VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Robert Ragan

Their Mother Should Have Swallowed

The moment Natalie started talking about the thoughts, Marshall should have left and never looked back. The night they met, he missed all the red flags and flashing warning signs. As they sat in a small bar and talked for the first time, Marshall was lost in the way her blue eyes seemed to sparkle when his own eyes weren’t peeking at her tanned thighs.

In denim jeans shorts, she could have confessed to a murder, and he wouldn’t have been shocked without an orgasm making him come back to his senses. 

He didn’t see the sexy version of Nat. No, she was depressed, isolating herself. Her friends dragged her out, kicking and screaming to this hole in the wall bar across the road from a cornfield. 

It showed with her tangled, and oily hair draped over her face with no make-up. Despite this, Marshall was still interested in her.

Instead of talking about herself, Nat felt this obsessive need to tell him all about her brother’s murder in prison. 

Marshall put his hand on her leg, “Damn, that’s fucked up,” he said when she told him about her older brother catching a steel shank to the throat behind prison walls. 

Sitting there, she removed his hand from her knee and started taking slow, long, deep breaths. Taking a sip from her bottled water, Nat said, “I’m sorry, I just have horrible anxiety.”

Marshall said, “My sister does too.” But it wouldn’t take him long to figure out his sister didn’t have anxiety this bad.

Natalie did manage to shock Marshall. Looking down at the table, she said, “Mom and dad always acted like everything was fine, but I should have seen it coming after what happened when we were kids, obliviously.

A couple of her friends walked over and asked if she was okay.

Natalie introduced them to Marshall, then lied, saying she’d be fine. They asked her if she was riding home with Marshall. 

He said, “Yes,” and Nat gave him a funny look.

When her friends walked out, Marshall surprised himself when he remembered to ask her what had happened between her and her brother when they were kids. 

His memory caught Nat off guard, and the question seemed to terrify her. “Oh, never mind,” she said. 

By now, Marshall wanted to know the rest of the story. Natalie was only giving him bits and pieces, all out of order. 

She said, “I can’t believe they put Teddy in the general population and not protective custody.”

Marshall, quick to put it together in his head. An incident when you two were kids, oblivious parents, and he got his throat gashed open prison. 

Drawing a dark conclusion, Marshall said, “I don’t mean to make your anxiety any worse, but was your brother locked up in prison for some kind of sex charge?”

Her mouth gaped wide open, joining her eyes, which also opened wide, “Oh my God, how did you know?”

From there, she said Teddy was doing really good. First, he stopped smoking meth then got a decent job. After all that, he met a good woman named Kimberly.

Everything was fine, then her wild 15-year-old daughter, Dorey, was sent to live with her after the girl’s father fondled her. 

Dorey was supposed to be safe from this sort of behavior with her mother. Natalie said, “She would have been safe had she not brought drugs around.”

Siding with the victim, Marshall said, “So a teenage girl is responsible for her own assault because she brought drugs around a grown man? I’m sorry, but that sounds like total bullshit to me.”

Angered, Nat shot back, “What about the way she teased him by trying to sit on his lap along with all the other things she did?”

Looking into Marshal’s eyes, Nat said, “Oh, I know you’re one of those good ole boys who think my brother got what he deserved.”

Marshall agreed but didn’t admit to it or deny it. 

Natalie explained how Teddy had kept his charges a secret until a corrupt correctional officer informed Aryan Brotherhood members that there was a sicko pervert among them. 

Not trusting the C.O, a chief member called and had his girlfriend look up Teddy Michael’s charges. Sure enough what the C.O. told them was true. So the green light was on to shank him.

This inmate confessed all of this when Teddy’s dead body caught up with him.

Marshall just wanted a piece of ass; now he sort of disliked Natalie for taking up for this perv. Then again, he had to consider this pervert was her brother.

Thinking of his own siblings, Marshall knew his brother and sister would disown him in a heartbeat if he ever did such a thing.

So, he didn’t miss those red flags and flashing warning signs. No, Marshall just overlooked them. None of it mattered when he took Nat home and buried himself between those thighs. 

When he woke up in her bed the next morning, Marshall thought, ‘Well, I’ve had some crazy women in my time, but this one might take the cake.’

