this as he looked into the hard eyes of angry children holding guns in hopeful defense against the relentless march of cold destiny as their time slowly ran out...


memory dissipated, leaving a hollow ache in its fading wake.***





They were kids. They were hollow little animals who had lost their dreams and their ideals on the mean streets of a city shaped by the spike-studded fists of people like him. They never had a chance. Cort looked into the eyes of the young women and he saw fear and anger and a hopelessness that men like he himself had put there.


They had been baptized in the squalor and greed of the amoral streets, washed in the blooded waters of Holy Larceny.


Things should never have gotten like this.


In his mind, in his secret fantasies, he became a knight-errant, a paladin, the last good man in a world gone bad


"We have to go," he said suddenly, his voice resounding with firm determination. "We need to get out of here now. Right now."


"W-w-what!?" Drake Daytona sputtered as he wheeled about to face Cort.


"I smell a set up," Cort lied. He gave the Samurai Gunslingers the benefit of his most baleful stare. "This feels wrong."


Terwilliger, what are you BABBLING about? Julia Sung raged.


This shit aint square. I got a feeling about it and it aint good, he replied, acting the part of the frightened paranoid street hood, letting his true anxiety fuel his performance.


Whut tha FOCK is DIS shit? The leader of the Samurai Gunslingers wore an expression of utter disbelief and it was quickly dissolving into a mask of fierce rage. Hey, we came here ta do BIZNESS, ya damn gwai-lo shitbirds, so whut is dis about?


Cort spun toward the teenaged gangbanger with a fury and aura of raw animal menace that startled everyone around him. It was as if he were possessed of a vengeful meanness of spirit that could no longer be contained. He slowly and purposefully drew his gun, a massive .44 magnum automatic, and pointed it at the face of the gang leader.


Aw crap, someone wheezed.


The air filled with the sound of hammer being cocked as the rest of the gang raised their weapons and trained their sights on Cort, a sputtering Drake Daytona and a shaking Julia Sung.


I said this aint happening tonight, Cort hissed through clenched teeth. If a rattlesnake could make a sound like human speech, it would have sounded exactly like he did as he spoke.


The gangbanger stared into Corts eyes and he squinted against the force of the maelstrom of conflicting emotions awaiting release within him.


Cmon, kid, cmon! Even an arrogant uneducated piece of shit like you should be able to get this one. Cmon!


Uhm, listen theres no need for this, you know? My colleague is maybe a little too high-strung, what with all the recent police crackdowns going on around town. You know, feeling paranoid. We all fell that way sometimes, especially dealing with new people. Were all professionals here, right? Drake Daytonas voice, normally smooth and phony as a radio disc-jockeys, cracked as he spoke. Were all on the same page -- this is just a mercantile exchange. No egos. No bullshit. No ones trying to get over on anybody else. Just some supply and demand shit


Put the gun down, Terwilliger, Julia Sung said evenly, struggling to keep her composure as she stared into the barrels of half a dozen cocked automatic weapons. Put it away.


Shut. The. Fuck. UP! As he spoke, Corts eyes never left those of the gang leader. Their eyes were locked as their wills and their minds engaged in a furious mental tug-of-war.


Cmon, kid, cmon! Goddamn it, look around you, wake up! Your future is dissolving and slipping away like so much muddy sludge. Clue in!


This dont feel right, the hawk-faced young man said suddenly. I dunno whuts going on here, but I dont like it. Homeboys right. This deal aint square.


So what do we do, Wah? one of the Wah-Dawgz lieutenants asked. You say it, we make it so.


The teen hardcase ran his tongue over his dry lips and raised an eyebrow. We fade is what we do. We outta here.


There was no more discussion after that. The Samurai Gunslingers began to walk away, backing off and keeping their weapons leveled at the trio of older hoods from downtown. In moments they were gone.


You want to tell me why you just blew an easy hundred sixty thou? Drake Daytona said in a voice edged with acid. The mans stare was one of pure murder.


To Terwilliger it was rainwater off a ducks back.


No. I dont, Cort responded without looking at the grifter. He holstered his .44 automag and shrugged.


So thats IT? Thats IT!?! Julia Sung exclaimed, wringing her hands and stomping dramatically in place near the car. Are you KIDDING me?


Youre through, old man! No way Im going to let this crap stand! IM PUTTING THE WORD OUT ON YOUR CRAZY ASS! No one is going to want to work with you again! You hear me? YOURE THROUGH! Drake Daytona bellowed to Terwilligers back.


He didnt care.


He started walking away, walking out from the deserted industrial park. He thought of towering pagan idols in Amazon rain forests and ancient treasures in hidden Cambodian temples and heretofore undiscovered tombs in crumbling Egyptian pyramids. He was a doctor fighting the ravages of a worldthreatening ancient plague. He was the lone survivor from an expedition into the tomb of a dead sorcerer, the last man standing as a demonic curse laid waste to his disbelieving colleagues


In his mind, in his secret fantasies, he became a knight-errant, a paladin, the last good man in a world gone bad


And for this day, for this one gloomy concrete twilight, he was satisfied with having to wait for something.

copyright 2005 Joseph Armstead