Six Drunken Gamblers Sitting At A Roadhouse

Pizza and a pack of stale Parliament cigs go well together, like dollars and sense. But we don't know this, so we stop at Fat Betsy's Burger A-Rama for a long night of fireside chats. And it’s all jagged and frenzied. All of us card players swear we saw the ghost of FDR singing in the key of `D’ in the next booth over, with a party of strung-out dancing girls. The shady ladies are wild - with willowy roots firmly planted in Fat Betsy’s. They’re long-limbed and have globe-like structures far down below and way up above. They look like UFOs at this surreal sublime time. And these ladies could swallow Poseidon whole and spit out his bones like sardine spines. Let out of the cage at 3 in the wee, one of the six dancers had to pee every half hour. Guess what? In the biggest window overlooking a four-alarm fire far down the street, they were singing like angels; and to think of it all, in the key of 'D', and it was heard for all to see – that hideous long heavy metal song!
Widowed Words Sing A Cappella. No Clarinets and Oboes Cringe in the Odd Fellows Lounge on the corner of Phelps & Gomorra Streets – that’s the longest heavy metal song I’ve ever heard of and it’s such a monster that no band’s ever played it.

An old song by Lobo about traveling light and being in love haunts the radio like the transition between 1969 to 1974 – ice melts in the spring and overnight, water flies down.  Lust, greed, and a cowgirl named Nullified Sally turn the scenario rabidly ribald in humidity and sexual structure. Meantime, halter-topped dogs playing pinochle in some picture on the wall look like jaundiced johns on Reality Texas Hold’em’up Poker on the late-night TV way up the dial.

The fickle fate of hate owns everything after the fifth of July. Betsy Ross and/or Susan B. Anthony be damned, if they weren’t singing in the key of `D’ and throwing their weight around this place, they’d be forced to switch channels to Labor Day from just after Memorial Day - tax, title and deed, and then bet every poker chip on that old 1977 Vega. And the Odd Fellows Barbershop Quartet, learning to sing in the key of `D', only leads to puddles of sound, as they try to punch out that heavy metal song with such a long cryptic title (see above). Round words and flat notes, with water, water coming down like rain, again and again.

We add stress to our spines carrying bathtubs, iron sinks, and even a few cast-iron skillets, along with elderberry wine, widgets, and wuzzles. Oh, and let’s not forget dog-acne-removal ointment in medical vials and fuzzles. Yeah, fruit loop, let’s remember tons and tons of those fuzzles, whatever the hell they are, just because those poker players can’t get enough of them. Rain, rain, you're a real pain, but I'm a conditioned specimen by now.

Euchre is a nice Midwestern card game that goes well with beer and beer; or even wine and wine, but not a crossover between the two very different types of fermented juices. When we're through with laboring and talking about the lack of women, we can always enjoy consuming cans of Sterno, then commiserating like satisfied pill poppers, while the cards care less about our feelings. Mr. Life-of-the-Party, Mr. Household Mess: Water, water comes down like rain - again and again.

Just the President who was the longest, largest and widest of all American Presidents, and surely, Shirley, our most distinguished U.S. resident, FDR was dressed in such a fine wool blend. Such great threads [Jeez, I was so proud to see him there, that great statesman and friend of people like us, pariahs and back-to-the-wall misfits – oh and let’s not forget all those dogs playing poker in that picture, all the men playing poker on TV, those 887 accordion players bashing out that crazy heavy metal song (again and again, see above and hell’s bells, Crazy Charlie, wasn’t its title long?!)], so all I have to say is rain, rain pounds against political windowpanes as FDR's ghost smiles and warms the air. Yes, he warms us all within the dampness in here. And it’s even much wetter outside!

God, I'm glad FDR's Iron Maiden, Sulfuric Acid and Seltzer Wife, Mimi, isn’t here to see us sing! Meantime, in the mean time, rubber-suited strangers attack those angry flames. They spray tons of water at the heat while the heat just laughs in hisses, pops, and crackles. Water, water comes down like rain, again and again.