Later on that day, he learned she didn’t work anywhere and received a disability check every month for multiple mental illnesses. To him, that meant getting ahead financially a little bit easier. 

It was hard to make ends meet on his paycheck alone. Marshall had already broken the promise he made never to sell weed anymore. Now, if he could deal with Natalie’s shit, maybe he could stop for good. 

If not, it wasn’t like he was destroying his customer’s brains with meth or leading them to the physical dependence of heroin. A little loud never hurt anyone.

Not to mention, Nat was pretty when she made herself up. She wasn’t the same woman he met in the bar. All eyeliner and mascara, but the gleam and sparkle in her eyes was gone. A dull darker shade of blue replaced them in the middle of panic and agony. 

It was their first official date, and Marshall showed up having already drunk a few cold Bud-lights Nat said she had her license and would be fine to drive.

Before going out to a nice steak house, they stopped by Walmart so Marshall could buy some new Steel-toed work boots.

As they were driving out of the parking lot, Nat stopped to let a group of teen pedestrians pass by on their way inside the store. Marshal was chilling, ready to eat. He heard Nat punch his steering wheel. 

“What the hell, babe!”

With her eyes closed, she took deep breaths. The teens had long walked past, and the driver behind them blew their horn. As they drove off, Marshall asked if she was, ok?

Brushing the hair away from her face, she said, “Yeah, I’m ok. I just saw myself press the gas and mow down those kids back there, that’s all.”

With his eyes widened, Marshall said, “It’s cool; everyone has bad thoughts like that. Just tell yourself you’d never do a thing like that and let it go.”

Nat was amazed; she never expected Marshall to say something like that. Those words filled her with a feeling of peace better than any high, and she thought this might be a good night after all.

Then at the steak house, Marshall ordered his steak medium-rare. A vision of his teeth ripping out her throat flooded Nat’s mind with rabid fear. Clenching her tiny fists, she closed her eyes tight again and started taking long deep breaths. 

Marshall noticed the family sitting across from them as they stared. “What?” he said, “You never knew anyone who suffered from anxiety?”

When the waitress finally brought their food, Natalie hoped she could calm down long enough to enjoy her steak cooked well-done. No such luck, as she looked across the table and noticed Marshall sawing through his bleeding slab of meat.

Images of cows and hogs butchered in slaughterhouses flashed like old memories. Nat closed her eyes tight again and thought of cuddly puppies. After a long deep breath, she opened her eyes and saw blood covering her mashed potatoes instead of gravy. 

Instantly, drenched in sweat, Nat started heaving. Standing up, she rushed away from the table and headed to the bathroom. On her knees before the white porcelain toilet, she vomited. After a few moments, a couple of waitresses walked in to check on her. 

Natalie was curled up on the floor, repeatedly asking, “Why me, God? Why me, God? Why me?”

On the way to take her home, Marshall decided he could make it just fine on his own. Some pussy from a mentally ill hottie drawing disability would have been nice, but there was no way he could deal with her phycological issues. 

A sicko pervert for a son and a psycho daughter, their oblivious parents must have been so proud. 

When Marshall dropped Natalie off at home, he planned on never having to deal with her again. After a couple of days without hearing from him, she got the picture quickly. Once again, Nat was alone in the picture holding long strands of her hair in each hand.

Calling Marshall, she left a message. “I never lied to you,” she said, “I told you I was mentally fucked up.”

For the next two hours, Nat laid naked in bed in the dark, calling Marshall and leaving message after message on his voicemail. “I’m not really crazy,” she said, “All those gory visions came from a demon I’m possessed by. Doctors call him OCD, but I know him as Bloody Knife.”

In Nat’s third message, she said, “If this has something to do with my brother, I hope you know I think it was fucked up what he did to that girl. Do you really think I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me when we were kids? That’s how this fucking demon was born in my brain, to begin with. It was once named Disgusting Guilt, but over the years, it’s become the ultimate shapeshifter.”

Marshall was awake and only ignoring her. He listened to those messages and thought, ‘Damn, she’s probably gonna stalk me and be impossible to get rid of. What could it be besides that massive, long dick he gave her on the first night?’

When those messages started to sound like she was reading suicide notes aloud, Marshall finally answered the phone. “Nat, I know you have a lot of problems, but you’re cool, and you’re gonna be ok,” he said, “Trust me. I can’t commit to any woman, and so it wouldn’t be fair to keep leading you on.”

Crying over the phone, Nat said,” That’s all-total bullshit, and you know it, Marshall!”

Forcing a laugh through her tears, she said, “Don’t you dare think you’re gonna get rid of me this easily!”

Going all out to hurt him, Nat said, “What if I call your job and tell your employer how you sell pot to all your co-workers? While I’m at it, I might as well call the sheriff’s department and ask to speak to the head of narcotics!”

Marshall had heard enough, and he said, “Over a little weed? Go ahead and get me locked up, bitch! I’ll be fine in prison. No one is shanking my throat because I wouldn’t do what your brother did.”

Enraged, Nat said, “You think I really give a fuck? He’s probably burning in Hell right now!” she said.

Marshall didn’t give a fuck either; he said, “Your crazy ass isn’t far behind him!”

Natalie went silent for the first time. When she spoke again, it was about an ex who made her, and her brother look like stable members of the community. He once threatened to mutilate her vagina with a knife. Ever since she’s been plagued by images of this actually happening to her.

Natalie said, “I’ve lived in constant fear of him returning to murder me. But the things he would do to you would be much worse.”

Tired of going back and forth, Marshall said, “You know where I live; tell him to fucking bring it!”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Lori A. Minor

wellness class

my water bottle

hides the vodka

Mind Eraser

she hides my drink

until I’m sober

golf major

he skips a round

just to fuck me

hot girl summer

covered in sweat

from Gaga’s new hit

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Merritt Waldon

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Rick Christiansen

POSTCARDS

We sit across from one another at the old linoleum table.  It rocks slightly each time one of us rests a hand or forearm onto it.  She places postcards on the table between us as I absently pick at the worn linoleum, creating small flakes which I then brush to the floor.

She arrays the faded rectangles across the center of the table like a film editor planning her story.  I imagine a process occurring, image supporting idea, given form by words, informed by rhythm.

She almost whispers when she says, “I went to France the Summer I turned 17.  I went alone, without friends or family.  It is a long story.”

She hesitates and seems to contemplate saying more. A shiver of sadness seems to scatter her face for a moment.  Then she sighs with an expression of resolve.

“I made friends with these postcards that I found and purchased in shops and railroad kiosks.  We spoke to each other.  Each card told me a story.  Each, revealed to me a piece of where it had been, and I told each of them where I was going.”

I sipped my tea and listened to our breathing as I watched her contemplate which card would be placed next from the pile in front of her, considering proximity of each to the other.  Knowing a story changes depending on where you stand and with whom.

“This card was local to the village in which I stayed.  It is a picture of the butcher shop.  The butcher had only one hand.  I would watch him make the steaks and chops.  He would place the meat on the block carefully.  Arranging it so as to make the intended entry point of the blade most accessible.  He would then pick up the knife or cleaver and slice or chop in a single motion.” 

As she told me the story, she rearranged the postcards in front of her, mirroring the motions of the butcher as she was describing him, now only using the one hand, making a vertical chopping motion with the rectangle she was holding.  Her other hand resting unheeded next to her cup of cooling Chamomile tea.

“He would next lay down the implement and again arrange the meat for a cut.”

She continued to make the chopping motion with her hand.  Almost absently now, but with rising volume in her voice.

“Again and again he would repeat these movements until he had enough for the platter, he placed each day in the window of the shop.”

I sip my tea and sink into the rhythm of her story and the slight rocking of the table as we shift across from one another.  She breathes deeply for several moments and then speaks again in almost a whisper.

“I think he lost the hand in the war. But who knows? He was a butcher.  So many sharp encounters.”

She places the postcard of the shop gently down next to another faded card depicting a young girl looking at a park lake while trying to ignore the ducks at her feet.

“These postcards are still the best friends that I have made.  We still talk to each other.  The conversations help me to recapture my life from memory.  And now they help me to talk to you.”