Oh, it’s tiring doing nothing all day. Black fields of dark green leaves turn into black cigars and later, lung cancer. See you in hell, Crazy Charlie, along with all our friends. Ha ha ha. Oh, how myopic mankind's dreams are nothing more than a cockroach colony’s schemes of “getting over” and “getting under”. Our pain and triumph – it’s all as loud as the sinning clergy in the eyes of the parish. Rain, rain, comes down again. Rain, rain go away. Come again when we run out of one-act plays.

Cigar clubs and phallic brotherhoods don't impress me, they depress me.
So stuff it with those cards, dogs. Maybe I should read how Nostradamus would feel about opening up a 500,000-watt radio station. Then playing only horrible heavy metal songs with very long titles (see above). We’ll play solitaire without those poster-bored dogs sitting around a table. I’d go home, we’d all go home, if we actually had homes. Rain, rain, falling down, again and again. Rain: It’s so nice to see you, but we’d hate to be you. Man oh man: We’re going to get so wet laying around out there after the nightshift waitresses and busboys throw us out of Fat Betsy's Burger A-Rama.

Samuel Vargo has written poetry and short stories for print and online literary magazines, university journals and a few commercial magazines. Mr. Vargo worked most of his adult life as a newspaper reporter. He has a BA in Political Science and an MA in English (both degrees were awarded by Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, USA). Vargo was fiction editor of Pig Iron Press, Youngstown, Ohio, for 12 years. A book-length collection of Vargo's short stories, titled 'Electric Onion Head and the Rotating Cyclops of the Month', was published by Literary Road and had a web presence for five years. His poetry and fiction appear in the following: Antithesis Common, Ascent Aspirations, Blue Fifth, Boston Poetry Magazine, Censored Poets, Centrifugal Eye, The Circle, Clark Street Review, Connecticut Review, The Cynic Online Magazine, Dandelion, Edifice Wrecked, Electric Acorn, Elegant Thorn, Glass - A Journal of Poetry, Guideposts, Gypsy Blood Review, and other presses and literary journals. 


We Who Bleed
Scathe meic Beorh

In the death-hour of the morn, a wind that brought grey awareness swept through the scrub oak forest of Anastasia Island. It came from the place where dark meets light, a plane of wisdom unknown to mankind, uncharted, not spoken of save by gods and giants—these speaking in shallow tones, colorless and vague.
Across River Matanzas, a breeze now, and now a cool fog, and now shapes of horror... grim-faced and long in form, blood from every aperture, a rusty aura which misted the land they strode. Like willows they walked, and as they bled, they sang:
Original sin
fought love within.
Sin with kin,
deadly south wind,
mistletoe dart,
deafening din.

“There she lay, Loki,” said Thin, but Loki remained silent, and went to Califa, and rested his arm about the shoulders of the maroon Seti, and wept.

“What tore her so?” asked Lank. “What ate her so?”

Súmaire,” said Thin, her silken hair sodden with blood. “Blood-suck.”

Seti turned, choked on terror. “W-what are you?” he asked as he gripped the sleeve of Loki.

“We Who Bleed, come to heal the girl,” replied Dank.

“I spoke of this race to her before she was killed,” Loki said. “Therefore, she will recognize them when her eyes open.”

“But, she is dead and torn,” Seti said through his tears.

“No room for faithlessness here, man of musky sweat,” said Lank. “Leave this hall.”
Seti hesitated, his hand on his cutlass.

“You’d best leave, Seti,” said Loki. “They will take you to blood if you do not! Your faithlessness has not set right with them.”

“But they are unarmed.”

“They are not unarmed!”

“They... will take me to blood?”

“Wash you in their blood! It is not a happy thing, lad. It be a horror unlike anything known.”

“I’m scared….”

“As well you should be! They are attached to the Cross in their wills. There stands no greater horror than the Blood-Pour of the Primal Cause.”

“Your father Odin?” asked Seti. “Hanged on a wind-rocked tree, nine whole nights, with a spear wounded?”

Then shall another come,” quoth Loki, “although I dare not his name declare. Few may see further forth than when Odin meets the wolf. Then comes the Mighty One to the Great Judgment, the Powerful from above, Who rules over all. He shall dooms pronounce, and strife allay, holy peace establish, which shall ever be.

Seti shuddered, kissed the mangled face of Califa, stood, waited for the tingle to leave his legs, and without looking again at the wispy blood-splashing healers, left the candlelit hall of the Timucua Indian chieftain called White Stag.