I rise and kiss my Grandmother on her temple.  I take a knife from the drawer and begin to prepare lunch.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Christian Garduno

Chili in Heaven

God was busy doing a myriad of things,
as God normally is,
but on this particular day,
God was making his trademark “white boy chili”
and was especially distracted-
& you know what?
He sneezed from the powder, for one split second,
and he actually created the same snowflake twice
He looked at it-
looked at it again and said
I know I’ve made this snowflake before
and then He thought-
Well, really, it was billions of years ago and literally no one will notice
so He shrugged & let it go
But that batch of white boy chili
just didn’t have that oomph that it usually did.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Efe Tusder

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Stephen Whitter

Quick Shop

I enter a shop, I haven’t visited before
Slightly hesitant, as not being a new store,
they may have seen my face before.
And yet,
This is the first time I’ve come through the door.
I wonder, do they give that thought?
It’s a small town after all.

Nothing in particular I’m shopping for.
Well this is billed as a  friendly, local  ‘General Store’.
Perhaps something will take my eye.
I try and put worry aside.
I enter, try a general ‘hello there’ for the General Store.
This, goes seemingly unheard, or ignored.

Push worry aside once more, why did I not wait
Till the shop was more full?
One man shopping show, spotlight on me now.
Under the Shop keeper’s  un smiling eye.
I flunk it, forget my lines, escape outside.
Cursing myself for even trying.

Poetry-Ergo-Anxiety.

Oh, he is not a poet.
No?
No, not really poetry you see.

He is just, as they say, a loser.
A could have, but didn’t,
One of those.

Now he writes ,
What he , and some consider poetry,
Just to keep us interested, I suppose.

Wallows in it you know.
Sickness, misery, anxiety,
As though failure is a talent of it’s own.

No, it is not poetry,
it’s one never ending groan.
One ‘Happy Never After’ moan.

Anxiety.

Sunday evening. I know, last warning.

Monday is approaching.

Last chance to keep or not, this job. 

This job I like but the job ,

Anxiety is threatening to rob.

My Boss, I know he has phoned my doctor, the boss’s PA is my friend,

and so not as discrete as perhaps she ought’.

 Of course the doctor couldn’t give out personal information but,

these two are ‘friends at the lodge’ and so after a couple of large gratis

shifters my doctor implies I might be a ‘sniffler’ not a ‘grafter’.

  So, he is bringing that implication with implications back.

I’m going to persuade him to give me the sack, that’s if there’s no 

going back, no reference, but I can live with that.

If I quit, well no benefits back.

No money, no rent, no flat.

So Anxiety has grown and peaked on this Sunday.

Watch out, but head down, look away.

Jobless, homeless ‘madman’.

Coming your way.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Amrita Valan

Digital Millenials When Push Comes to Shove

Ants let loose

To crawl from paper

To screens.

Digital millennials

Thought

Words

Became manifest.

A love fest

An Arab Springs revival

Not massacre at Tiananmen square.

Not killing fields of Cambodia.

Now we are doing Palestine

On

Instant coffee, addictive,

And insubstantial.

Israel is also real.

See?

Both sides of the

Wailing wall.

I Dread

 I dread

The quiet knock at the door.

Political canvassers fishing for votes.

I dread,

Questions about my creed, my beliefs.

That will not accommodate hybrids.

I dread conversation’s opening gambits,

That attempt to map the grid

Of my faith, ethnicity,

My integral need, to be true

To myself first. Society be curst.

I dread,

 Saying I’m a Hindu, happy to be,

Bringing up my children,

In Christianity.

All ways are viable to me.

Your surprise and shock

Is a mystery.

I dread a horrid wake up call,

In anarchic future ruled by ghouls

Who’d like to take apart my rainbow sutures.

Tear apart my children’s futures.

Bright threads that accommodate

Asking me to preach their hate.

Silence.

I remember Hippolyta being torn to delicate shreds. 

The Parabolini in every faith

I Dread.

I belong to her world.

Where standards are applied.

I am allowed to ponder, I decide.

My freedom to straddle both sides

Of this wild ride.

Inclusivity is not sympathy for

One side.