“Father Adam Anew,” said Thin, “we beseech thee. We beseech the Place of Skull.” With those dark words the Bleeders made a circle about the corpse of Califa, and lay red hands upon her, and misted her so that she trickled their very life. In doing these things, they brought reconnection to her, and began to heal her.

“Go you now, Odin’s son,” said Skin to Loki. “We will bleed.”

Loki left the place of mourning, though with regret, and found Seti as he sat in silence at the lapping river’s edge, and told him not to weep, and what to tell the others, and bade him farewell in search of the remaining pieces of Califa’s body.


Also claiming direct decent from Adam, as does mankind, the Bleeders walk the Grey Ways, and teach oneness with the Creator Mind; for oneness they enjoy through the Tree, where God hangs slain, a place of pain and ever-flowing blood.

The Bleeders have been invoked by mankind throughout the millennia, yet they stand more advanced in understanding the Spirit, and communing with the Creator, for avarice—or thing-fever—has never touched them as it has mankind.

Driven by hostile entities first into searing waterless regions, and then into frigid places uninhabitable, the Bleeders found a way from this plane of death, and discovered the Grey Lands there, and made their abodes, and found peace. There communion with the Unknowable evolved into oneness—and then came les Mort de Dieu. Unlike mankind, the Bleeders embraced that Event, and wholly, and watched in disbelief as mankind developed a vampire religion of horrendous power around the One who came not to bring war and political dominance, but respite from the insidious clutches of Babylon; rest to a prodigal cosmos weary from its many homeless wanderings.


Califa stirred, and wailed, for her face was half-eaten, her left arm and breast torn away. Lank touched her eyes, and she slept again, but this gave the Bleeders knowledge that they had healed her; had brought her back from the dead.

Scathe meic Beorh is author of Children & Other Wicked Things, The Pirates of St. Augustine, Always After Thieves Watch Pirate Lingo and founder and editor Haunted Magazine, Bradbury Quarterly, and Ontos.



Speak, Zombie.


No, no, try to converse a little, just like I taught you.


I say, don’t always go thundering off to the brain right away!  Tell me, my lady, what is it doing outside right now?


And where does that very wet rain go?


No, that’s not quite the ticket; have another go.


Well done, well played.  And assuming that the both of us aren’t farmers welcoming further precipitation and might wish to go out on a pleasant amble, we would find this entire weather system decidedly to our…


Very good, excellent, here’s a chewy calf-brain treat for you. 


And now let’s recapitulate in right old Pythagorean fashion: “The undrained rain is mainly to one’s bane.”


No, no, old girl, let’s apply our own cranium to the conundrum, shall we?   Try to ream it out slowly, one monosyllable at a time if you must.  From the top now:  “Undrained.”


Brilliant.  Let’s have that one once again, followed hard upon by some good old “rain”!


Smart miss, smart miss, now let’s try another: “mainly.”


And now let’s stack ‘em all together, there’s the clever missy!


Now just one more, try to mash it through the wicket!—“bane”!


Sorry, but that’s not quite cricket, is it?   Hello, what’s this?—bad zombie!  No ma’am, you certainly mayn’t help yourself to another calf brain treat yet; we aren’t finished with today’s lesson.  From the top now, and let’s try to use our own brains, shall we?

Brain! Brain! Brain!

Steady on old girl, let’s not permit ourselves to get riled.  Perhaps the mistake was mine for using the B-word--but really, couldn’t we just settle down and have a final go at it?

Brain! Brain! Brain!

Madam, I must kindly ask you to unhand my tweed jacket!  Here’s the whole packet of chews; lay on if you must, have in.


There, there, calm down, silly fool, enjoy those treats.  Sorry if we may have pushed things a bit far earlier, but you were really doing rather well for a pupil with a dead cortex.  Chew slowly now, don’t choke. 


Hush, hush.  Who’s a good zombie now?   

MV Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Atlanta. He is the author, most recently, of the short story collection Beyond the Pale (2013). This and 'Vivisectional' which appears on the Poetry/Prose page are part of his new collection 'Night-Crawl', released via Red Dashboard LLC, Oct 2013.