Parabolini dismembered her wisdom.

Like a mangled marionette, barbaric fate

Meted out to the erudite.

I dread

Conversations, mouthing conventions,

Pre-determination posing as discussion.

Identity thieves preaching conversion,

Supremacists selling salvation.

Playing into gloved hands

Slaying souls with love

Decisions of Convenience

Made beforehand.

I want to be myself

More than ever before.

When I see how uniformity is

Being sold.  Perhaps we don’t know,

Or choose to forget, Paths

Are not oaths. We never swore

To keep it narrow and straight.

They evolve, revolve, returning you at

The gate, here you stand,

Where you started.

On open grounds of neutrality,

Questions and answers shake hands, uncertain.

Again and again. Common ground is our

Invaluable gain.

And there may be more than one option.

Multiple choices, myriad voices

Music in noises.

Please don’t deny my children.

Don’t muzzle

Their choices.

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Still Burning…

It’s been a hell of run for Dumpster Fire Press but it’s also been a hell of year with major upheavals and not all of them triumphant…

However, DFP isn’t going anywhere.

We’ve published over twenty titles with more on the way possibly rounding it out to 30 which far beyond what I originally planned.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE has taken off and there has been nothing but adrenaline rushing enthusiasm whenever I read the plethora of submissions for one of our various anthologies such as DEATH BY PUNK and OCTOPI FROM THE SKY along with upcoming TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHUMANS and WAITING FOR LUCY.

However, there has been a hindrance in my own creative work, not that editing and designing the interior of a book while putting together anthologies and managing a website isn’t rewarding nor lacks powers of creativity but there are stories and poems I’d like to tell along with other projects and this would be the time for me to say all good things come to an end and yes, I do have a planned ending for Dumpster Fire Press but not anytime soon.

This year, I’ve had to contend with a midlife crisis, not a huge deal but there are things privately I’ve had to deal with on a psychological level and I’ll be open about it…I was being gaslighted in a relationship with someone trying to manipulate who I was and altering me into someone I wasn’t, followed by meeting a woman I met over two decades ago where we sort of picked up from where we left off only for that to end in a tragedy with our potential offspring eradicated.

There’s more but a hit and run accident I had recently in which I wasn’t hurt resulted in bringing back a fair amount of memories and reflection…

Most of this happened in August, five years ago in August I was involved in a hit and run, left for dead, I worked for a company that been bought out and our office was closed, it was almost a dream job, two weeks prior my mother died and I was the one who made the call to take her off life support after helping her out of the shower and giving her some grapes and celery, I went to get a glass of water, only to hear her say much to her dismay

“Michael, I feel dizzy.”

Entering the room, finding her gasping for air and basically being a glazed eyed corpse sunken in the middle of the bed after a brief 911 call.

August 24th…June 24th of the same year I made the decision to put my cat down (another tragedy on its own)

“I hope that’s not a sign, I’m going to die.” My mother with stage 4 renal failure stated.

I dismissed it of course.

When everything transpired, I bled into the page and wrote like I needed whatever I needed, raw, brutal, painful, majestically all of it came pouring out.

Years later here we are.

Everything has been accepted. There’s still sadness but not dismal sense of helplessness nor hopelessness.

Yet, I’ve been distracted running a press while working full time with a lack of a fully individualized creative outlet and it’s time to get back to it.

So, where does this leave the Dumpster Fire Press?

In a great place…starting in 2022

VOICES FROM THE FIRE will be ongoing until volume 50, at least that’s the goal.

There will be 2-3 specifically themed anthologies a year.

We will still publish individual authors…perhaps one a month but there is an exception…

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH is a special time for DFP and at least 3 poets titles will be published along with the VOICES FROM FIRE almost being a daily presence throughout the month.

Don’t worry all 2021 obligations will be fulfilled along with keeping our mission statement that we are here as a voice for the voiceless, those heard, seldom heard or never heard from before.

Visions, stories, poetry, perhaps expanding into merchandise and a podcast , the fire is going strong just the editor in chief needs to rejuvenate with a bit of rest and some hammer of the gods wordsmithing.

Thanks for dealing with my spastic whining and ranting.

Stay surreal.